Aisha wrote about and posted a link to this week's Newsweek article about the hubbub surrounding 50 Shades of Gray. I've not read the book, and i probably won't - if for no other reason than that books that come into the house get noticed by our boys who read like they breath - constantly, reflexively, involuntarily. Our house is not set up for privacy: computers and the toybox are the only restricted access. It is challenging to read anything and not have it at least noticed. Once upon a time we could tell them a book or a movie had "kissing and stuff" in it and that was enough to insure it was left alone. Those days ended years ago.
These days, we have to be aware of what we bring into the house. Which is the issue with the Newsweek article. They read Newsweek. We've had to have other very difficult discussions about very difficult topics brought up in various news stories - genocide, war, hate crimes, abortion, war crimes... We try to strike a balance between protecting their innocence and their view of humanity as good, vs. a 'stick your head in the sand and pretend it's is all rainbows and daisies' view of the world. I'm not sure my husband or I has the answers to why people do evil things - but we share what we know and what we believe and we tell them how we hope they will come to engage with the world.
We've even discussed our views and our values around reproductive rights and homosexuality and what makes a family. They know we will accept and love them, what ever they come to discover about their sexuality. Except that's not true for every aspect of sexuality; we've talked about same sex relationships and our views vs. the views of much of the world. We haven't talked about kink, at all. And I'm not at all sure how we would or if i think we should.
I grew up with my parents living their sex life out in the open, way, way out in the open. Nudity was the norm and I (we - all of the kids) saw the touching and the groping and the doing, as well as the forcing and the fighting and the manipulation and the hurting each other. My husband grew up in a house in which he believed his parents were asexual or at least celibate so reserved and private were they about modesty and affection, much less sex.
I've been a teenage girl. My view of sex was likely quite skewed, but i know generally how young, teenaged girls think and feel about it. I have no idea about boys. Yes - i'm a mom and still have eyes on the back of my head - but the workings of the adolescent male brain are a giant black hole to me. My sense is that, for them, sex is a mystery, an obsession, a driving force, a frustration, and maybe something that controls them more than they control it. Obviously, I hope that last one isn't true, but, like i said, a giant black hole.
Our overarching theme so far in discussing any aspects of sex with our boys has been respect: respect for themselves, respect for their partners, insisting they are respected by others, respect for other people when it comes to joking or teasing about sex (because there will be joking and teasing about sex). And i wonder if it is possible to explain kink at all in a way that lets them see the respect. I wonder if their young, inexperienced, hormone addled, not-fully-developed-by-a-long-shot brains, could grasp what so many adults can't: that what appears hurtful or disrespectful or even wrong may be loving and good and right - in the right context.
We try to strike what we think is a healthy balance - all parents do - right? We demonstrate affection, we want them to know that bodies are beautiful and not sinful, but that all people have the right to privacy. They know that we have (gasp!) sex, but they also know that is something between just the two of us. Of course we have no intention of making the details of our sex life explicit to them, not the vanilla aspects, nor the kinky ones.
I know that they are and will be exposed to ideas from all over - not just in our home. I know that many of those ideas and images will be far more dangerous than this. And i know that boys all over the world grow up and sort out all the seeds of ideas that got dropped into the hormonal stew of their adolescence. And - I have until they get home from school today to decide if i will leave this issue of Newsweek in the pile with the rest of the mail, or if i will tuck it away for my husband to take with him next week when he travels.