This post is the conclusion of a story that began here.
The vulva war began with him taking down my vulva poster without asking me first. It would escalate with days and days of me bringing up how persistent violence on television had to be far worse for our children than one collage of a few vulvas on the side of our fridge. It would end with me putting my vulva poster back up exactly where it once had been but in between there were a lot of conversations about vulvas and violence.
When you are raising children together you spend a lot of time making compromises. Raising children is one of the hardest most joyful things two people can do together but it requires total collaboration and communication because even if you share similar beliefs and usually agree there will be times when you oppose one another. In my household we pretty much are always in agreement on everything. My spouse might be my opposite in many ways but when it comes to the important things we always agree – or so I thought until the topics of sexuality and violence as they pertained to our children started coming up.
My spouse, like me, was raised in a household where violence on television wasn’t a big deal. We were both allowed to watch violent television shows and movies. Sex scenes or even implied sex scenes were a no-no in our households. His mother had him leave the room when the scenes were about to come on and my parents allowed my brother that was six years my junior to watch but not me. Our parents completely avoided talking about sexuality – in any form whatsoever. It was as if violence was okay and natural but sexuality was dirty, unnatural and not to be spoken in our households. Yet, we both knew our parents were sexual beings, we learned to masturbate on our own (feeling guilt and shame for it), and we both eventually started having sex before we became adults. The only influence our parents had over our sexuality was negative and censored but when it came to violence our parents were open and approving.
Since the beginning my spouse and I have always fought about violent video games, television shows and even cartoons that he has allowed our children to watch. In fact it got to the point where it became difficult to argue against violence on television because almost all television shows and cartoons marketed towards children have some violence in them. Violence is prevalent. Violence is everywhere. Scenes of violence are something you almost can’t escape if you watch television or go to the movies. I learned to draw the line about at what ages I thought certain types of violence were to be introduced and required him to have talks with the boys about violence.
He had no trouble explaining violence to our children. What is and isn’t appropriate violence. He clearly explained bullying, self-defense, hunting, war and many other things that are violent. Our oldest especially got the messages dad had delivered. It wasn’t really vulvas vs violence because we had already made most of the choices when it came to violence. We allowed our 12-year-old to watch The Walking Dead since he had read a few zombie novels.
But a poster with a kaleidoscope made of vulvas was too much for him to see on the side of our fridge after he had seen zombies like this?
Scarier than any vulva that I have seen!
If it wasn’t really a war about vulvas vs violence then what was it?
It was a war about…
- How much information and imagery is age appropriate for our sons to have about sexuality.
- Raising children that know that their sexuality is a normal part of life that they shouldn’t be ashamed of or feel guilty about.
- Creating an environment in which our children can feel safe experimenting with their own sexuality while knowing that they can always come to us for answers or guidance.
But deciding these things and creating that ideal environment requires doing something that is very difficult for many adults…
Getting over our own sexual hangups so that we could accept the fact that everyone is sexual – even our children.
This is where it gets hard. It is difficult for us to admit that we have hangups and shortcomings when it comes to sexuality but we all have at least one. Couples raising children together most talk about this and figure out how to work around their own issues so that they can give their children a proper sexual education. Even the most open-minded sex-positive people still find there are sexual topics that are hard to talk about with their children about but that doesn’t stop them from having those difficult conversations.
What are you to do when you want to raise sex-positive children but the partner you are raising them with isn’t yet completely sex-positive?
You don’t waste your time arguing what a good sex-positive parent should be. You be one.
You can’t change a person and attempting to force your views on someone else usually backfires. What has worked for me is being the parent that my children can come to with questions knowing that I won’t laugh at them, ridicule them or shame them. What has worked for me is teaching our children age appropriate lessons about sexuality and turning to resources they can understand at their specific level of growth and development. Sometimes, I’ve had to do these things without the help of my spouse but the more he sees me openly talking to our sons about everything the easier it is becoming for him to do the same.
Children grow and their questions keep coming and their sexuality is always budding whether you teach them about sexuality or not – their sexuality will not go away. As the parents of three boys I feel that it is very important to make sure that as our sons develop into sex-smart adults that have all the facts and information they need about their own bodies, masturbation, sexual consent, birth control, sexually transmitted diseases, rape, and many many other things. One of those lessons is that if zombies have a place on our television then a vulva poster has a place on the side of our fridge – even if it still makes dad slightly uncomfortable.
The best part of this entire experience was dad admitting that the person that I got the vulva poster from, Joani Blank, is also a great resource for information about raising sex-positive children.
If you are a fan of the vulva you’ll enjoy her latest project VulvArt which beautifully celebrates the vulva, with a showcase of paintings, drawings, photographs, sculptures, jewelry, and fabric arts.
© Anaín Bjorkquist March 5, 2012 ~ All Rights Reserved.