It’s not about S-E-X at all

Yesterday I read my friend Steph’s article “What You Should Teach Your Baby About S-E-X“.    It might not be an easy article for some people to read.  She uses the word “vulva” more times than most of us will in our entire lives. What’s a vulva? Some people may actually ask.

We don’t say the words very often. Vulva, vagina, penis. Why? Because we have sexualized them.  And, with sexualization comes shame. But there should be no shame in using the words. They are not sexual words. They are body parts! It’s just like saying nose, or chin or lungs.

The simple fact that she spells the word S-E-X in her title alludes to the idea that many parents think it should be spelled. The word sex cannot be spoken. It’s a dirty, shameful word.

I think it is really important that we continue to change this thinking. We have to teach our children about everything, or they will learn it somewhere else.

I have talked to my girls about their bodies since they were born. But that’s biology not sex.

It will never be awkward for me to get changed in front of my daughters. But that’s about body image, not sex.

They hugged and kissed their friends at mommy and me & pre-school when they were 3-4-even 5. But that’s joy and love, not sex.

Knowing the difference and not sexualizing every single thing in their lives, like the media does is the key to a healthy dialogue.
If we sexualize everything we somehow attach shame to the words and actions.

And shame is a shackle.  It is shame that will keep us ignorant. It is shame that will keep us powerless. It is shame that will keep us silent.

If children don’t know the words for their body parts, or if they associate those body parts with your shame, how will they ever speak up if someone violates them?

I never spoke up.

Many years later, when I finally had a breakthrough and released my attachment to the shame, I found my voice.

And once I released it, then I could tell the story with no shame,  only strength.

Steph’s article reminded me once again that it is so important to distinguish between what is sexual and what is not.  And it is so important to teach our children the difference between the two.

We absolutely cannot keep our children in the dark. That is where the monsters hide.



(This is a poem I wrote on the day I decided to let go of shame)

I was ten.

The waves rolled up and touched my toes
and rolled back again.
I was wearing my new bathing suit
that we bought at Newark Slip, an old
mill that had been turned into a
discount store that smelled like aged
wood and smoky polyester. I picked through
the bargain bin with my mom, searching
for just the right suit.  It was brown,
and fuzzy and soft. In the fitting room
I tried over and over again to make certain
that the plastic curtain was closed,
that no one could see through the cracks.
I could hear the rise and fall of the voices outside of the room
Sailing over the false walls.
Does it fit? My mom asked, from behind the pink flowery plastic.
It did. And so I was soaking up the sun in my new suit.
The sand pressing into my knees, pressing into my palms,
as I built an enormous castle covered in shells.
I was ten years old, I was only ten.

As I dug the moat, I heard the clinking of the shiny new
dog tag around my neck.  A new fashion trend,
every one was wearing them, or so I thought.
Please Dad, please, can you buy me one? Please?
Just the night before,  over the sounds of the climbing
and descending roller coaster wheels,
the Himalaya deejay, and screams from the Zipper,
I spelled out my request to the man
with the pressing machine.  I knew that the older kids’
tags said things like Disco Sucks, or Joey & Maria 2Gether 4Ever,
but mine, oh mine had my name, address and phone number.
It was the coolest thing.
I was ten years old, I was only ten.

Wearing my gorgeous new bathing suit,
my shiny silver dog tag,
Listening to the rise and fall of the waves,
as I built my fortress,
I made a new friend on the beach.
He was from a town I didn’t know,
I think his name was Eric.
He asked me if I liked music.
Yes? Elton John? the Stones? He laughed about
me not knowing some bands he mentioned.
But he only knew more because he was much older.
He asked me how old I was.
I told him, I was ten.
He said he thought I was older.
I said I was only ten.

He wanted to go for a walk,
And so I walked, barefoot, down the street.
Two big buildings on the corner.
An alleyway in between.
Forceful hands and some words I don’t remember.
A hollowness in my chest
as my breath desperately rose and fell.
Gravel and broken glass,
pushing into my knees,
pushing into my palms,
white light flashing through my brain,
heat and pain and the smell of the salt air,
the clinking sound of my shiny new dog tag,
more words that I didn’t understand,
my inability to make a sound.
I was ten years old, I was only ten.

I ran across the street to the hotel
where my family was staying,
I jumped into the pool,
and sunk like a stone,
to the bottom.
I could hear the rise and fall of muffled voices
up above me.
I held my breath, for a very
very long time.
Then I slowly rose up for a sip of air,
and sunk down again.
Then rising for a sip of air, then
sinking down again.
I rose up, ever so slowly,
I sunk down, yet again.

A sip of air, a sinking stone.
I was only ten.



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