I have to work again this weekend and I have a meeting with my major funder this Monday. This current economic catastrophe will surely have an impact on my work. I’m fine until 2010, but there’s very little money out there. Foundations, many of whom were affected by Madoff [sp], are folding -- shutting its doors.
It’s "Fuck Eddie Weekend"!
For some reason that escapes me, we lose an hour of sleep this weekend.
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-=[ Raising Children as Sexual Beings ]=-
“And I made a rural pen, And I stained the water clear, And I wrote my happy songs Every Child may joy to hear.”
-- William Blake (1757–1827) Songs of Innocence
Through most of Western history, children have been brought up as innocent, asexual beings. But the fact is that children are most certainly not asexual. All the sexual organs capable of providing pleasure are present and children are sexual creatures from birth. Of course, I’m not proposing that theirs is the same sexuality we know as adults, but it is nonetheless a form of sexuality.
Freud was almost burned at the stake for essentially saying the same thing.
The baby playing with your breast is at least sensual if not sexual. The two-year-old who crawls into bed between Mommy and Daddy is sexual, albeit not in the same capacity, nor the explicit sexual intent of an adult. The five year-old girl who dresses up and sits on her father’s lap kissing him and asking him if he will marry her when she grows up, is sexual. The seven-year-old who is masturbating, probably to orgasm, is sexual. The eight year-old prancing around in blissful innocent nakedness is sexual. These are all examples of children passing through learning stages on the way to evolving into adult sexual beings. Many would find what I just wrote disturbing and I would refer those to my previous postings on sexual repression. The fact remains that some of the above behavior is a mimicking of Mommy and Daddy and some from natural bodily curiosity. Whatever the case, it is all sexual though not necessarily with the adult’s awareness of what sexuality means.
The major problem in dealing with sexuality in children has always been the adult’s own hang-ups, discomfort, and embarrassment with sex. There is the tendency to ignore children’s sexual questions and behaviors, a tendency to believe that we don’t have to answer children’s sexual questions because they couldn’t possibly know what they are asking. This serves to deny the child’s sexuality because of the adult’s own uneasiness. The consequence, of course, is that the child gets the message that she is asking an improper question that her parent disapproves of, therefore the child will stop risking her parent’s rejection or anger, keep quiet, and wonder silently to herself.
Meanwhile, the child feels embarrassment, shame, and, worst of all, remains ignorant of sex, many even reaching adulthood experiencing excessive sexual inhibitions, the inability to orgasm, or the experience of an unwanted pregnancy.
Cutting-edge neurological research has shown that our physiology is like a feedback loop. In other words, our bodies are wired for relationships. This is why Eastern philosophies stressing that we are not at all separate sacks of flesh, but part of a web of reality are so on point. Cuddling, shows of affection, kissing, etc., all actually have a direct impact on a child’s brain structure. For any interested in learning more about this I recommend the elegantly written A General Theory of Love.
Physical contact is essential for children. In many ways it’s even more important that food. Studies have long shown that children in orphanages, for example, who received adequate nourishment but were not held, cuddled, kissed, and caressed, could not thrive and often became ill. But in our culture, it is common to discontinue physical contact as the child grows older, especially with sons. Then, after marriage, we’re supposed to miraculously respond emotionally and physically without inhibitions. This is true of both men and women raised in household in which contact was taboo and emotional unavailability was the norm. What was initially natural for them as children was conditioned out of them as they grew older.
Many of us were raised in families where touching was expressly forbidden and so we pass this down to our children. Others may be so terrified of any sexual fantasies they may entertain that it can cause them to maintain an emotional and physical distance in an effort to repress unacceptable sexual feelings. Believe it or not, sexual feelings for our children begin early. It is important to understand that sexual fantasies about one’s children are normal. Many mothers, for example, report having such fantasies at least occasionally.
There’s a considerable difference between sexual fantasies and acting out on them. That’s not what I’m talking about here. Acting them out will be detrimental to the child, while having fantasies is harmless. In my experience, repressing such thoughts often result in increasing the likelihood of acting out. This is why I always say that repression is not morality. Once we push aspects of our sexuality into the shadows, they emerge later in as overwhelming and largely subconscious compulsions.
There is no reason to keep children from knowing that sex is an enjoyable, pleasurable activity; that sex is for fun first and for babies second. It is ridiculous (not to mention developmentally detrimental) to deny the physical side of a loving relationship. It is important for children to see their parents embrace, kiss, cuddle, and act affectionately toward one another. In our culture, however, this does not mean making love in front of the children, though if you’re a parent you’re probably aware of the fantastic ability young children have at opening up doors at the most inopportune moments. It might be good to let your child know that you make love in the privacy of your bedroom; that during that time you would rather not be disturbed and any questions or problems can wait until afterward.
To treat sex with dignity and love rather than shrouding it in mystery and shame is an excellent way of instilling a child with a healthy attitude toward sex. Children’s sexual exploration is like all other areas of exploration. For the child it is the primary way of learning about her environment and how to make a place for herself within it. Exploration can include a girl urinating while standing up like a boy, wearing make-up like mother, playing doctor with other boys and girls down the street, and later on even exploring sexual feelings with a girlfriend.
Physical and loving relationships with two or more girls or two or more boys is a lot more common than we like to think and a natural part of the growing up process. It does not mean that the child is heterosexual, homosexual, or bisexual. Each child will have the chance to grow into its sexual orientation later in life. This experimentation is a part of the developmental process for many children and not a cause for alarm or worry. One should work hard not to have the child feel ashamed about the expression of budding sexual feelings.
As adults, we do the most harm when we bring our own guilt, shame, and sexually dysfunctional baggage to bear on our children’s’ upbringing.