First published on Tuesday the 13th of March, 2018, this piece comes in at number 7 in the top 30 most read Villainesse stories of 2018.
Do you remember how you learnt about sex and relationships? Was it a cosy, friendly chat with one or both of your parents about navigating your body, masturbation, contraception and protection, STIs, pregnancy, respect and relationships, consent, damaging myths and stereotypes, gender identity, sexuality, porn, and sex mixed with drugs and alcohol ?
I didn’t think so.
Chatting with my adult friends who are now raising kids of our own, it’s amazing to me how little discussion we had with our own parents about ANY of the aforementioned topics. At best, some of us had the rudimentary conversation about which bits went where to procreate. At worst, no discussion was had at all. Ever. How we managed to grow up in the world and procreate at all came down to conversations between friends, and working it out as we went along. Suffice to say, the majority of my friends can share experiences of variously contracting some sort of sexually transmitted infection, having disastrous encounters in bed, horrific relationship stories, porn addiction, and for some, experiencing sexual assault.
With our own experiences (largely) behind us, it beggars belief that so many parents I encounter are somewhat taken aback at the level of frank discussion I have with my almost-teen daughter about sex and relationships. ‘I could never talk about that with [insert name of their own child]. I would be too embarrassed!’, or ‘They’ll figure it out, that’s what the internet is for!’; or ‘I’ll leave it to his father, I did the birthing bit’, is another good one; or my own personal favourite that has been said to me as the mother of a girl, ‘I’m so glad I have a son so I don’t have to have that sort of discussion with him!’
The kind of world our kids are navigating is an entirely different one to the world we grew up in. Without sounding like a geriatric, times have changed. There is this little thing called the World Wide Web, and despite a lot of parents living in denial, their kids are seeing all sorts of imagery and messaging of what a healthy, respectful sexual relationship should NOT look like.
Let me be clear: from the moment you place a mobile device in their tiny little hands, Peppa Pig and Pokemons are not the only things starting with ‘P’ that their little minds will chance upon. Even with the best screening tools in place.
So what are our kids dealing with? I’ll start small. Your tween body is starting to change and grow, but the only images you have to compare it with are the ones you see online. Maybe its an Instagram star posing half-clothed on a beach with ‘duck lips’, or maybe it’s a video of people having sex that makes you think that that’s what your body should actually look like or how you should act in bed. Maybe it’s a video filmed in a schoolyard that has gone viral of a transgender kid being beaten up while a bunch of kids stand around laughing and jeering? Maybe it’s as simple as hundreds of messages filling your screen about what you should look like, how you should act, what you should wear, and who you should love.
Then imagine navigating your teens with a barrage of text messages asking to see your newly grown breasts or more adult-looking penis? Or being slut-shamed through the whole school when a chance photo of you drunk at a party with your dress up around your waist was shared and mocked by all to see? Imagine your buddies sneaking into a room while you were making out with your girlfriend and taking a video and posting it online? Imagine thinking that consent meant the absence of the word ‘no’, so an unconscious girl was fair game to have sex with? Imagine your body changing and growing but – knowing that what the world expected you to be, or look like – didn’t match how you felt in your head and heart? Imagine loving someone that was the same gender as you but not seeing much out there to model those kinds of relationships? Imagine thinking that the way to have sex was what you had seen in porn films, and blowjobs, group and anal sex, and being ejaculated on was the norm?
This is the world that our kids are navigating. And this is why we created The REAL Sex Talk.
Finger-pointing at some parents for not providing honest, real discussion and guidance at home, or at some schools for glossing over quality sex education, or at the presence of the internet for filling young developing brains and bodies with unhealthy, unclear and destructive messages was not going to solve the problem. What was needed was easily accessible information that would help young people navigate their future relationships and sex lives so that they are happy, respectful, consensual and fulfilling.
So we decided to write the kind of sex talk that we wish all kids (and their parents) could watch and learn from. And to be honest, we’ve probably only scratched the surface.
But it’s a start.
You can watch the first episode of The REAL Sex Talk here.Support Villainesse