Talking About Sex and Your Body

Americans, as a whole, are incredibly uncomfortable talking about sex. Granted, we use sex (or, more specifically, women's bodies) to sell everything from beer to tires to burgers, but when it comes to having conversations about sexuality, it's a whole different story. Pick up any standard women's magazine and you'll see all kinds of articles about how to talk to your partner about what you'd like in bed, what you'd like to try, etc. Why on Earth are you actually HAVING sex with someone that you can't TALK about sex with?! Aside from the fact that sex is a normal, natural activity that you should be able to discuss openly, this discomfort with conversations about normal, healthy sexuality means we're definitely not going to be talking about sexual abuse and sexual assault.

Where does this discomfort come from? Let's look at what we do with babies. We start out early, naming their body parts for them. "This is your nose!" "This is your ear!" And suddenly, when you work your way down, it's THAT WHICH MUST NOT BE NAMED! Either refuse to say it at all, or make up a ridiculous secret word for it. Some people literally refer to genitals as "naughty parts"! We start out right off the bat making sure kids know there's a part of their body that's literally so dirty and shameful, we can't even utter the word. Hell, say the word "vagina" in public sometime and people will gasp and be so horrified, you'd think you actually displayed it instead of just saying it.

Remember the Super Bowl when we caught the briefest glimpse of Janet Jackson's nipple? People could not have gotten more worked up had Janet Jackson actually barged into their home and slapped their children outright. Want to use your breasts for their intended purpose and feed your child? It's like you're single-handedly bringing about the destruction of decent society! I'll tell you this - if a woman's nipple is the WORST thing my children ever see, I'll die a happy woman.

So we've basically ingrained into our kids from birth that their bodies are something to be ashamed of. Next, when they ask the inevitable "where do babies come from?" question, make up something incredibly absurd. "We found you under a cabbage leaf!" "The stork brought you!" Give them a story so ridiculous that they'll know early on that it's clearly not true, so you must be lying because wherever babies come from is bad.

When they get a little older, and you have "the talk" with them - just ONE talk, of course, not an ongoing conversation - make it abundantly clear that you'd rather saw off your own head with a rusted tin can lid that actually have this conversation. This, of course, is if you have even a single conversation with them about sex at all. A lot of kids don't even get that much.

It's no wonder by the time people hit young adulthood, they've got all kinds of hang-ups around sexuality. When we can't talk frankly about sex and our bodies, it causes all kinds of problems. Beyond the obvious issue of not having the good sex that you deserve, you're going to be uncomfortable talking to your doctor if you're having gynecological issues. You're not going to be insistent on using protection.

You're not going to be able to express yourself if there's something going on that you are NOT okay with; you're not going to speak out if someone is sexually harassing you. I accompanied teenage girls to make police reports regarding sexual assaults, and it wasn't unusual that they would literally not even have the vocabulary to describe what happened to them.

Here's the unvarnished truth: there is nothing wrong with your body, and their is nothing wrong with sex. There IS something wrong with a society that tries to make you feel embarrassed or ashamed of your body and your desires. None of us have the perfect body we'd like to; ALL of us are too fat, too skinny, too tall, too short, too hairy, too white, too dark, too many freckles, too name it. Screw what society tells you! Learn to love the body you're in, and teach your kids to love and respect their bodies too. Have ongoing conversations with your kids about their bodies, about body boundaries, about consent, about respect.

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