Thursday, August 02, 2007

Modern-day Virgin Birth -- Part Deux

Some unanswered comments and a further conversation with someone whose opinion I value have given me reason to keep thinking about this topic.

Aileen said: Thinking of my mom and dad exploring toys and different positions is as disgusting to me as the idea of incest.

AvocadoinParadise said: I'm assuming that frank & interesting conversations about sex will happen with the parents once I'm married.

Richard said: Sex between unmarried people or adultery always had that ewww! factor for me.

Friend said: The reason children in this country don’t talk about sex with their parents is because just having the conversation seems akin to incest. She suggested that it is totally different in many other cultures. Friend also suggested my boundaries around the discussion of sex might be a little shaky.

First, let me make one thing perfectly clear. I was never advocating multi-generational discussion of the details of what goes on in anyone’s bedroom or backseat or wherever – but rather just the open acceptance that sex can and should be a healthy source of pleasure, enjoyment, and satisfaction, whether it involves one person or two consenting people who are responsible. If it is indeed that, I question why a casual reference would be off-limits in a discussion between parents and their child. It will be interesting to see if Avocado’s statement is true for our family.

Notice that I said “two consenting people” not “two married people” (sorry Richard). Long ago I realized how unrealistic that was for me and for many others who waited a while to get married or never married at all. I do remember quite well that my mother refused to let my good friends who had been living together for two years sleep together in our house just because they weren’t married. I wonder what she would have said had I brought home a lesbian couple. I never asked for myself, preferring discretion instead.

Second, I’m not one of those people who has to be an expert at most things, including sex. I have never explored the hardback copy of “The Joy of Sex” or any other books on sex that sit on our bookshelf, preferring instead to let my body and that of my partner be my only instruction. For the same reason, I have never enjoyed watching porn (either live in Thailand) or on film. It just seems to destroy the beauty of this act that we have been given as a gift.

I’m starting to get the cultural education that will keep me from going down this path again with friends or family. But a part of me is wondering what it would be like to live in one of those cultures where sex is not so taboo.


Blogger Aileen said...

I think it's perfectly OK for parents to let their kids know they believe sex is good and healthy between two consenting adults. That can be accomplished by sharing attitudes in general, and reactions to movies, tv etc. It doesn't need to include things like "Oh sorry we didn't answer the phone, honey, your father and I were having sex."


(I say that because I probably would have had the same reaction as your daughter when you shared your "clean sheets" story. I'm a visual person, and when people say things, even casually, I tend to visualize them...)

6:08 PM  
Blogger Barbara said...

Aileen -- Part of me has probably understood this since the incident that sparked this rant. But I always find myself wanting to legitimize those things that make my children occasionally roll their eyes (you know that look when their eyes virtually disappear into their heads). I might have even reacted the same way had my mother ever said such a thing. But, believe me, I never had that opportunity!

6:28 PM  
Blogger Reya Mellicker said...

Incest is a taboo in our culture. If you were an ancient Mesopotamian, or ancient Egyptian, or a member of the medieval tribes of Mongolia, incest would be just fine.

Understanding that one's parents had sex is fine, but anything particular, like changing the sheets or talking about a product you purchased to increase the pleasure, well, that crosses the line.

But like I said to you yesterday I am a total prude. What the heck was I doing in San Francisco all those years??

7:58 PM  
Blogger Barbara said...

Reya -- I would never be in favor of incest under any circumstance. In fact it makes me ill to think about it and about people who were abused as children.

"I would go over to his apartment and always find the sheets in the dryer. It was never like we could just hop in bed."

You do understand that in the original family discussion, there was no mention of what we were intending to do once the bed was made. Sleeping on clean sheets is always nice I think.

As for your being a sexual prude, you don't exactly fit the stereotype of the Californian who is mellow and free of all the hang-ups most of the rest of us carry around. But that's OK -- there are plenty of other topics to discuss.

9:09 PM  
Blogger Pauline said...

My parents never had the birds and bees conversation with me, nor did I have it with my children, though I never refused to answer their questions. I don't know that I would want a discussion with my kids about my sexual relationships - I let them infer, as I infer things about theirs. We all have conversations about sex, just not about the personal bits.

A funny story - when my eldest was 6 he came to me one morning. "Did you buy us?" he asked, waving his hand to indicate his siblings lined up behind him.

"Buy you?"

"Yeah, where did you get us?"

So I got the medical book (mind you, this is at 7 a.m.) and explained, because he was that kind of kid. Later, when I was making their beds, I heard him in the closet with his brother and sisters. "And mommy and daddy did that four times!" he announced.

I had to laeve the room...

9:38 PM  
Blogger Barbara said...

Pauline -- What a wonderful story about your son's curiosity!

You have a whole different perspective on this having grown married children who now have children of their own. I'm still very much learning how to deal with adult children.

For the most part, my experience with my children to date was much as you described yours, although they never seemed to have any questions for me. I'm not sure of the source of all their knowledge and just hope it is correct!

10:36 PM  
Blogger Kristin said...

I think my mom handed us a whole slew of books on divorce, development and sex when I was about 6. Incredibly frank dinner conversations soon followed.

We don't talk much about it now, but I am perfectly OK with the idea that my (now divorced) parents have had sex with each other and others.

I've got to believe that my upbringing affected my attitude toward the deed. I'm OK with that, too.

11:15 PM  
Blogger Barbara said...

Kristin -- Sometimes you and your mom seem more like sisters. I think I would have been a little overwhelmed to get those books at age 6.

8:07 AM  
Blogger Richard said...

Maybe "ewwww!" is a bit of a strong word, but I find people are inconsistent with professed beliefs. Many (most?) people profess the ideal of fidelity, but, in my mind, it is a selective fidelity.

Again, I show off oddities in my temporal experience. For me fidelity is constant. Before I was married, before I even knew who my wife would be, I loved her. And I intended to be faithful to her. For me, fidelity exists always - it does not have a beginning, nor an end.

For most people, fidelity is that magic thing that happens after they say, "I do." Anything that happened before hand is immaterial and irrelevant. But not to me. From my point of view, this is akin to malefactors who bank on a deathbed conversion erasing their malfeasant past.

Further, a relationship needs to be whole and complete, yet, if you read the popular press and ascribe to the popular wisdom, past relationships are taboo and not to be brought up discussed, etc. How can you have a full and honest relationship with someone if you must close off part of yourself?

I find a lot of people seem to struggle with the whole sex thing and I don't understand why. It is just part of who we are, it is nothing to be ashamed of, nor is it something we need to shout from rooftops.

Consent is a whole other argument. Consent is a nice word, a lulling and deceptive word. It implies social agreement, approval, and sanction. However, consent is rarely between two individuals since individuals are rarely autonomous of society. I am sure you would agree that consent between two adults who are married, but not to each other, is not really valid consent. I am sure you would agree that case of the homosexual cannibal in Germany a few years ago is not a case of valid consent either.

10:53 AM  
Blogger Barbara said...

Richard -- I should make it clear that I am all for fidelity. I even expected fidelity in relationships even before I was married. That's a whole separate issue apart from sex prior to marriage.

11:25 AM  
Blogger Richard said...

Hmmm ... seem to have left out monogamy in my comment.

For me monogamous pair-bonding and fidelity are one and the same. For most people they are not. Our society and culture professes the ideal of monogamy, yet practices serial polygamy (multiple intimate relationships occurring over a temporal span instead of concurrently).

12:03 PM  
Blogger Barbara said...

Richard -- You may find Aileen's post interesting. Are your "serial poymgamy" and her "serial monogamy" the same thing?

12:22 PM  
Blogger Richard said...

Yes. I prefer serial polygamist over serial monogamist since monogamy implies to me an exclusive relationship. Polygamy implies multiple relationships. Typically, polygamy involves several concurrent relationships, however, some people prefer to arrange them sequentially.

1:57 PM  
Blogger avocadoinparadise said...

Hello again! In a long term relationship, I have been on the verge of asking my mom certain things about sex within a long term relationship, like about the dynamic within the couple and changes, and the course of things in her experience... I'd like to talk about these things because she's one of the closest people to me who has been in one of the longest relationships. So I imagine there's a wealth of knowledge there.

But I can't bring myself to even imply anything about sex, because my parents have been so adamant my entire life about not doing the deed until marriage. I find that to be not so much of an issue, but she seems very adamant. So we're missing some conversations I feel could be good.

More about emotional, coupley issues than the actual sex act. I agree that isn't something one wants to talk with parents about. Or other family members for that matter... I don't know. I don't have many other family members. I imagine the dynamic for siblings is similar, right?

11:48 PM  

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