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Two friends of mine who are the proud owners of spanky new teenagers asked me what the pros say about talking to your children about sex.

Lots of parents like to shame their children into abstinence (insecure jerks who are probably afraid to hold a mirror to their dirty parts), others promise eternal damnation (bible banging freaks who probably do it in the dark with their shirts on), some say it’s a sure-fire way to get babies and AIDS and called a slut (republicans), and others avoid the subject altogether. I like to call that last group “grandparents”.

Others are open and honest and smart enough to bring up the subject before the kids do. Which is early, because if your kids aren’t bringing it up with you by the time they are ten or eleven, they are most likely listening to their friends. Who are sixth grade morons.

Way back in the eighties when I was a struggling pre-pubescent, sex talk among peers started in fourth or fifth grade, and people were actually doing it by the seventh. Or at least saying they were. By eighth grade one of my classmates had a baby and by tenth I understood why my high school had a daycare. For students. Teachers were stuck finding their own damned daycare. If things were that way twenty years ago I can’t imagine how they are now, with kids these days being the way they are and such.

My parents were very open about the subject. My dad- who was a much different person then than he is now, just in case you know him- would thoroughly answer any question asked but wouldn’t bring things up. My mom was more direct about things, which was probably her job since she was a girl and I was a girl and that makes everyone feel a bit more comfortable. When I was in fifth grade she stopped at a gas station and asked me- through the window while she was at the pump- if I had any questions about boys or sex or periods or how sex feels or why my underwear looks like someone blew their nose in it by the end of the day (spot on! I thought it was because snot couldn’t be digested and I had raging sinus problems. This is why you need to talk to your children because children are dumb) or how to react when someone asks me to touch them or makes a move to touch me. I couldn’t see her face and she couldn’t see mine. She probably didn’t know this, but that is actually the best way to have these talks.

Talk to your kids about this stuff in a way that they don’t have to look at your face. Talk about it early and often. They will listen, and they don’t need eye contact to hear you. Seriously, you are a grown up and I can’t imagine that you want to look your mom in the eye across the table and talk about crotch snot and doing it and regular absorbancy kotex vs. super plus tampax and asymetrical breasts and wet dreams, do you? And cover all the bases. First through third to home and around again. No orifice should be left unmentioned. Kids will stick it anywhere if they think that by doing so they won’t get pregnant.

Be respectful of your family’s beliefs and value system, but remember that no amount of Jesus will repress your child’s hormones and needs and urges and overwhelming desire to fit in and be cool and feel attractive and good enough and loved. Some of the biggest whores I know are Sunday Morning Superstars.

Which reminds me of the single most damaging statement to ever enter my brain, because one of my high school health teachers and her family were overly active in church. Six days a week her daughter was overly active with the boys. At least they were both on their knees…

Well, anyway. This teacher had the nerve to tell our class that we should pick our first sexual partner wisely because every time we have sex for the whole entire rest of our lives we will automatically think of that person and the first time we did it, which she promised would be terrible and violent and bloody and excrutiating and embarassing and could result in pregnancy and social stigma and if we chose to be with a non-virgin the likelihood that we would contract some horrible bubbling green leakage in our pants was very high.

Guess what. Now every time I have sex I think about that guy. Every time. Not for the whole time, but still.

Guess what else? It wasn’t terrible nor violent nor bloody nor excrutiating nor embarassing and it didn’t result in pregnancy and no one knew unless I told them because he was gentlemanly enough to keep his mouth shut and he wasn’t a virgin and my vagina didn’t rot over or crust shut or fall out or anything equally as horrifying. Plus he took me out for ice cream afterwards. Because everyone knows that six year olds LOVE ice cream.

KIDDING! I was sixteen. Sixteen year olds love ice cream too. I forget that not everyone did a stint working in sex crimes like I did so we don’t all have the same sick sense of humor. Sorry. But not sorry enough to take it back.

But I think of it and him every time I do it because I was told I would, and I’m nothing if I’m not out somewhere making a prophesy fulfill itself. So please don’t tell your kid something that isn’t necessarily true because they are listening, and it will stick.

Give them the straight facts, give them your opinion according to your experience and beliefs, but be sure they know that the facts are the facts and your opinions and beliefs are exactly that. Try to remember what it was like when you were that age. And times it by one hundred becasue times are different. There are a million and one good books out there to help you along with this. There are two million and two bad ones. Take some time at the bookstore or the library or online to research what you will say to and share with your child.

Give them reading materials to look over. The best way to do that is put them on the bed and don’t mention them for a month or so. If your kid brings it up, be prepared. If you feel more comfortable, get a counselor, a doctor, a social worker, a nurse, a trusted family member, whatever.

Just don’t get my health teacher or in twenty years from now you’ll have a kid like me who likes to type about this stuff in a public forum. And that would be awful.

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