Google+ Authentic Parenting: Discussing Sexuality and Objectification With Your Child

Tuesday, March 12, 2013

Discussing Sexuality and Objectification With Your Child

Welcome to the March 2013 Carnival of Natural Parenting: Tough Conversations
This post was written for inclusion in the monthly Carnival of Natural Parenting hosted by Hobo Mama and Code Name: Mama. This month our participants have spoken up about how they discuss complex topics with their children. Please read to the end to find a list of links to the other carnival participants.

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My daughter is a Deep Thinker. Even when she was very small, she would utter these deep philosophical statements:
"Mom, is the night like death?"
"Mom, why do people die?"
and
"Mama, why do people make babies?"
"Why did you make my brother?"
"Why didn't you have another baby than the Little Buddha?"b(why did this baby come and not another one)

I've always considered honesty the best approach, but when it comes to philosophical questions, there often aren't any quick scientific responses. We're a non-religious family, so religion is not an answer to these questions.
So how do I respond?

I wrote an article some time ago how I treated the topic of death. Even though I do fear death, not for myself, but for my loved ones, I did not find this a particulary tricky subject.

Strangely though, even though I am pretty outspoken about sexuality, heck I even wrote my thesis on the subject, when it comes to discussing this topic with my daughter, I find myself grasping for words.

Sexuality suddenly seems like a much more difficult topic. There are so many things at stake.

  • I want my daughter to grown up confident about her sexuality.
  • I don't want to determine her sexuality
  • I don't want her to grow up that any sexual preference is preferred above another
  • I don't want her to grow up with the idea of sin etc
It becomes clear that I know a lot of what I do'nt want, but then what do I say?
This is the message I want to carry out:
  • You can love anyone you want when you're ready for love
  • I love you, no matter who you love
  • Sex can be a lovely, joyful experience
  • You choose when and with whom you have sex
And as if it isn't complicated enough to send out these messages to my daughter, popular culture comes to mess things up!
A couple of days ago, she was skimming through a magazine. Mind you, an interior decorating magazine, because I don't have glossy women's mag's at home for the specific reason of how they portray women. She came to me showing one of the pictures in the magazine, about toilet paper. It showed a woman being pressed up against a wall and a man... well... harassing her.
"Mommy, why is that man forcing her to kiss?"

Uhm...

Another moment, we were watching a show and a woman gets raped by her husband:
"Mommy, that lady doesn't seem happy about that, then why are they having sex?"

Uhm...

Obviously, we didn't watch that show with her in the room anymore (It was The Borgias... not child friendly!).

Another movie showed female strippers. Mind you this was a 'family friendly' comedy
"Mommy, why aren't you happy that these ladies are dancing naked?"

Uhm...
Image: Miss Karen
How do you explain rape to a four year old? Or commodification and objectification of women? All of these things are normal in our cuture and kids are being bombarded with them, even if you do pay attention...
For the latter, since she was asking about my emotions, I could answer: "I don't like that women are being forced to do things they aren't comfortable with for the sole reason of making money. I think it's sad that we as a culture have to subject women to these jobs."

But how do you explain rape and rape culture? I am at a loss.




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Carnival of Natural Parenting -- Hobo Mama and Code Name: MamaVisit Hobo Mama and Code Name: Mama to find out how you can participate in the next Carnival of Natural Parenting!
Please take time to read the submissions by the other carnival participants:
(This list will be updated by afternoon March 12 with all the carnival links.)
  • A Difficult Conversation — Kellie at Our Mindful Life is keeping her mouth shut about a difficult topic.
  • Discussing Sexuality and Objectification With Your Child — At Authentic Parenting, Laura is puzzled at how to discuss sexuality and objectification with her 4-year-old.
  • Tough Conversations — Kadiera at Our Little Acorn knows there are difficult topics to work through with her children in the future, but right now, every conversation is a challenge with a nonverbal child.
  • Real Talk — Jennifer at Hybrid Rasta Mama explains why there are no conversation topics that are off limits with her daughter, and how she ensures that tough conversations are approached in a developmentally appropriate manner.
  • From blow jobs to boob jobs and lots of sex inbetweenMrs Green talks candidly about boob jobs and blow jobs…
  • When Together Doesn't Work — Ashley at Domestic Chaos discusses the various conversations her family has had in the early stages of separation.
  • Talking To Children About Death — Luschka at Diary of a First Child is currently dealing with the terminal illness of her mother. In this post she shares how she's explained it to her toddler, and some of the things she's learned along the way.
  • Teaching 9-1-1 To Kids — Kerry at City Kids Homeschooling talks about the importance of using practical, age-appropriate emergency scenarios as a springboard for 9-1-1 conversations.
  • Preschool Peer PressureLactating Girl struggles to explain to her preschooler why friends sometimes aren't so friendly.
  • Frank Talk — Rosemary at Rosmarinus Officinalis unpacks a few conversations about sexuality that she's had with her 2-year-old daughter, and her motivation for having so many frank discussions.
  • When simple becomes tough — A natural mum manages oppositional defiance in a toddler at Ursula Ciller's Blog.
  • How Babies are Born: a conversation with my daughter — Justine at The Lone Home Ranger tries to expand her daughter's horizons while treading lightly through the waters of pre-K social order.
  • Difficult Questions & Lies: 4 Reasons to Tell The Truth — Ariadne of Positive Parenting Connection shares the potential impact that telling lies instead of taking the time to answer difficult questions can have on the parent-child relationship.
  • Parenting Challenges--when someone dies — Survivor at Surviving Mexico writes about talking to her child about death and the cultural challenges involved in living in a predominantly Catholic nation.
  • Daddy Died — Breaking the news to your children that their father passed away is tough. Erica at ChildOrganics shares her story.
  • Opennesssustainablemum prepares herself for the day when she has to tell her children that a close relative has died.
  • Embracing Individuality — At Living Peacefully with Children, Mandy addressed a difficult question in public with directness and honesty.
  • Making the scary or different okay — Although she tries to listen more than she talks about tough topics, Jessica Claire of Crunchy-Chewy Mama also values discussing them with her children to soften the blow they might cause when they hit closer to home.
  • Talking to My Child About Going Gluten Free — When Dionna at Code Name: Mama concluded that her family would benefit from eliminating gluten from their diet, she came up with a plan to persuade her gluten-loving son to find peace with the change. This is how they turned the transition to a gluten-free lifestyle into an adventure rather than a hardship.
  • How Does Your Family Explain Differences and Approach Diversity? — How do you and your family approach diversity? Gretchen of That Mama Gretchen shares her thoughts at Natural Parents Network and would like to hear from readers.
  • Discussing Difficult Topics with Kids: What’s Worked for Me — Deb Chitwood at Living Montessori Now shares parenting practices that enabled discussions of difficult topics with her (now-adult) children to be positive experiences.
  • Tough Conversations — Get some pointers from Jorje of Momma Jorje on important factors to keep in mind when broaching tough topics with kids.
  • Sneaky people — Lauren at Hobo Mama has cautioned her son against trusting people who'd want to hurt him — and hopes the lessons have sunk in.
  • Mommy, What Does the Bible Say? — Amy at Me, Mothering, and Making it All Work works through how to answer a question from her 4-year-old that doesn't have a simple answer.
  • When All You Want for Them is Love: Adoption, Abandonment, and Honoring the Truth — Melissa at White Noise talks about balancing truth and love when telling her son his adoption story.


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8 comments:

  1. Yikes - this is a biggie. We still haven't done a lot of talk about sex with our 5yo, because it hasn't been on his radar. The closest we came to discussing sex was about a year ago when he kept pressing me for details on how babies are made. I'm of the "answer age appropriately and honestly," and he already knew all about eggs and sperm, but he asked THE question - how does the sperm get to the egg. So I told him. He had no idea what to think about it, and the topic has not presented itself since. So honestly, I'm at a loss. He's never been exposed to anything even remotely resemblig rape. I think for us, it will be a topic that naturally blossoms from less traumatic topics. i.e., he knows that our bodies are our own - that no one should be touching his body without his permission, and that right now, the only people that should have permission are his parents or a doctor (if there is a problem with his body). We've talked about inappropriate touches and how to say "no" and to come tell us. And someday we'll go into that more as he becomes more sexually aware. But rape is just not on his radar. I'll be interested to read the other responses.

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  2. This is such a difficult subject to approach with our kids. I wonder a lot about my 6 year old daughter's mental process because she doesn't ask many questions. It makes it hard to know what to talk to her about in these situations.

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  3. My daughter is 12 so this has come up for us - she reads the paper that our neighbour passes over to us and of course sees the unsavoury stories on the front page.

    So I've answered her questions as they've come up with honesty but no graphic.

    She's now training for her black belt in kickboxing; maybe, subconsciously that's why I enrolled her ;)

    But in a sense I guess to a young child you can explain it like a form of 'grown up bullying'. One person gets angry and wants to hurt the other just like a punch up in the playground; only this is with grown ups. I don't know - it sounds stupid as I write it. the topic never came up for me until my daughter was about 10 or 11 so the perspective was different.

    I think you sound awesome and I love how you are discussing these deep topics...

    Warm wishes
    Rae aka mrs green @littlegreenblog.com

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    Replies
    1. Hi Rae,
      we live in rural Africa, so my daughter is not familiar with the concept of bullying. She only came into contact with bullies once and I think she was too young to remember.
      It's also so hard because of the complexities and cultural nature of the topic. I can't just do it off as good/bad dichotomy, bacause I don't believe in that... sigh

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  4. Mikko's been very interested in sex, but he hasn't been exposed yet to the idea of rape. We have, however, had some talks about how his body belongs to him and that no one's allowed to touch it without his permission. I've made that clear with my own body, too, telling him when I feel uncomfortable with the way or place he's touching me and asking him to stop. I am very conscious as a woman and as a mother of sons that I want to raise men who respect the bodies of those around them as well as their own boundaries.

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  5. This is a VERY tough topic and it really starts with all the compliments we tend to give little girls about their physical appearance from day one. Putting emphasis on the physical only sets up more complexities with these sort of situations later on. "But he told me I was beautiful..."

    I like how you have approached other tough conversations and as the need arises, I think you will respond appropriately. But yeah - rape is a real esoteric concept for super little ones. Not sure there is an effective way of responding IF that question were posed.

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  6. My little ones are still little. And "your body is yours" isn't even on our radar, given the number of doctors we see and the things they don't want done that must be done. It's a line I'm not sure how to draw for them - why is this ok, but not that - but as they get older, I know we'll have to talk about that too.

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  7. It is a difficult subject to be sure. I don't know if there is a right way. We do the best we can though.

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