I think my kids (we have three, all boys under 12) can hear us having sex. Is this going to scar them forever? My husband says he’s kind of glad they’ve heard a real woman experiencing real pleasure, but I just don’t know.
There are two things here: one, whether your children can indeed hear your parental romps, and two, your suspicion that they can. Kids intercepting erotic and otherwise sexual vibes between parents and other lovers just comes with being a householded little human. I would not go out of your way to expose your children to sexually graphic material or either mildly or heavily coerce them to do so for their “educational benefit,” but incidental exposure is natural and important. How you handle it, however, can affect how they internalize their self-concepts as beings with adult (a)sexualities. Be open to their questions, act unashamed about being sexual and respect their developmental stages in your answers.
You have two competing priorities here: first, modeling a positive attitude toward sexuality, and two, modeling good sexual boundaries. Sexualities and asexualities are idiosyncratic and personal, and I don’t think there’s any right or wrong timeline for their developments. I think it is important to stress, however, that whatever you’re into, it’s important to cultivate a respect of self and other selves. That means it’s just as important for your child to be like, “gross, don’t want to hear it!” as it is for them to be like, “whoa, what’s up with the cool noises?” And also for you to be like, “I’m really happy about what we adults do, but it’s also private.”
See, Honeybee, I’m interested too that your concern about the eventuality of your children knowing you and he Do It is still hypothetical. It appears to be something you personally are preoccupied with, and may speak to your boundaries. Do you like being overheard? Is your sexual life something that’s really private for you? If it is, then maybe reality-test your suspicions – run some porn at a realistic volume when the house is empty and check out what can be heard. Look into soundproofing, if you can afford it, etc. Continue examining how what’s going on in your head is holding you back from being sexually present with your partner. Taking practical action—even if you are getting the message that you should “get over it”—can often feel better than keeping it inside.
My teenage son and daughter are receiving the worst sex education at their public school (I won’t say where). I know that’s par for the course in the U.S., but I don’t want my kids to be under- or misinformed. What sort of resources should I look for to supplement and correct the school’s lessons?
Home-School Sex Ed.
Two organizations I want you to check out right meow: EyesOpenIowa and Sexual Health Alliance of Linn and Johnson Counties. EOI is a statewide organization dedicated to providing evidence-based sexual education to Iowa teens, and SHA focuses on getting evidence-based resources into Linn and Johnson Counties. SHA’s website even has a “Sexual Health Education Toolkit” page with referrals to online resources, curricula and the contact info of sex educators who are available for workshops. If you’re a part of a local community organization, I would consider seeing if you can get them to sponsor classes—either for parents or students—on sex ed to remedy the lack in your district. If you’re anywhere near Iowa City, I’d also consider checking out the Emma Goldman Clinic and Planned Parenthood as resources for your teens. As much as you might hope that your kids will be able to confide in you about everything, I think it’s more important for them to be informed of all their resources.
Honestly, if you have the emotional space, Lovey, I’d suggest you take it to the streets, i.e. organize. I’m serious: there’s a reason why sexual education exists, and that’s because any random parent human is not necessarily an expert on sexual health or pedagogy. Your kids deserve a community of information and dialogue about what’s going on in their hormonally raging bodies, and the more you can use your grown up powers to support those kinds of communities, the better. So by all means direct them to Go Ask Alice! or Our Bodies, Ourselves or something, but also consider lobbying your school board, getting involved with SHA or starting your own local organization.
You may be asking yourself: Kiki, okay, but in the meantime how do I actually handle the conversation? Once you feel you’ve versed yourself adequately—seriously, you might learn something new yourself—try to introduce the topic casually when your teen or child feels most comfortable. Ask them what they already know, and ask them if they have any questions. Dispense whatever information you think might be most relevant: keep it short but open-ended. Make it clear that you’re open for further conversation and that their bodies/their selves are okay to talk about generally and with you specifically. Good luck, and shame on your school board!
Questions about love and sex in the city of Iowa City can be sent to firstname.lastname@example.org. Questions may be edited for clarity and length, and may appear either in print or online at littlevillagemag.com. This article originally appeared in Little Village issue 184.