When my oldest daughter was about 13 years of age, I started to question whether she was thinking about boys, and sex, and the whole enchilada. I raised my children in a highly sexualized culture (not by choice) and because of this, their sexual knowledge was a lot more advanced than many kids their age, living in developed countries.
When I say that my culture is highly more sexual, what I mean is that sex is on every corner, literally. My daughter could step out of the house and right in front of her she would see a foreigner and a local discussing the value of the previous night or night to come. Is this normal behavior? I would say yes…, it is normal behavior for here.
When children see normal behavior, they usually tend to be curious “well, everyone is doing it, so, should I be?”.
Prostitution is everywhere in the world but in developed nations, it is usually hidden-just like race (your people group is over there, and my people group is over here). When you live in countries like the DR or Haiti, or different part of South America, or countries in Africa, and the boonies of Asia, you will learn that there is a sense of community in a way because it is all mixed in. This is a positive thing in so many ways, but when it comes to sex, it is not positive.
I remember being around 8 years old. It was my second year living in this country and I was slowly (after the “hate to break it to ya, but you are black” incident) beginning to learn the language of the new people group I would be encountering on a daily basis. Much to my A-mother’s surprise, I picked up the Spanish language within a year or so and by the time I was 8 or 9, was fluent in both English and Spanish (sad to say, Creole was long gone). Part of learning the language meant I had to be among the people. Though racism pervaded my life, I couldn’t hide in a closet forever. I could not go back to the orphanage world where I only saw the light of day through a peephole in one of the closets at the way way back…I couldn’t return to that. At 8 years old I knew I had to somehow step out, if I ever wanted to have friends, even fake ones, I had to learn the language. So I mingled with the very poor people around my area. One thing that I noticed real early was that the men were always looking at me. They were not looking at me in a sweet and fatherly way, they looked at me in a very sexual manner. How did I know this at the age of 8? I learned this through the words they would use, and ways they would address me. It was not a “Good morning sweety, how are you?” It was more of a “Good morning black child with a big butt…..come sit on my lap”. I don’t recall actually going to sit on their lap, but being naive, and 8, and already confused about my body parts in general, I got pretty close. Afterall, I thought it was normal and I thought this was “just what they did and how they spoke to children”.
One of the words I learned real quickly was Tota (which is a vulgar way of saying vulva). Apparently, unbeknownst to me, the men loved it when I wore super tight clothing because my Tota would show. (I taught my daughters awhile ago that Camel Toe was what we called that visual and they think it is hilarious.).
The attention I received from them was always very strange….I can remember a time when I was walking to a “friends” house and I heard someone yell “diablo, que totaso, quieres que te la meto?”-“damn, what a huge vulva, do you want me to insert it in?”.
Again, thinking this was normal behavior, I just went with it. I did learn Spanish quickly and got to a point where I no longer translated the language in my head-that is called fluency! But to learn sexual terms at such a young age was common for me but I did not want it to be common for my children.
When my now 19 year old was around 13 years old, I made a special trip to a special store to get a special item that resembled lipstick. I think you guys know what I am getting at.
My daughter had an interesting upbringing (for another blog) and basically she bounced from biological parents to foster parent (me) and we both had very different goals for her. Knowing that her biological parents were poverty stricken, only graduated up to the 5th grade, and were money hungry, I became aware very quickly that they wanted to get as much money out of my daughter and me as possible. They didn’t care about their child’s education, they just cared that she was financially taken care of. So when my daughter started dating someone at the age of 14, who was 23, I flipped out (another blog).
Her family was very permissive and let my daughter do whatever she wanted to, whenever, and for whatever reason. Remember the story of me cutting her hair?
So I was not sure how much sexual things she was being exposed to over at her birth mother’s house. I wanted her to know that it was ok to feel sexual and it was ok to want someone to touch her. But that NO ONE should act on it until she is old enough to understand it and assume the consequences.
At 13, girls actually know a lot. I was having the sex talk with my current 12 year old a few days ago and she got real shy. I told her that I needed to know because what if I wanted to have a baby…what should I do?
She looked at me very seriously and said “mom, you are a reader, read a book”. I laughed so hard because what she has been doing for the past year or so was reading books like “What’s happening to me?” both in English and in Spanish. So she knows the literature but has no idea how it actually means.
Then I asked her what would happen if she got into a situation where sex was offered to her for some money and she said “mom, I love money, but seriously? NEVER!”. In theory I think to myself that she has her head on tight, but what if she is forced in a situation that will hurt her one day? I need to teach her how to respond. We all need to teach our kids how to respond.
We teach our kids to respect adults and have boundaries…but what about teaching them how to respect themselves and create boundaries? What happens is that kids her age and younger are experimenting with sex and our children don’t know how to react to it. Because the perpetrators are not adults, our kids are thinking it is ok to engage….and this engagement later leads to more and more sex….and then guilt, so then drugs, and then more guilt, so then cutting, and then more guilt, and then pregnancy, and more guilt, and then an STD and then some more guilt, and often, it can lead to suicide.
Before buying the toy for my then 13 year old, I introduced her to the old fashion Rosy Palm. It does not matter if you are left handed or right handed, it works like a charm! But explaining Rosy Palm was difficult for me to do so I ceased. I should not have because I could have saved a lot of money (laughing inside). But I couldn’t find the words, and I didn’t have the book my now 12 year old has which does a way better job of explaining it than I do. So I embarked on my 25 minute journey to save my child from early intercourse, thus preventing teenage pregnancy.
I believe in the big M word because it works, all the time. I conversed with my oldest a couple years ago about that experience with the toy and she actually told me she was happy to receive it. She had no idea what it was for at that age and didn’t touch it until she turned about 15 (which I assume is the age when females become more sexually aroused). She told me that it helped her not want to just go “do it”, like she put it. She also told me that she had a few little peeks into my underwear drawers and tested those too. When I heard this I said “woah, too much information but thanks for letting me know that the drawers are no longer a good hiding place”. Come on ladies, you know exactly what I am talking about!
So, I guess the point of my post is to ask you what your approach is. Children who are adopted from developing countries often come from real tough backgrounds. For me, I know I was molested countless times in the orphanage….for others it is the same. So kids who have been touched have a new sensation that they will begin to explore at an earlier age. Adopting from developing countries often means that sex is literally in their faces. Kids in orphanages have very little privacy-the concept of “own room and own bathroom” is pretty foreign to them and so they often times can’t handle being left alone when they arrive at their new place of residence. They don’t know what privacy is….and will often change in front of complete strangers since they are used to having so many care givers at their previous homes.
So how do you approach sex with your child? How early should it be discussed? If you are adopting older children, you can bet they have been sexual at some point, how do you introduce new forms of entertainment that does not involve expanding the womb or adding the gift that keeps on giving?
How about for the boys? Are you ok with them masturbating? Ah yes, I said the word. Do you explain to them that that is done in private? Do you talk to them about what it could mean to be involved with a girl?
How about for children who identify early one as LGBTQIA kids. How do you speak to them about sex? About masturbation (Ah, I said the M word again-lol. I can just see some of the conservative faces looking back at me….and it makes me laugh). What is sex to them? Sex can be even more daunting if they are part of the LGBTQIA community because unfortunately, society deems it to not be”normal”. Though, I do give a shout our to the Supreme Court on its recent ruling!! A bit behind in the world, but its decisions always make headlines.
What about children who are products of rape or incest? How do you speak to them about sex and the M word? What about adopted children who are involved with each other behind your back? How can you help them understand sex, the good, the bad and the ugly? How do you explain to them that it is not appropriate? Do you have separate rooms? Do you use therapy?
One of the things my partner and I have been noticing is that our daughter has become extremely conservative about her body-we raised her that way and at 12, she is catching on. We dress at home a certain way but when we have guests, we get to be more proper. For one, super short shorts are out of the question in public. But I have compromised a bit (as per our daughter’s request). I purchased colorful leggings and this allows her to wear the super short shorts out in public. Also, the side-boob shirts can only be worn with the special sports bras we have purchased for her. All these things help her understand that she can look beautiful without using the word “sexy” because she is too young for that. She can be attractive without boys and men “wanting” her at such an early age. So she has very tasteful clothes….there is no nun/little house on the prairie attire in my house unless i’m on my period.
Our dog lilly has also actually opened the door for us to talk to her more about sex and masturbation. Lilly goes through a bit of that on a daily basis and we joke about it saying “Lilly, that should happen in private”. We also use the word masturbation which is a word my daughter recognizes from her reading and we attribute that to private time. So there is no way we will shun it and make her feel ashamed, but we do make sure that it is something that is done in private.
I really want to know what you do and how you deal with these issues. These things need to be talked about as a unit…husband, wife, kids, and grand parents…..the generations in my opinion should get on the same boat in order to reach our kids today! This way, preserving our kids bodies teaches them how to be strong individuals!