Today, I’d like to talk more about communication. In my personal blog this morning, I shared my thoughts on Lisa Ling’s episode last night about the world of BDSM. I want to make clear that “alternative lifestyles” (and I use that phrase very loosely here, because I believe certain realms of sexuality go beyond “lifestyle choices” and really are more a way of being) are not a direct or even primary focus of this blog, or the project Weird Sex Ed seeks to complete. However, one very important aspect of what I detailed over in my personal blog is pertinent here in this space: Communication.
One thing I found in my research with parents of female teens is something I call the “Squick Factor.” After final publication of my dissertation, I will feel more comfortable directly quoting some of what is in the dissertation; for the time being, though, I will state that one really important subject that emerged across the various themes and sub-themes in my research was the matter of communication. More accurately…the lack of adequate communication.
A phrase that comes up repeatedly in conversations, particularly about children, tweens, and teenagers is “age appropriate.” Understand, too, that I am not in any way advocating that young children need to know more than what is age-appropriate for them…BUT…more often than not, when I hear the term used, what I’m hearing being said is nothing to do with what children need to know — and this is especially true when I hear it from parents with respect to teenagers (and most often, teenage daughters). What I’m really hearing when a lot of parents use that term is that they, the parents, are not ready for their child to know “something”…and especially if it’s about sex.
During the pilot study of my research, one of the questions I had was…when should we start communicating with our kids? When is “age appropriate”? And one of the funniest (yes, funniest) answers I was given was, “When they start asking questions.” The answer was so direct, and so simple, that it took me off-guard…and I started laughing. However, that answer also mirrored something that was said starkly in Kristin Luker’s book When Sex Goes to School: Warring Views on Sex–and Sex Education–Since the Sixties. Luker was very clear that she knew what she was suggesting would be controversial, and that it slapped both sides of the sex education debate. She said, “Since the debate about sex education gets its passion from deeply felt ideas about gender, and women’s roles in particular, why not tell young people that?”
So my question today…my thoughts on communication…is why are parents so uncomfortable? From your perspective, as a reader here, why do you think parents have such difficulty addressing the subject of sex with kids frankly and without the “Squick Factor”?