sadie says: she’s ready
Would you like to go to the BedPost Confessions show on Thursday? I asked my 13 year old daughter, not expecting her answer to be delivered with such alacrity …
“YES!” she declared. And with that the decision was made.
I wouldn’t have asked her unless I was certain she was prepared for entry into the realm of sex storytelling, of course. I had not extended the invitation heedlessly. No, it had arrived upon the heels of one of our discussions about her sex education class, the class where she had just been informed that “abstinence is the only way to prevent pregnancy and STIs, although only if practiced perfectly.”
“Perfectly?” She had challenged, with a snort that indicated more irony than inquiry, “Like perfect ever happens.”
Indeed. My kid’s too smart for a Texas-sized indoctrination of abstinence to ever take root. In fact, I’d venture to guess that most teens know that abstinence education is inherently flawed. But many fall prey to systematic shaming by adult bullies and end up buying into the assumption that not only is premarital sex dangerous, it will fuck up your reputation: chewed up pieces of gum and dirty toothbrushes and all that. Amazing really, that an adult drew these parallels. And we wonder why kids can be so mean.
I will say that my daughter’s class –which under Texas law MUST promote sexual abstinence– is (thankfully) taught by the folks from Planned Parenthood and therefore includes not only units on sexual anatomy and reproduction, but also birth control education – typically ignored by abstinence-only programs. And once a week, the students are sent home with written questions for parents that must be answered and signed. Questions like “Name 2 kinds of hormonal birth control” and “Can you get pregnant from oral sex?” These are meant to spur conversations between parents and teens that might not otherwise take place.
Planned Parenthood rocks.
One of the pamphlets that she was sent home even includes a section called: Guidelines For Sex Partners. It is on the very back of the pamphlet, but it’s in there nevertheless, and it talks about the importance of consent (and not pressuring someone to gain it.) It also highlights honesty, treating each other equally, being attentive to each others pleasure, protecting against physical and emotional harm, practicing safer sex, expressing, maintaining and respecting boundaries, and accepting responsibility for your own actions.
It was in reading this section that I understood the comprehensiveness of her sex ed program (which does declare abstinence-only as the “safest” solution, but doesn’t force-feed it) and I felt deep gratitude that it wasn’t rife with anti-sex dogma (not that she’d accept it anyway.) But it was because of this that I was encouraged to extend to her the opportunity to see a BedPost show, to offer her an adjunct to what she was learning in school (which was decidedly a supplement to what she had already learned from her father and me.) I encountered a little bit of push-back from a well-meaning family member, “Are you sure she’s ready for that?”
I was certain of it.
Because here’s the thing: sex is not a taboo. It is not banned, proscribed, forbidden or excluded (except under certain circumstances) but we hold these ridiculous cultural attitudes that say that it is, which is at great conflict with what our bodies tell us. We ignore, forget, minimize, closet and shame sex and sexuality when it is a defining and essential part of who we are, and should thus be regarded, exalted, respected … celebrated.
Keeping my daughter from BedPost –a show that I have co-produced for the last three years– would only perpetuate the stormy taboo looming ominously above her head (courtesy of abstinence-only teachings and the slut shaming that it generates,) and those of teens her age across the country.
The one that tells them that despite what their bodies say, sex is not meant for them.
I will never teach my daughter to ignore her body. Instead, together we will listen to the stories of others where we can find them. Because it is inside of these stories that wisdom lives, where pieces of others’ experience are extracted as information and carried forth for dissemination … and the actualization of new wisdom. Where conversations begin and where question marks –not definitive, resolute periods– punctuate them with the eagerness and enthusiasm of teens themselves.
And there were questions, MANY questions that my daughter had for me last night after the show was over, but the very first one was my personal favorite:
“Can I go again next month?!?”
We’ll see, baby. We’ll see.