consent-meme-capsI have been publishing light and fluffy posts over summer (with a few philosophical ones buttered in there) cos i’m procrastinating about some strong issues i’d like to share, namely water, minimising/consuming, and returning to another vital topic – sex.

So here i return.

I am a mother.
This post has been confronting to write about, because it raises issues that i’m fearful of, namely sexual abuse. It also talks about how or when to talk about sex and it raises some questions around normalcy and attitudes towards children’s sexuality.

As with all of my posts, i profess to not being an expert, i offer what i currently think, believe, feel. I write this blog to share what other people teach me within conversations,workshops, books, recordings, in case it can be of benefit to others. It also helps me understand people, happening, ideas, patterns more. I appreciate you being a part of this connecting process.

Let’s begin by seeing some of these adorable real little people this post is about.

Children’s ideas around LOVE

And a moment of nostalgia about where babies come from:

The Book: My Mother My Self
When did i start thinking about children’s sexuality?
In my 30s i discovered a book next to my Mother’s bed. Luckily for me i often find things my Mother reads, is interested in, and finds  – curious, so i picked it up. This book was “My Mother My Self: The Daughter’s Search for Identity” by Nancy Friday. This #1 National (American) Bestseller has this on its back cover: “Today psychologists throughout the world acknowledge that if women are to be able to love without possessing, to find work that fulfills them, and to discover their full sexuality, the must first acknowledge their identity as separate from their Mother’s.” And goes on to write: “The greatest gift a good mother can give remains unquestioning love planted deep in the first year of life, so deep and unassailable that the tiny child grown to womanhood is never held back by the fear of losing that love, no matter what her choices in love, sexuality, or work may be.”

At some point i may re-read and re-view this thought-shifting book, but for now i want to share that this collection of ideas by Nancy Friday opened me up to where my own sexuality may have come from. I wasn’t a Mother when i read it, yet it made me consider:
how comfortable (or not) was i in my own skin
how did i feel nude
how much did i understand about my body in regards to reproduction, sex and anatomy namely my genitalia
how comfortable (or not) was i talking about this with other people
and how much would i feel authentically comfortable sharing with ‘my’ future children. The book made me realise my sexuality would most probably have an effect on my children.

One story i recall from the book was of a Mother that allowed her daughter to look at her Mother’s genitalia, so she understood it. I realise i am pointing out the obvious but the female genitals are mostly tucked away, whether by hair, or by the folds of skin, that the mans.

gwov-panel-10

It wasn’t until a Pennie Brownlee course that i read Joseph Chilton Pearse’s: “What we are teaches the child far more than what we say, so we must be what we want our children to become.” The reality that our children are downloading us all the time. They mimic us. They do what we do, not what we say.

Another aspect of the book i appreciated was we were encouraged to be honest or real about how comfortable we were to talk about sex (and for this anecdote i imagined the author was meaning when we are talking with our teen children). Friday counselled if we are not comfortable or open to talk about it, be honest with our children, and say but aunty such and such is happy to talk with you if you’d like to talk with her. Friday assured us our children can read when we’re out of integrity, and that a young person’s access to a trusted adult’s information on sex, a touchstone, was more vital than a stunted sex talk from one’s Mum or Dad.

Another wee quote i want to share whilst we’re on the topic of this book, is this food for the bedroom from Dr Schaefer, “the way women put it is, ‘He gave me an orgasm.’ I tell them, ‘Someone doesn’t give you an orgasm. You give yourself an orgasm.’ ”

Sex Education for Children
In the Netherlands, the approach, known as “comprehensive sex education,” starts as early as age 4. You’ll never hear an explicit reference to sex in a kindergarten class. The goal is bigger than that. It’s about having open, honest conversations about love and relationships.

Click here for the full article complete with videos: The case for starting sex education in kindergarten

And another videoed extract of “Sex Ed.” for primary school children:

When do we talk about sex with our kids?

I’m brought back to Satsang with Erin, suggesting we talk openly with our children about death. So too we can talk of what we know (now) about sex, about shame, about pride, about fear, about trust.

Suggestions of how or when to talk with kids about sex
* A school friend (who out of interest is Christian and a nurse) said she has an anatomical poster at child’s height and talks about all the body parts with their correct names and functions with her children.
* A Playcentre friend saw a post i’d made about the importance of using the ‘real’ word for vagina or penis, and commented, often we mean vulva, but it gets ‘lumped’ together and called a vagina. Point taken thank you Playcentre friend. I went back to my kids and explained i’d learnt something new and we needed to swap out vagina for vulva unless we meant the hole where the baby (often) and my monthly blood comes out of. Vulva meaning the female genitals, which may be the part of a child that is being scratched, or played with.
* I’m also interested in how many parents of girl children refer to the clitoris. This is very curious to me. I feel like in my perhaps conservative life, that many of us don’t say this word out-loud, among our adult friends about an adult clitoris and even more so or less so in our children. Yet often when our girl children are exploring their genitalia, this it the part they move.
* Another friend (sooo many friends! teehe) suggested they still need to learn the other words like willy, fanny, as other people may refer to that (both innocently and with the desire to abuse).
* I remember someone suggesting to keep it real as in scientific rather than ’emotional’, but also only answer the questions they ask, rather than going into greater detail than they need/want/can assimilate.
* Using real life to be the cue is “organic” also e.g. stumbling across animals mating in the garden, the neighbour giving birth, a child finding a box of condoms, talking about a friend who has two Mums. As opposed to manoeuvring things for the adults timing or rational e.g. deciding “right it’s the first day of Spring, you’re 7 years old, we’re going to talk about the birds and the bees.”
* Lose nudey-rudey and if you have to replace it, or retort it (when with un-conscious friends and family) say ‘nudey-soul-foodie’
* With our 6 year old who has asked if she can walk home from the friends’ down the road, i’ve quizzed her. What would you do if it was raining and someone said “I’ll give you a ride home.” I’ve explained i don’t want her to change the plan e.g. even if it was the neighbour, what happens if they say “we’ll just go to the shop” and then you’re late and i get worried. You say: “My family don’t let me change the plan. I’ve said i’ll walk home. I’m going to walk home.”
* I think it’s kind and useful to correct them (gently) if i overhear something e.g. you can make a baby if you lie in the same bed as someone, or boys can’t marry boys…
* Sometimes if i’m trying to think of which aspect to divulge, or how to, i’ll buy some time and say: What do you think? Or do your friends say…
* Selma H Fraiberg in her book ‘The Magic Years’ dedicates a chapter to this topic – On Giving Sex Information from page 211: “We have seen that at the time the child asks his first questions, and for a long time afterward, he already has his own notions, his private theories about procreation. These theories are based upon his own observations of body functioning which most commonly lead the child to draw analogies from eating and elimination. The facts we give him are beyond his experience, they appear to him as strange or even fantastic, and the educational achievement may be only one theory (ours) superimposed on other theories (his). The result is often further confusion.
It may be very helpful, then, to take the child’s private theories into account before we introduce him to new facts, “Where does the baby come from, Mama?” “Tell me where you think it comes from Danny.” Or we can say, “You try to guess and the I’ll help you figure it out.” In this way we can deal with the child’s theories first and help him look at hem, too.”

Sexual abuse
On a less light-hearted note, and one that i feel uncomfortable facing, pained actually, and one which i fear. Although is there nothing to fear but fear itself? Am i a product of propaganda. Yes abuse exists and is real, but so too, are good people, in particular – men.

In our family husband introduced ‘brain stories’ which are stories from his and my brain rather than a book on the shelf. First born asked for one tonight, she specifically asked for one from when i was 8 years old. I talked about Mr such and such’s class. I’ve told her lots of school stories. Tonight she remarked, you always had Mr Teachers. And she’s right. From standard one until form two (over 6 years) only one of my teachers was a woman. I never felt unsafe. There’s not one ‘dodgy’ memory. Our primary school education is missing out, in my opinion, and our Early Childhood one. They say “give me a child until he’s 7 and i’ll give you the man,” those first years (where women seem to be raising children including boys) are the foundations of our culture, of our values, of our models.

A friend facebooked this article today: A Paediatrician just laid out how to protect your child from sexual abuse – and she’s begging you to listen.

Here’s another ‘guide to a safety plan for your family’ which was linked to by an adorable blog called Lulastic and the Hippyshake, a modern day hippy parent who does everything sensibly radical like co-sleeping, baby-wearing, nappy-free parenting, and most recently unschooling.

I decided to look to Dr Markham from Aha!Parenting for guidance also and i found this blog in her archives: What every parent needs to know to keep your child safe from sexual abuse.

And finally a third article which i think is VITAL READING is – My Body Belongs to Me by Genevieve Simperingham from the Peaceful Parent Institute. I feel it addresses the issue of how to parent a child so they understand their right to consent, identity, respect. Simperingham holistically engages us to raise empowered listened to children as opposed to minimising the issue down to keeping their genitalia ‘theirs’/’safe’.

What i found thought-provoking it how clear Dr Markham is about instructing parents to tell their children “no-one else should touch your body”. I went on to read her response to this question from a Mother: How to stop 4 year old from kissing cousin, and an even ‘stronger’ response to this emailed question: 6 year old obsessed with Sex, Potty Talk

I’m interested in the tender intersection of keeping children “safe”, and allowing them to experiment, or express their sexuality, without shame. “My Mother My Self” touches on the impact of what our parents/adults say to us as children about our masturbation, desire to dress-up in feminine clothes if we are a boy etc and other expressions of sexuality.

I’m interested in shame. The funny, articulate, personable researcher/storyteller/TEd talker Brene Brown is too. I’m interested in where shame goes? Shadow. Repression. Fear.

Children’s sexuality
So now, i have googled ‘children experimenting with their siblings/cousins’ and found Dr Robert with his (sorry Dr Robert) irritating fluro green text background. Before doing a little more research on this fellow i’m going to assume he gives more time to people and the process of psychology than technological or design fluency. But back to his article, here it is: Is Childhood Sexuality Normal.

And here is another article by Dr Robert Saltzman: Awakening Never Ends within the non-duality magazine, in terms of getting a fuller sense, or finer-inner-portrait of this man.

Then there’s this article for paediatricians Clinical Report – The Evaluation of Sexual Behaviours in Children by Nancy D. Kellogg.

This question of sexual exploration, learning, play for children versus their and other children’s safety, and what is deemed ‘normal’ and what ‘not’, and by whom, and what that whom’s values and geographical location and language are, has got me thinking greatly. If i could read articles written in Swedish, Thai, Papua New Guinean, Dutch, French, would they “spout” the same observations, findings and normalcies.

I found this intriguing, taken from Kellogg’s article: “Children who reside in homes in which there is family nudity, cobathing, or less privacy when dressing, going to the bathroom, or bathing or in which sexual activities are occurring openly are more likely to openly engage in sexual behaviours.3 ”

Hmmm, does this mean “others” do it more discretely?

Tonight’s writing/contemplation/meditation has brought me back to Alfie Kohn’s referral to contingent self-esteem. Most of our children undergo so much external/adult evaluation, from parents, from teachers, from schooling assessment systems, based on a culture of competition, a culture of scarcity, of survival of the fittest. It’s no wonder many people get burdened by learning to be ‘people pleasers’, by maturing into inauthentic people because it’s too terrifying or dangerous to upset someone and ‘lose their love’ or ‘approval’, or one’s sense of ‘belonging’.

If our parenting styles, our education systems, one where we want children to comply triumphs, and where a child looks to the adult to determine whether she feels happiness versus disappointment within the pride or shame we display, or a lighter version of this, our approval or disapproval of this, there is a gravity in the child’s experience being made less or more, amplified or dismissed, by an adult’s reaction.

For example, one of our children becomes highly embarrassed when she falls over. If no one says anything (pretends they haven’t noticed), if they don’t go “oh, that’s gotta hurt”, or “are you okay honey?”…she will run on un-phased. I don’t manage this all the time, but the intention is to be there, to be empathetic and comforting if required, but remain neutral (un-emotional) before she decides to come to me for a cuddle, to allow her, her experience and her response to it, rather than making her take on the complexity of not only her experience BUT mine also.

Can we “the adults” do more damage or cause more suffering than the act itself, by our reaction to it?

I may re-visit (if i’m brave enough) – Children’s Sexuality. Coming from the angle of what do we “allow” as parents, in regards to keeping our children safe and others’ safe.

I explicitly coach our children in all areas of play to “respect each other’s wishes,” to be able to say “Stop it. I don’t like it.” And if a child says No, or Stop, we are to “change the game immediately.” I feel it’s teaching them to recognise what they want to do, and what they don’t want to do, as well as hearing other people’s needs and responding to those. This seems to be a framework they can develop a communicative/consensual and responsive relationship with someone, whether it’s negotiating how to play with blocks as a two year old (building up or busting down) or exploring sexuality as a young adult.

We also acknowledge each others’ nos, rather than seeing it as unwanted disobedience. Do we consistently allow “No” in our culture. Perhaps this is an area we can increase our personal safety in.

I have found this an unsettling topic to share, which suggests to me, we need to talk about it more with each other (perhaps) and/or perhaps like death we all have such variance in what we believe is true, right, okay, not okay, talked about, ignored, allowed, forbidden, that talking about it openly is very scary. Perhaps people are worried about polarising someone, or themselves, or losing a sense of belonging. For when there is judgement (quite often rooted in fear of the unknown) there is a loss of trust, a loss of open-ness and connection.

How difficult or easy it is to sit with something foreign, unusual, not (yet) understood.

Keep sharing people.
Keep learning.
Keep opening our minds to all that is possible.

I’m interested in ideas, books, research around these topics, whether they are supposedly ‘radical’ ideas or ‘conservative’ ideas, as i’m interested in our ‘normal’ versus emerging ideas around children’s sexuality.
Please comment below with any resources which have been helpful for you.

Posted by:media | events in Bay of Plenty & Beyond

Connector I Sharer Events-maker, Writer, Photographer, Teacher

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