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How an author aims to make sex education more familiar to today's children

For many parents, the idea of ​​having a “sex talk” with their children is nothing more than inducing wrinkles. But sex educator Corey Silverberg says it doesn’t have to be.

Silberberg was raised by a child librarian and a sex therapist in a family where the topic of sexuality was largely taboo. Instead, Silverberg says it was only part of the conversation, in a way other families might talk about music and sports.

“They were a daily topic because of what they did to make a living,” says Silverberg. “Sex was always on the table as something I wanted to talk about.”

Many of Silverberg’s approaches as sex educators come from their own experience as queer and gender-incompatible people. Their new book, You know, sex, Co-authored with illustrator Fiona Smyth, It is intended for adolescents and their parents and caregivers.

Silverberg states that young people are surrounded by sex. It’s in the media, news and pop culture. “And it’s not about reproduction,” they say. Their purpose in writing this book was to give young people a space to think through their feelings about sex — topics like gender identity, disability, consent and power dynamics as well as the mechanism of it. and.

“Many sex education focuses on either adult professionals and what they think young people need to know as a population, or their fears and concerns with their parents,” says Silverberg. .. “Our book is centered around young people.”

Interview highlights

Start by defining sex in three ways

The first thing I want children to know is that sex is a word — because we consider it to be this objective that exists. And for young people, they are usually a little interested because they often think of it as this they don’t know, they aren’t supposed to know. And I really want to undo that manufactured stimulus. So I start by saying that sex is a word, and because it’s short, it’s an interesting word, but that means a lot.

First of all, we start with the fact that gender is the term we use to describe the body in order to define it. That’s why humans came up with this idea of ​​men and women as a category. And we say very quickly, there are more than these two categories. So there is it. Sex is also what people do to make themselves feel better. So for younger children, I say it’s what people do to feel comfortable in their bodies and to feel connected with others. So this is one of the second definitions. Of course, adults say “have sex”. And the third definition we talk about when we talk about sex is that it’s one way we can make babies, so it’s one way humans breed. ..

About reducing sex education about reproduction

So many sex education begins with reproduction, and the fact is that most of the sex that happens on earth is not for reproduction. … so for me it was basic to start by separating them. Because that is our experience. … this is a book that really looks at sex and gender as a relationship. Therefore, when thinking of these things as relationships, it is really important to start with relationships. It feels to many of us, so we need to start by breaking it down — and this isn’t just for young people — it feels like a monolith, right? It feels like this horrifying thing we don’t know enough about what we’re probably not doing right. And the first thing I wanted to do was [ask] Everyone just takes a deep breath, right? Just relax and admit that this is our world and we can explore it in a way that feels safe and comfortable and respects each other’s boundaries.

To be honest with the kids that not all sex is good and that asexuality is okay

The way we talk about sex in our world doesn’t really reflect people’s experiences. One of my old jobs was that I was actually working in a kind of weird feminist sex shop. So for years, in these short interactions, I tell people about their sex life, adults. So I talked to thousands of people, and it’s very to me that not everyone in this experience this is what we’ve ever seen on television, movies and educational books. It was obvious. It’s not true that sex is always great. It’s not true that everyone intends to learn to enjoy it. The other, of course, is that we know that there is a direction called asexuality, and that some people aren’t really that interested in this part of the world’s sex.We may be interested in relationships, family and intimacy, but the idea of ​​getting naked and doing something with someone else [holds] I’m not interested and it never happens. And that’s perfectly fine. It is within the bounds of a completely predictable human experience.

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So I don’t want to set this idea that kids have a future [expectation.] Part of my job as a queer person is to really think about the future. When I was young, I didn’t know what I had, so it actually put me at greatest risk. I’m also a parent, but it’s very difficult for parents not to do so. Of course, we want to imagine the future of our children. That’s fine, and it makes sense for me to do it. The problem is that we can’t. We cannot know what the future of our children will be. Then, say, “This is your future,” hand over a picture book or educational book, and say, “Will you get married, do this kind of work, or go?” To find happiness in this way. ” If you don’t, that’s a real problem.

About the unprocessed trauma that barriers these conversations

In reality, many of us live with the trauma of sex. Unfortunately, many of us are experiencing violence, harassment, bullying, or a combination of these. And we find a way to survive it, we don’t necessarily get the chance to really unpack it. And we have children, and then we realize that we need to have these conversations. So for many of us, it doesn’t know how to set our boundaries and feels safe to have these conversations. …

And in addition to that … [sex] As it is this exciting, it is beautiful and amazing, and it is a kind of evil and should not be done. Therefore, the result is not a daily conversation. … and, of course, the fact that we now live with the internet and social media means that our children have been exposed to much more information than before. So many of us feel like we’re catching up.

How to deal with topics and sex with children, and at what age

Part of the goal is to make sex a daily conversation. There is always a chance. So whether it’s a fleeting glimpse of a sexy music video or news article about #MeToo, or an interaction a child notices in a playground that may be gendered in a particular way, these are All are examples of opportunities to talk about sex. We are not talking about activities. We are not talking about explaining how babies are made. This activity discusses how to relate to each other and how to respect and treat each other’s bodies. …

Parents actually do this, and they are unaware that they are teaching about sex. … we always teach and talk to our kids about sex. We are not aware of it. So, for example, if we haven’t seen a particular movie, or because the reason is too sexually explicit to tell the kids that’s the reason, we’ve ever read this series If you can, we are teaching what they are about sex. And, of course, when I make these decisions in full support, “because the book still has material I don’t know if it’s ready, and being a parent, I’m still going to make those calls. And as you get older, you will have more control over it. ”Part of the important thing about it is to let the kids know that they can ask questions. The most important thing is not to shut it down. I think the harmful thing is that I can never talk about this.

About teaching children about power and consent

Power is at the core of all this. … I don’t know how to talk to young people about gender, sexuality and being human without talking about power. What I’m always really interested in is what connects us all and what makes us different. And what connects all the children in the world is their lack of power. Children do not have the most basic rights. They actually do not have access to the autonomy of their body. We send them to school. We buy clothes for them. We pull them out of the street. I’m not saying that’s a bad thing. Many are for their safety. We guarantee that they will survive. But that means we make choices about their bodies without asking them. … as it happens, they get used to it and they and they are unaware that they have power. … it has power when they can make a choice that has power, and when they can claim any autonomy of their body. In sexuality lessons, it’s much more important than talking about anatomy and how the body works. I’m mainly interested in human experiences, so I’m interested in what these young people’s experiences are.

What to do with a child who is looking at sexually explicit content

No matter what kind of experience young people have, it will be helpful to have a space where they can talk. It will get better. What’s actually more harmful is that we don’t talk about it, so most kids don’t think they can ask about it. So they don’t tell their parents about it or tell the teacher if someone in the library is trying to get them to see something because they think they’re in trouble. … we really want our kids to know. They can ask us anything and they won’t be punished for it.

Anne-Marie Baldonado Seth Kelly produced and edited the audio for this interview. Bridget Bentz, Molly Seavy-Nesper and Laurel Dollarmple have made it web-friendly.

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