Talking with Kids About Sex… is a Crime?
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.
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.
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.
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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