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Registered: ‎11-10-2013
Re: The "talk"...


When you say that you thought you were “a while from that,” I’m intrigued to know how long you were imagining a “while” was? Boys begin puberty at age nine on average. So your boys are likely already there. (My older one probably isn’t quite there yet, but he definitely knows what’s up.) If you’re soliciting readers to opine on what they think the threshold is, beneath which a parent can’t safely talk to their children about sex, then I think it’s essential that they be made to qualify their opinions. Why, for instance, is it assumed that information about sexuality is something that must be withheld from children in the first place? Even the way parents use the expression “the talk” is problematic. “The talk” is never an ongoing conversation to be revisited as children become more sophisticated about their own sexuality and require answers to more questions. Parents treat it as a one time affair. Something you put off as long as possible, then get out of the way as quickly as possible.


And your child can tell when his parent’s official attitude is…  “Let us never speak of this again.”


This entire attitude cultivates the impression that sex is dirty or morally wrong instead of something to be enjoyed. You don’t have “a talk” with your child about other biological functions, like digestion. You don’t have “a talk” about art or politics. They will learn quickly that sex is a special category of information, that must be avoided in order to appease people who have power over them.


My partner and I decided early that we wanted to raise our kids in a sex-positive environment. We’ve both met plenty of parents we didn’t like, and plenty of kids we liked even less. We had plenty of time to think critically about where people go wrong in raising them. And these screwed up ideas about sexuality that they inherited from the Victorians were at the top of our list. We’ve never had “the talk” with our boys and we won’t. Instead, we’ve had an ongoing conversation that began when (our oldest at least) expressed the first glimmer of curiosity about sexuality. And our conversations are not the uncomfortable exchanges that so many parents seem to dread. Explaining the gender differences that are obvious to any five year old, like the breasts on women that are mysteriously absent on men, required a digression on sexual dimorphism. From there our conversation naturally wended into evolutionary biology… to neurology… to teleology… to moral philosophy. And as my son’s breadth of information grew, he began to make connections. He saw structure and patterns emerge that I know remain completely beyond his peers. At Eight, he already has a grasp of why a hummingbirds beak and and an orchid can have shapes that are reciprocal to one another even though they’re different species. He’s become more curious, more thoughtful and more considerate of others. And When I see how he has grown as a person, I realize that to withhold this information  from him or his brother  for some late victorian’s comfort, would be to do both of them a tremendous disservice.