We all have our own comfort level when it comes to how much we want our children to know about our personal (sexual and kink) lives and what we believe should stay private. As parents of a near-13 year old (OMG) and an eight year old, it’s something John Brownstone and I think a lot about, too.
Sex education around the world is pretty shitty, and most of us likely grew up with almost no real information. As someone who didn’t have an orgasm until age 32 and didn’t know what BDSM even was (beyond a vague idea of leather and chains) until a few months after that, I’m determined to do better by my own children.
But that doesn’t mean these conversations are easy.
If you’re struggling with the desire to inform your children and also the desire not to tell them too much or anything inappropriate for their age, we have a few ideas. These aren’t the only types of conversations or ways to approach them, but they’ve worked for us. Feel free to use them as much or as little as you’d like.
As adults we tend to think of consent in terms of sex. And yes, that’s an extremely important lesson our children need to learn. Enthusiastic and informed consent isn’t just a kink concept. Everyone needs to understand it. But the lessons can begin earlier than you realize, and you can teach it without ever saying the word “sex.”
When you teach your children to keep their hands to themselves, say something like, “We don’t touch people who don’t want to be touched” or “When someone says ‘No’ we do what they say.”
You can teach your children they don’t have to hug that random (and sometimes scary!) family member or family friend if they don’t want to.
We remind our kids they need permission before they take, touch, or get into someone’s space.
Will you repeat these lessons over and over again? Of course you will. They’re kids, after all, and they’re bound to forget some stuff. As they get older, you can begin the sexual consent conversation, and they’ll already understand the basic concept.
Your Kink Isn’t My Kink
I’m not actually suggesting you sit your 10 year old down and say, “Your kink isn’t my kink, but your kink is okay.” Unless that’s how you roll with your kids. But I had this conversation with my 12 year old and never once said “BDSM” or “kink” and he got the message.
We were talking about sex, and I said that people enjoy things that other people think are strange. I also mentioned that literally anything can be a turn on. (He understood the concept of “turn on” already.) He decided to be funny and say, “Even lamps?”
I assured him that somewhere in the world, someone got really excited by lamps. (Everything is a fetish, after all.) We finished the conversation with the understanding that anyone can enjoy anything by themselves or with a consenting partner. I also told him that he might be turned on by something that other people thought was weird. My advice? As long as you and/or a partner enjoy it, and it’s consensual, it doesn’t matter what anyone else thinks. I also told him never to judge someone for the way they enjoyed sex.
Gender and Sexuality
Maybe I’m not progressive enough in my views, but I still want grandchildren (many years from now), and I hope my kids end up with at least one partner they love very much. That being said, since they were very little, I’ve always watched how we spoke about gender and sexuality.
“If you love a woman or a man…”
“I don’t care who you love as long they make you happy…”
“Whoever you date…”
“When you grow up you might decide to get married or not…”
“Bisexuality is when you like men and women.”
The oldest interrupts with “Why do you always say ‘partner’?”
Me: Because I don’t assume that you’ll get married.
Him: But I know I’m straight, so why not say wife or girlfriend?
Me: Because your partner might not identify as a woman. They may have a different gender identity.
By the way, this lead into a conversation about non-binary, queer, and a few other topics I really don’t feel qualified to discuss, so we fumbled our way through. Which is what we do as parents every other moment of the day.
Oh, and before anyone lectures me on not discussing pansexuality, transgender people, and other forms of gender and/or sexuality, we’re working on it. And the 12 year old is well aware that transgender people exist and that they should be able to use the bathroom of the gender they identify with. So I think we’re on the right track.
Why These Conversations Matter
We don’t have all the answers, and my face burns when we hit the really awkward questions. But I decided long ago to do better than my parents did, and part of that is being more open about sex.
The idea that my kids might ever fear I won’t love them because they love someone or they identify a certain way hurts my heart. And I never want them to think there’s something wrong with them if they discover kink or some other way of expressing love and desire that’s not mainstream.
So yeah, we’re talking about sex and kink (in age-appropriate terms) with our kids. It’s something we all need to do, especially if you know you went through hell when you realized you were into kink. Why put your kids through that?
If you can’t tell we’re revisiting the topic of kink and parenting in episode 134, but instead of discussing how to be kinky when you have kids, let’s talk about how to raise sex-positive kids who will have better sexual futures than we did at their age.
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