Sunday, 28 June 2009

Sex is not just a book by Madonna

Dear darling Wriggly,
When you are older, I'm not sure how much older, we'll end up having chats about sex. Just in case I lose my bottle, as I understand that such conversations can be difficult for parents to initiate, I'm going to get down some of my thoughts now, when you are but a year and a half old and thus much less blush-inducing to talk to. You are understanding more and more each day, like on Friday when I asked you to choose some toys to put in the bath, but I think it'll be a few years yet before any words I utter on this subject will be even remotely interesting to you.

Firstly, my disclaimers: I'm your mother, and I can't even see the sides of how that must be shaping my thinking towards your future sex life, and the way I'll be choosing my words around it.

I'm using "sex" as a broad term here that encompasses a whole range of activity, not just the penetrative act itself. Penetration is not the be all and end all of sex and don't let anyone tell you otherwise.

Also I'm not all that keen to write about my sex life, to you or anyone else. Of course my experiences do influence my ideas, but you don't have to get your cheek capillaries ready; this is not going to contain any salacious details of your mother's sexual history. Do be aware though that I am a bit vanilla and there are more opinions out there than mine. These are my views alone, and there's no harm in casting the net wider and testing what I think against the ideas of others.

Ok, enough procrastinating, let's take this point by point:

Point the First: Sex should be an enjoyable experience
Sex is a beautiful thing, what happens when a Mummy and a Daddy love each other very much, a special dance that you should only undertake when you really love someone, primarily about pleasure. Here and now a lot of people like to say it's mainly for procreation, or emotional intimacy, and of course it can be, but in plenty of cases it isn't. It's about people making themselves, and others, feel good. Hopefully extra-special super-wonderfully good.

All kinds of things can be enjoyable, and it'll take time and some experimentation to find out what that means for you. You might like some things that others don't. That's ok, see if you can find those who share your interests. I hope that by the time you're looking around there won't be the stupid social taboos around sex that currently exist, and that the judgements attached to various sexual activities will be historic. If not then let me just say the Internet is probably still your friend. Just keep it at home and not on any work-related computer please.

Point the Second: Actively seek consent, and actively give it
Contrary to popular opinion in my time, telling someone you want to have sex with them, in those words or others, is often a turn-on, not a turn-off. You might have to seek or give consent at various different points in a sexual encounter, and you should be ready to stop at any time if anyone else wants you to stop. Embrace the yes, and respect the no.
Don't assume a physical sexual response means a yes. Uncertainty is much more likely to be a no than a yes, so treat it carefully and seek clarification.

Point the Third: Communicate
Whether there's one person you need to communicate with or six, no one can read minds and no one can make allowances for things they don't know about. If you're uncomfortable or don't like it, say so. If you like something, make that clear. Encourage others to do the same, and listen when they do. Words aren't the only way to communicate of course. However they are the clearest and least likely to be misunderstood, particularly when communicating with someone you don't know very well.

Don't be afraid to seek help or further information. If they're still around, Family Planning are a good non-judgemental place to start, and for all their failings magazines like Cosmo and Dolly, and their equivalents in your time do often have some helpful advice too. Read it with a critical eye and identify a trusted adult or two you can talk to *cough* your mother?*cough*

Point the Fourth: You don't have to love someone to make love with them

This goes back to the previous points really. Sex can just be about having some fun. As long as everyone involved knows where they stand you will avoid the awkwardness and potential heartbreak of a post-coital conversation along the lines of "would you like to have dinner with my parents next week" or "thanks for the shag, I'm back off to my partner's place now."

Don't let the Moral Police of the 1950s (and before) tell you when sex is ok and when it's not; as long as there's consent from all parties (and all parties can meaningfully give consent) then to my mind it's fine. In my humble opinion this applies to pornography/erotica too, but hopefully by the time you are reading this that industry will be unionised and exploitation-free and you'll wonder what on earth I am talking about.

Point the Fifth: Look out for yourself and others
Use condoms, birth control, safe words, whatever helps to keep sex what you want it to be. Respect that others will have their own rules and expectations that you'll need to take into account so they get what they want too. Read Point the Third again.


That's all I can think of right now. I hope it helps rather than hinders. No doubt more pearls of wisdom will come to me as we both age, and I may decide all or some of this is ridiculous. Time will tell!

Yours lovingly and with the best of intentions,


Psycho Milt said...

I hope that by the time you're looking around there won't be the stupid social taboos around sex that currently exist...

I entertain the odd forlorn hope myself! I've been having an interesting dispute over at No Minister over whether Berlusconi is a "real man" for thinking the real pleasure of sex is about "conquest." Don't hold out any great hopes about that shit disappearing anytime soon is all I can say.

Hugh said...

You know it's interesting, I don't know Wriggly's gender (probably just due to ignorance on my part) and I actually can't tell from reading this.

Anonymous said...

Can I steal this speech and use it for my future son or daughter?

Julie said...

Thanks for the feedback. I'm finding it really weird that this post is getting a lot of hits but only three comments so far. Does that mean people like it or loathe it?!

stargazer said...

definitely like it! but you've written it so well that there's not much to add :)

Anonymous said...

I'm thinking of printing it out and giving it to my child to read. Nicely put!.

Deborah said...

It's an excellent post, Julie, and it's pushed my thinking along in a couple of places. Mostly about sex being just plain good fun, and extra nice if it's with someone you love very much.

I wonder if adding something about not breaking commitments might be good i.e. along the lines that if you have promised someone that you will have a sexually exclusive relationship with them, then it is at least polite to renegotiate that before you have sex outside that relationship. But that's probably more to do with managing relationships well rather than with sex itself.

suraya said...

Yes to all of that.

David Farrar said...

What a sensible well written post.

Moana Mackey said...

It's really well written.

Far better than my Form 1 PE teacher who put on a video of a woman giving birth and said "this is what happens if you have sex", and you knew that for lots of kids that was the only info they'd ever had re sex...

brian_smaller said...

I still have not really talked to my kids about sex. I mean they know the mechanics - but the other stuff - I am not sure if I should talk to them about it or just let them find out about it. Sex is a doing thing rather than a talking about it thing. Good post.

Martin English said...

Stargazer & David cover everything I'd say about this post :)

Based on the Cleo and Dolly references, I'm assuming Wriggly is a girl. Regardless, I reckon its valid for both my 2 boys and 1 daughter (2 years between oldest and youngest), so I'm going to show this to Mrs E, and we will steal what we can (imitation being the sincerest form of flattery and all that...).

Lindsay said...

Earlier this week, due to a tv ad about men's problems, which appeared in prime time, my 10 year-old daughter turned to me and asked, "What's an erection?"

I flailed about umming and aahing. Then another shot came up with some guy getting hit with something where it hurts. So I made some limp comment about, well, you see that guy. He will be having problems with getting one right now.

Which she seemed happy with. But I felt like a complete crock.

It isn't easy because you fear telling them something they are not ready to hear. And a mother's instincts are to protect.

Anonymous said...

I don't agree with all the others.
1. it's fantastic and I recommend as much as you can get inside marriage.
2. if you haven't slept around and neither has your beau then you both will be safe from stds and aids.
3. It's all in the mind and the deeper and freer your relationship with your beau the better and longer it will be.
4. Grandad was right, Character counts no matter the gender.
5. Granny was right, be very wary of people without moral boundaries, they are toxic to your mind and family though they won't necessarily seem it at first.

Shady said...

Awesome post, has given me a kick in the guts over the social taboos adopted that hinder my own sex life - I'm off to buy some sexy lingerie. At what age do you think you might be giving this letter to Wriggly? Mine are 13 and 15. This 13yo is too young for this info, and 15yo probably right age but has steady boyfriend and this might seem a licence to "go for it"? Is(n't) there a moral code anywhere?

Rex Widerstrom said...

Well since you're wondering about all the lurkers I'll chime in and say I too think it's an excellent post, though I'd certainly strongly endorse Deborah's addendum about honouring commitments. If everyone did that there'd be a lot less angst in the world.

As an aside, I see comments about the age at which young people are "ready" for this information. I'd suggest that that coincides precisely with the time they becomne curious about it, whether they're 8 or 18.

Bok said...

A truly wonderful bit of advice.
If more people had this talk, with this advice, the world would be a better place.

Julie said...

Thanks for the feedback, I hope to get back to this on the weekend with some meatier comments, but in the meantime I just wanted to clarify one thing. A lot of people seem to have jumped to the conclusion that Wriggly is a girl. Actually he's not. And I didn't deliberately write this as advice to a girl, or a boy, or to both, I just wrote what I thought. The fact that the gender isn't obvious is something I didn't even think about until I'd posted it.

The Cleo and Dolly references reflect the fact that I was once a girl ;-) Are there any equivalents for boys/men that actually have decent sex advice?

Anonymous said...

Beautifully written.
Keep up the good work.

Shaun said...

I think it's an interesting post, and certainly a great idea to think hard about what you want to say before the erectile problems ad on the TV forces the issue...

I would take a couple of issues though, in addition to the ones already listed.

First, from a biological standpoint, sex is of course primarily about procreation. Pleasure is what drives and motivates us, but not what it's primary function is. As complex social animals, we use that pleasure for more than procreation, but they are still different things.

Second, I would promote the safe sex in point the fifth pretty much to first on the list. Very important I think to remove the risk from the inevitable sexual experiments of youth, and the worst outcome of much sexual repression is the denial that leads to unprotected sex and its consequences. So how about point the first being: protect yourself?

Mikhela said...

Fabulous, although mine are still too young to hear this info too. I hope I think this clearheadedly in 13 or 15 years' time.

I suspect their first question will be, 'Who's Madonna?'

Shaun: I would argue that the primary function of sex is connection and intimacy and relationship cohesion - otherwise we would have evolved to procreate in some much more prosaic way, like plants. Biologically, yes, heterosexuals of childbearing age do happen to occasionally procreate when they have sex. But that is not what sex is "about".