There’s been a lot of fear-mongering — from the right and the left — about this Teen Vogue article discussing anal sex. I will tell you the same thing I told my high school biology teacher who refused to discuss oral sex during sex ed “because I just can’t go there” (I was her teaching assistant) — just because you don’t want to talk about it, that doesn’t make it go away.
People have anal sex. (And oral sex, for that matter.) Talking about it does not make people do it. Talking about it is not an admission about what you do or don’t like. Talking about it DOES help people have appropriate information about risks and about pain and pleasure. Talking plainly about human bodies and sex is in-line with sex-positive, intersectional feminism.
The fear and anger I see seems directly related to people’s fear about teens having sex, specifically female teens (cis or trans, no binary implied). As a culture, we have to move forward from implicit fear of young women discovering their bodies, pleasure, and for some, engaging in sexual experiences. It’s that simple.
I’m a mother. I get feeling afraid that your child will do things before you feel ready. Notice I didn’t say they feel ready. I said you. When it comes to my kid, I will probably always have flashbacks of changing diaper, 3am feedings, singing lullabies, and her endless ability to break out in dance at any time (like in the middle of a crowded restaurant or while watching My Little Ponies) — even when she’s 17 or 25 or 40. I grew her in my uterus. She will always be my baby. So, sure, I get not wanting to jump in to having talks about sex acts, STIs, pregnancy, consent/rape, gender, sexuality, pubic hair, nipples … or any of the other stuff. Hell, I just cleaned out the trunk of my car and found a stash of diapers (clean ones) and my kid is in elementary school. I. Get. It.
But, I’ve also had to explain how babies are made, what nipples are and why Daddy has them, that love can be between people of different or same genders, why we can’t assume someone is a boy or a girl, how there are no boy clothes/toys/colors/books/movies/shows and why there are no girl clothes/toys/colors/books/movies/shows no matter what other kids/teachers/parents say, why we must always ask permission before hugging someone, how we don’t have to say yes to hugs (even to grandparents), why we can’t leave the house naked, why we don’t show people our underwear, and that we don’t touch anything inside our underwear while eating food at the dinner table.
Why? Because I’m a mom. And in our house, if you are old enough to ask the question, you deserve an age-apppropriate answer. That’s sex-positive parenting. It’s not rocket science. It’s not mysterious. It rarely involves follow-up questions (at least at this age). It is sometimes embarrasing for me and never embarrasing for the kid. Because curiosity is human nature.
I get why you’re scared to think about teens having butt sex. I get why you might not want to talk about it with your teens. Let me put something else out there, though. Would you rather your kid google it and find really shitty porn and god knows what else? (No pun intended.) Or, if you want to sit this one out, would you like a professional person write a thoughtful explanation that you could point to as a resource that isn’t problematic as hell?
I know that my time is coming when the sex questions do have follow-ups and I don’t have all the answers. I’m lucky in that I have sex academics and nurses and doctors and all sorts of teachers in my life who can help me bridge the gaps in my knowledge. Or help me when I’m scared. Not everyone is as lucky as I am. And let’s face it, very few of us are experts at all the questions that come with sex education.
It’s ok to be afraid. It’s not ok to let that fear destroy sex-positive feminism because it’s making you uncomfortable.