Over the last few weeks we have been talking about sex in our house.
Not because we have got all kinky and enjoyed some experimental ‘luuuuurvin’. Not because it was Valentine’s Day recently (definitely not – read my previous post about that). And not because we were reminiscing about our favourite Salt-N-Pepa tunes. But because we have a ten-year-old son. And following a heads-up from his school that they would be learning about ‘sexual health’ in the near future, we decided to preempt the situation and let him know about the birds and the bees.
As a mum to three boys, I have escaped the period and boobs talk, and so I threw the gauntlet down to the husband to have ‘the chat’ with Boy 1. I, in true teacher-style, provided him with some accompanying literature, in the form of Usborne’s ‘What is happening to me?’ book, but asked him to deliver a brief summary first and then leave Boy 1 to read more at his leisure, and encourage him to ask us any questions he may have. And oh my goodness, he has really done that! (More of that to follow)
So the condensed version of the facts of life, courtesy of my husband, centred mainly around sex and how it was done. As I eavesdropped on their boys’ conversation, I heard no mention of the legalities around being 16 to have sex ( I would have stressed the whole jail thing here!), no mention of a ‘stable and healthy relationship’ (I may have even stretched this to marriage only!) and no mention of having babies (again – a point I would have emphasised in great detail), but instead heard snippets of a conversation about sex between a man and a woman, and reference to our friend’s new relationship. And when Boy 1 sensibly suggested that the friend in question wouldn’t have had sex yet, as they had only just started going out (I was very proud of him at this point), his dad replied with “What XXX does in their own time is their business.” (Not so proud of him!) Sometimes delegation to the husband is not the answer!
After that ‘educational’ bath time, Boy 1 went to bed to do some reading of his new book, reminded again that we were happy to answer any questions and explain anything he didn’t understand.
Now at this point, I assumed that Boy 1 would have a skim-read of the book, throw it aside, and that would pretty much be the end of it, until the big day came at school, when the children would together find the hilarity in a topic that most teachers dread to teach. (I speak from experience here. As a primary school teacher, and being responsible for Relationship and Sex Education in our school, I do not look forward to teaching this part of the curriculum. Not because I am embarrassed or nervous at what the children might ask, but because I find it hard to keep a straight face while using the word ‘penis’ or ‘vagina’. I know – I am very immature!!!)
But no! No skim-reading here. Quite the opposite. That book was read cover to cover. Again and again and again. In fact he keeps it on display on his bedside table. And since the night of ‘the talk’ a few weeks ago, we have been assaulted by all kinds of detailed and hilarious comments and questions from our not-so-little boy. Here are just a few gems:
The Position Question
Boy 1: Where do you have to go to do ‘it’? Hospital or at home?
Me: Urrrm, well, urrrm, at home in your bedroom.
Boy 1: And do you have to lie a certain way? Does the woman lie on top as I think the man would be too heavy?
Me: Urrrm. (Thinking how to play this one) It doesn’t really matter. However you like.
The Equipment Question
Boy 1: Do a man and a woman need anything for sex?
Me: No. (Desperately hoping that is the end of the conversation)
Boy 1: Well, the man needs his penis to be sticking up and the woman needs her vagina to be slippy.
Me: (sniggers – I have no words!)
The Period Question
(This one was prompted by the permission letter from school stating that girls would receive a sample of ‘sanitary ware’)
Boy 1: What is sanitary ware?
Me: Did your book talk about periods at all?
Boy 1: No, I don’t think so.
And so followed a mother/son ‘little chat’ about women and periods, including a demo of a sanitary towel! (When I say ‘demo’ I mean I showed him one. I didn’t demonstrate using it!) He seemed quite concerned about the idea of me bleeding and asked me if it hurt. I told him it didn’t. (I have since been told by some close friends that I should have said ‘yes’ here as apparently I have been lucky each month to have relatively pain-free periods. Sorry to all you menstruating sufferers! I will change that answer next time the subject comes up!)
And do you know what? After our chat, I felt really proud of myself. Not a snigger in sight this time. I was sensible and factual. I was also very proud of how well he listened and processed it all.
There have been more questions – they are a regular occurrence in Boy 1’s quest to be fully informed – but they were the most memorable.
Along the way I have shared some of these anecdotes on Facebook and am pleased to say we have provided giggles for many. Although I fear we have also created panic amongst some friends with children of a similar age.
Boy 1’s attention to detail appears to have shocked many. And whilst we know that his in-depth questioning is his way of getting to grips with this new knowledge, it has left me wondering if we have done something wrong. If perhaps there should have been a better way to deliver his sex education. If we have told him too much too soon. However…
England has one of the highest teenage birth rates in Western Europe.
It has been said that this is a result of inadequate Relationship and Sex Education. But could it also be because of our British stiff upper lip? (Oh my – there is a rude innuendo there somewhere!) Could it be our reluctance to be open with our children? Do we avoid the difficult questions and change the subject when asked about where babies come from? (I am guilty here – I did some classic avoidance when pregnant with Boy 3.) Do schools gloss over the subject with a one-off ‘sex talk’, never to be mentioned again, for fear of embarrassment?
I don’t know the answers to these questions, but I do know that our more open-minded Swedish, Danish and Dutch counterparts have the lowest teenage pregnancy rates in the EU. There must be something in that…
And now a final serious thought for you…
On a recent Relationship and Sex Education course I attended, we were tasked with thinking of as many names as we could for the male and female genitalia, and writing them on a flip-chart. I got very excited at this point. This was a game I could win. We had played this game many times at university, whilst drinking in the bar. I had lots of amusing names to contribute. I was proud of how many I knew and how many laughs I could get. However I was soon shot down. Apparently the task was not game at all – it was just a vehicle to make a very serious and important point – a point that I had quite obviously missed. (Although I do suggest you play the game next time you are out with adult friends – it’s fun!)
When it comes to children, there should only be two words we use to describe private parts: Penis and vagina. We should be using these words with our children from a young age. From day dot. We were told about some legal and not nice reasons why this is the case, but I won’t go into details. Just take my word for it. Lose the mini, fifi, mumu and other ‘cute’ names and replace with ‘vagina’. Drop the winkie, willy and dangly and replace with ‘penis’. It could be important for your children one day.
So there you have it – sex education the Boy Equation way!
I would love to hear your thoughts on it all. Let’s open a sexy can of worms…