Tuesday, January 22, 2013

Chickens, Whales, and Parenting Sons.

Disclaimer: I am not a man. It's possible that this fact may skew my view on this topic.

I have sons. Though in kindergarten, my oldest son is only 3 years younger than I was when I saw a porno at a friend's house after school one day. It was, of course, something I KNEW my parents would not approve of, however it seemed that even in third grade, one was not cool until they had seen at least 2 seconds of an adult movie. I still remember that confused feeling as well as the exact scene quite vividly. It was this world of adulthood that I did not know existed. I had certainly never envisioned THAT as what sex was. Even now, I still don't think real sex looks much like what I saw that day. As a little girl, it was kind of a novelty and certainly not something that I was interested in seeing again. Through my early sexual development, visual images just weren't high on my list of things to get me going. And though it's not true of all women, I think that it is a place where we definitely differ from men. Women are likely to be pushed over the edge into orgasm by imagining that special person nuzzling into our hair and whispering their undying affection and need for us. We imagine the passionate touch and the desire. Men, on the other hand, seem to have a mental "spank bank" of graphic images or memories.

After my blog, "Touch Yourself More Often", I got into a discussion with a reader about masturbation and if it is helpful or harmful for relationships and intimacy. Being a woman who is very open about my personal sexuality, I see it as very helpful in my ability to relate to my husband and to understand how my body works. But this reader had a different take. He's of the generation about 10 years younger than me who grew up with internet access readily available. Any images fantasized or dreamed of can be instantly pulled up with a simple search. So, the idea of masturbation to him, conjures images of his friends who have a hard time with porn addictions. Just last week I saw this article, "Did porn warp me forever" (shared by Dr. Jenn), and it made me recall that conversation. I don't really have strong feelings about porn and I certainly am not trying to take a position on if it's GOOD or BAD in this blog. If you're interested in a smart opinion on that, check this out: TED talk discussing porn. It's out there and easily accessible by our kids so what's the point in having that debate? Instead, I think it's something that needs to be discussed with our children so that they don't think they've just found Pandora's Box (which I'm sure is a porno) with internet porn.

But how am I going to approach this with MY sons? I am very sure that they will always seem like precious babies to me. I feel comfortable discussing normal, healthy sex, sexual response, body image, communication, gender, sexuality, even different types of sex, and how to be respectful of their partners. However, addressing a subject which carries acknowledgement that mommy knows about the deep depths of messed up crap that can be found on the internet... that's harder. But I understand that the brain is still forming and neural pathways are being created with new input. To me, that makes it imperative to inform them that what they feed their brains in their formative years will have effects on their relationships, marriages, and families in the future. That's heavy. But isn't that what we have to do as parents? We help our children form their lenses through which they see the world. We can discuss with them the many alternatives but we are always trying to show them the healthiest ways through this world.

Maybe we need a good catchphrase that can just be thrown around nonchalantly, but the meaning is understood... something like "You can't ride two horses with one ass". Any ideas?

In addition to helping our children figure out how to keep their minds healthy, we also need to help them learn how to keep their bodies healthy. Part of that is sexual education as well. Maybe your son will be part of the 1-5% of boys who don't masturbate... but chances are, he's going to figure it out. There's a concept known as the "death grip" that Dan Savage discusses and he makes a really good point. Discussing the implications of how one masturbates is something else that will make a difference in their sexual relationships later in life. The basic concept is that when boys grow up masturbating with a really tight grip and don't change up their style, they become really trained to orgasm with that single type of stimulation. The problem with that is that the grip is far tighter and more specific than any vagina (or anus) is going to be. Therefore, when having sexual relationships, it can be alarming for these guys to realize that they can't come during intercourse and of course, that doesn't really help their partners' esteem either.

Surely there's somehow this can be phrased to a 12 year old boy to make him get it while not being overtly "in his business".

Possibly (these will be horrible. I recommend you stop reading now)...

For more on talking to teens and young adults about sex, masturbation, body image, etc., check out Scarleteen. It is a GREAT resource.

Also, here's a presentation done for high school students about porn and sexting. Gareth's blog is also a good resource for adolescent sex education.