Guest post by Takeallah Rivera.
Oftentimes, when “sex education” and “sex positivity” is mentioned, people immediately think of preteens and teenagers. It is time to change that!
It is possible to use age-appropriate tactics to promote sex positivity among small children! If there can be a national Head Start program for toddlers to prepare for college, there is no reason why they should not get a “head start” on learning about sex, bodies, and autonomy! Here are three ways we can promote sex positivity among toddlers:
Use Anatomically Correct Terms
It is very uncommon to hear the anatomically correct terms for genitals- “down there” seems to be the most widely used term at parks, playgrounds, and preschools.
Using “cutesy” words to describe body parts not only creates confusion about our anatomies , but also creates a sense of shame around bodies and sexuality. Normalizing words such as “penis, vulva, vagina, breasts, nipples, and anus” enables toddlers to learn at an early age that body parts are not shameful and prevents stigma from being formed about bodies.
Furthermore, if instances were to arise, a child would be fully capable of communicating to a trustworthy adult about the encounter; for example, a child stating “I was touched on my vulva” is more clear than saying “I was touched where the sun doesn’t shine”, which could mean an armpit, a foot, or a shoulder.
Teach Your Toddler About Consent- Then Practice What You Preach!
Consent is the most important concept of comprehensive sex education, and normalizing consent is the first step in creating sex positive children.
Consent can be applied to any scenario- from the dinner table to the playground. Encourage your children to develop boundaries by asking them questions, such as “How did you feel when (insert friend/sibling’s name here) did that?” and “Did you say it was okay for (insert friend/sibling’s name here) to touch you?”
Asking these questions allows for children to assess their own feelings and to create solutions to issues that arise, rather than a parent/guardian/caregiver to dictate solutions.
Parents, you aren’t off the hook! This applies to you as well!
After you teach your toddler about consent, practice what you preach! Get into the habit of asking your toddler “Would you like a hug?” “Is it okay if I pick you up?” “May I have a kiss?”
It is natural to want to console an upset toddler, but asking for consent to enter a child’s space further promotes autonomy with your little ones.
*Also, for the love of all things feminist, please don’t force your children to hug or kiss strangers or other family members.*
Choose A Pediatrician and Dentist With Feminist Values
Ahh, the doctor’s office. A place where many parents come in with high hopes and leave flustered, embarrassed, and frazzled.
Well-Child Check-ups can be nerve-wrecking for toddlers. In an examination room, a toddler can feel outnumbered, overpowered, and vulnerable, which can lead to a less than cooperative patient and an unpleasant experience.
Select a physician and dentist who engage directly with your child (instead of talking over them and only engaging with the parent), such as stating “I am going to check your vulva/penis now, if that is okay” or “Can you open your mouth so I can check to see if your teeth are healthy and strong?”
A doctor and/or dentist who values your child as a patient and an individual is key in building trust and alleviating anxiety when it is time for a check-up.
Let’s set our youth up for success! It is never too early to teach children about boundaries and their bodies!
Takeallah Rivera is a Full Spectrum Doula, Reproductive Justice Activist, Writer, Childbirth and Breastfeeding Educator, and Survivor. Through her work as a Doula and Educator in her community, she continues to advocate for reproductive justice and education equity. You can find her at www.takeallahrivera.com.
This list is not exhaustive, and is in no particular order.
Gender Reveal Parties
Ask my friends, I love throwing themed parties, so in that way I get the attraction. But it needs to die in 2018.
First of all, gender is a complex social, cultural, and personal identity so you can’t reveal a fetus’ gender, especially not by looking at their genitals.
Also, we know that strict, binary gender assignments and rules about what boys like and what girls like causes a lot of harm.
It harms trans kids, gender non-binary kids, every little girl who got made fun of for wearing Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtle shirts in the 1st grade because TMNTs are for boys (ahem), every little boy who got made fun of because he painted his fingernails or liked to dance, and every single human whose personality and interests are more nuanced and complicated than “trucks or tutus” (Psst- this is every human being!)
As for the Guns or Glitter cake? You're killing me with this!! The fun of alliteration does not outweigh the WTF factor of reducing your child to either a deadly violent machine or something pretty to look at before they are even born.
“Playing Devil’s Advocate” and “Giving the Benefit of the Doubt”
95% of the time I hear this, it’s a rapist, sexual abuser, street harasser, or slut-shamer who is benefiting from your doubt. Believe survivors in 2018. The devil doesn’t need or deserve advocates.
Body Shaming Strangers on the Internet
Stealthily taking a photo of a person you see out in public and then posting it online so you can make cruel jokes about the way their body looks is one of the most heinous things you can do to someone- even though they are unlikely to ever see it or know about it. It’s that bad.
A Playboy model was convicted and sentenced this year for doing it, leaving me hopeful this nasty trend will not be coming with us into 2018.
Calling Vulvas “Vaginas”
The vagina is an internal organ- the muscular canal that connects the uterus to the world. The vulva is the fleshy part you see between the legs made up of the labia, clitoris, and other fun bits.
They are two distinctly different body parts with distinctly different functions, locations, and names, and yet, people casually use the word vagina for both.
If you don’t call testicles a penis, because “whatever you know what I mean”, and you can distinguish between the geographically close but very very different anus and buttocks, then you can do the same for vagina and vulva.
Leave linguistically erasing half the world’s genitals in 2017. Thanks.
DON’T DO THIS! You know why.
Using Children as an Excuse to Deny Adults The Right to do Adulty Things
I want to protect children as much of the next person. Personally, I want to protect them by giving them free healthcare and a quality public education in a school where they don’t have to worry about being murdered by an Angry Man with a gun.
But far too many people’s idea of “protecting children” is pretending sexuality doesn’t exist.
This is actually counterproductive, but fine, you want to shield your kid from reality, you do you. But now you want to shield ADULTS from seeing, doing, and enjoying adulty things? No.
You don’t get to ban books, not fund research, censor films, shut down sex stores, outlaw same-sex marriage, criminalize prostitution, and force trans people from taking a piss in their bathroom because you don’t know how to communicate with your children.
“But think of the children!” and “Well how am I going to explain ___ to my kids?!” can stay the fuck in 2017. Bye.
Wear the short shorts. Buy the huge butt plug. Rock your small penis. Embrace your hairy nipples. Tell him how you want to be fucked. Keep a box of tampons on your desk. Whatever.
Rude Dating Behavior
Maybe I’m old, but I’m of the opinion that dating is supposed to be, now hear me out- about having a good time and getting to know someone as a potential romantic partner.
Literally the farthest you can get from that premise, dating is now a vehicle for abusing people and showing a potential romantic partner the very worse you have to offer.
- Saying “hi” “hi” “hey” “what’s up” a million times in a row.
- Making obscene sexual remarks within seconds of meeting.
- Sending unsolicited photos of your genitals.
- Being verbally abusive when someone declines a date.
- Making a date with dozens of people and then ditching some when someone better comes along.
- Generally treating people like they are disposable and being careless with their emotions.
Leave it all in 2017.
Pissing on People’s Pleasure and Joy
Life is generally shitty and painful. Its death, greed, strife, disease, and Donald Trump, punctuated with fleeting moments of joy- a pumpkin spiced latte here, an orgasm there.
You’d think people would want to support and encourage others who have managed to, through the abysmal hellscape we call existence, carve out a slice of pleasure for themselves. But no.
Instead, whenever something comes along that people enjoy and isn't hurting anyone- make-up tutorials, unicorn fads, selfies, avocado toast, Pokemon Go- other people gotta come in and piss on it.
If the joy comes from anything remotely sexual- lower back tattoos, twerking, crop tops, one night stands- the piss comes in the form of slut-shaming.
Why do we hate to see other people have pleasure so much?
JUST LET PEOPLE ENJOY THINGS IN 2018!
As a sexologist I am often asked if I know of any resources for a variety of sexual health services and information, so I decided to create this handy list of my most commonly shared referrals. Be sure to bookmark this for future reference to help yourself or a friend in need!
Note: Nearly all of these resources are non-profits and rely on donations to continue providing these incredibly valuable services. If you’re able, consider paying it forward and sending them a few bucks!
National Abortion Federation
Professional association of abortion providers with information, resources, and a directory of abortion providers by state.
Information about abortion, live chat feature to ask questions, and a directory of abortion clinics by zip code.
Directory of funds available to help pay for your abortion by state.
Image via Scarleteen
Inclusive, comprehensive, supportive sexuality and relationship info for teens and emerging adults
Sex education for teens, by teens, published by Answer, a national organization that provides and promotes unfettered access to comprehensive sexuality education for young people and the adults who teach them.
I Wanna Know
A site from the American Sexual Health Association, it offers information on sexual health for teens and young adults.
San Francisco Sex Information
Free, confidential, accurate, non-judgmental information about sex by phone or email answered by volunteer sex educators.
Image via Bedsider
Comprehensive information on birth control methods, a directory of where to get them by zip code, and a reminder app.
Comprehensive information on birth control methods, a quiz on which method is best for you, a directory of Planned Parenthood locations by zip code, and a reminder app.
Clinical Sex Therapists/Psychotherapists
Directory of clinicians, mental health practitioners, and psychologists with training in sexuality and certification by state.
Domestic Violence Survivor Support
Directory of emergency shelters by zip code, 24/7 hotline, and information on how to get an Order of Protection.
Advocates for Youth
Printable lesson plans and materials for elementary to high school aged students on dozens of sexual health topics including decision making, relationships, sexual orientation and gender identity, stereotypes and discrimination, and reproduction.
The Center for Sex Education
Curricula, manuals, and sex educator resources.
Our Whole Lives
Honest, accurate, lifespan sexuality education curricula with step-by-step instruction for program planners and facilitators, with 7 programs speaking to participants’ needs by age (grades K-1, 4-6, 7-9, 10-12, young adult, adult, and older adult.)
Image via UCSD LGBT Resource Center
Directory of LGBT Community Centers by zip code (LGBT Community Centers offer services that often include community space, youth drop-in centers, books and resources, counseling, healthcare services, leadership opportunities, and social events).
The Trevor Project
Crisis intervention and suicide prevention services to lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender and questioning (LGBTQ) young people ages 13-24 via phone, chat, or text.
Legal help desk provides information and resources regarding discrimination related to sexual orientation, gender identity and expression, and HIV status.
A free, 3 full day conference with 250 workshops of all types for anyone who feels like they belong there, anyone who identifies as an ally to the trans community, and anyone looking to respectfully learn more about themselves and others.
Research and Data
Research reports, fact sheets, and infographics on sexual and reproductive health.
The Journal of Sex Research
Scholarly peer-reviewed journal devoted to the publication of research articles on diverse topics in contemporary sexual science.
Sex and Disability
Sex and Disability
Information and blogs about sexuality and disability.
Sex Positive Doctors
National Coalitions for Sexual Freedom
Directory of psychotherapeutic, medical, legal and other professionals who have stated that they are “kink aware” and knowledgeable about and sensitive to diverse expressions of sexuality.
I am often asked by folks if I can know of a sex-positive, non-judgey, feminist gynecologist and/or obstetrician in their area. Sadly, such a database does not exist to my knowledge, but someone really should create one! Slut-shaming gynos are the worst!
Equal Employment Opportunity Commission
Information on sexual harassment and discrimination in the workplace and how to file a Charge of Discrimination.
U.S. Department of Education, Office for Civil Rights
Information on sexual harassment in school and how to file a Title IX complaint.
Sexually Transmitted Infections
Image via Center for Disease Control
Information on infections, treatments, and prevention from the CDC.
STI testing location finder by zip code from the CDC.
Resources for People Living with HIV from the CDC.
Sexual Violence Survivor Support
Directory of Rape and Sexual Assault Crisis Centers by zip code (Rape and Sexual Assault Crisis Centers offer services to survivors and their families that often include free counseling, legal assistance, advocacy and accompaniment to the hospital, police station, and/or court hearings, and 24/7 hotlines).
1 in 6
Live chat help and online support group for male survivors.
Talking to Kids About Sex
List of books to aid in parent to child sexual health conversations (Robie H. Harris’ 3 book series is especially good).
1. One-on-one sexual wellness coaching worldwide via phone.
2. Private sex education classes for adults in San Diego, CA.
3. Sexual health and pleasure products.
4. Sexuality education, information, and insight via blog posts and graphics.
**These sources are provided for informational and educational purposes only and are not intended as medical advice and should not be a substitute for a visit or a consultation with a healthcare provider or other appropriate professional.**