At the risk if dating myself – at least not in the eHarmony sense – I am from the sex education dark ages.
In my day, Just Say No was Just Don’t Say Anything. Moms and Dads, more often than not, didn’t have “the talk” because of their own shocking lack of knowledge or because they were too embarrassed. Teen pregnancy and sexual diseases were relatively rare. And gay kids? Well, they simply didn’t exist.
Sex ed was limited to the 6th or 7th grade when all the girls were herded out of gym class to see a film about “that time of the month” while the boys played baseball…in the winter. Many of the girls emerged from the film visibly shaken and, so far as I know, none ever revealed the true nature of the film to the boys.
Of course, that left teens to their own sexual education. And teens, as they frequently do, thought they knew more about things than any adult could possibly know. In those days, they unfortunately may have been right.
In an era before the Internet – and personal computers for that matter – there were few ways for kids to learn about sex or become more comfortable with their own sexuality except by repeating the same misinformation amongst themselves. As a result, many a young girl disappeared with an “advanced case of mono” before coming back noticeably thinner and much less fun-loving than before and sometimes boys dropped out of school because “the family needed the money.”
Because my wife and I came from that era, we pledged we’d treat our own daughter differently, even at a young age.
At four, she already had a concept – appropriate for a four-year old – of how pregnancy worked. The were no cabbage leaves or storks, only a frank discussion when she asked questions. That policy sometimes created some odd conversations with our first grader.
Daughter: Dad, do you and Mom have sex?
Dad: You know how sex works, right?
Dad: And you know you are our child, right?
Dad: Then what does that tell you?
Daughter: I guess you guys have sex.
When she became a teen and asked more adult questions, we continued our policy. We encouraged her to use sites like Scarleteen to learn more. We explained the pleasures and pitfalls of her nascent sexuality and told her it was okay to go to Planned Parenthood for birth and sexual disease control and we’d not question her about it. And, she did.
Today she’s equipped to venture into a sexual world with the knowledge she needs and Mom and I are both pleased and relieved.
From the mouths of Scarleteen and children comes modern wisdom.