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What NOT to do when teaching your kids about sex

Reservoir Mum and I have reached another crucial point in our parenting journey.

Every year added to Archie’s life makes us beginners again and now that he’s 8 we’ve decided it’s time to broach the topic of sex.

My own introduction to sex was delivered by a box of porno mags a friend and I found outside a newsagent when I was 11. When I first masturbated at age 12 and saw the end result I honestly thought I was going to die. And I thought I was going to die every night for weeks after, until I was lucky enough to hear a friend’s older brother talking about the joys of doing exactly what I was doing.

My mum bought some sex ed books for me a few years later and placed them on my pillow for me to read. By then I had seen a lot of porn, developed a variety of private sexual fantasies, and was involved in daily discussions about sex with school friends that The Australian Classification Board would have classified as WHAT THE?! I remember flicking through the books Mum left for me and being disappointed about the lack of explicit pictures.

When my mind wanders through the rest of my sexual journey, in particular those fraught adolescent years—and while holding no grudges at all against my parents—I have to wonder if I might have avoided certain mistakes, embarrassment and insecurities had I been given an earlier, more focused introduction to sex.

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It’s impossible to say for sure, but it seems logical to answer: yes. And if the answer is yes, then I have to approach the sexual education of my children a little differently.

So after several discussions, triggered by certain things we’ve seeing in Archie’s language and behaviour, that’s what RM and I are doing.

As well as covering the basic mechanics of sex, I personally feel compelled to add something extra to what will hopefully be an ongoing discussion. As the most influential man in the lives of my four boys  (for the time being at least) I feel it’s my responsibility to prepare them for the negativity that surrounds male sexuality today.

The constant media reports and campaigns on sexual and domestic violence are important and necessary, but sometimes I feel that certain well-intentioned messages – like ‘teach men not to rape’ – need to be countered with more positive advice, otherwise today’s boys will grow into men who harbor some damaging untruths.

I want to make sure my boys understand that their gender doesn’t come with an inherent badness and that male sexuality isn’t automatically predatory, selfish or cruel. That while some men are scary and dangerous, male sexuality itself isn’t. It doesn’t need to be cornered and restricted. It’s something to embrace rather than fear.

I want them to develop an awareness of men as caring partners and passionate lovers, whose sexual desire is as equally wonderful and affirming and deserving of full expression as women’s.

Why is this such a focus for me? Like most parents, I worry about my children’s future. I want to give them the greatest possible chance at happiness.

I want them to grow into their sexuality with confidence, to become sexually active when the time is right for them, to approach their first sexual experiences with a balance of curiosity and desire, shyness and care. I want all possibility of coercion or entrapment, embarrassment or ridicule to be removed so they can share themselves completely, with all the giddiness, euphoria and delight that fulfilling partnerships and a healthy sex life can bring.

In short, I want them to have what I have with RM. Without stumbling along the same bumpy, winding road I took to get there.

Have you given your kids the birds and bees talk? How did it go?

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