Sex Positive Parenting

https://www.healthedco.co.uk/26403-Deluxe-Condom-Training-Model-Beige

More and more frequently, in my discussions with other parents about sex positivity and parenting, and being sex-positive parents, I hear mention of how they are so sex positive that they have condoms in their homes for their teenaged children to use. ‘Better under my roof and using protection than out in a field, and not,’ is the rhetoric. And, yeah, grand. I get that. If my daughters – or yours, or your sons – were having sex, I’d prefer they were doing so somewhere warm, and comfortable and that they were using contraception and avoiding disease. It’s not really that radical to say that we’d prefer our children to be safe, is it?

If you are a parent who wishes sex to be a glorious experience for your teenager, please read on. Much of what I’ve written here is focused on the female experience, and centering it, but you can be sure your sons, as well as your daughters, need to know this.


But – when is the last time we spoke to our children – particularly our daughters – about their bodies and about loving them? Even the most ‘positive’ of these sex-positive parents don’t say to their daughters ‘It’s time you got to know your own body.’ Even the most ‘positive’ of these sex-positive parents don’t talk to their daughters about satisfying sex, or about masturbation.


When was the last time you sat down and spoke to your daughter about the importance of foreplay? Or – for that matter – spoke to her boyfriend about it? Or, when was the last time you told your sons that they need to ensure that they sexually satisfy the woman they are with? Can you even be sure that your daughters know what sexual satisfaction feels like?


Sure, we give our daughters the names of the parts of their bodies, but it’s framed around procreation and contraception. The male gaze and male satisfaction is what girls are taught about sex. I wonder when you last suggested your daughter might hop on online and choose masturbation aids for herself? Boys’ masturbation is accepted, expected, joked about. Nocturnal emissions are taken as a normal part of male puberty, but do we expect, suggest, and allow that our girls would also have orgasms?

Have you ever had a conversation with your daughter around explaining her own body? Have you ever told her that it’s okay – no! it’s more than okay, it’s necessary for her to touch her own genitals? Have you spoken to her about being turned on? Have you told her that being ‘ready’ for sex is more than just the presence of sufficient vaginal lubrication to facilitate penetration? Text books and books on sex tell us is the signifier that a woman is ready for sex. It’s the ‘green light’ men look for – and this misinformation leads them to believe that as soon as they detect a dribble of fluid in, or around, a vagina, said vagina is desperate for their penis. And it’s simply not true. Good sex – sex worth having – involves so much more. Why do we not educate our girls about the tingles and trembles associated with female arousal?

Why do we not tell our daughters about how sexy sex can be? About how getting really turned on, and just being that way, is really enjoyable? About enjoying the feeling of being really well lubricated, of feeling her sex organs engorged, of enjoying feeling sexy and attractive? When is the last time you talked to her about being focused on the sensations of her own body, and to listen to what it is telling her? When was the last time you reminded her to enjoy her body simply for he sake of enjoying it? Rather than in preparation for being a receptacle for someone else – a vehicle for someone else’s pleasure?

Because I can guarantee you this: If you don’t talk to your daughter and encourage her to find out what she likes, what her body likes, she will be far more susceptible to being told by some boy her own age, or older, what she likes. And he will be porn-informed.

He will take it upon himself to tell your daughter what she does, and doesn’t, like. If she doesn’t know herself, how can she correct, or contradict, what he tells her? Even with no malice, even with no intention to harm your daughter, any boy – or man – whose information comes only, or largely, from pornography, will not centre your daughter’s experiences. So, it’s up to you to encourage her to insist that her pleasure is centred.

To do that, you need to ensure that she knows what works for her. Talk to her about kissing, and how it’s an end in itself, rather than a means to an end. Talk to her about insisting that her body is ready before anyone enters it. Teach her to deny access to her body – all of it – until she feels ready to ask for touch; until she really wants it. Tell her that ‘sex’ is not just about genital contact. Leaving condoms readily available is not sending a message that you are sex-positive. Rather, it just sends a message that you are pro-fucking, and they’re not the same thing.

Adulting

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I am now the parent of an adult. And I don’t feel ready. I don’t feel worthy.

Ishthara Saoirse Larkin arrived into this world, ten weeks early, in a small town in India, 18 years ago. I’d like to say that I felt an overwhelming sense of adoration and love when I first held her. But I didn’t. I was shell-shocked. It was three days before I felt that powerful dam-burst of motherly love and – oh boy! – was it something else when it came. I’d always thought myself a pacifist but I was very shocked when I realised I would happily kill for this child.

Having spent so long waiting for her – and fighting with my own body over its refusal to get pregnant, I couldn’t quite believe it when I was, finally, holding my own child. When I was, finally, a mother! At last, nestled close to me was all I had ever wanted. For some reason I couldn’t quite understand, love didn’t flood through me the first time I held her. I was numb. It was almost as though I was in an altered state of consciousness. I couldn’t quite grasp that she was really mine, that I was really allowed to keep her. Years later, when studying psychology, I read Viktor Frankl, and the experience made sense.

In his book ‘Man’s Search for Meaning’ Frankl details how he and others were liberated from a Nazi death camp. Instead of being joy-filled and jubilant, they found themselves mis-trusting their experience; not quite believing it. Frankl explains that they had spent so long dreaming of this very moment – and had their hopes and dreams dashed so many times – that now, they were not sure they could believe it. It took the men a few days to grasp the reality that their dream had come true, and was not about to be snatched from them. That’s what becoming a mother was like for me.  It took a few days for me to realise that my dream was not going to be snatched away from me.

Ishthara has taught me so much since 2002. She has taught me what unconditional love feels like – both to give, and to receive. She has taught me that I can make mistakes, and still be worthy of love. She has taught me that I am good enough. She has taught me to forgive myself. She has taught me that, sometimes, my standards for myself are too high, and I need to ‘chill Mama’ just a bit. She has taught me that I am good enough.

During the week, Ishthara’s younger sister, Kashmira, asked me how it felt to have an adult ‘child’. I told her I didn’t feel ready. She asked me why. I told her that I didn’t feel wise enough, or accomplished enough, to be the parent of an adult. I feel like I should know more, be more, have more, have done more, in order to be worthy to call myself the parent of an adult. I don’t think I’ve changed enough since Ishthara was born to be the fully-formed parent of an adult.

Kashmira (being Kashmira!) probed that.
I had to think.
‘I suppose, when Ishthara was born, I wanted the same for her then, as I do now. The fact that I haven’t evolved makes me wonder if I’m any good at this.’ I told her, truthfully.
‘What did you want for her 18 years ago?’ Kashmira asked.
‘I wanted her to be happy. And I wanted her to reach her potential. And that’s still all I want for her. It’s all I want for both of you – but we’re talking about Ishthara right now, so…’
‘And do you think we don’t know that?’

‘I think it’s wrong that you’ve grown up in consistent poverty. I think it’s wrong that you have had no support – financial, emotional, physical, or any other type – from your dad. That you have no family apart from me, and each other*.’

‘But do you not see that that has given us a unique perspective on life? That we are compassionate because we understand rather than because we have an academic, or intellectual, understanding of other people’s lived experiences?’ (Yes, she really does talk like this!!)
‘When we say to the people we work with, when we’re older, “I understand”,’ she continued. ‘They’ll know we mean it, because we will. We’ll have been there.’
‘But….’ I started again, as my inadequacy raised its head.
‘No,’ Kashmira said. ‘Just listen. We have always known that you loved us. We have always known you’ve had our backs. Even on the really bad days, we’ve always known that you would manage, that it would be okay. Even last year – when you nearly died,  THREE TIMES! in front of us – ‘nearly’ is the most important word in that sentence. We knew you wouldn’t leave us. That’s why you have an adult child.’

I was humbled into silence.

Earlier today, I spoke to my friend, Seán. Seán has known me since before I was 18, and his kids are all older than mine. I told him how I didn’t feel accomplished enough, to be the parent of an adult.

‘Don’t you get it?’ he asked. ‘The adult child is the accomplishment.’

He’s right.

Ishthara Saoirse Larkin is a wonderful young woman; she is compassionate beyond her years. She reads, and understands, people with an almost eerie awareness; she loves carefully, but completely; she radiates joy; she yearns to make the world a better place; she is intolerant of injustice; she is kind, thoughtful, generous and loving; she’s a great cook; she has a wonderful, droll sense of humour; and she saved my life (metaphorically – by being born into it – and literally – by performing first aid and calling an ambulance when I collapsed last September).  I am pleased, proud, privileged, and grateful to be her mother.

Happy 18th birthday, my Darling Girl. The world is a better place because you’re in it.

 

* My father, Christy Talbot, and my brothers, Nigel Talbot, and Cormac Talbot, sexually abused, and raped me for 15+ years between them. My brothers, Barry Talbot and Ross Talbot, support them in their abuse of me, as do their wives / partners. My sister, Tracey Talbot, who was also raped by Cormac Talbot, is in such deep denial that she actually carried files into the Four Courts for him when I sued him and his brother for their years of abuse. My mother, Philomena (Johnson) Talbot is a narcissist who – to this day – condones the abuse I suffered at the hands of her husband and sons.

What’s Your Pencil?

Image result for sharpened pencil

I will accept that my title looks grammatically incorrect; or at least like I’ve managed to forget a word. Bear with me, though, I really do mean what I’ve said (typed). 

A few months ago, I was sitting, having a work-related conversation with the wonderfully talented and always exuberant Phil Kingston. Within minutes, we realised that we were both Lamy fans. I explained that, because my writing is the way it is (small, not exactly artistic),  I require an extra-fine nib in order to render what I write legible. I handed my instrument to him, and Phil wrote a few lines with it. He quickly agreed with me that it was a beautiful writer, and we had a most pleasant chat about pens, and writing, and choosing an instrument.

 

I mentioned that I habitually use a fountain pen, except for my Morning Pages , which – for some reason – I choose to write on yellow legal pads in pencil. And, yes, I’m as particular about my pencils as I am about my pens. The one I favour for my Morning Pages is a beauty that is a black 4B that I got in the Science Gallery a while ago. It is just the write blend of soft and dark for me: Not so soft that it smudges easily, and not so hard that it writes too faintly.  

 

As Phil and I continued our chat, we mused about how our respective upbringings had influenced our choice of writing instruments. In the middle of all this, I suddenly realised something, and shared it with him. I’d been brought up in poverty by an abusive (psychopathic) father and a narcissistic mother.  I’d always loved writing – not just the intellectual, or creative, or academic element of it – but the actual, physical element of it as well.  As a young writer of about four, I remember bringing my pencil to my mother to be pared. She refused. There was ‘still plenty of writin’ left in it’, she had declared. Any time I wanted to sharpen my pencil, she would admonish me, and tell me I was being wasteful – which was a sin! – and I was to use the pencil until it was no longer possible to write with it.  

 

Of course, I internalised this message, and carried it with me into adulthood. It took until last August before I realised that I it didn’t serve me to believe that I was only ‘allowed’ to pare my pencils when their points were beyond usability. When I realised that I no longer needed to hold to that ancient belief, I abandoned it immediately. Since then, I have sharpened my pencil every time I have felt it necessary; I have allowed myself the tactile pleasure of using a pencil at its optimum point. It is bliss. Joyful, delightful, pleasurable.  

 

It’s a small thing – sharpening my pencil every time I want to, so it always feels good when I’m using it – but it has made me examine other habits and attitudes that were foisted on me by others, and which don’t serve me. I feel liberated beyond what might seem rational by this one small thing. 

 

So it’s really not an error when I ask  – ‘What’s your Pencil?’ What is the old belief or habit that you’re hanging on to that is not serving you, and is not aligned with what you want, and deserve, for yourself?