Why should dads talk to kids about sex and the things that make us uncomfortable?

Monday, November 13th, 2017

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I remember one night lying in bed with my daughter reading a book about cats. We read about angry cats, fuzzy cats, wrinkly cats, young cats, and old cats.

And then, almost at the end of the story, towards the page where a young dog infiltrates all the cats and ruins everything the ways puppies do in stories like this, my daughter interrupted my storytelling with a question that wasn’t about cats.

“Wait a minute,” she started, her hand going to her head in the classic puzzled look people get when they are struck by something they don’t understand. “So, how does the sperm get inside then?”

And if you have young kids who you have taught to ask these kinds of questions whenever they come to their mind, you’ll know that she was looking for an answer right then and there.

In that moment, as a parent, you find yourself in a choose your own adventure book with none of the adventures seeming to be all that appealing. In a split second you are forced to make a decision that might make you uncomfortable, but which is ultimately extremely important.

Here’s the thing. As a dad, you are often granted leeway to ignore these questions. You are given permission to pass this question on to someone else. You can do this whit sex and health education, with discussions about body image, with questions about menstruation, about diversity of bodies and relationships, and questions about consent.

Dads need to refuse this pass. Dads need to have conversations with their kids that make them uncomfortable.

one daughter not pictured

Penis and vagina and sex

In our example I chose the path that talked about our life before discussing some of the ways other families can be made up. So, I talked about a penis and a vagina and I talked about sex as both a way to reproduce and as a thing of pleasure. I talked about it for as long as my daughter wanted to listen. And then, after a few minutes, she gave me a “you have to be kidding me look,” and told me to please get back to reading the cat story thank you very much.

And then our conversation was over. She had better knowledge about sex and bodies and I strengthened our relationship as someone she can ask any question to.

Will we always get the answers right? Probably not. But the journey to finding them is as valuable as the answers themselves.


Dads are more than capable of holding these conversations

The method I use for determining how much time I should spend talking about a conversation is evaluating how uncomfortable I am with answering. The more uncomfortable I am, the more important it is to me to talk about it.

I use my own discomfort as a gauge because our kids need to grow up free of our own taboos. No thinking and telling them that periods are gross or unnatural, no shaming them for having a developing body, no hiding that sex is also pleasurable.

Here’s a quick list of “uncomfortable” topics I’d suggest finding ways to talk about with your sons and daughters. Some of these they’ll bring up on their own if you create an environment for them to ask, and others you can bring up on your own:

  • mentruation
  • developing bodies
  • diversity of relationships
  • sex as reproduction and sex as pleasurable
  • openly displaying emotions
  • gender expression
  • faith/religion/atheism
  • racism

And if you want a resource to help you start off your own learning, I suggest heading to Scarlateen.

Look, kids are awkward and honest and we love them for it. So let’s take a cue from them and be awkward and honest as well. Let’s focus our efforts on making sure our kids grow up being comfortable with the way their bodies grow and with the people they build relationships with.

This is how dads build relationships with their kids. Through honesty, openness, and, apparently, through shared embarrassment.

One response to “Why should dads talk to kids about sex and the things that make us uncomfortable?”

  1. Anne says:

    I found your blog by googling “Ottawa feminist blog” and I’m so pleased I did! This post alone, with its link to Scarlateen, is reassuring and motivating. Inspiring? Bolstering? Dammit, something like that. I look forward to reading more of your posts.

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