Friday, September 30, 2016

The Friday Sex Blog [Raising Children as Sexual Beings]

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Sexual Upbringing in the US

Once you are exposed to sex -- you’re never able to regain innocence again -- from then on you have sexual thoughts -- you have sexual feelings -- innocence is forever gone. It encourages sexual curiosity that would not have been there...
 -- Oprah Winfrey on Teens and Dial-a-porn

I believe Oprah speaks for many US parents and the sentiment that if “you don’t try to shield them from... all this explicit kind of stuff until they’re ready to handle it, then you’re robbing them of their innocence, their one time in life to be somewhat carefree.”

At this point, I would like to make the observation that as a nation our teen pregnancy and abortion rates lead the developed world1. Many are trying to blame this phenomenon on a perceived sexual permissiveness and lax sexual morals. My point is that the exact opposite is true: it is our dysfunctional relationship with our own sexuality, passed on to our children, that is root cause of our sexual problems. I will make the case that, contrary to the blather that passes for sexual discussion these days, it’s not permissiveness, but rather, repression that is at the root of our “sexual problem.” If you doubt me, just hold on for a second and absorb the following fact: the vast majority of teen pregnancies are the result of an adult impregnating an adolescent.

::blank stare::

Recently, there was a moral panic regarding the new teen sex “epidemic” called sexting. In fact, prosecutors across the nation began convicting teens as sexual predators. The reality is that studies and show and the experts agree that sexting isn’t as widespread as reported in the mainstream media. In addition, I find it the cruelest abuse to criminalize what is normal adolescent behavior.

I think when adults insist children can’t handle sexual content, they’re really projecting their own hang-ups about sex. We even fight about whether children should be taught about protecting themselves sexually.

What people seem to mean by “sexual innocence” is the absence of sexual thoughts, genital responses, and the awareness of how one is sexually aroused. A lot of parents would probably feel more relaxed if childhood did not have any sexual component and if sexuality magically appeared at puberty or, better yet, at marriage. Many parents have mixed feelings about their own sexuality and any recognition of sexuality in their children triggers their own unresolved sexual anxieties.

But let’s be honest about preadolescent sexuality -- were you “sexually innocent” prior to reaching puberty? Is that an accurate view of your pre- adolescent sexuality? When you were a child wouldn’t have you preferred learning more about the meaning of your sexual development rather than being blocked from such clarification by parents who were trying to keep you innocent?

Sigmund Freud shocked most of the Western world when he observed the reality of childhood sexuality over one-hundred years ago.

Almost all of the subsequent research of the twentieth century supported Freud’s assertion that children were sexual creatures. Alfred Kinsey, almost a half century after Freud, shocked the world with his own revelation of sexual responses involving erection and lubrication not only in preadolescent children but even in newborn infants. There’s even research on in utero sexuality.

I couldn’t begin to cite the overwhelming body of research supporting children as sexual creatures. Yet, this is exactly what we want to deny and what we want our children to deny. In the process, we teach our children that their sexual natures are evil and we drive the sexual conversation underground, where the shadow aspect takes over. It’s no surprise our children act out sexually, we don’t recognize, nor do we support their sexual natures. Shit, even saying children are sexual creatures is enough to get you in hot water. 

Parents who claim to be open-minded about sex exhibit sexual anxieties. When they do discuss sex with their children, they often fail even to mention the pleasurable aspect of sexual experiences. They prefer to emphasize its relational and affective aspects, and so they often fail to mention pleasure. Since intensity of bodily pleasure is the aspect of sexuality that most clearly distinguishes it from other activities, this omission surely sabotages any realistic preparation for sexual behavior. Children experiencing these bodily pleasures for the first time must wonder why their parents failed to understand these transformative feelings.

Adult anxiety about childhood sexuality is not based upon any sane assessment of what is happening in their child’s life. Rather, because parents see sex as dangerous and threatening, they conclude that kids should be kept away from it. As a parent, I can certainly understand parents can have a realistic fear that other adults may take advantage of their child. But if that is the main concern, it follows that more talk about sex is called for rather than promoting ignorance by acting as if childhood sexuality is a trampling of some mythical “natural state of sexual innocence.” It is their lack of knowledge about sex that makes children more vulnerable to sexual exploitation. 

Finally, even parents who accept a more modern view of sexuality are hesitant to prepare their child for sexuality. For example, the typical response I hear from self-proclaimed modern, liberal parents is: “I am open about sexuality with my children and I will always try to answer any question at all that they raise about sexuality.”

Consider whether we would wait for questions to be raised in any other area of great importance to our children. We don’t wait for children to ask before teaching them how to tie their shoes, or how to add, or why they should not to play in the middle of the highway. How well would children know how to read if we waited for them to ask us before we taught them? We think these are things they should know and we make sure they know them, whether they ask about them or not.

Why aren’t we adopting the same attitude when it comes to one of life’s greatest questions? Is it because we’re sexually permissive? I think not. I think it is because as a nation we are sexually repressed. And our children suffer for it.

My name is Eddie and I’m in recovery from civilization… 

1. The United States’ teen pregnancy rate is over four times that of the Netherlands (14.1) over three times that of Germany (18.8), and almost three times that of France (25.7). The United States’ teen birth rate is nearly eight times higher than that of the Netherlands’ (5.3), over five times higher than France’s (7.1), and over four times higher than Germany’s.

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