Not nearly long enough ago, our 7-year-old shared a conversation he’d had with a friend… about sex. It was retold with a mixture of curiosity, amazement, and giggling. And was alarmingly detailed.
I have to admit it took me off guard. I thought we had a little longer before all this! I’d done my duty as a progressive, gay dad to teach my son to be proud of his “different” family, not to tease or exclude anyone for how they look or who they were, and that Donald Trump is a horrible example of humanity.
But now it was time to step up and have “The Talk.” Or more accurately, “The Ongoing Conversation.” We’ve had lots of practice sharing the important stuff at the appropriate age regarding Jon’s adoption, so this should be easy, right?
Well, while I’m figuring out the right things to say, I figured I’d go ahead and share what I know are some wrong things to say.
5 THINGS I WON’T TELL MY KID ABOUT SEX
1. “Give your penis a funny name.”
Confession time: when I was a little kid, I called my penis a “twinky-dinky.” My younger brothers called theirs “donkey.” I have no idea where these nonsensical monikers originated, but as God as my witness, our family will call a penis a penis and a vagina a vagina. And if we need to be discreet, perhaps “privates.”
Kids are going to learn enough “funny” names for their genitalia on their own, so I figure the real, non-funny names are fine for now.
2. “Don’t Play With Yourself.”
After nearly 20 years together, my husband and I recently discovered something new about each other; something odd we had in common. When we were both 10, our fathers had “The Talk” with us… which was essentially them saying, “Don’t play with yourself.”
Between 10 and now, we somehow managed to figure things out (puberty, sex, coming out) on our own. But it reminded me how frightening that conversation was to 10-year-old me. And how repressive and confusing and just plain wrong it was. Additionally, if my husband’s Italian immigrant dad in New York and my Baptist minister dad in Georgia both used the same (non)-approach, I’m sure many others had similar experiences.
I get that this chat is kind of squirrely to have with your kids — especially if you were raised to believe it was wrong. But better you than someone else. And since you’re the one doing their laundry, you can also teach them not to clean up with their socks.
3. “Wait until you’re married.”
Actually, I probably will say this one. But it will be followed by, “or don’t.” The key is to wait until you’re emotionally ready.
I get that my experience of having sex for the first time at 26 isn’t typical — unless you were a good preacher’s kid fighting your sexuality for over a decade. And if I’d waited until I could get legally married, that would have been another nearly 20 years.
No sex before marriage isn’t part of my values — but if it is for my son, more power to him. Regardless, he’ll know that maturity and safety trump relationship status every time.
4. “Boys will be boys. Girls… I got nothing.”
Stereotypes. Ignorance. Letting someone else do it. None of these are an option. I will never give my son a pass for being a boy; nor will I pass on a question because it’s about girls.
My son will learn about consent and deference and all those other atypical “boy” things. And though my life experience with females is limited, if my son has a hetero inquiry and I don’t know the answer, I’ll be man enough to say so. And then go ask someone who does know. I’m determined to be the Answer Man… or at least the Man Who Gets the Answers, Man.
5. “We’ll talk about it later.”
The “wait and see” approach towards talking sex with your kids seems a little risky, don’t you think? But I understand (and have had) the hesitation. Why bring something up if they’re not even thinking about it yet? What if I put ideas into their head? What if they repeat something at school and their friend’s dad writes a whole blog post about it?!?
All valid concerns, but still less important than being the first, most valuable resource for your child when it comes to sex, gender, and identity. In addition to having a squad of experts to consult, there are also lots of helpful places on the Internet. And no, I’m not talking about porn.
A resource I highly recommend is AMAZE. Amaze.org is a terrific place for both parents and kids to explore and learn about sex, their bodies and relationships in an honest, positive way. Their videos are funny without being too silly; smart without being too cerebral. And they address the “mechanics” (like puberty), as well as more complex topics like gender identity, coming out, consent, etc.
While AMAZE’s content is geared towards 10-14 year-olds, it should be clear from my experience that there’s no such thing as “too early” when it comes to learning how to communicate with your kids about sex. Go visit and like AMAZE on Facebook for original videos and curated content related to sex ed, health, and other related topics.
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I’m pleased to have partnered with Amaze for this post to celebrate LGBTQ Pride month. Check out these other articles by some amazing queer writers.
“There’s No Such Thing As ‘What a Boy Looks Like'” – Casey Brown
“It’s Different Now” – Vikki Reich
“Choosing Love Over Fear” – Amber Briggle
“Have You Talked To Your Kids About Gender Identity?” – Mitch Chaitin
“Talking Sex and Gender with Our Kids” – Dana Rudolph