This is mostly a rhetorical question for me, since I don’t have kids and most likely never will, but how would you teach your kids about the birds and the bees? Would you talk to them about things like safer sex and consent?
My parents never gave me a sex talk. I first found out about sex from a book about the human body that my parents gave me that they didn’t actually realize covered sex among the assorted other bodily functions and activities. Luckily the sex ed teacher at school was a public health nurse who did a good job of the basics.
I don’t think I would have wanted my parents to give me a sex talk. Presumably my parents have had sex at some point in their lifetime, but I have no desire to think about it. I’m sure my parents have just as little desire to know about my sex life.
I think that’s where the cool aunt/uncle or similar figure can come into the equation. The fact that a non-parental adult has sex, or at least knows about it, seems more palatable than if it were the parents. And I think I would feel a lot more comfortable giving my brother’s kids (when he has them) the birds and the bees talk than I would my own.
Information is power
We also need to make sure kids have accurate information about preventing pregnancy and sexually transmitted infections. Stayteen.org has an “ask us anything” section, and the number of misconceptions about sex is frightening. One myth is that anal sex is a safe way to avoid pregnancy, when in fact it’s a very high risk activity for sexually transmitted infections. I suspect having a chat about anal sex would be a lot easier as the cool aunt/uncle rather than as the parent.
We can stick our heads in the sand and hope that kids aren’t going to have sex as teenagers, but chances are we’d be wrong. A 2017 press release from Planned Parenthood says that more than half of U.S. teens are sexually active by age 18. I think we’re far better off giving them the information to be as safe as possible whatever situations they may find themselves in.
Would you talk to them about reproductive rights issues? It’s something that many females end up facing, and being informed is better than going in blind.
It’s important that kids hear not just about the mechanics and the health issues like STDs, but also about things like sexting and consent. Kids are bombarded with societal messages about what’s expected to fit in, where their worth lies, and what labels are used for what perceived behaviours (e.g. “slut”). If our kids are hearing these messages without having them balanced out by realistic messages from trusting adults, that’s a problem. Rape culture is something that society has created and perpetuated, and we need to teach our kids that it’s not acceptable.
And as much as we don’t want to think of our kids being victims of sexual assault, we need to convey this message to them:
Whether it’s the parent conveying the message or someone else, we owe it to our kids to prepare them the best we can for a world that’s not all rainbows and unicorns. The birds and the bees talk needs to be about actual humans and the issues that they’re likely to face Knowledge is power, and knowledge helps kids to stay safe and recognize that it’s ok to set and enforce their own limits. If we don’t provide kids with a comprehensive knowledge base around sex, we are disempowering them. We can do better than that.