Sex education – how early is too early?

What if your kid asks: “Where do babies come from?” At some point, every parent can expect to get this question from their child*. (*If it is not your kid asking, it’s the parents’ responsibility to decide how to answer that, so don’t feel obliged to answer.) This question usually pops up when the child is still too young to have hormones raging through them, or sexual fantasies occupying their thoughts, and when their naivety keeps their childhood innocent.

Oracle of Delphi

When your child has a question, try NOT to answer in a way where you emulate the mysterious aura of an oracle with answers shrouded in vagueness.

 

 

Believing that explicit knowledge of sex will lead to a premature onset of sexual fantasies and ruin the innocence of their child forever, some parents may resort to telling the story of the birds and the bees. This however totally neglects that metaphors function best to shed a new light on, or create a deeper understanding of something which is already known. Talking about birds and bees to a child too young to have the faintest idea about the existence of sex most likely results in a child feeling his question remains unanswered. And so the child at some point will ask the same question, but perhaps not to those parents answering in riddles like the oracles from ancient Greece and the mysterious wise sages from the far East.

 

 

 

The folk stories of the 'vagina dentata' have inspired some anti-rape contraptions such as the tampon with a pin (FemDefence) and the toothed condom (RapeAxe)

The folk stories of the ‘vagina dentata’ have inspired some anti-rape contraptions such as the tampon with a pin (FemDefence) and the toothed condom (RapeAxe)

Would you prefer your child having his or her questions answered intelligibly? Or would you rather that these questions are answered by some other kid that knows slightly better and tells all, spiced up with some fictional sexual horror stories about exploding penises, vaginas with teeth, dickheads with strawberry taste, or babies ripping themselves out of their mothers belly like Scott Ridley’s aliens? I’d prefer to go for the first option, and reply in a way the child understands – without resorting to lies, metaphors, or indirect answers. Admittedly, the second option of creating and feeding into irrational sexual fears is probably an opportunity to “help” your child abstain from exploring its sexuality, if you really think that is absolutely necessary. If your child grows up to become a priest or nun who has to pledge abstinence, (s)he’ll be thankful. In other cases, not so much.

 

Sexual curiosity at an early age is part of children's development and has always existed as is evident from this 19th century drawing.

Sexual curiosity at an early age is part of children’s development and has always existed as is evident from this 19th century drawing.

Personally, I am convinced that sexual fantasies come with the onset of sexual hormones, but sexual curiosity comes much earlier. Whether you tell little kids about sex or not, little boys will play with their penises, not because they want to have sex, but because it is interesting and fun to play with. And girls are no different (except anatomically of course). This has nothing to do with a child having perverted fantasies. Children will still be children if you tell them honestly where babies come from, so if they are curious, take this as an opportunity to feed their brain with the right information and don’t be so prudish that you end up making them uncomfortable about exploring their body. There is no such thing as being too early in openly communicating about this. One day your child will grow up: talking about sex will not change your kid into a teenager. Hormones will. And when that happens they don’t want to hear their parents even mention sex.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

PS: If you have reservations about honestly answering a little child where little babies come from, then remind yourself that just using words to explain it isn’t all that bad. In earlier centuries in the Far East, parents didn’t even have reservations demonstrating…

If you have reservations about honestly answering a little child where little babies come, then remind yourself that just using words to explain it isn't all that bad. In earlier centuries in the far east, parents didn't even have reservations demonstrating... (On the left, a Japanese image from around 1766 by Suzuki Harunobu; on the right  a Chinese image dating from the Ming dynasty.)

On the left, a Japanese image from around 1766 by Suzuki Harunobu; on the right a Chinese image dating from the Ming dynasty (1368–1644).

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