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mads’ thread about certain people (read: amab queer ppl) being viewed as predatory for simply existing around children, or for wearing leather/PVC around children, brings up a really important topic not often discussed:

not discussing sex and sexuality is actively harmful to children’s development.

I teach children about sex and sexuality for a living. That is my full-time job. I am a sex educator, and I spent 40hrs a week discussing sex with underage people. Let’s talk about it.

First off: I imagine that much like the parents of the children that I teach, a first reaction of people reading this thread might be to panic about me discussing children and sexuality in the same breath.

This is not a discussion around children engaging in sexual situations with adults or even other children. This is not a discussion about pedophilia.

This is a discussion about safety, education, and health. Which is what my work is centered on.

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Children & Sexuality 

When I say things like “children are not ignorant of sexuality”, people sometimes are confused about this concept. If someone’s been a parent, they might understand what I mean a little better, but I’ll dig into this for people who aren’t.

Toddlers and young children like touching their bodies and are curious about bodies in general. Many toddlers often stimulate their genitals, investigate their bodies, and ask questions about why their bodies look or feel a certain way.

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Children & Sexuality 

This is not disordered behavior. This is natural exploration. Much how children will touch their toes or put things in their mouth, exploration of nerve centers comes at a young age.

The youngest age group I teach in classrooms regularly are usually between 3rd and 4th grade, where we discuss puberty and changes that happen to the body. We also often discuss gender and what “transgender” means.

But sexual exploration can start much earlier than this.

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Children & Sexuality 

The role I have as an educator is to answer questions, guide parents towards encouraging curiosity, and emphasize to children that their interest is normal and healthy. We often use the phrase “masturbation is healthy in a safe & private place” with our students, because encouraging children to understand consent at a young age, both their own and others’, is essential to supporting their sexual development.

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Children & Sexuality 

When people say “No Kids In Kink”, they are saying “kink spaces and group are where adults are sexual, and those spaces should not have children in them” which is IMPORTANT. People who are underage CANNOT consent to adults interacting with them sexually. It is not acceptable in any circumstance.

That doesn’t mean that children are not sexual beings, because they are. All human beings are sensitive to touch, and experience pleasure.

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Children & Sexuality 

In fact, the newest wave of sex educators and the forefront of sexual education now is arguing that excluding discussion of sexual pleasure in sex ed for people who are underage is ACTIVELY DANGEROUS.

Why? Because teaching children about sex is not just a discussion about the dangers and repercussions of sex, but also what a consensual and safe experience looks like.

Ignoring the role of pleasure in sexuality sets children up for painful experiences.

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Children & Sexuality 

Pleasure based sex education means centering sex ed on making people feel safe and comfortable understanding and expressing their wants and boundaries. 99.9% of the children I teach will someday have sex.

If those children are only ever taught about STIs, pregnancy, and sexual assault, how can they be expected to have safe and pleasurable relationships in the future?

This doesn’t mean showing kids how to have sex, or showing them porn. That’s not the point.

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Children & Sexuality 

What it DOES mean is when a 4th grader asks “why do people have sex” we answer: “Some people have sex to have children, some people have sex to feel connected with eachother, and some people have sex because it feels good!”

The current discourse around sex that children consume is that sex is painful, messy, scary, and essential. Children consume content not made for them, and they investigate sex whether or not their parents are comfortable with it.

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Children & Sexuality 

My job is to be a safe adult who acknowledges their curiosity, their fear, and centers their bodily autonomy and comfort.

I want children to know that they deserve to be in control of their bodies, their pleasure, and who gets to touch them.

This is work to protect children from pain, abuse, and people who would abuse them. This is harm reduction.

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If children see a gay man wearing leather at Pride, this isn’t damaging their psyche. Their is nothing inherently dangerous about children seeing queer people. If a child asks “why does that man wearing a weird costume”, a great answer would be, “because this is a parade for queer people, and he’s an adult dressing up for other adults to see him!”

Being honest with children about adults being sexual will not harm their development, but instead establish that sexuality is universal and normal.

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Moreover, queer and trans sexuality is in no way “kinker” or “more sexual” than cishet sexuality. Any overt or subvert implication that they are is just homophobic and transphobic. I’m not going to explain beyond that.

Children are going to be curious and investigate sexuality and gender. It is a universal truth that human beings like to feel and seek out pleasure, whatever form it may take.

The best we can do to keep children safe is to be honest about sex and pleasure and reduce their shame.

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If you want to investigate this further, please check out sexpositive_families on instagram. They’re a Black founded and run educational program that explicitly focuses on talking with children about sexuality from a family perspective, and how to help lead children towards safe and consensual relationships with their bodies.

If you enjoyed this thread, feel free to let me know, or (if you’re white) send a tip to my venmo @ juicebat, as COVID may cause me to lose my job in the coming months.

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Children & Sexuality 

@bee I had sex at 13, and I wish I had actual sex and relationships education before that point to deal with that shit

@bee thank you for writing this thread! it's very well written and informed by your work. it sounds like you have an awesome job that does a lot of social good

@bee thank you so much for writing this out, this was really informative!

@bee It's a touchy subject, and I hope you agree it is, but this thread made me understand things I didn't understand as well before. Discussing sexuality, with adults and even more so with children, is a thin line to walk, and due to being demi and having several traumata relating to it, it takes a lot of effort to me to explore new perspectives, but you've managed to make me do so.

@anarchiv Absolutely! As a survivor of sexual violence as a minor I understand the complexities of this subject, and I’m glad that I explained it in a way that was welcoming to you!

@bee I didn't know that about you, and I'm glad you found a way to reconnect with your sexuality in a way that hopefully benefits not only you but others too.

CW request 

@bee Tangentially, with regard to yesterday: Would you mind CWing pictures and perhaps even mentions of "adult toys"? Just a friendly request, if you've got a reason not to do so I'll give it some thought.

It's just that I think you're an interesting person (who is more than their job) and I'd like to engage with you and your content but I don't always like to be confronted with certain types of content without my momentary consent, and a CW would provide me with an opportunity to give or withdraw my consent to this exposure.

CW request 

@anarchiv Oh absolutely! I’ll do my best to do so in the future, my apologies for the lapse!

CW request 

@bee no big deal, thanks a bunch!

the importance of sex ed etc 

@bee beautiful thread, lee. thank you for this! i dunno if i'll ever be a parent, but i'm glad to have these words in my repository.

as a side note, going to a catholic school meant i had a heavily sanitized version of this (coupled with the "crumple the flower in your hand and now try to fix it, thats your worth without virginity" trauma), and being asexual meant that i fully was sex repulsed into my mid 20s. it was because of educators like you that i learned to untangle my feelings and make way for finally having sex for the first time at the ripe old age of 30.

up until then i really had a lot of fear about how i would see myself because it had been made such a critical part of my identity. it took a lot of intensive self-therapy to get there, but this new wave of sex ed centering autonomy and consent and introducing pleasure being available to me now helped so much. in the end, it came out fine. my fears werent realized and i don't view myself any differently or shamefully.

so yes, really what i mean is thank you for dedicating your time to teaching young people these things. its so important.

the importance of sex ed etc, religion, kink 

@popstar @bee I feel this muchly as well. Lali if you have not read Pleasure Activism it's really good I highly recommend. recovering from Southern Baptist sex ed is an ongoing process, lordt. i am still disentangling my subby desires from my codependent people pleasing/self-effacing/ behaviors and internalized misogyny. it's cool and good 🙃

importance of sex education 

@bee really awesome and clear thread. as someone who wasn't talked to about sex much at all growing up, I remember very clearly a lot of anxiety as a young person around my own sexual explorations and thoughts. this kind of education would have done wonders for me, and so I'm sure it's giving really important tools to a lot of young people in situations like mine.

Sex ed 

@bee Great thread! This line sticks out to me:
"The current discourse around sex that children consume is that sex is painful, messy, scary, and essential."
If I understand this right, you've met many children who have the impression that sex is something 'everyone' (incl them) 'has to' chase as much as possible, despite not knowing what they should try to get out of it, or even expecting that it'll be hurtful in some ways?

@bee this whole thread was fantastic! Thank you for sharing

@bee Awesome thread.
People having control over their own bodies and please seems to be the opposite of what conservatives want. At least those most politically active of them. Do you have any suggestions how to teach adults the importance of bodily autonomy?

@bee we just weren't taught about queer sex 🤷‍♂️ even at a very outwardly facing progressive school

@bee at least they taught us about basic trans stuff. sex education was pretty thin tho

@bee okay so I agree with everything you have to say, great points, eloquently made, a great post
but I do have a question (which I promise is a good faith one)
you talked about other peoples' consent being an important part to teach early on, where does the guy in leather at the parade fit in? not everyone there consented to that part of this
it's not that I think he or kink is bad, I'm just trying to make this make sense in my head

kink 

@Eldritch_Horrorgirl Thank you for asking this in a respectful way! There are two different scenarios that could fall under “man is wearing leather”- a) the man wearing leather is wearing a leather getup, possibly partially nude, but isn’t doing anything sexual: i.e. masturbating in public, or b) the man is wearing leather and having sex or masturbating in public.

kink 

@Eldritch_Horrorgirl
b) would not be okay in most Pride events bcs those events have rules against having sex in public. on the other hand events like Folsom are 18+ and explicitly allow some sexual activity or nudity.

in situtations like a), wearing costumes is okay, because that’s usually okay in the rules of the event! folks know that will be present and consent by going to the event. even if people are dancing or grinding, they’re not engaging in sex acts, they’re just being suggestive.

kink 

@Eldritch_Horrorgirl it’s all about the social contract and consent. if i go to a nude beach, i am consenting to entering a space where people are nude! if i go to a kink club or folsom, i’m consenting to see people engaging in sex or kink play. if i go to the supermarket, and see someone nude, i did not consent to that.

most pride events will have specific guidance around the tone of the event and what kinds of behavior are okay.

kink 

@bee you're completely right! thanks for explaining it down like that!

kink 

@bee ah, you're totally right
I was mentally conflating the bdsm leather scene with the gay leather scene, which ARE related, but different
in my head I was thinking a dude in assless leather chaps and a mask
forgot the community is a lot wider than that
good points

kink 

@Eldritch_Horrorgirl @bee The bdsm leather scene WAS the gay leather scene until straight people came along to gentrify it. Now we don't even get to call BDSM ours without people assuming we're a bunch of straights roleplaying as queer.

sex ed story 

@bee I remember in middle school, I asked in sex ed what “pleasure” meant (we were learning about the clitorus). I honestly didn’t know. The teacher mocked me in front of the class for not understanding what sex was for, and I shut up and stopped asking adults questions about sex. I think she thought I was being a smartass but I honestly didn’t understand, which was her job. The experience still haunts me a bit, so it’s encouraging to hear about positive sex educators like yourself.

Children & Sexuality 

@bee I used to try to explain this to an ex roommate of mine and they'd get this very hardline "kids should not be exposed to sex, period" stance and I would be like "THAT'S HOW YOU RAISE PEOPLE TO BE TAKEN ADVANTAGE OF!"

It's so frustrating when I'm saying "Kids can be sexual beings too. They experiment when they're alone. I certainly did. That doesn't mean we as adults should engage with them sexually, but we should educate them because they have QUESTIONS and acting like they're completely ignorant is just naive," and all they hear is "we should show kids how to have sex and groom them."

Children & Sexuality 

@bee I will assume that this does not happen with toddlers and young children, but other classes.

Children & Sexuality 

@anarchiv We don’t teach children younger than 7. Generally masturbation isn’t discussed until 5th grade unless a child asks us about it during Q&A.

Children & Sexuality 

@bee thanks for answering my question!

Children & Sexuality 

@bee It's terrible when children can't talk about their own bodies without being made to feel horrible. The trauma is hard to recover from - hence always a new generation of messed-up parents who mess up their children.

@bee did you know people here in spain want to ban your job?

@bee kids who grow up in farms or around animals in general already know about it, and most of them guess that humans boink too.

sex ed 

@bee
This is an excellent thread. It is always weird to us that ppl freak out abt this sorta topic, bc we were getting sex ed in school before we turned 10, and already knew bits bc a) we do see media and advertising and b) ffs we have older siblings. Sis told me a little abt periods & pads when i was 6.

Most of our interest in the topic before the age of 12 was more just learning about these topics adults were weird and secretive about lol

@restioson @byttyrs has made several diff posts, not all of them are in one thread!

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