Few parenting topics are more fraught than sex education. Many of us do as little as we can get away with, answering questions as they arise and leaving the rest to school… not because we don’t care, but because we feel awkward and embarrassed. We want our to children to remain innocent, and most of all we don’t want them to imagine us “doing it.”
The risk then is that everybody is leaving it to everybody else, and the unfortunate kids end up having to construct their knowledge from fragments, rumors, and playground gossip, the latter a source almost as unreliable as Wikipedia.
Even the information coming from schools can be shocking. A textbook issued to school libraries in Jiangxi province was condemned recently for suggesting that “Girls do not earn more love from boys by sacrificing their bodies, but rather are seen as ‘degraded’ by their ‘conquerors’. As a result, premarital sex can cause women to lose love.”
Another supposedly helpful book for children caused baffled amusement on Weibo, as commenters tried to fathom the educational value of Guoguo showing off his “little chicken” to a group of anthropomorphized animals.
Most Chinese schools provide no sex education at all. In Beijing the Girls’ Protection Project teaches children about their private parts, and setting and defending their boundaries. International schools offering the US or UK curriculum should give some formal instruction, but in the end it’s down to us as parents to provide the information our children need.
In this context I was intrigued to come across on social media a piece about “sex-positive parenting.” It’s more direct in its language than many parents will feel comfortable with encountering in a family publication like beijingkids, so for that reason I won’t share its title, and suggest you may wish to read it when your kids are not around:
At first this piece seems shocking. On reflection however it’s hard to argue with its premise: that it’s natural for children to explore their own bodies and to be curious about where they come from. Kids who are informed and empowered, who can talk confidently about their bodies, are better able to keep themselves safe, than those who grow up with sex shrouded in secrecy and euphemism.
And we have a responsibility to talk about consent too, particularly those of us with boys. Fortunately this is rather easier. Bullies often excuse their behavior by saying “it was just a joke, we were having fun.” Kids are never too young to learn that it’s only fun if everyone is having fun, that when someone says “stop” you stop.
What do you think? Do you talk frankly to your children about sex? Or do you think their innocence should be protected for as long as possible?
Photo: Rose Davies via Flickr