Updated: Jun 11
Raising our Kids in a Sex-Positive Home
A common question have gotten about our lifestyle is “what about your kids?” and “do your kids know?”. So I thought I’d take some time to give some memories of how we approached human sexuality in our home. When I first wrote this our daughter Michelle was twenty-three and married and our son, Lamar, was twenty; so we were largely through that part of parenting and have two great young adults. Now our girl is thirty and a mother, we are seeing how much our kids absorbed what we taught them. And to be candid, we also see they learned things we wish we had not, but that is how parenting works.
Part 1: Nudity and Our Children
Before the kids were born we began to discuss how we would raise them regarding sexual issues. Now by that time in our marriage we had agreed in principle that monogamy was unnecessary for a healthy marriage, but it would still 4 years before Paula took her first lover. We agreed from the beginning that family nudity would not be an issue and that while we would not intentionally have sex in front of the kids, we would not hide it either. As it turned out, we carried out this plan with only a few adjustments as we raised our kids.
Thus, for instance, we have never had a requirement for closed doors in our house. Even while bathing or making love, doors were rarely fully closed, mostly closed perhaps, but not closed entirely. The idea is that there was nothing to hide; mom and dad were not ashamed of their bodies or actions. This set the tone for everything else.
This, for me was not a new attitude, but it was a further extension of the basic principles I was taught by my own mother. A funny story illustrates the relaxed attitude between my mother and I. When Paula was about 5 months pregnant with Lamar, my mother had come out to visit and we rented a cabin up in the mountains. At the time, our daughter was about a two years old, so we were at the stage of trying to make the most of the times during which she was asleep. So, one afternoon, we got Michelle down and while my mom was reading in the other room, Paula and I got frisky. At some point my mother decides to share something interesting in her book with us. She is reading as she rounds the corner and by the time she looks up, she is standing right over Paula. My pregnant wife was naked, on her knees bent over the couch, while I, also naked, am doing her good from behind. And, it just so happened, that I was just starting to climax when my mom entered the room.
So, my mom looks up from her book, Paula looks up at my mom, and I instinctively pull back just enough so my penis pulls free. My mom says “Oh, well I guess I’ll tell you later” as I shoot a stream of semen up across my wife’s back. My mother didn’t scream or run. She didn’t even stop looking all that quickly. She watched me cum all over my wife before she turned away. Paula and I fell down on the ground laughing. We all thought it was so funny, but none of us were embarrassed or ashamed.
As it turned out, about 2 years later my mother was in town visiting again (she didn’t come very often), while I was at work my mom was in our house topless. Paula commented about how nice her breasts looked and they had a very nice conversation regarding the fact my mother had some of the first breast implants in the world. It seems she worked in one of the first hospitals that did that surgery during the early 1960’s. That morphed into a discussion about her times at nude beaches and such. All this was helping Paula feel better about how much differently we were raising our kids, than how her parents had raised her in the rural American South in the 1960’s.
The outcome of that conversation was that my wife asked my mother to shoot nudes of her while she was in town. So, the next day, we all went down the road to where the trees had recently been cut for timber, and while I entertained the kids and kept them out of my mother’s frame, she shot nudes of my wife for several hours. This further reinforced the idea of family nudity as normal.
When we bought a house with a swimming pool, the family nudity naturally extended to the pool. Mom and Dad went nude perhaps ½ the time when it was just family. It was not any big deal, not any different that the tub in the house. I will note that there was no discussion, one way or the other, about the kid's swimming attire. Had they asked to take off their swimwear we would not have objected, but they never did. Well, little Michele did go without the top of her two-piece, but never naked. That typified our approach.
When we, for several summers, went to the beach, we nearly always spent some of the time at remote beaches where mom could tan topless or nude. Sometimes dad went nude too, but not as often. Since this was an extension of the use of the swimming pool, the kids just didn’t notice.
When the kids were around 11 &13, we spent two summer vacations on Miami Beach. Mom never wore anything but thong bikinis at the pool or beach, and most of the time on the beach she did not wear a top. Even though the kids were getting older they still didn’t seem to notice. It was funny that when Lamar was 18, something came up about a topless beach and I said how we spent two summer vacations at one. He had no recollection that just 6 or 7 years earlier he’s spent a lot of time around topless girls and women in Miami. Even though he was not that young at the time, it was so normal he didn’t even notice. That, in itself, was a sign we had succeeded in normalizing nudity.
(A Florida beach in 2004, or 2005)
We have a two story house and the kids have their own world downstairs, so once the kids were teenagers, there was not much reason for them to have to come up to the “grown-ups” part of the house. However, when Michelle was about 12 or 13, we decided that while it was not wrong to do so, it would be better for me to cut back on my nudity outside the bedroom. If we had to do it again, I’m not sure I would that. By changing that one behavior, we sent unexpressed messages that I’m not sure helped in the long run. However, mom never did really stop walking around nude upstairs on occasion. When Lamar first “noticed” mom was naked when he was about 14, mom just said, “If you don’t want to see me naked, don’t look.”
The kids also grew up with having to wait around while dad took nude photos of mom on trips. In our house there were, for a decade, two large, framed, poster-sized racy photos of Mom that hung right in the public hallway. Since we have lived in the same home since Michelle was in kindergarten, their friends grew up not particularly noticing the photos of their friend’s mom around the house. The only real nudes of Mom were/are in the bedroom and in my study. But, since our kids have grown up this way, they didn’t even realize that they “should” be embarrassed that their friends see nude photos of their mother, so they never hesitated to drag their friends into our bedroom or in my study.
Our downstairs family room, the kids domain, is decorated in a crazy eclectic fashion, metal signs, movie posters, a pirate flag, a rack of Viking swords and shields, and an eight foot tall, sexy picture of a very young Angelia Jolie that Paula had been a window display at the mall years ago. Among the miscellaneous stuff is a photo of mom in a bra and thong panties in a frame that says “Dangerous Curves”. I recall not long after Lamar needed to use my desktop in the study for a project with a friend. Not only was there a topless photo of mom on one wall, the Windows 7 wallpaper was a collection of our beach photos. Lamar, even at 19, didn’t think anything about the fact that while he and his friend worked on the main screen, the computer’s 2nd screen kept changing photos every 30 seconds to new family beach picture, half of which showed his mother topless or nude. It’s not that Lamar was showing off, he just didn’t think it remarkable. The same thing has happened with our daughter and her new husband. In fact, Michelle tells a funny story about the first month she was dating her husband and he saw the “Dangerous Curves” photo on the family room wall. He asked Michelle if the woman in the bra and thong panty was her mom. Michelle didn’t hesitate to say it was. He later told her that he decided right then that she was a keeper “If her mom looked like that in her 40’s, she’s the kind of girl I want”.
And when I began my photo business Michelle, as a teenager, on occasion has been my assistant for nude shoots. When I made the transition to digital, I begin spending a good deal of time on my computer editing the nudes. Of course I’ve never thought of shutting the study door, even now that I shoot explicit erotica; there is nothing I do that I need be ashamed of doing or hide from our young adult children.
The distance between our kid’s perception of the “art” on the house walls and their friends came up in a conversation when Lamar had some of his college friends over that had not gone to high school with him. As such the guys talking had never been at our house when we had the two large photos of Paula, mentioned earlier, had hung in the hallway outside throughout the kid’s middle and high school years. The photos had been replaced in a general redecoration project about the time Lamar finished high school. In the conversation I made a comment about the fact we had new art, not just pictures of Lamar’s mother. Well, his buddy nods and says that he knew all about the old pictures on the wall. I thought that was odd and pointed out that couldn’t have seen them. The young man got a grin and said “I’ve heard all about them.” Cleary, despite our own kid’s lack of concern about the images of mom, their content was clearly a point of conversation among their friends.
One of the framed poster sized prints that hung in the main hall for the when our kids were in middle and high school
Part 2:Sex in Our Home Environment
All this while nudity was normalized, sex at home was not hidden away. It was not flaunted, but not hidden either. I have been called on to give many lectures on sex & child rearing. I always say, sex education begins at birth and I don’t believe in the idea of “the sex talk”. Teaching about sex is something we did every day because the mechanics are the simplest parts of human sexuality. It is mostly about watching how mom and dad interact moment by moment, and the active part of our sex life (fucking) is just the culmination of how we interact on a normal basis. That is why kids who grow up in homes with mom being abused by dad (or boyfriends) tend to have serious problems with their adult sex life, because in their minds, adult sex is associated with adult abuse. But, the mechanics are important. When each of our kids were in kindergarten we gave them the “How Babies are Made” book (by Steven Schepp & Andrew Andry ). It showed via cut-out drawings, the mechanics of egg & sperm, of penis & vagina and sexual intercourse & ejaculation. Michelle loved the book. It had illustrations of a mom and dad having sex, just like she’d seen us do. She loved it so much she not only wanted it as her bedtime story book until she could tell the story on her own without us reading, she carried it around and “read” it to her stuffed animals. All very cute. But when an angry parent confronted us about Michelle teaching her son how babies were made, we had to tell her that she couldn’t tell her friends about her book. The point is, she saw nothing dirty about it. Lamar, on the other hand, couldn’t care less about how babies were made. It took several try’s even to get through the book, but it bored him silly. He did care how tanks worked, but nothing about babies. That pattern that continued until well past the time most boys start ogling girls.
One of our favorite stories dates to when Michelle was teething. At the time Paula had a very nice silicon dildo that had been shaped as a dolphin leaping from the water. She very much liked it, and it was a piece of art in itself, so it always sat on the dresser. One day our daughter toddles into the living room of our little home with it in her hand. We took if from her only to find she had bitten the end clean off!
That was the end of that dildo, but mom still got sex lingerie and sex toys from Santa. By no particular plan, the sex toys rarely got put away. More often than not if you walked in our bedroom at any time in the past 20 years, you would find a vibrator (or two) on the end table or on the floor by the bed. The kids knew full well they were mom’s “toys”. For 5 years or so when the kids were in elementary school and middle school, mom masturbated every day, usually with her vibratos, every afternoon for 30-45 minutes. It was her routine. The kids knew full well what mom did with them, because they had walked in on her many times, but this was a normal part of life to them. There was nothing “dirty” or shameful about it. When they would walk in on her, she would remove the vibrator from her crotch and turn it off, but she made no effort to pretend she hadn’t been “massaging” her crotch. This is important, because it destigmatized masturbation long before they began masturbating themselves. Though it is true Paula started masturbating at about 10 years old. In fact, they were so “not repulsed” by what she was doing, they loved rubbing her good plug-in Wahl or Hatchie vibrators on their arms and face. To me it was funny that they referred to the sex toys as “Mom’s toys” without anyone teaching them to call them that. I guess they realized they had toys they played with, so why should Mom be any different?
As I said before, we, to this day rarely fully shut our bedroom door, even when making love. When the kids were small, it was not uncommon for one (or both of them) to come into our bedroom while we were having sex. We never screamed at them to leave, or even jump under the covers. We did the same thing when they walked in we were lying in bed reading or having sex. Most parents, if the kids interrupted their reading, would stop reading and give the kids full attention. If the children’s need could be resolved with words, they would just go back to reading; if the need required action, the parents would get up and stop their reading until the need is met. Finding one’s parents reading should be no more traumatic than finding them having sex, or less so.
We lived this.
One thing about young children, they always need things, and in our late twenties and thirties we were having sex quite a lot; so naturally they walked in on us quite a bit. When they did, if it were something small, we wouldn’t even disengage. However we would but our active sex, and give them our attention while my penis was still fully embedded in "Mom". We carried on any number of conversations over the years with the kids during an interruption of us having sex. If they needed us to do something one of us would get out of bed and go get what they needed, if it was small like a drink of water, we would just do it in the nude. I’ve gotten more than a few drinks of water sporting an erection.
One time in particular I recall, it was a weekend afternoon, Paula was on top of me and we were having a great time with her doing me with vigor. As was the case much of the time, the bedroom door was standing wide open and the kids were down stairs watching TV in the family room. At that time our bed sat such that the door was six feet or so from the foot of the bed, so with Paula sitting upright on me as she bounced up and down on my penis, and I thrust up into her, neither of us could see the door. She finally wore out and leaned forward on me to rest. Only then did I see Michelle, who was 12 or so, standing in the door way watching. She was old enough to understand what was going on and she seemed to have been waiting for us to stop. Without a doubt she’d been carefully watching how the mechanics of woman superior sex worked. When Mom did stop to rest, Michelle came in and stood right beside us, and asked some routine question while Paula sat up, my penis still fully in her. My wife was not the rattled in the least that Michelle been standing at the doorway watching her ride me. Paula was only at about a 45° angle, resting over me on her outstretched arms. We knew full well that my penis was still quite visible arching up into her. Oh would that I could still be able to keep hard indefinitely without thrusting like I could then. But I digress. Mother and daughter had a conversation while I just lay there waiting to continue. At some point her brother came in, and just stood by the foot of the bed looking at us. He said “what are you doing”. Our little know-it-all daughter had her great opportunity to show off her knowledge. Before we could respond, she stepped back to the foot of the bed and pointed to where my penis could be seen going up into his mother and said “They are having sex.” He looked closely at what his sister showed him. Since he had never taken any interest in the How Babies are Made stuff, he surely didn’t understand female physiology. It appeared to him that dad’s penis was in mom’s anus. But he wasn’t too freaked out, he just said “Yuck” and moved over to the side of the bed to pester us. It took more time to get them to leave. The whole scene was rather comic.
Another time Michelle did the same watching thing while Paula gave me a blow job. We didn’t see her at all until she had been standing literally right beside mom long enough for me to happen to open my eyes and see her. Seeing me see her, right off Michelle wanted to know why Mom was doing that. I decided to get up and find something else to do while mom explained oral sex to Michelle. OK, I can be a coward sometimes.
From the beginning of our marriage we had not limited sex to the bedroom, and that continued with only minor modifications as we raised our children. With a two story house, and the kids living down stairs, in most cases, if we were doing it in the living room or kitchen, we would hear them coming up the steps and disengage before they arrived. Lamar remained oblivious to it all, but Michelle, was keenly aware of when she caught us having sex in the kitchen. More than once she, after I’d pulled my pants up just as she arrived in the kitchen, said “Not in the kitchen!” or “you two are so gross”. Her grin always betrayed that she was really not upset, but rather enjoyed letting us know she knew what we had been doing. Once however, we were downstairs, and Michelle, then 15, was in her room reading. We got frisky, and soon we were both naked and mom was bent over the kid's TV/game room couch while I did her from behind. From our position, we could not see the hallway to the kid’s rooms. We went at it for quite a while, and I was just beginning to climax when I hear Michelle say something like “Come on you two this is our part of the house.” The reader might recall what happened in a similar situation when my mother walked in on Paula and me while she was pregnant. In that case, I ended up shooting several long streams of semen onto Paula's back while my mother watched from less than three feet away. So this time, when I heard Michelle’s voice I looked over and saw her “you got caught with your hand in the cookie jar” look I was not going to make the same mistake. Michelle was leaning on the door frame, perhaps five feet from her mother's head, and evidently been watching for some time. I knew if I pulled out I’d just make a mess, but the orgasm was on its way. So With Michelle watching so close that she and Paula could have joined hands, I just drove down deep and ejaculated inside of Paula with several shudders. I didn’t think my climax would ever end, and for once I did want it to end. I just look down at Paula’s ass and back as the waves of climax pass through my body. It’s the one time I was embarrassed in front of the kids like that. When I finally finished, I tried to be as gracefully as I could with my penis wet and still sticking straight out. backed off and picked up my pants. Out of the corner of my eye I saw our daughter smirking.
When mom stood up, semen began to drip out on the floor. Michelle watched with interest what was happening. I guess our daughter had decided this was an opportunity for a practical lesson in sex education because, as I left Paula was waddling to the downstairs bathroom, dripping semen all the way, and Michelle following behind her, began to ask questions about what she had seen. I didn’t wait around for that discussion.
This was not the first time she’d shown interest in adult sexuality. It was perhaps half a year before this, when Michelle and her friends became sexually curious, Michelle knew just were to come to get “real” information. By the middle of 8th grade, she was evidently the font of knowledge for all her friends, and dad was the fount of knowledge for her. She wasn’t the least bit shy or intimidated in asking, not just simple questions like birth control, but more difficult questions like when do you know you’re ready to give oral sex. One question I remember led to a discussion about the relative merits of having your first sex with just a friend or with a boyfriend. Like virtually all the questions she asked, I had an answer born from my professional work. I told her that it was actually safer for most girls to have their first sexual experience with a guy who is just a friend because it is far less likely to be abusive or exploitive. I told her too many girls have sex the first time because they love the boy and he wants it, not because they are ready. The rule of sexual behavior I gave her was to ask herself “Will I be proud I did this when I look in the mirror tomorrow and a year from now?” If the answer is not yes, then don’t do it. If the answer is yes, and you want to do it, go ahead. Years later she told me how she had a college friend who was struggling with sexual morality and she quoted dear old Dad to her. It’s a good rule.
In both middle and the first year of high school (until she got a car), I drove her to school every day and at least twice a week. Every single week, during her 9th and 10th grade years I got at a sex question. Once she asked a question about sex for herself, not for a friend. I choked. I ended up telling her that although I know it’s not rational, it’s easier for me to answer the questions in the form of “a friend”, even if I know full well it was for her.
In her freshman year we had our first little “sex” issue with our daughter. It seems she had been video chatting with a boy, topless. At the time neither Paula or I knew video chatting was possible. The boy’s parents found out and became angry. Mom asked Michelle why she'd done it. We loved her answer “I think my boobs look good”. How could we disagree with that reasoning? She was acting just like mom. But, we did have to address it. I told her that she did nothing inherently wrong. She has no reason to feel bad about it; but, she was fourteen and girls her age were being charged for distributing child porn for doing that. As odd as it seems, it would be OK for her to show her boobs to a boy in person, but not over the internet. She agreed not to do it again. We felt obligated to do something because we were afraid the boy’s parents might have called the police. So we took her webcam for a year.
About six months later, we had to talk to her again. She had just turned fifteen and decided she wanted to find out what sex with a boy was like. We know she’d been messing around with one of her girlfriends, but she wanted to know what it felt like to fuck. She used Mom’s condoms and she and a male friend from school, not a boyfriend, had sex. She did just what I had told her was best for her sexual debut. She chose a good friend and had a very positive first experience. However, once again the law had to be addressed. The age of consent in our state is sixteen. So, we sat down again. Again we told her she had done nothing wrong nor were we disappointed with her, but she had to wait another six months till she turned sixteen to do it again. We told her that after her 16th birthday, mom will take her lingerie shopping if she wanted, before her next time. And, I told her that once she’s past the legal age of consent, she could do it right in the living room floor if she wanted and we would support her. She responded wonderfully to this approach; though she did say she wanted to do it again now, but she would wait. Paula offered to buy her a dildo, but she told Mom “I don’t want a dildo, I want the real thing”. I think we did a great job with her.
However, this story to be complete must continue to a very dark chapter. One I’ve never written about and rarely talk about. There was no question that our girl was the model of sex-positive and well adjusted. One day, not long after her sexual début, she tells me about a boy she’d met. She told me he was a senior (she was a sophomore) and he had a fast car. As she told me about her first high school crush, my daddy radar went off. I rarely gave either of our kids firm “No you cannot!” rules, but something seemed wrong. I warned her that he might not be a good choice, then a day or two later, after hearing more about him I told her that I did not want her to talk to him. I’d never said any such thing, but from what she'd told me I just knew this guy was a creep. This happened in October.
As the fall wore on, our happy and positive girl began to change. We didn’t know why. She hid in her room for days and missed school. Finally in January, she came to me in tears, saying she had broken my rule and had sex again before she turned sixteen. But as she tearfully told me the story, it was far worse than a tale of her just having sex again. She’d been raped.
She had not stopped talking to that boy (as I had supposed), and one night a few weeks after I thought he was gone, he talked her into letting him come into our house late at night. She was enjoying making out with him in her bed, but she told him she would not have sex with him until she was sixteen. I’ve never pressed the details, but he used physical force to rape her and then he left. Because she knew I had told her to say away from him, she did not scream, nor did she tell anyone from the event in mid-November, until that day in January.
The story goes from bad to worse. We went to Rape Crisis and to the police. She spent harrowing hours going over the details with several investigators. It was a very difficult process, but she was determined he would not do that to any girl again. We praised her for her courage and began to see the first signs of her reclaiming her life from her attacker.
Then we waited. No arrest. He was never even picked up, though they had an address where he lived. It seems the DA had no interest in pursuing a case where a minor girl was raped by, as it turns out, a ninteen year old who was not even a student at the high school. He just hung out after school to pick up young girls. The DA said since she let the man in the house, they were not likely to win a conviction. So, no warrant was issued for his arrest, they never even demanded he come to the police station to be questioned. Over the next few years, she told us how she heard reports from others that he did the same to them, but as far as we know, he was never charged. She had gone through the pain of reliving the experiences so as to get him off the street, only to be told she was not worth protecting. She said in some ways that was worse than the assault. Her entire high school experience was a disaster after that. Over time she has mostly recovered and the PTSD symptoms have declined, but she has never been the same.
We have been ever so happy that she found a great guy the next year. It was obvious that he treated like a queen. Her senior year he slept overnight in her room most weekends. Sometime during her freshman year of college, it just seemed he just started living with her in our house. He was good for her, and we were supportive of her choices. After five years together, they got married. We could not love our son-in-law more.
The reality is that parenting is not always rational. Despite the fact I had by then been teaching and counseling with a very sex-positive attitude, I found that when Michelle lived still lived at home, it was really hard for me to go near her bedroom door when they were in there together. Paula had no problem and regularly talked to both of them about their sex life. I think it’s a “daddy’s little girl” thing. To me she’s always a six year old. Even though they are now married and have a child, it’s hard for me. Mother and daughter are closer than ever and occasionally they go shopping together at the local sex shops.
Despite the tragedy, we believe strongly that our sex-positive approach has been the right one, and our young adult children are the beneficiaries, as will be their children one day.
Part 3: Our Open Marriage and Our Children
Now up to this point in this essay, everything could just as well have been done by parents who are monogamist. However, we have not been monogamous since our, now adult, kids were in pre-school.
As our open marriage began with Paula becoming sexual with her best friend, it was not like new people suddenly burst into our kids’ lives. In our case Paula’s first lover was her best friend then that friend’s husband. They were our best friends in part because our kids were the same age as theirs. So the kids were very often at the other’s house. Thus, when the kids had stay overs with their best friends, Mom slept over with their friend’s mom & dad. Because this began when the Lamar was in pre-school and Michelle in Kindergarten, they never noticed anything unusual about the fact Mom slept in the same bed as their friend’s parents.
Like I wrote in the first part on nudity, young children take everything in their family’s life as “normal”. After we moved out of state a few years later, Paula and the kids went for visits to our friend’s home that went a week or more during summer’s and/or holidays. During these visits, their kids and ours just expected that Paula would sleep in the bed with the other couple. Not doing so would have seemed unusual. When Dianne stayed with us, our kids more than once came in the bedroom when the three of us were in the bed. I don’t ever recall them walking in while we were having a threesome, but I think they did walk in on Paula and Dianne having sex one afternoon, but I was not there. Just like when our kids went to Dianne’s house, had the other mom’s friend slept anywhere but in our bed would have seemed unusual.
Eventually the kids grew up and became more aware. I think the last time Paula and the kids stayed at Dianne’s house, Michelle was 12 or so. Not surprisingly it was Michelle who first let us knows she knew what was “Really” going on. She was 14, and one day sitting at a restaurant she just asked Mom “Are you bisexual?” Though by this time Mom and Dianne were not seeing each other anymore she knew Mom and Dianne had slept in the same bed all during the time she was in grade school. Mom didn’t hesitate to say “Yes I am”.
It was not much later that one of Michelle’s closest friends, who we later found out was her first “make-out” partner, asked Paula the very same thing, and when Paula told her yes as well, the teenager followed up with “Have you and your husband had a threesome?” To which she also answered yes. I guess we parents deceive ourselves about our own kid’s world. Though I had dealt professionally with teen sexual issues, it still came as a surprised that we were asked about a threesome so openly by a 14-year-old. The fact that Mom, by that time, was buying condoms as part of her grocery shopping and condoms were often seen on Mom’s dresser was not lost on Michelle either. She knew her mother had a hysterectomy a few years before and thus there was no way those condoms were for pregnancy prevention. So, even as she was becoming sexually aware, she knew her mother had sex outside marriage with both women and men.
It was only in the year leading up to Michelle’s wedding, did we begin to speak of our open marriage explicitly. The circumstance was that about a year before that, I did something I had never done before, though Mom had done so many times. I went out of town and spent three days with a lover. She was one of my oldest friends, someone our kids had known for years. Renee’ and I had dated in college before I met Paula. For the past ten years she’d known Paula and I had an open marriage and she and I had been “flirting” for all that time. She was married and was monogamous (mostly), but she was jealous of our open lifestyle. She increasingly wanted to have an open relationship, but her marriage was already in a death spiral due to other issues. When she and her husband split up, we booked a room and I went to see her. We had a great time and fucked like teenagers. The morning of the third day, Renee and I were lying in bed, naked and snuggled up when my phone rang. It was my daughter. She said right off “Are you sleeping with another woman?” in a very accusatory tone. Of course I was doing just that, but I did not like being attacked by my 21 year old. She’d known for ten years or more that Mom had sex with other people. She knew Mom took overnight trips with “friends” from time to time; however, Dad was different. Just like Mom drinks alcohol and Dad does not, she just assumed that Mom fucks around but Dad does not. Besides that she is a huge Daddy’s girl. Surely there was a little Electra complex in her anger. I tried to calm her and told her that it is not her place to tell me what to do, besides that she knows “full well how Mom and I live”. Where upon she said that she was disappointed that I was doing what I was doing.
When I got home that evening she was back at her boyfriend’s apartment (she lived there by then). About a week later her boyfriend, now my son-in-law, talked and I asked him why she had blown up like that since she knew we had an open marriage. He told me it wasn’t really about what I was doing, but she had a really hard week at school and had come over to the house looking for Dad, but he was not there. When he did not come home the next night she just ‘went off’.
What went wrong was that she had a sense of “normal” that included a sexually active mom, but a Dad that only had sex with Mom, even if other people joined. It was not that she thinks Dad is better than Mom for not sleeping with other people on his own (as Mom did), but it was unexpected in her understanding of our family dynamics. When I spent the three days with another woman, it disrupted her sense of normal and it took her a few weeks to assimilate the new “normal”.
Part 4: Conclusions and Recommendations Regarding Child Rearing in a Sexually Open Home.
Looking back, as a parent and as a professional dealing with parenting and children, I could say there were some events over the years that Paula and I could have handled better, but overall I believe we made the right plan and carried it out rather well.
The basic thing I hope my readers who have children (or will have children) is this. Good parenting happens by design, not by chance. Good parenting sets up a home that has clearly defined values that define what it means to be part of “our” family. This idea runs counter to the “let your kids choose” mentality that is popular. Children will reflect their parent’s values, even if that value is disengagement. There is no such thing as being values neutral in your home. It is rather frightening to realize that most of our core values were established before age 7 by the adults in our home environment, even if it took us decades to work out what those values were.
To Paula and I the core value we taught to our children was the respect of others; all people have value in and of themselves. We taught this primarily in how we treated one another and how we treated them. It is in this milieu of love and respect, they learned about human sexuality by our example. We couldn’t have taught them positive values about sexuality if they didn’t see Mom & Dad doing the little loving and sexual things on a regular basis: holding hands as we walked, kissing gently on a picnic, Dad giving Mom a little pat on the rear and making little sexual flirtations as a normal part of everyday life. As they grew up they began to understand the meaning of Mom & Dad’s sexual teasing and flirts; they were part and parcel of the loving stable home in which they lived. And since we did not hide the “naked” part of our sexuality, they came to understand in an instinctual way that all the parts of human sexuality were inextricably bound up as part of a loving family.
They also learned, almost from osmosis, that Mom & Dad also shared sexually with friends. For Mom (or Mom and Dad together) to have a close friend sleep in bed with her (them) was normal and part of their view of a safe and loving world. Thus they learned both sexuality as part of a stable committed relationship and as a way of sharing as part of adult friendships. Our (now grown) children will carry those lessons to the day they die, though we never sat down and explained the dual roles of sex in adult life.