Let’s talk about (ahem) sex

HUMMING IN MY UNIVERSE By Jim Paredes (The Philippine Star) Updated September 16, 2012 12:00 AM

A friend called me the other day to ask how I gave my “birds and bees” talk to my kids. A conscientious parent, she felt it was time to have the conversation with her son. She had talked to her husband about it, and true to the stereotype of men, he said that she should do the talking to their 14-year-old.

I kind of laughed knowing how difficult this can be. Most parents try to avoid any talk of sex or even a remote display of sexual affection toward each other in front of the kids. The subject is simply taboo. But my friend is, thankfully, one of those who felt the need to openly discuss sex with her son. It was time.

My parents never talked to me about sex. When I was growing up, I got most of the information about sex from friends who discovered its powerful allure through the natural processes that happen to the body at the onset of puberty. Wet dreams, and discovering masturbation, are part of sexual awakening. There was also pornography which classmates bought like drugs from dark street corners then shared with everyone. I was also exposed occasionally to men’s magazines like Playboy from the dad of a classmate who collected them. We knew where he hid them.

My classmates and I were quite obsessed with sex at the onset of high school, although some were already in that state as early as Grade 6. We partly discussed the matter in school but always in religion class where we were peppered with guilt and warnings of hellfire, but there was hardly any talk of the pleasure of it. My best lessons about sex and love, I learned hands-on, if you’ll pardon the expression, when I started meeting and relating to girls.

So, when I had my own kids, I vowed to give them “the talk” when it was time. When they were close to adolescence, I would watch TV with them and bring up conversation when I felt that the MTV channel they were viewing was too sexed up, or promoted values too hot for them to handle. I felt that these were teachable moments and I took advantage of them. I figured that if I was in the same room and these were showing and I did not say anything, I could send the worst signal: that I tacitly approved of them. So I took time to watch what they watched, not to condemn the content, but to bring it up for discussion. In that way, I tried to establish openness with them.

I am not a sex expert. Far from it. But I know it is crucial that such a powerful instinct as sex be influenced and guided with parental love, scientific facts and true wisdom if we want our kids to be able to handle it in a way that expresses their loving essence.

One of the things I told my two daughters and a son was that sex is something they will have to deal with for life. It is one of life’s most constant and greatest forces that they will have to understand, tame and contend with, perhaps until life ends. So it is important to have an open mind and a healthy understanding of it. And just as all of us on earth are sexually transmitted, everyone is also a sexual being, and sex is one of the most unique ways by which we can express ourselves. We will face and indulge in sex many times in our lives and hopefully, the experience will always be amazing, wonderful, pleasurable, moving in a most human way, and done consensually with great love.

I remember telling my girls that at the young age they were then (about 13-14), they were already capable of and subject to life-long consequences for their actions and it is good to be aware of it. Once they first had their periods, although they still seemed like little girls at times (even to themselves), they were now capable of bearing children, wanted or unwanted, planned or unplanned. And so it was important for them to understand their bodies, and be in control of themselves and the situation when they were in the company of boys in almost any setting.

If one is not in control, one is potentially a victim. It is as simple as that.

The metaphor I used to describe sex was something I got from the writer M. Scott Peck: sex is like owning a horse. If you don’t tame it, it will go where it wants to go when it wants to. If you are in control, you will go where you wish to go with it when you are ready.

I also told them that while I trust them to do the right thing, they will be in many situations where Mom and Dad may not be around, so they had to use common sense and be guided by the values we have taught them. It would be their call so it was important to be always aware of what is going on around them. Being street smart is a virtue in such situations.

In an age where the allure of sex is everywhere, thanks to the media that permeates almost every aspect of our lives, it is important to educate kids so they can think for themselves and discern not just what is right from wrong. It is also crucial that they discern what is good and best for them, to think beyond getting caught up in the moment of sexual attraction, but to transcend it. They must realize that sex is only part of the bigger scheme of a relationship. And sexual energy does not need to be expressed only as an outright sexual act, but can also be sublimated as passion for living life and its many aspects.

It has been many years since I did “the talk” with my kids. I think they have all grown up to be decent, happy adults. We have kept an open channel for discussing sex, relationships, and other sensitive matters. I remember how their school friends would come to the house and open up to Lydia and me about their relationships, a subject they could not discuss with their own parents.

I really appreciate it when my kids ask me straight questions about sex, such as the importance of sex in the entire context and lifespan of a marriage. Such an important topic should be open for discussion in the same way as religion, spirituality, career, health and other vital life issues. And the great thing is, if parents and their children can discuss sex in an open and healthy manner, they can discuss practically anything.

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