I first stood in front of a group of parents and taught early sex education for your child in 1990. I was a young minister of education in a very conservative Baptist Church, and those parents literally knew nothing that was sex-positive. In their world, sex was always approached in the negative form. It was there I first began teaching that sex-education begins the day you bring your child home from the hospital. Though I never used the word sex-positive, that was what I was teaching. My goal was to impress on those parents that sexuality wasn’t inherently bad so they in turn could pass that value to their children. As you can imagine, the church elders did not take kindly to my approach.
Three years later I took a “secular” job at a residential program for adolescent sex offenders. One of my jobs was to develop a curriculum for sex education for 13-16 year olds who have histories of rape and child molestation. So the first thing I had to do was to learn all there was to know about sex-positive sex education. These adolescent boys knew quite a bit about sex-negative things. Contrary to popular belief, all of these boys had not been abused, the common denominator is they had been taught the way to express manhood and personal power was by use of sexual organs and acts to humiliate and control others. Sometimes they learned it as the victim but other times they learned it as a bystander watching their mother or siblings being raped or otherwise abused. For those boys, sex as a loving and positive act was a new and foreign concept.
At the same time I was in a lay-leadership position in a Baptist Church where I taught a couple’s class on Sunday Mornings and a teen group on Sunday Evening [those of you reading my novel have seen this is exactly what the husband in the novel does, much of the novel reflects my own experience]. A year into the couples class we had been using a “Baptist” couples work book and one week the workbook dealt with sexual issues. It was vague and far from fully sex positive, but it opened the door for the young couples in my class to voice questions that they simply never had the nerve to voice before. There were so many questions, and more important that from Paula and I they got answers, the class asked for more discussion the next week and the next. I ended up bringing my sex positive curriculum to the church because the young married couples simply knew nothing about sexuality but so wanted to learn.
All that to say, sex-positive education has been an important part of my work for many years; even before our first child was born. The understanding of both the importance of sex-positive parenting and the crucial importance of early childhood experiences has only become more important in the 20+ years since those events.
Sex-Positive Parenting first begins with the attitude of the parents. Now, let me head off criticism by saying in this discussion I am going to speak of parents being a mother and father. As a former social worker I know that is not always the case, the most common exception is that it is only a mother; however it will make it too cumbersome to address this any other way. So, do not accuse me of saying single parents, gay parents or poly group parents can’t be successful. If I ever write a book on this they will get their own chapters, but what I say here is the base line. So, Sex-Positive Parenting begins with mom and dad adopting a sex positive attitude prior to the arrival of the child.
So what is “sex-positive” and how is it expressed in adults? That must be understood first.
Sex positive is the belief that human sexuality is intrinsically good. Human sexuality is one of the few true pleasures available to humankind no matter than social status or life condition. Either alone or with a partner (or several) sexual pleasure offers a temporary reprieve from the hardships that life brings upon all of us. To revel in that pleasure, for many, is the only bright spot in a world of misery, pain and oppression. Sex is the opiate available to us all. This, in itself, is a good thing.
But sexuality is more. It is the special beauty of lovers sharing that moment of bliss and that lifetime of union. How much ink has been spilled about the beauty of passionate, sexual love? Why is music, art and literature filled with sexual love? Sexual love is so much more than just rutting; it is two people joining bodily and spiritually to become more than the sum of their two individual selves. The act of conception via sex is simply a physical manifestation of the creation of something new and beautiful in every loving, passionate sexual encounter. A sex positive person does not wince at the sight of two people making love, nor do they simply get off on it, but rather they are cognizant they are witness to something spiritual and valuable in itself.
Yes, the sex positive person knows sex can be misused. The very fact that our sexuality is a gateway to our inner being means it is a target to those who seek to harm people in a deep and personal way. To force someone to accept your sexuality is a form of empowerment akin to that felt in the act of killing.
But, we must not dwell excessively on this negative use of sexuality. That is the pathway to a sex negative world view. We must seek to promote that the norm for human sexuality is that it empowers and benefits all those involved, and anything else is an aberration. I am convinced that so much negative sexual behavior, particularly that done by young men, is because sex has been so ghettoized that many people never, ever see it as positive and uplifting. To make a better world, we all must work to bring forward a sex positive world view for all, but especially for children and adolescents. That is why I teach sex positive parenting.