The Nitty Gritty Sex-Talk You Need To Have With Your Preteen
The Nitty Gritty Sex-Talk You Need To Have With Your Preteen
Fact: our children are exposed to online porn on average by the time they’re 9.
That’s why they likely know lots about sex long before puberty, tragically from very shadowed, sex-distorting sources, usually online porn. As parents we can do a lot to help them side-step this pitfall of porn exposure, but even if we do, at least one of their friends would have filled them in on what they saw.
That’s why prudish parenting is now – I believe – lousy parenting. We cannot leave it the internet, or their friends, or even their school to teach them about sex. If parenting is primarily about getting our kids ready to live well and wisely in a wild and woe-filled world, then we need to see ourselves as their primary Sex-ed teachers too.
For the rest of this post, I want to share what I plan on explaining about the physical basics of sex to my boys when they turn 12 or 13, and what I hope Julie tells my girl, when she turns 11 or 12.
On a humorous side-note, prepubescents do think about sex. Just the other day, I overheard my 9 year old boy telling his 7-year old sister, to whom we’d already explained what sex is: “I know! It’s crazy what adults do. Every adult that you know who has had a baby has done it.” And then he started listing, by name, school teachers and older family members as people who have engaged in this “strange” behaviour.
By the age of 10, kids should already know that babies come when a man sticks his private part in a woman’s part. You should have had that conversation years before – I share this all in another post
How much will be helpful for my child to hear?
Although, we need to tell our preteens about sex, orgasms and the possibility of pregnancy, do we also have to go into greater detail and cover things like oral sex, for example? Julie and I differ on our instinctive answer. She reckons that she would have felt traumatized if her parents told her about oral sex. I view the matter differently: part of my role as a parent is to reduce the likelihood of my kid getting jiggy with someone, or watching porn, by demystifying sex through being frank about it. When one’s first exposure to information about something like oral sex is hearing that your friend’s older sister gives it to her boyfriends, or worse yet watching it online, I believe that oral sex is coloured with a certain mystique in my kid’s imagination. If, however, I the parent get to the matter first, I can colour it differently.
Also, by breaking the puritanical taboo that dominates many a home, I make it more likely kids will feel the freedom later on to ask parents questions and share school-ground stories that relate to sex. If kids can talk with their parents with at least 50% of the frankness they do so with their friends, I’d consider that a win. By being included in the conversation, we are able to shape their sexual values and behaviour.
As to how much to share, there’s also the question of each particular child. Based on one’s knowledge of each child – their unique speed of development, their friends, their personality type, whether they’re dating (which I personally discourage when they’re only kids) – one would adjust how much one shares.
My sense is that parents on average say too little, so my general encouragement is to say a bit more than you’re naturally comfortable with.
This convo is one amongst many.
This blog is part 4 in a 7-part series on the several conversations I plan on having with my almost-teens about all things related to sex. The series unfolds as follows.
- Before any convo starts, understand this.
- Convo 1: “I’d like to talk about puberty.” Click here – see convo 1.
- Convo 2: “I’d like to talk about sexual desire.” Click here – see convo 2.
This post: Convo 3: “I’d like to talk about the basics of physical sex.”
Still to come:
- Convo 4: “I’d like to talk about the emotional and spiritual side of sex, and why it’s worth the wait.” (20 March)
- Convo 5: “I’d like to talk with you about the pressures you’ll feel to have sex before you’re ready.” (27 March)
- Convo 6: “I’d like to talk to you about the stupidity of sexting.” (4 April)
Enough said, let’s get to it…
CONVO 3: THE PHYSICAL SIDE OF SEX
I envision this conversation starting like this:
“Hey kiddo, I think you’re ready to hear more about the physical side of sex. Do you think now’s a good time for me to tell you?” If they don’t, then suggest another time. If they do think now’s a good time, you can dive right into it …
“I’m gonna share some things with you that could make you feel quite awkward or shy. That’s fine. I assure you what I am about to share with you is very natural, and at some point every person needs to find out about it. You might know some of what I will share, but I’m betting I know some things you don’t. Where to start? Oh, I know…
“Let me tell you technically what sex is. It’s when two people physically stimulate each other’s genitals. The most basic kind of sex is genital to genital. There are two kinds: petting, where people merely rub their genitals together, and full-on sex, where a guy inserts his penis in a woman’s vagina.”
“Sex tends to be very exciting. Sexual hormones flood the body as it is stimulated. As it progresses, the aroused person thinks less and less clearly. A male’s erection hardens, usually quite quickly. A female’s vagina moistens, usually quite slowly. At first they may stimulate each other slowly, but as they become more and more excited, movements tend to happen more quickly.
“Sexual excitement can lead to a sexual climax. As something called an orgasm is reached, muscles that had tensed up relax with a highly pleasurable feeling of release – also pleasurable hormones are released in the brain and body. The male ejaculates sperm, a small amount of white sticky substance. Orgasms are one of life’s most intensely pleasurable experiences. Sexual stimulation usually leads to orgasm in the male. Unlike what the movies portray, females orgasm far less regularly, especially when people are inexperienced. And it is very rare to orgasm at the same time.
“Let me tell you about pregnancy. As you already know, sex is how women get pregnant. If even a tiny drop of a guy’s semen – filled with millions of ‘swimmer sperm’ – gets anywhere near a woman’s vagina, it could very plausibly lead to her getting pregnant. There are ways that people use to stop pregnancy – these are called contraceptives. The most common are 1) condoms, usually rolled onto the male’s penis, and 2) the pill, daily ingested by a women. Neither of these are 100% guaranteed to work, especially if not used properly, but are much much better than nothing to prevent pregnancy.”
Parent, you might want to stop the conversation there. By and large Julie feels the above points are fine to talk to nearly-teens about, but she would draw the limit there and only be open to speaking to teenagers about what I will now share.
I, however, feel that I can push the envelope further. You and your co-parent should discuss where you land – as Julie and I are busy doing. As you discuss the matter, remember the tension: if you don’t say enough soon enough, they will find out elsewhere and might be misinformed, and not feel the liberty to talk to you about this stuff in the future. If, however, you say too much and too soon, the kid might be semi-traumatized. I wish I could take the tension away. Either way prudishness should not be a factor in walking that tightrope.
Disclaimers aside, let me now share what else I think you should at least consider also saying, though by no means do I prescribe this:
“Let me tell you about other kinds of sex. Not only is there petting and full-on sex, there’s:
- hand-to-genital sex, which is also called masturbating someone.
- mouth-to-genital sex, which is also called oral sex.
- (I might even tell them there’s something called anal sex, though assuring them mom and dad don’t do that.)
“Foreplay is a slippery slope. For example, a girl may first allow a boy to touch her boobs, then allow him to slide his had lower down, then clothes start to come off, and before you know it, things have got carried away. We call this ‘the heat of passion’ – it’s hard to think straight when you’re sexually excited. One kind of sex easily leads to another. This raises a question: if a person does one kind of sex (eg oral sex) is it right for them to think, ‘Well I have had one kind of sex, I might as well have another.’ My answer is no. As intimate as oral sex is, genital sex is even more intimate – and of course runs the risk of pregnancy.
“There’s also something called gay sex. Most commonly, men and women have sex. But some people prefer to have sex with someone of the same sex. This is called gay sex or homosexuality. Some people swing either way, male or female. This is called bisexuality.
“Then there’s kinds of sex that are illegal. Sex is a beautiful thing when done at the right time and with the right person. Sadly we live in a world where many people take this good gift God has given us and do ugly things with it. For example, sex with an animal is called bestiality. Paying someone to have sex is called prostitution. Rape is when one person is physically forced into sex, or is intimidated by the other through power dynamics. (In contrast, when both people agree to have sex, we call that consensual sex.) Sex between an adult and someone under the age of 18 is called ‘sex with a minor.’ Thank goodness there are laws against such things.
“That’s enough for now. I suppose there’s more than that, but I think I’ve covered the basics of physical sex as practiced in society. There’s so much more to sex than just body on body – next time I will speak about the deeper side of sex, the emotional and spiritual side. But for now, I’m curious: What did you already know? What’s new for you? What questions do you have? And even if you can’t think of a question now, really anytime you have one, come and ask – I will be as honest and helpful as I can. And one more thing. Don’t share this with your friends or younger siblings. This should stuff should come from parents.”
Okay, parents, like I said, you need to decide what’s helpful to your child as you help them prepare for the imminent, crazy world of adolescence. Wisdom to you.
You’ll be glad to know, I include no more graphic conversations after this – next up is Convo 4: “I’d like to talk about the emotional and spiritual side of sex, and why it’s worth the wait.” (20 March)