One of the scariest questions parents fear to hear from their children is: “Mom/Dad, what is sex?”
Why is sex such a contentious topic to raise? Even in normal adult conversations, the minute you talk about sex you may be labelled dirty minded, evil, or promiscuous.
I remember my mother had to have this talk with me when I got my first period at 11. My puberty stage compelled her to broach the subject of sex. She sat me down and said, “Girl, just know that you are a big girl now. So please stay far away from boys or else you will fall pregnant.”
At that time, I did not understand the concept of pregnancy very well. But I knew I didn’t want to be pregnant. From her concerned look I just knew it must be quite a terrible experience. I listened to her advice in high school and the first years in university, and I did not engage in romantic relationships. So, her friendly warning about sex and boys kept my mind alert to make mindful choices in life.
The warnings about sex did not just end at home. My own church had preachers and pastors who spoke against early engagement with sex, sex before marriage and abstinence. They preached that sex before marriage is wrong and the consequences are hell fire. So as a child, adolescent and youth listening to this, your question is, do I experience sexual pleasure – and then face the consequences of hell? So, a level of fear and resentment towards sex grew within me.
I had to unlearn those teachings and that way of thinking in my early 20s when I recognized, hey, there is absolutely nothing wrong with sex. I learnt that that sex is more than just a procreation experience. It connects people deeply together and provides a sense of love and care, and I believe that is why at times it is referred to as “making love”.
The reason why there is so much contention, and seeing sex as taboo, is because society, culture and religions influence our view of sex and sexuality. There is a lot of control from these institutions of life around sexual behaviour. Who and where you are, and what you believe, shapes the age in you decide to have sex, the type of partner you choose and even your sexual preferences, and what behaviour you think is acceptable. Many of the current attitudes around sexual engagement develop a sense of fear, guilt and shame in people who aspire to conform to the expectations of society.
I really believe positive sex talk is needed in society. Sex and sexual feelings are not something dirty or evil. Sex is a crucial and sacred part of our human experience. I believe the minute parents stop being scared to have that ‘Talk’, society will truly benefit. There are valuable lessons that children will learn. They will be able to name their sexual private parts correctly and not be ashamed of them. This will help children to articulate themselves correctly should anyone touch them inappropriately or even exploit them sexually.
Positive sex talk does not just end with parents and children. There are many ways in which as society we can have sex conversation as a normal part of our lives. This would help develop positivity around body image in normal conversations. The minute a person mentions ‘penis’ or ‘vagina’ we don’t go ‘hah’ and giggle and blush. We identify it as part of our body and recognise it as what makes us so beautiful and dynamic as human beings.
The second part of developing sex positivity is reducing judgemental messages from platforms where we are gathered together as people like workshops, schools and churches, and even in the media itself . Sex education is an integral part of society, but it should not be used as a damage control technique, but rather as a preventative and informative pathway in which young people are given information and space to make wise sexual choices. Why I describe it as a damage control technique is because adults only really talk about sex when something wrong has transpired, like if a child falls pregnant or if teenagers are starting to explore sex.
The earlier we start with sex education the better it will be for young people and society. It will help couples to talk about how they feel about their bodies, and how they would like to enjoy sex, and even how they feel about their sexual experiences, including the kind of sex or sex positions they enjoy or prefer. Positive sex talk can foster the facilitation and understanding of sexual consent and mutual respect.
At this moment as I write I spiritually close my eyes and I dream of the world where someday sex will not be demonized, but will be regarded as the most sacred and beautiful human experience with no shame and guilt surrounding the experience. I believe that can be achieved if we learn to debunk myths and false beliefs we hold about having a sexual experience. I hope as society we can really reflect and develop a sex positivity attitude.
Tell us: do you agree that we need to change our attitudes to sex?