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Talking with Kids About Sex… is a Crime?

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Barb:

I have been thinking, thinking, thinking about a story my husband recently told me about a new person – we’ll call him Bob – he met in his meditation class who has gone through a horrific experience I am having trouble making sense of.
Bob is a divorcee, having sought the separation from his wife due to their differences in sexual worldviews.  Bob enjoys monogamy and his ex-wife preferred a swinger lifestyle.  Bob tried it to please his wife but didn’t enjoy it.  Their feelings were strong enough on this that they separated.  Bob has a nine year old daughter who he shared custody with and she asked him after the divorce why he and her mom were no longer together.  He was honest and explained what the issue was.  The daughter went to her mother to confront/continue the conversation started with Bob and mom was outraged.  Mom took her anger to Child Protective Services and the police.  Bob was arrested, he plea bargained to AVOID JAIL TIME and …. are you ready? … his daughter was taken from him for a full year, he is now a permanent member of the registry of sex offenders, AND he was required to approach all of his neighbors to tell them that he is a registered sex offender.

Huh?

This sits with me as a seriously fucked up situation on so many levels, the least of which is a dad trying to explain to his daughter why he and mommy are no longer together.  At the heart of this dysfunctional mess is a family community and, of course, a broad culture of people that are 1) so comfortable with sex that they will recognize personal desire for sexual pleasure and act on it, but yet 2) be so uncomfortable with their action that they can’t or won’t find natural, easy ways of sharing their developing worldviews with their children.
When did we come to believe that kids have no ability to comprehend sex, experience sexual desire, sexual pleasure, wonder how we got here in the first place and what mommy and daddy do with each other behind closed doors or when they make those funny noises?  When my kids were wee ones, they were following me into the bathroom nearly every time I went.  They naturally had questions about anatomy, menses and the whys and wherefores associated with them.  They witnessed animals humping and kittens being born.  Heck, my oldest saw both his sister and brother being born and my daughter and he spent half my labor with #3 in bed with me.  We had a family bed – for the uninitiated that means we all shared the same bed at night – and yes, my husband and I had sex in the same bed that our children slept in!  (That’s for another blog post.)  My kids had so many questions about sex, procreation, birthing, etc. by the time they were 4 that they were putting condoms on bananas to see how some folks prevent pregnancy.
No matter what a parent’s sexual preferences are, what’s the value of keeping it secret from one’s children?  FEAR should never be a motivator for behavior, and even though we know it often is, it can never result in authentic joy or contentment.  OWN your choices, KNOW that you have a right to want what you want, SEEK fulfillment of your deepest desires and LIVE with it.  Life is supposed to FEEL good.  When one learns that feeling good is where it’s at, everything else eases up, life becomes stress free, or at least much less stressful.  When life becomes easy, flowing, natural, communication becomes likewise so.

Sarah:
I couldn’t believe it when you shared this story with me.  I am struck on so many different aspects.  A mother was so ashamed of her sexual exploration and desires that she wasn’t able to a) share this with her child in her own right but b) called CPS because her ex-husband did? Since when can we be prosecuted for being honest with our kids?  How is separating a father from his daughter for one year somehow deemed an appropriate punishment?  I wonder if there is more to this story…
But addressing the information that we have…  I understand that there are strong views about what is deemed appropriate and what is considered deviant sexual behavior in our culture. I get that.  But we’re rethinking everything, right?  So here goes.  What people do in their private lives with other consenting adults in a pleasurable way is not my business, nor is it yours (unless they want you know).  I do feel, though, that in consciously creating children, we are bound to support their psychological, emotional, and physical growth.

Hiding facts and lying is the breeding ground for guilt, shame, and deceit.  If this man’s intentions were true and he really meant to answer his daughter’s question without intent to inflame the divorce or sway the daughter’s devotion, I am in alignment with honesty.  Not “when you’re older” but right now… in a way that makes sense for this child.
I also understand why someone wouldn’t openly share something so culturally sensitive with a child who is a) not psychologically ready to comprehend the whole story or b) may tell grandma, the guy at the coffee shop, or the kids in the neighborhood.  This is a parent’s assessment based on the knowledge and bond that only they have with their kids.  When we’ve had discussions about sexuality with our kids, it is with a keen sense of how much they actually want to know.  It started with discussions of mating practices and builds from there as questions arise.  Not discussing sex because of our own discomfort makes our problem, our children’s.  I strongly caution against passing on the legacy of guilt, shame, taboos, and judgment.  Aren’t these at the root of non-pleasurable sexual experiences?
When we can be clear in love, desire, and gratification, it makes seeking mutually satisfying experiences- in all areas of our lives- easy and fulfilling.  I want this for my kids.

I also find the punishment ridiculous.  At a legal level, he’s been sent to his room to think about what he did for a YEAR!  This really just seems like they didn’t have any idea what to do (because honesty isn’t a crime?).  How about talk therapy?  Way to give this kid some serious issues.  She asked for honesty and got a one year sabbatical from her dad.
What is the issue with talking about sex with kids?  Are we afraid as soon as they know about it, they’ll want to do it?  Is it perceived as scarring to know how we were made?  Is there a subconscious connection between talking about sex with kids and having sex with kids?  Because really, folks, talking about it can only be good.  Being open about things can only be helpful.  Check your baggage at the door… or at least be willing to go through it.

Barb:
When I shared this story with my grown children, each separately, they were dumbstruck and said ‘since when is it against the law to talk to your kids about sex??’  They each said this because as children I talked to them about sex openly and whenever they asked, from age 2 on.  I said ‘I guess when the child tells an adult who thinks it’s wrong.’  If this is true, it’s no wonder we have become so afraid.  What can we do?  Clearly, we must find a place of empowerment here and not succumb to fear, as fear will not benefit our children or ourselves.  The answer lies in open and honest communication with everyone, at every turn, showing respect, love and integrity as we express ourselves.  Authentic communication always feels good, even when it is challenging.

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23 Comments Post a comment
  1. Amy #

    I appreciate this, Sarah… “Because really, folks, talking about it can only be good. Being open about things can only be helpful. Check your baggage at the door… or at least be willing to go through it.”

    This is a loaded topic, of course.🙂

    Barb, I think some people feel that following what feels good is hedonism and can lead to harm. In some ways, this can be true. If we only move on the desires of the body, without giving thought or consideration to potential results… we may end up with experiences we later regret. I have appreciate the work of Esther Hicks and agree that when we’re really in line with our spiritual nature this is less likely; still this is something that many are figuring out. It’s not always cut and dry… I follow what feels good and everything is okay.

    And, and yes, authentic honest communication feels good when we are not trying to control another through it – or put our stuff on someone else. Some may say, well that’s not authentic. Right. And there are some who would say, well I was just being honest. We don’t really know the full story unless we are part of it. I can’t really comment on this particular father’s experience.

    So back to the point… I feel that sex is what we are. Literally. We are the combination of male and female, the coming together of sperm and ovum, the tendril of consciousness reaching into the human body, giving it life. We are that. To me, this speaks to the mental separation from what we are and denying it at its most basic essence. If we are all confused and shamed and fearful about our sexuality it points to that base idea of separation from source. That’s kind of getting deep, though, so I don’t expect anyone else to feel the same. LOL

    And yeah, walk through our stuff so we can be honest and open about sex, desire, what to do with it, making choices, whatever. I’m all about that. Kids need someone honest to communicate with about such stuff. They may or may not get that with their peers and the information they get may be limited.

    December 20, 2011
    • I really appreciate this comment. We have become very detached from the basis of our existence. On the topic of doing what ‘feels’ good at the expense of our future/others/etc., I consider that we are very complex beings. The physical is just one facet of us. What ‘feels’ good is not solely based on physical pleasure. My ideal is that everyone participates in activities that jive with the whole of themselves that is made up of the intact communication and coexistence of our physical, psychological, emotional, and spiritual selves. This is a tall order. But I think it’s important to clarify that we can be authentic and go toward what rings true and is pleasurable in the absence of guilt and shame without creating more of the same.

      December 20, 2011
      • Amy #

        I agree that clarifying our motivations and intentions is paramount. It seems to ‘go without saying’ in certain circles of ‘consciousness’ but we are all human. We all have the potential of hiding from ourselves and others. If we do this then we limit our ability to be truly honest and ‘authentic’. Sometimes hiding occurs due to emotional instability or trauma and working through that is part of the process, too.

        January 13, 2012
  2. Tracy #

    Before I can even begin to comment on this issue – I have to ask: how do you know that the husband is telling the truth? I have had too many experiences with liars and truth stretchers to take his statement as face value. There are many sides to this story, and I would like to hear all of them. CPS really can make poor judgements, but maybe, just maybe there is more harm to this story than the husband is telling.

    December 20, 2011
    • Tracy, I don’t know that he is telling the truth. I was shocked and skeptical when I first heard the story through my husband, and it was only after reaching out and talking to others, discovering similar stories, that I came to believe it. I cannot confirm it however.

      December 20, 2011
      • mbh #

        Barb,

        The internet is a hot bed (pun not intended) for all sorts of ridiculous injustice stories. I looked for these types of experiences just now and I can’t find them. Can you? It makes me wonder if it is really that common or if, as Tracy points out, there is always more than one side to the story.

        At the same time, I think there IS a serious bias against dads, when it comes to custody. My husband got primary custody of his son when he and his ex-wife divorce, AND he also got child support (a true rarity 15 years ago!) The management of the child support funds was handled by some governmental entity (I can’t remember the which one) but they were forever crediting HER with payments instead of him. It was like they had never seen a man have primary custody and receive child support.

        I can certainly see the possiblity that some agency would be more likely to find a father “guilty” of sexual misconduct than a “mother.” At the same time, I also wonder what is the ration of male incest perpetrators to female. OK, off topic again….

        December 20, 2011
        • eek, I am old school when it comes to talking to people mbh, I do it either face to face or on the phone. No, I would not search for stories online. granted, as I said before, I only have one side of the story, although I do have others that corroborate this one, with some variations. I am definitely keeping my eyes and ears open for more information however.

          December 20, 2011
      • Tracy #

        Barb, I would love to hear more about the other stories, too. The power that CPS has seriously scares me, as I have raised my kids vegan and heard of children being taken away for that reason, too. I am quite certain that won’t happen now, but as babies that was terrifying to think of.

        Please post any other details that you may find out – this is a very intriguing situation.

        I guess one could say that we have a “hippie house”, and my two boys walk in while I am showering, getting dressed, etc and I have never thought anything of it. They are 5 and 6. I just heard another mother tell me she never lets her 5 year old see here unless she is completely dressed, so I kept my mouth shut. Why? So she would not call CPS on me! Lol! ( I live in a ultra conservative area)

        We also coslept until this year, and that freaked out enough people. When asked about sex I usually just said “we’re more creative than your traditional missionary style in bed with the lights off”. 😉. That usually shut them up. If feeling really sassy, I would simply gesture to the dining room table that we were sitting at and give a big grin.

        December 22, 2011
        • Tracy, the other stories I am referring to are similar to the story of Bob in the original post. I have known of families like yours who have had neighbors or others report them to CPS and in every case CPS interviewed each of the children and then left, telling the parents that not only were they wonderful parents but that they wished all families could be as open with their children as they are! So it’s not nudity or sexuality per se that is in a gray area legally, it’s something else – something I am trying to figure out and having difficulty. Parents who are at odds with each other is definitely a factor and things may get blown way out of proportion as they go to battle against one another.

          I have done a few years worth of work with CPS and can attest to the general bureaucratic incompetence, massively overburdened system, and lack of ability to genuinely help anyone except for the handful of truly severely abused children (and they are helped only because they have been removed from their abusers). There is great fear and misunderstanding among CPS with regard to homeschooling for example. When workers associate homeschooling with abusive fundamentalism, as in the case of the polygamist Mormon sect in Texas for example, they make assumptions that homeschoolers homeschool just to keep their kids under their abusive thumbs and out of the watchful eyes of the government, i.e., school.

          In my 30 years of being active in the homeschooling community nationwide however, I must say that the only cases I have ever heard of coming to light are those where either the parents are separating or divorcing and one is reporting the other or a new homeschooler, having just left public school, was formerly truant in the school and an antagonistic relationship existed between the school and the child/parent. That doesn’t mean I have heard of every case – there very well could be others that have come to light for other reasons with unhappy outcomes, I just am not aware of them.

          Back to your concern: if the life you live with your children is one in which you, your partner and children all have a voice, are all respected, are all able to set your own boundaries, life feels good and easy and fun (mostly!), do not spend time worrying about what could happen. Enjoy yourself and trust that you are all creating something wonderful and strong and life lasting together.

          December 22, 2011
  3. HI Amy. A dissection of the deepest and highest order may be required when rethinking sex as desire, acts, thoughts, etc. I love all conversations that help me upgrade and evolve on this front.

    As to feeling good and whether it’s right or wrong… well I am not here to change anyone, really I’m not, but I feel right and powerful when I feel good, although I can easily add that feeling good to me is often not the base sensory ‘feel good’ you fear. For example, I don’t believe in monogamy – I just can’t wrap my head around anyone promising or requiring another to promise that sexual pleasure or partnership be limited to engaging with just one other person – and yet I consciously choose monogamy because my ability to value and respect and upgrade my relationship with just one person feels better than the temporary dalliance I might have with another.

    December 20, 2011
    • Amy #

      Okay, I’ll get specific. I think Abraham (Esther Hicks) acknowledges this also… if someone feels good harming another, dominating, whatever then that’s not the feeling good I want to promote. It’s based in powerlessness, really, and I feel we must become aware of such tendencies in order to undo them in ourselves before we can trust ourselves to go on what feels good. Now that probably sounds really fearful; just trying to address that sometimes unspoken potential aspect of feeling good.

      And while we’re on the subject, my husband and I *choose* monogamy in freedom, because we want to, not because we are afraid or because we want to limit one another and it’s lovely. Absolutely lovely… for us.🙂

      January 13, 2012
      • well I agree with you on the monogamy aspect, as I am the same and feel the same – it is a conscious choice that comes from empowerment and not a fear of multiple partners. As for the tendency to feel good when doing harmful things … I believe, as you pointed out in the Abraham Hicks reference that such feel good moments are not really feel good moments. They may feel better but nowhere near what a feel good moment that comes from a place of authentic goodness – which is so personal and arbitrary to another.

        When you hurt someone or self, it might ‘feel good’ but in one’s heart of hearts, so to speak, it does not honestly or authentically feel good, it just feels better than, say, anger or abuse or rage. And yes, consciousness, the ability to listen, observe and experiment with your own thoughts and actions is critical, because the work is all yours.

        January 13, 2012
  4. mbh #

    I just have to say that there has got to be WAY more to this story. I just don’t believe that some guy said, “Your mom is a swinger” and got his kids taken away. It makes no sense that the authorities would take kids away from a man who talks about something and give them to a woman who does that supposed “offensive” act. Clearly this is one half of the story and I’d be curious to hear the other half.

    I do agree that there seems to be an amazing disconnect in our culture about sex, though. It completely baffles me. Somehow we are all (for the most part) given messages that sex is somehow shameful and yet every part of our entertainment industry (music, videos, tv, movies, magazines, advertising, etc.) oozes and explodes with sex. No wonder so many people are so confused.

    I would seriously like to write a book called, “Good Sex For Teens,” which goes into all the ways to pleasure oneself and others, outside of intercourse. Not that intercourse is morally wrong (it isn’t) but sexuality is so much more than that. An unplanned pregnancy can certainly change many lives forever and I honestly believe that most teens would love to know about fun alternatives to intercourse, especially if they involve orgasm. I’m also pretty sure I’d absolutely be tarred and feathered for writing this book.

    So, I guess you could say that I am MORE that supportive of open commuication about sexuality with our kids. It does need to be appropriate for their age and desire to know. I’m not sure what happened in the story told here about this man, but I’d venture to say there is a lot more unsaid.

    December 20, 2011
    • no! you wouldn’t be tarred and feathered! I believe there is not only a great need and desire for such a book, but that resources already exist on very reputable websites… they are just not all easily compiled in a nice book. Do it, please!! I will help you!

      As for the story told here, I only heard it secondhand (and it was a reliable source, my husband), but since hearing it several weeks ago, I have had conversations with many people and have heard similar stories told whereby (hmmm, in all the cases I have heard of so far they involve a dad and a girl) sexual conversations have resulted in arrest, conviction, jail time, lengthy probation and the permanent addition to the sex offender registry.

      Anyone out there with factual knowledge about how often this happens, as described?

      December 20, 2011
  5. As a Licensed Marriage and Family Therapist, I am struck by a number of inconsistencies in this story. Child Protective Services operations tend to underfunction rather than overfunction; that is, they usually don’t take steps to protect a child until something terrible has happened. Experience tells me that, if Bob is a registered sex offender, he may have placed a child in egregious physical danger.

    While I agree with teaching children to own and embrace sexuality, it also is important to teach boundaries. First of all, it is not for Bob to talk to his child about his ex-wife’s sexuality and preferences. Secondly, children do not want or need to know specifics of their parents’ sex lives. In fact, most adults, who may be quite comfortable and happy with their own sexuality, don’t want to think about their parents having sex!

    There is not one single truth about why people divorce. Bob’s story probably is way more complicated than what he presents, or maybe even understands. When explaining divorce to a child, it is just as honest – and more appropriate – to tell her, “Your mother and I disagreed on some important issues and couldn’t live with the differences, but it doesn’t affect how we feel about you,” as it is to give details. It’s perfectly fine – and again, appropriate – to teach our children that life is not a big reality show in which everyone is privy to our business. Indeed, it’s healthy to teach children the value of privacy, even among family members.

    December 20, 2011
    • Linda, thanks for your perspective here. I certainly would love to ask 100 questions of this case, from all sides, to come to an understanding of what the laws are and how they were broken. Since I won’t be doing that, I can agree with the need for boundaries – as long as they are set by each person in communication and not just by the parents. If a child has the understanding, curiosity, desire and ability to comprehend sexual functioning I think a parent is responsible for meeting those needs even if it makes them feel uncomfortable. In the real world, every child and situation is different and the communication and responses to questions should reflect the maturity and needs of the child, don’t you agree? Of course I can’t speak for our Bob in this case or his 9 year old daughter, but I just can’t wrap my brain around what I believe to be true about this case.

      Of course, maybe the whole story is blown completely out of proportion afterall. As I said earlier however, since I have spoken to others since I first started thinking and inquiring about this who tell me similar stories, I am left disturbed. And, to be clear, this would not be bothering me much if I had not heard of other situations.

      December 20, 2011
    • Maybe we’re talking mainstream versus connected parenting here, but I think children are perfectly capable of understanding sexuality when a parent is in tune with how much they want to know. All people are also capable of honoring their parents’ sexuality. To deny it is to deny ourselves. And if they want to know, they need to know. That is not for anyone else to decide.

      There is a fine line between privacy and secrets. The former is healthy and fairly innate. The latter is detrimental and an overt sign that there is shame involved.

      I absolutely agree that there is not a single truth in divorce and even that the same truth can be perceived very differently by different people. “Like what important issues?” the child asks. Does the parent lie? Tell the child it’s not their business? Without information about the parents’ relationship, I have seen many of my peers assume fault for their parents’ divorce or lay blame on one of the parents, permanently altering their relationship. I see this as far more debilitating than being honest about our own actions and being real with our kids.

      December 20, 2011
  6. Hey Barb,

    Fascinating story you bring forth here. Yet for me there is one vital piece of info which is missing: the location… the legal jurisdiction. Is this story from Texas or some other state? Laws and preferences/prejudices very sometimes tremendously depending upon location. Naming the state this happened in could potentially help save some other family from the same or a similar misfortune. And did this story hit the newspapers in whatever state? Is there a public legal record which could be cited so facts might be checked for accuracy?

    Many thanks,

    Eric

    December 20, 2011
    • Eric, this story is from the DFW Texas area. If I believe the story then there must be a public record. I don’t know this particular man’s name, but I think my husband does. I should get it from him to see if I can track down any police records, etc. just to do some fact checking. If I can get this info, I will share it with you, minus his name of course. On second thought, if he is part of a public sex offender list, there’s no point in hiding! As for newspapers, I do not know that either.

      December 20, 2011
      • Thanks Barb. Certainly potentially an important bit of info for those of us who live in Texas, when somehow our talking to our kids about sex, can be construed as “sexual predator” action. Perhaps if the story is complete and accurate as told, with the guy only relaying the ‘truth’ about his wife’s sexual connections, there might be the chance to create public pressure on the appropriate authorities (freedom of speech, parental rights, etc.) to not have this happen again
        and/or to reverse the action taken against the guy.

        Eric

        December 20, 2011
  7. Summer #

    My husband and I have two children together and I have two from a previous marriage. We have had an open relationship for the entire six years of our marriage. When my husband and I have engaged in polyamorous relationships, we had to think carefully on what to say to the kids and what to show them. My husband’s family is extremely conservative and religious. I could see them trying to get our kids taken away if they thought we were exposing the kids to even the concept of an open marriage. The scary thing is that all it could take is a call to Child Protective Services.

    I have always felt strongly that it is important to be honest with my children in an age appropriate way. However this includes explaining that most people in society are intolerant of anything other than a relationship between one man and one woman. My kids have been cautioned against discussing these types of things with other people. The rule is they must ask us before doing so. So far, this has worked out well for our family.

    December 20, 2011
    • Thank you Summer! I love the feeling of enlightened consciousness and respect that I get from reading your post. Children are bright, intelligent beings and I too have witnessed their natural ability from very young ages to discern the dramatic differences between life at home – secure, open, loving, trusting – and much of the world outside our home. They ask nonstop questions about this contrast, experiment, think, rethink and KNOW what feels good and how to safeguard that. It doesn’t come from fear, it comes from empowerment and knowledge.

      December 21, 2011
  8. May I simply say what a relief to uncover a person that
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    September 13, 2014

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