If you haven't already heard about this, here's the headline: 'Oral Sex' definition prompts dictionary ban in US schools. Yes...it's true. Schools in Menifee Union School District in California pulled and banned the offending dictionaries from their grade 4 and 5 classroom shelves. As far as I know there's been no impromptu bon fires in the area...but judging from the tone I wouldn't be surprised if a book barbie is in the works.
The graphic, "age inappropriate" definition which prompted all this attention? Oral sex: "Oral stimulation of the genitals." Did I see the word...GENITALS??? In print? Fuck! Oops. Was that my outside voice?
The book ban is jaw-dropping enough, but what really kills me is this little gem of a quote from the district spokesperson: "It's hard to sit and read the dictionary, but we'll be looking to find other things of a graphic nature."
Oh, the sacrifices we make for our kids! Can't you just see them? The Stepford Brigade? Huddled in their floppy hats, floral print sundresses and perfect Prada sandles...sipping tea in Mrs. Robinson's garden? Each of them with a dictionary splayed on their lap, drool dripping from their jowls as they scan page after page of dull, dry, definitions...looking for that one little gem. That one combination of words that will give them the thrill and satisfaction of raising their cup and crying, "Ah HA! I found another one!" all the while wondering if their battery supply at home will stand up to the workout they intend to give that night.
Okay, so pussy-clenching prima-donnas aside...what I see as the really disturbing issue here is the implicit attitude that children need to be sheltered from sex. At all costs. Don't talk about it. Don't read about it. Don't even acknowledge it...until an "appropriate" age when they can handle it. Whatever that means.
I run into this attitude all the time. For example, a number of months ago, a co-worker was lamenting the fact that her 9-year-old daughter had come home and asked, "Mom, what's a boner?" Caught off-guard, and ill-prepared, Mom had made some off-the-cuff explanation, telling her daughter that it had something to do with bones that dogs buried. Another colleague confided in me that her son had asked her, "Mom, how do gay men have sex?" Her reaction, once again, was to hide her blush and simply dodge the topic by changing the subject.
In my opinion, these women made a HUGE MISTAKE! They missed invaluable opportunities to actually talk to their kids about sex. When a child asks, the question should be answered simply, directly, candidly, and without fan fare. What are we teaching our kids by not talking about it? Well, we're probably teaching them that sex is dirty and unsavory and embarrassing, and not something to be discussed in any linguistically identifiable language. We're definitely teaching them that it's not something Mom or Dad want to hear about. So when the teenage daughter begins to be tempted to experiment sexually...will she be comfortable coming to mom to ask about contraception? Is oral sex okay, Mom? What about STD's? Uh...What do you think will happen?
I have three boys ranging in age from 12 to 17, and I have always made it a policy to make sex an open topic of discussion. When one of my boys recently asked me to explain a joking reference to a woman's "box" that he'd seen in a movie...I told him, "It's a slang term for vagina." When the topic of child porn came up in the news and ended up being brought up at the dinner table, we discussed what that meant and why it was wrong. And yes, my boys know how gay men "do it." I even showed them pictures from my trip to the Toronto Pride Parade.
It's not always easy...either for me, or for them...but I think it's important. Children handle things much better when they have information...and even more so when it's the right information. And there's no age that's right or wrong. If they're old enough to ask the question...they're old enough to hear the answer. They don't deserve evasions and to be saddled with somebody else's sexual hang-ups. Believe me...I know about hangups. But that's a topic for another post.
I want my kids to feel comfortable talking to me about anything, and the way to do that is to be comfortable talking to them....about anything. And I think this is a great place to start.
Discover your inner Diva and say something dirty today,
So read, comment, ask questions, rant and rave...but most of all enjoy and open your mind to possibilities!