I love the fervor that comes with talking about kids and sex. I find completely backward and not in the best interest of young people. American children today have inherited a hyper-sexed society, and sexually immature parents who are unequipped to give them the information they need to make sexually responsible decisions.
I should back up.
Over the last 15 years, many studies have confirmed the early sexualization of American children, particularly American girls. Now, exactly what did we think would happen when we began dressing children as young as 3 in two piece bathing suits? I have seen girls as young as five realize the power of attraction their body has at a beach; it’s really sad.
Little girls are dressed up in club-hoppin wear, and we wonder why men snatch, rape, and then strangle our babies before they have their first kiss. I don’t justify the murdering of children by blaming our practices. I’m just saying making an 8-year old look like a little lady, and then trying to tell a man (or a 9 or 12-year old) not to become aroused is illogical.
But I diverge.
The issue here is when do we begin to speak with young people about the act of sex itself, about body parts, about the infections that can result, and the emotional scarring that sexual encounters often leave on our young people.
The results from studies conducted in the 1990’s and early 2000’s reminded us that many young girls, especially African American girls, have begun their periods by age 8. Young girls typically exhibit pubertal signs (pubic and underarm hair, breast development and hip augmentation) by age 6 or 7.
The American Academy of Pediatrics’ Committee on Adolescence published an article in 2006 where they stated:
Because development of secondary sex characteristics beginsat ages as young as 8 years, primary care clinicians shouldinclude pubertal development in their anticipatory guidanceto children and parents from this age on.
The fact of the matter is this: if we don’t begin to talk with young children–children who are 5, 6 and 7– about sex then we’ve missed the mark. If SECONDARY sex characteristics start at 8, when does that first stage probably begin? Many conservatives have tried to vilify Planned Parenthood of late for their recent attempts to acknowledge the changing face of sexuality in America. They charge that The International Planned Parenthood, in it’s new report, Stand and Deliver, is trying to instill sexuality without consequences in children as young as ten.
The report by the International Planned Parenthood Federation (IPPF) urges countries to offer comprehensive sex education to children as young as 10. My guess is that by saying 10, the IPPF has avoided a public response that would retard the discussion, but deep down, the IPPF knows that number should be lower.
If a young girl has a chance at beginning her period by age 8, logic dictates that you begin a conversation about what menstruation is at least 2 years earlier. Why? For one, 8 is an average number, it does not reflect outliers which can come early or later. No reason to be the parent who assumes they can wait until 8, or 9 to talk about pads v. tampons, only to discover a frightened 7 year-old who’s trying to figure out why she’s bleeding in the bathroom one day.
Also, the conversation of sex begins when children are in socialized groups on playgrounds. Kids play sex games–and usually the most ignorant of the bunch is unwittingly “used.” I can’t tell you how many conversations about sex have begun from the miss-information of children on the playground. Our kids deserve facts and that won’t happen if we pretend that sex talk doesn’t happen at ages as young as 5.
The conversations that we have about sex in our home are short, honest, and repetitive. They include our values, our desires, and the honest statement that we cannot control their behavior now or as teens, yet we hope that they would abstain until they are mature enough to deal with the consequences of sex. The physical AND the mental consequences.
We discuss AIDS, abortion, and sperm. Our kids have had drawings of the inner-workings of a uterus, pictures of sperm fertilizing eggs. They have gone through rather realistic conversations about genital warts, the various types of pads that exist, and the beauty and pleasure of sex.
But for all their sexual information, we do not have promiscuous neophytes; there are no little Lolita’s in training here. Sexuality on TV is still taboo for them, they tend to call boys ugly and stupid when they really like them (just like an 8 year old should), and they still get weirded out by “sex talk.”
But we don’t stop talking. We have a 5 minute rule: that’s about all a kid can take before you’ve lost them. We constantly reinforce our family values on the subject, but we never lie. We never hide facts–we never shun protection (condoms and birth control). Our girls, for example, know that the reason they have an easy going life, the reason they EACH have their own room, an allowance, and a computer is because they don’t have an extra 3 kids; they know I take birth control.
They know that I don’t have children because I can’t afford anymore–but that I’m in a monogamous, adult relationship, where I’m free to relieve my urge for love-making. They only conversation that hasn’t come up yet, surprisingly, is masturbation. But I’m ready for that too–
American kids need honesty, and Planned Parenthood has known this all along. “Stand and Deliver” gives cases of young people all over the world effected by lack of resources and information regarding sex and reproductive health; religion and cultural practices toward girls (which are extremely interwoven attitudes in any society) are the root causes of the problem here.
So yes, let the conservatives yell. Let those who would rather use fear and faith to control sexual behavior holler. But in your home, with your kids, be truthful. Be honest. The benefits of both will last a lot longer than many people would have you believe.