Sex Positive Parenting

Wow, I’m feeling some anxiety after just writing the title to this article. We have such a strange relationship to sex, here in the U.S. I mean, we’re parents, right? So obviously we’ve HAD sex in the past, yet now that we have children, there is such a social stigma to talking about sex around children or with our kids. I get it. We want to be responsible and not burden our kids with information that’s inappropriate or confusing for them. And we certainly want to avoid even the possibility of any sexual abuse.

The problem is that by shying away from the important topic of sex all together, we’re actually creating quite a problem. When children don’t know about their body parts or how they work or how babies are made, they make up their own stories about these things or they believe the things their friends tell them and sometimes their ideas about sex are quite a bit off the mark.

When I was about three years old, my very favorite book was “Where Did I Come From?” by Peter Mayle. My parents read it to me often and I loved the whole book. Beginning with some of the false ideas about where babies come from, the book describes in some detail how women’s and men’s bodies differ, exactly what sex is, and how sex resulted in the creation of a baby, namely me!  I was fascinated.

In high school I was shocked to discover that some of my friends STILL didn’t know this information. One of the things I like most about the fact that my parents read me this book is that we were always able to talk openly about sex, our bodies, and other “sensitive” topics. The book opened the door to a lifetime of discussion between me and my parents about what our bodies are like, how they function, and how we can best care for them.

I’m certain that I was able to enjoy a healthy sex life as a young woman without getting pregnant because of the openness and discussion I had with my mom. Oh, and also because of the multiple forms of protection against both STI’s and pregnancy that I used. I think that if I had ever experienced any sexual abuse or rape, I would have been able to talk to my mom about it.

Many of my friends didn’t have that kind of open, honest discussion about sex with their parents. Some of them did experience date rape and/or unwanted pregnancies. Now I’m not saying that if their parents had talked to them about sex, these things wouldn’t have happened. But I do think that being equipped with the correct information would have helped them.

So my husband and I are committed to being open and honest with our daughter about the correct names of male and female body parts (we use penis and vulva by the way), how they work, what happens during sex, how she came to be, and what to do if someone touches her body in a way that she doesn’t like. And yes, I still have my childhood copy of “Where Did I Come From?” to read to her when she’s ready.

How do you handle this topic at your house? Do you think we’re on the right track or completely off base? And what was your experience growing up? Did your parents teach you about sex or did you have to guess?

Have a fantastic week! Love, Shelly


At this point, my 6 year old son understands that a baby grows in a mom's belly and that there is a magical day of conception (we celebrate his conception day). He understands that a woman has a cycle and releases an egg based on the cycles of the moon (he thinks this is amazing) and bleeds the "nest of blood" out that would have held the baby. He's seen menstrual blood and knows that when mom is bleeding that she does less those days and he honours that. He knows that the mom has an egg and the dad has the seed. He has not yet asked how that seed gets to the egg inside the mother and I trust that's because he's not ready to know yet. He discovered when he was four that if he touches and rubs his penis for a while that it becomes erect. Despite that discovery, he's not even slightly interested in masturbating yet and I'm curious as to others if their children at this age are interested in masturbating... I have heard stories from another mother that her daughter mastrubates frequently and it's been challenging for mom with how to negotiate that. That's a toughie because you don't want them to think it's "unacceptable" by other people, just that it's a private thing.... I guess that's how you go about that.

Anyways, at this point that's all my boy knows. I don't offer any more information than what he asks for, and when he asks, I answer with love, magic and truth, buecause, as others are saying below, our bodies ARE magical. I speak of ALL things that happen in the body and in nature as amazing and magical, and keep the overtone of loving neutrality in that I don't pass along any dysfunctional cultural "noise" with it.

Great discussion!


Hi Shelly, reading your article, and wondering what the "multiple forms of protection against both STI’s and pregnancy" were that you used. I've got condoms in my wallet in case I get lucky :) What else did you use?


What you've written sounds fantastic and is generally how we're going about it. A few things to add. We've been really natural about sexuality in our home.... keeping that part of our family flow as open and sacred as we (mom and dad) sense that it is to us. We're totally neutral about it all (no unusual "charge" about sexuality or sex-related body parts) and our children reflect this.

One challenging thing has been social situations where playmates have grown up in different situations and parents have been uncomfortable or had some emotional charge with these body parts, nudity, etc. and our kids get very confused and wonder what the "charge" is for these kids, and, over time, may "take this on" from them. But we can only do what we do at home as the set "culture" for our kids and hope that forms their feelings about it more than anything.

My husband and I also think it's important not to deliberately hide sexual contact between one another - to a certain extent (common sense) - meaning that we are affectionate with one another openly so that the children can feel this authentic, loving sexual energy and understand it within themselves through being in that energy that it is normal, sacred and cherished between two committed people. It's the same kind of thing as when you have a disagreement - we don't feel it's positive to hide that form of energy either, since having an argument or disagreement is a normal part of life and it's great for the kids to see us disagreeing and then coming to a resolution. If we had some seriously intense stuff to work out that had some baggage attached to it that we don't want "passed down" to them, we'd do it in private -- again Common Sense as to what degree to "show" these aspects (and being aware of your "dysfunctions" in these realms and not to pass those icky things along) of yourself to your children and how they integrate it.

I'm sure that in tribes that lived in teepees and huts and so forth together that sexuality was embraced and cherished by family. It may have been discreet, but never "hidden" from children. They would have grown up knowing it was happening in the shared space and there would be no fear or charge around it. It was a normal part of everyday life. No child would think that the copulating couple was doing something weird or damaging. No adult would suspect that it was unhelathy for the children to be in the same space nor would they feel concern that this would create sexual attraction between adult and child. Not saying that child "abuse" or rape didn't happen within tribes (I have no idea) but I think the whole dynamic of secrecy wasn't even there, which didn't create the dysfunction like we have today.

Fun topic!


We have always followed similar practises to the rest of you. We started with 'Where did I come from' type books from babyhood and have grown up with slightly more advanced ones as we have gone along. This Xmas I bought teen appropriate books for my 12 and 15 year olds which go more into things like dating etiquette and types of sex for the 15 year old as well as what to do if things look like they might be going horribly wrong when you are out with other people. The social scene has changed so much in the last 25 years and I feel the content of the book covered things that I never had to think about as a teen. My 12 year old went "Eeew there's so much nudity in this book!' Which is hilarious since the whole family goes around naked in the bedroom/bathroom area and will go skinny dipping in the pool together. He is so unseflconscious about his body, then he gets all silly about a book. I had to laugh and told him he could read the parts he is interested in as and when he wants to. My hubby grew up very naturally with nudity in his family but only had a brother. I had a brother and no one in our family ever mentioned sex of any kind or went naked ever. I have been determined to do things differently. So far, so good. :)


My folks were also very sex positive when i was growing up and I'm committed to being the same with my sons.

They got their first exposure to sex ed when the older one was 7. His 5 year old brother was there for the lessons but may not have understood as well.

I'm re-visiting it every 2 years (just did 2nd cycle) and upping the ante with broader applications - this time was more about relationships for the 9 year old.

There are a lot of age-appropriate books at the library which makes it very easy to put resources in their hands which they can review at their own rate.



One of the things I did, and encourage people to do, is name 'private parts' in the same voice, tone, and frequency with which we name others... This is your elbow, fore-arm, wrist, hand... this is your thigh, hip, vulva though most people say vagina (that's the part inside, we remind them), belly button, stomach..." We try to use words that are anatomically correct, and that aren't silly (ie, I don't say 'tushy' or call it a 'bm' because I felt like those words, on the east coast at least, were an invitation for mocking.... we say bum or butt and poop...

As always, we model for them. My comfort with my own body, an ease about when/where to be naked, etc. is setting the tone for their own acceptance and enjoyment and celebration of their own physical self.

A rather serious reason to teach the "correct" names for parts is that if ever, sadly, a child has to explain to other grown-ups and testify in court, "correct terms" are the only ones that are truly accepted....

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