Friday, October 23, 2009

Private Parts

Wildly Parenthetical wrote a pretty cool post a while back about sex education - what it is, what it isn't and what it might be. And lots of other stuff, go read it if you haven't already, but the spin off into my life is that Ben has just had his term of body sovereignty for 6yr olds at school, and at the time of WP's post, I didn't even know what they'd covered.

Since then the workbook has appeared, and it seems they have done a very basic round of labelling body parts (although even a girl would probably struggle to work out the difference between a vulva and a vagina from the incredibly informative flat child outlines with labels and connecting lines). These parts were then defined as "private" and they moved swiftly on to good touching and bad touching, followed by happy secrets and sad secrets. Ben clearly got all the concepts, but couldn't quite see how they were related. "Good touching", according to Ben, was being tapped on the shoulder to leave the classroom, "Bad touching" was being punched in the face.

I asked him what he had thought of this unit, and he told me it was boring, so I went away and thought about it a bit more. What I wondered was, why are these parts private? I mean, they aren't in our house. Especially not amongst the kids (I now insist on my own bathroom privacy from the older two, but they think I'm weird). So this must have come as something of a shock to Ben, and no doubt plenty of other kids. So I figured this was an "in". I could ask him why he thought these parts were "private", and then explain it to him. Except I almost argued myself in a circle - they are private because they feel good when you touch them, and adults often touch each other's so that everyone feels good, and that's sex, and sex is special because it's touching people's private parts. Hmmm.

Try again.

But being the well thought out parent I am, I started the conversation before I had worked out an answer that was coherent. I asked Ben if he knew why those bits were private. He said "Yeah, well..... NO! I was wondering that." I set off confidently with "Yeah, it's funny that they don't tell you that, and I'm not even sure that I know the whole answer." Much to my own surprise, I managed to ask him if he had realised that touching those bits feels pretty good. He said he hadn't, I looked surprised, he looked relieved and said "Well, I guess I have really" and laughed. So I told him that adults sometimes touch each other's bits, and that the point of the stuff they'd learned was that you always get to choose who gets to touch your bits, and that's what makes them private.

He looked much more chuffed with the outcome of the conversation than I expected, and the hesitancy to tell me that he'd noticed the feel good functionality was also a bit of a surprise. In summary, I suspect it was a worthwhile conversation, and at some point, I may even be able to live up to my ideals of open conversations about sex, which I have been utterly incapable of up until now.

Charlie, of course, listened to the whole thing and took it all in. His in depth understanding of the discourse was highlighted by him repeatedly telling me that he likes "touching it too" whilst demonstrating that he can reach the middle of his back.


  1. I've taken essentially the same tack with Eve, as you've probably noted from my posts on the subject. In our house, private parts are private, so that wasn't an issue, but the rest of that conversation sounds very familiar. You went ahead with this even without a clear plan, and listened to him, and responded calmly. You'll do fine with all the open conversations about sex.

  2. That's an interesting point about private parts being private at home. If you'd asked me before I had kids, I'd have told you they would be in our house too.

    Part of it is because of the age of the kids - youngest being 2 and still in nappies and all.

    But I can't tell you why there is not much privacy in our house. If anyone asks for it, the request is respected - but it rarely comes up. In fact, I think I'm the only one who ever asks for any privacy.

    Thanks for the vote of confidence, I think I'll need it. :)