When I talk with my sons about sex, it pays to be explicit

When raising boys, you can never be wary of the toxic side of our culture playground banter, which includes occasional sexism, or the fact that showing vulnerability is still taboo for older boys.

But most toxic of all is the ever-present threat of porn culture. I’ve always been strict about not allowing screens in bedrooms or giving them phones or tablets before they turned 11. Despite this, both were exposed to porn by the age of eight. One was shown adult material by a school friend with access to a computer upstairs (my son told us right away) and the younger one grabbed a family iPad and typed “sex” and some basic anatomical terms into the search bar: cue dirt immediately (so his brother bought it immediately).

I decided that the best response in either case was to sit the child down and talk openly—and yes, embarrassingly—about how far these scenes were from loving relationships. In other words, I’ve specifically dealt with the emotional side of sex.

Since then, I’ve been this boring, sex-crazed mom: I’m open about the mechanics of intercourse, with an emphasis on love lessons. The TV series sex education gave me the opportunity to give another lecture. I watched it with my boys and dissected the scenarios afterwards, giving plus points for great discussions about informed consent, gender identity, self-pleasure, and sexual inexperience.

But I was outraged by some scenes (including the first bedroom scene in episode one) showing young women in ecstasy despite the sex being entirely manly, pornographic and thrusting, with unnecessary footage of boobs jiggling. Yes, I’m that mother – the one who talks about the need for foreplay and female pleasure – much like Gillian Anderson’s character in the drama.

When I heard one of my sons call the other “pussy,” which means wimp, I immediately sat down with both of them to ask them why on earth they would use a synonym for female genitalia as a derogatory term. Which led to a lively conversation about the C-word, from Elizabethan street names to DH Lawrence.

But the biggest lesson of all comes from this week’s news. I have shared the horrifying stories of school rape culture with my sons, both as a cautionary tale and a call to arms. It’s not enough to avoid such behavior yourself, I told them, you have to ally with your girlfriends and step in when other guys are acting like idiots — it’s gallantry modernized for the 21st century. When I talk with my sons about sex, it pays to be explicit

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