No matter how open I try to be with my kids when discussing sex, I still always fall back to the realization that my default mode for discussing sex is: Heterosexual. Every time I think I’ve widened my approach in the proper way to include various sexualities and genders, I’ll catch myself answering a question with a heteronormative slant and think: Dammit, Kim. There you go again.
Now, I’ve answered PLENTY of questions about homosexual sex and relationships but when generic questions are asked, I sometimes give generic answers as they relate to heterosexual relationships between cisgender men and women. And I’m the mother of a gay man! It’s not like I’m not deeply aware that not everyone is heterosexual, but since I have been in a heterosexual relationship for 18 years, my brain just defaults to that mindset when I respond and when it hits me that an answer I’m giving falls back to “Cisgender Man + Cisgender Woman” sexual situations, I am frustrated with myself.
The trick to effectively talking about sex with your kids is to keep it simple, but thorough. Answer the questions they have, but don’t keep expounding because they stop listening. This is tricky to do concisely, which is problematic if you want to make sure to allow for explanations that involved gender and sexuality spectrums.
So, for example, now I describe sex as two ENTHUSIASTICALLY CONSENTING people who want to achieve mutual orgasms in some way usually involving vaginal, anal, or oral intercourse.
I stopped equating “sex” with “vaginal sexual intercourse” many moons ago, when I learned that teenage girls have been consenting to anal sex before vaginal sex in order to maintain their “virginity”. But this connects to the topic of heteronormative sex talks because we don’t talk about anal sex often, so a lot of these girls end up hurt. I don’t want my kids being hung up on the term or status of “virginity” and so I want to make sure I use a wide scope when talking about sex and I want to make sure I cover safety issues covering all kinds of intercourse – vaginal and anal include.
Teen Vogue did a GREAT write-up (A Guide To Anal Sex) about this and I know a lot of people were pissed, but if they had heard the stories I had heard about girls naively approaching anal sex and ending up hurt, they would have been glad for it.
So, while I did a great job in including all types of intercourse in my sex talks, I tended to rely heavily on the male/female narrative and pronoun usage and I would neglect to discuss safety from any other perspective than penis/vagina intercourse. There’s a great page about “safe sex” from Planned Parenthood that covers all types of safety in all forms of intercourse.
There are lots of ways you can make sex safer. One of the best ways is by using a barrier — like condoms, female condoms, and/or dental dams — every single time you have oral, anal, or vaginal sex. Barriers cover parts of your genitals, protecting you and your partner from body fluids and some skin-to-skin contact, which can both spread STDs.
Safer Sex – Planned Parenthood
It’s also important we all stay apprised with medical advances in all forms of safe sex, especially surrounding HIV because even if your child is heterosexual, they may be in a sexual relationship with someone who has been with men who have had sex with other men and so awareness of things like PrEP are important. (I linked to THRIVE Alabama page about PrEP but there are organizations like that in/near all major areas, just find the one that works for you because it is very cost-prohibitive and these non-profit organizations help make it more available to everyone.)
OH! And on that note, make sure you also talk to your kids about how important it is to get tested if they’ve been in or are in sexual relationships that put them at risk. HIV is not a death sentence, and people living with HIV can live long, happy, and sexually active lives – but they NEED TO KNOW THE HAVE IT.
The existence of the internet probably helps our kids answer questions they don’t want to ask us, but most of us don’t give our kids free range on the internet until they’re past the age where they’ve already started asking the questions. And the internet is not always trustworthy. And since we all want to make sure our kids know we will love them and support them no matter what their gender and sexuality, then the best approach is to always answer their questions about sex with different sexuality and genders in mind.
If you’re like me and have been in a heterosexual/cisgender relationship for decades, then your brain just defaults to male/female vaginal sex and that is OKAY. I was just hoping to kinda let you guys into my brain as both of my kids have basically asked ALL of the questions by now. SEVERAL TIMES. And y’all? I’m a PRUDE. So it is TOUGH to have these discussions but I try to keep my cool and I try to keep it clinical.
Other things to try to avoid: Exclusively discussing male masturbation. We need to make casual references to girls masturbating as much of the “norm” as we do with boys. I mean, our sitcoms even make subtle jokes about boys in the midst of puberty “showering too long” or “going through too many socks” and the truth is – we need to have those jokes with pubescent girls and masturbation too because they need to see it as much as the norm as with boys. If we raised our girls to have equal control over their pleasure as we do our boys, they’d be 100 times better off than my generation was.
I also love the term “ENTHUSIASTIC CONSENT” because it makes consenting about how EVERYONE SHOULD BE HAVING FUN! This is not one person just letting another person do their thing just to get it over with. I don’t like the idea that there’s generations of women who admit just “laying there an letting it happen” as status quo in sexual relationships. It’s become a joke like, “Uggg…I’m not in the mood but he’s pestering me soooo…” And I think our kids should be raised to believe if everyone is not on board and excited, then the person who IS in the mood should take care of things themselves.
These are just some of the adjustments and modifications I’ve made in my sex talks and sex-talk mindset in the last 10+ years and I thought I’d share them with you.
Now I’m going to go back to being a prude who doesn’t even like to watch grown-up shows on TV because they’re too open about sex and it damages my sensibilities.