The topic at last week’s Sexy Moms talk at Babeland was “Raising Sex-Positive Kids.” Smartmom made a point of being there.
She arrived at the Park Slope sex toys shop and found 20 men and women sitting in a circle on folding chairs in the back of the shop (near the bondage toys and dildos like the Boss Lady, the Vibrating Mistress and Mr. Bendy).
Amy Levine, a sexologist and certified sexuality educator, started things off by asking people to introduce themselves and give their reason for being there.
Surprisingly, only a few of the participants of the workshop were parents. It was a mix of childbirth educators and social workers who work with teenagers.
There was even an aunt eager to gather advice for her niece and nephew.
But there were a few moms and dads. And it wasn’t a strictly heterosexual group either; quite a few described themselves as queer, bi or even poly.
Smartmom sipped complimentary red wine from a paper cup and listened while people talked about what their parents did and didn’t tell them about sex as children
“Sex was never mentioned. Nothing was ever explained to me,” one woman told the group.
Another woman described her upbringing as sex-positive: “I knew sex was fun before I even knew what it was.” She told the group that her mother handed her “The Joy of Sex” when she was a teenager.
“I may need to learn some boundaries when talking to my kids — when I have them,” she added.
One woman said that she was “the cool aunt” who wants her young niece and nephew to be “giving, wonderful, juicy people.” Yet, she knows that her conservative brother probably won’t want her to talk to his kids about sex.
As people shared their memories, Smartmom found herself reeling backward in time. She remembered sitting in a movie theater as a pre-teen watching “The Last Picture Show” with her dad.
“Are you okay? Should we leave?” he asked during a kissing scene between Cloris Leachman and Timothy Bottoms.
“I’m fine,” said the pre-mom Smartmom, who, truth be told, was slightly titillated. She had no intention of leaving. It was a great movie.
Even menstruation wasn’t really discussed in those days. When Smartmom got her period for the first time, Manhattan Granny got her a box of Kotex and that was that. Smartmom doesn’t remember any prolonged discussion about reproduction, birth control or sexuality.
Like so much else in the 1970s, Smartmom and her peers were left to figure things out for themselves.
Thank Buddha for “Our Bodies Ourselves,” that famed book about women’s health and sexuality, which came out in 1973 — the year Smartmom was the perfect 15 years old.
That’s where Smartmom learned about female orgasms, masturbation, speculums, infections, birth control, childbirth and more.
The feminist textbook, filled with black-and-white photographs of women of all sizes, shapes and colors, also included quotes from real women. It was a great resource, the go-to place whenever Smartmom had questions about her body or her budding sexuality.
But can a book replace that all-important talk between parent and child? It did in Smartmom’s case.
And books like “It’s So Amazing: A Book About Eggs, Sperm, Birth Babies and Families” by Robie Harris, and “The Care and Keeping of You: The Body Book for Girls” from the American Girl Library have been important to Teen Spirit and the Oh So Feisty One.
But what about The Talk?
“I don’t believe in The Talk,” Levine told the group. “The Talk is an on-going conversation,” she said. “A casual conversation is better than the talk.”
OK. Casual conversation, ongoing chats. But what works for kids like OSFO, who don’t really want to talk about it?
Levine stressed “teachable moments,” the buzz phrase for authentic situations that provoke good conversation. Smartmom raised her hand.
“Like watching ‘Gossip Girl’ with your child? she asked Levine.
“Sure,” Levine said tentatively.
Smartmom realized that she and OSFO could talk extensively about Blair Waldorf’s relationship with Chuck, her relationship with Nate. They could talk about Serena and Dan Humphrey and Vanessa and …
Later, Levine suggested a quick conversation in a cab or on the subway when your kids can’t go anywhere. “It’s a natural containment,” Levine said.
Smartmom tried to imagine talking to OSFO about female orgasm on the subway or the joys of masturbation while riding in a car service.
That ain’t gonna happen.
Levine also stressed the importance of sussing out exactly what your kids want to know and what’s age appropriate.
“When your child asks you a question, ask him or her, ‘What do you think?’” Levine suggested. That gives you a chance to catch your breath, figure out what you’re going to say, and most importantly, figure out what it is your child really wants to know. The child’s answer will give you “an age appropriate snapshot,” Levine said.
For instance, your 4-year-old may ask. “Where do I come from?” But all she may really be asking is whether she was born in Manhattan or Brooklyn.
Levine also believes in using real words for private parts. “If you feel shy about this, say ‘vulva’ and ‘penis’ 50 times in the mirror. You may laugh and giggle but say it: ‘Penis, vulva, penis, vulva.’ Say it.”
Above all, when kids ask questions, it’s important for parents (and special friends) to stay calm.
“Be open and approachable if they have a question,” Levine said. “But it’s perfectly OK to tell your child that you don’t feel comfortable and you’ll get back to them.”
All of this was great advice and it caused Smartmom to ponder how much she’d probably already screwed up when talking — or not talking — about sex with Teen Spirit or OSFO.
Walking home from Babeland that night, Smartmom decided to turn over a new leaf. She was excited by all that sex talk and the open attitudes she heard expressed and was eager to have sex-positive conversations with her kids. She could hardly wait to talk to Teen Spirit about cunnilingus and OSFO about female orgasm.
When she got home, OSFO was sitting at the dining room table staring at her computer. Smartmom, without even stopping to think if this was a teachable moment, blurted out:
“I just took a class about talking to your kids about sex. Interested?”
“Not really,” OSFO said and went back to her Facebook page.
And that was that.
For the moment, anyway.