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It’s time to face the facts. Your sweet and innocent little princess will not be innocent forever. One day, she’ll have genitals in her mouth and there’s nothing you can do to stop it.
The best thing you can do is educate her and prepare her for it.
It’s never too early to start talking to your kids about sex. The first real conversation my mom had with me about sex was when I was 21. She didn’t know she was several partners and a pregnancy scare too late. The conversation lasted all of 90 seconds and had me running out the door claiming I would be late for work if I stayed to chat.
Sexual arousal was something that I (in some way not remembered by me) had been conditioned to know was private.
Two years later, I finally had the confidence to broach the subject with her again. This time, I was armed with complaints about the lack of sex education I received and was comforted by the fact that she knew I had had sex by this point.
“It wasn’t until embarrassingly recently that I realized the most opportune time to get pregnant is not while I am on my period.”
“Why did you think it was?”
“Because when I was 8 years old you called me into your bathroom and told me that women bleed once a month so that they can get pregnant. And nothing else was ever said on the matter.”
“I thought you would learn about all of that in school.”
“All we learned was that we should sleep on towel while we were on our period in case we bled through our pads or tampons. Then in seventh grade we learned that sex gives you warts and we signed a card saying we wouldn’t have sex until we were married.”
“Oh my gosh. I’m sorry, I assumed sex education was better than that.”
Sex education was not better than that.
When I was 8 years old I came across my cousin’s Playboy magazine and was immediately aroused, though I didn’t know that word or why the warm tingling between my legs was so enjoyable. Like a kid who had just discovered cake, I wanted more.
This was something new to me, something nobody had ever shown to me or talked to me about before. Sexual arousal was something that I (in some way not remembered by me) had been conditioned to know was private.
I want you to come to me with any questions that you have. I want you to feel comfortable talking to me about anything.
I knew finding that Playboy was something I couldn’t tell anybody and I knew the subsequent porn addiction that I had at the age of 8 was something that couldn’t be discussed.
Every day after school I would head to my room, turn on my computer, and type boobs into the search bar. Boobs were not what I was looking for, but I knew the search word would get me to the sites I needed and I figured that if my parents found boobs in my search history, I could blame it on my brother…because, why would a girl be searching for boobs, right?
To this day, the 30 minutes between daylight and nighttime when the sky is gray and everyone starts turning lights on is the worst 30 minutes of my day. If I am not distracted it fills me with leftover guilt from the days I’d masturbate (with no hands, mind you — ah, to be young again) while I waited on my mom to cook dinner and turn on American Idol to watch as a family.
I finally quit watching porn cold turkey, but have relapsed in my addiction several times over the years and suspect I will always have an unhealthy relationship with porn — and masturbation in general.
Luckily, I went on to develop what I consider to be a healthy and normal sex life. But, that’s the thing — my masturbating to porn was normal. However, the lack of conversation around sex, sexuality, gender, genitals, etc. stunted that realization for me, potentially beyond repair. The lack of conversation was the same as if I had been sat down for a conversation in which I was scolded for exploring my own body and being curious about other people’s bodies.
Actually, I was sat down for that conversation. One night, my mom walked into the bathroom where my friend and I were taking a shower behind a transparent glass shower door. This was the norm for me, I think it’s the norm for all girls to occasionally shower together at the age of 8. What my mom saw, though, wasn’t us scrubbing our armpits and conditioning our hair. We were facing each other, bodies pressed together, with our hands grabbing each other’s butts.
After the shower, my friend was made to go wait in the other room while my mom sat down on my bed with me and demanded I tell her what we were doing. Gratefully, she allowed me to turn my back to her and avoid eye contact while I explained that I had found a dirty magazine and we were just experimenting. She laid down the law: I wasn’t allowed to shower, use the toilet, or change in the same room as my friend and vice versa.
I’ve replayed this conversation innumerable times in my head and always come to the conclusion: my mom handled the situation horribly wrong. She made me feel that even the acknowledgement of my own sexuality was wrong, that the pleasure I got from exploring my sexuality was wrong, and that experimenting was wrong.
I understand that her stern stance came from a place of love and fear that her little girl was being corrupted or even violated. I understand that in that moment, she was angry and confused and wanted to pretend it hadn’t happened. I get it.
But, she could have handled it differently. She could have said:
Hey, lets talk about this. I understand that you are curious about your body and other people’s bodies. That is normal. I understand that new and exciting things are happening and will continue to happen as you make your way to adulthood. That is normal.
I do, however, have some concerns. You have your whole adult life to explore your body and those temptations, but sex and the things that lead up to sex are more appropriate when you have the knowledge and emotional maturity to handle them. The emotional maturity will take time, but I will help you gain the knowledge. I want you to come to me with any questions that you have. I want you to feel comfortable talking to me about anything. I’ll be your book of knowledge, you just have to let me be.
Like a kid who had just discovered cake, I wanted more.
As for now, how about we pump the brakes on the experimenting with friends? I don’t believe either of you are quite ready to be discovering each other when you each have so much left to discover of yourselves. I’d hate for you to miss out on knowing yourself because you were too busy getting to know somebody else.
So, let me open this up to you. What questions do you have about your body and sex? What are you curious about?
That’s what I wish she would have said to me. That’s what you should say to your kids. Sexual development begins at birth and stifling curiosity with guilt and rules breeds unhealthy relationships to one’s own body and sexuality. Stifling curiosity is only asking your children to hide their exploration from you and to seek outside sources for knowledge.
Most of what I know about sex and the female body I learned from porn when I was a kid or I learned from podcasts and articles as an adult. It would have been nice if I learned it from my mom instead.
Talk to your kids about sex. Be their book of knowledge. The awkwardness will fade, but the open door policy you create will benefit them for a lifetime. They’re going to explore and experiment anyway, they may as well be armed with the knowledge you can give them.
Kammie Melton is an ice cream connoisseur and kickboxing addict who’s nightmares of misspelling ‘grass’ in her fourth grade spelling bee keep her up at night. For more of her embarrassingly personal stories and unsolicited advice on life, gender equality, and mental health check out her Medium profile (medium.com/@