How many of you remember, “the talk?” Mostly what I recall is being asked if I have any questions and I think the sixth-grade health class took care of the rest. But that must’ve failed miserably cause I still didn’t understand what the hell was going on for several years. I could definitely talk-the-talk by fourth grade though and remember one day leaving a note in a girls desk (the teacher saw me and later told her I was her secret admirer – rat bastard!)
I’m sure my parents, who I force to occasionally read this blog, may remember my sex education differently, but regardless, “the talk,” is truly one of the most important conversations you’ll ever have with your kids. And it cannot happen soon enough.
Recently, one of my Kindergarten aged sons met local news reporter Amelia Earhart (yes that’s her real name). As we walked away he leaned over and said “boy she is sexy!” After his sister and I picked ourselves up off the pavement and his little brother stood there wondering what we were laughing about, I of course then proceeded to share that story on my personal Facebook page, with my wife, with my parents, close friends, and even texted Amelia to share it with her (fortunately, she’s a really good sport).
But, I then had to find out if he actually knew the meaning of the term (turns out he thinks it means “pretty”). He’s heard the term sexy because of the Gangnam style video and he knows it gets a rise out of adults when he says it. For now, I dodged “the talk” bullet, but it did get me to thinking: when do you start talking to the kids about this?
Bruce Feiler, author of The Secrets of Happy Families: Improve Your Mornings, Rethink Family Dinner, Fight Smarter, Go out and Play, and Much More says that its not so much a talk as a conversation (Feiler 136). And here’s another scary fact, if you’re not talking to your kids about sex you can be sure that their friends already are. Who would you rather have educate your kids on this topic you or their friends?
Kate Eggleston calls herself the Sex Mom, as all the neighbor kids go to her for advice on sex (Feiler 128-129). One day she heard her fifth-grader and friends talking about a blow job. Turns out the kids thought it meant talking about sex. That’s when she realized they needed real information before they were going to get themselves into trouble. Eggleston has four rules regarding sex:
- Blow jobs are sex too (Feiler 130). Many girls don’t think oral sex is sex (thanks for letting that cat out of the bag Kate).
- Always use a condom (Feiler 130). The school nurse is not allowed to demonstrate the proper application of a condom (thus guaranteeing more teen mom reality show participants) but Eggleston can (she uses her finger). If abstinence is not your chosen form of contraception then you should at least know how the other methods work. The statistics show that fewer boys get the talk from their parents than girls which results in fewer boys knowing how to use a condom or other forms of birth control. The message is: girls, play defense.
- If you’re not mature enough to buy a condom yourself, you’re not mature enough to have sex (Feiler 130). Wait until your brain catches up with your physical development, just a bit more.
- Only have sex when you have nothing left to share (Feiler 130). Once you’re comfortable picking your nose and farting in front of each other, you may finally be at that point.
But there is also some really good news about kids and sex. Despite all of the media hype adolescents are far more chaste than you might think. They fool around on the bases but they don’t reach home all that often (Feiler 131). The most common reason teens give for not having sex is that it’s against their religion or morals, followed by, they don’t want to get pregnant and, have not found the right person (Feiler 131).
The research shows that in families where sex is more openly discussed teenagers engage in intercourse an average of two years later, and the rate of teen pregnancy is 8-times lower (Feiler 132). Living with both biological parents, supportive mothers, and for girls, having a close relationship with their fathers, all delay sexual activity (Feiler 132).
Once the sex talk conversation lamp is on, there’s no going back. Seems the subjects women most want to discuss are ones they had not discussed in their families while growing up: menstruation, masturbation and their mothers’ romantic lives (Feiler 133). And here you thought it was just the birds and the bees they wanted to know about.
According to Joyce McFadden, author of Your Daughter’s Bedroom, the keys to teaching your kids about sex:
- It’s never to early to start (Feiler 133). Do not make up names for your kids’ body parts – we don’t change the names of other body parts, why change the names of their genitalia? Don’t laugh or giggle, even if the questions are cute because it may make them feel ashamed for their curiosity. Be informative but brief and provide enough information for their age. Your four-year-old doesn’t need to know the details of intercourse, the basic mechanics are fine. Check to see if your child has follow-up questions (Feiler 134).
- It’s easier to talk with a nine-year-old than with a thirteen-year-old (Feiler 134). Stories about menstruation in McFadden’s book tell tales of horror, shame, guilt and disgust. Is that really how you want your little girl to feel when she gets her first period.
- A little goes a long way (Feiler 135). When we sign our kids up for Little League we don’t start talking about steroid use and Nike sponsorships. Say what needs to be said, answer the questions thoroughly but make sure you’re providing information appropriate for their age.
It seems somewhere around eight years old girls begin to be aware that sex is something more than just a word. If they do not hear it from their friends they’ve already heard it from the fourth-grade boys on the playground, who use expressions like “humping,” because that’s how boys talk (Feiler 136). However, even kids admit that they get a very distorted view of sex when they hear about it from their friends or even on the Internet. One girl quoted in Feilers’ book said, “if it’s coming from your parents, at least you know it’s true.” (Feiler 137). And they know their parents won’t make fun of them.
You can continue to demonstrate a healthy sexual life in the home, which also contributes to teaching your kids that this isn’t a social taboo to be ashamed of. As you and your spouse older, you experience your own challenges, so don’t stop teaching the kids. Don’t stop thinking up new ways to keep sex alive and well in your own relationship – if not for yourself, do it for the children.
First off, it turns out that sex is a boom families. Sex improves our health, brightens our mood and deepens our connections to our partners (Feiler 139). One study found that men who have three or more orgasms a week are 50% less likely to die from heart disease (calm down guys I’m sure there’s a point of diminishing returns, and if not, well, crapes you’re missing SportsCenter, it’s time to come out of the bathroom).
Women also get a benefit. Female orgasms boost your immune system, help you to sleep, calm your cravings for junk food and cigarettes and even reduce depression (Feiler). My God, if we were all having more sex the prescription antidepressant industry and the tobacco industry would be out of business in minutes. Get busy folks!
Even monogamy appears to be a fairly reliable institution. However the downside of marriage on sex is that the longer a couple is married, the less often they have sex, and the quality of that sex is also diminished (Feiler 140). For most couples sex becomes boring because it becomes routine. The way to break out of that mold, short of inviting others to play which kind of breaks up that monogamy thing, is to add variety.
- Find somewhere besides the house or the bed to do it (Feiler 142). Try the back of a Target parking lot late at night – hey, worked when you were in high school, right (this sort of playfulness and a return to the courting rituals you used to do when you first met are a great engine restarter).
- Be spontaneous and don’t always have sex at the same time (Feiler 142).
- Have sex with the lights on (or at least turn off Leno) (Feiler 143).
- Moan. Researchers have highlighted the importance of “female copulatory vocalization.” Even the Kama Sutra endorses moaning. Seems women like to do it and guys love to hear it.
Find out what draws you to your partner and what draws your partner to you. What turns them on and what turns you on? Couples that can do this have more successful sex lives and do everything they can to keep reinventing what happens in that place.
Don’t be afraid to be a little sexual in front of the kids either. Nothing sloppy or indecent of course but show them that affection and flirtation is okay. That way when they’re teenagers they will feel comfortable enough to hold hands with their boyfriend or girlfriend in front of you (Feiler 144-145). Which is better than wondering what they’re doing when they are behind you.
Feiler, Bruce S. The Secrets of Happy Families: Improve Your Mornings, Rethink Family Dinner, Fight Smarter, Go out and Play, and Much More. New York, NY: William Morrow, 2013. Print.