Let's talk about sex, baby...

May 05, 2013, 10:00 IST | Meher Marfatia

...Because we really need to. Because we react to a crime as heinous as the Delhi gang rape but our children suffer sexual atrocities daily. Because boys assault girls they grew up with. And because today your little son on his school bus can even be molested by a woman attendant

The state government dithered and debated sex education for Classes IX and X, ignoring a pair of problems. First missing is insight into the emotional side of sex; on offer are strictly technical birds-and-bees mechanics in boring anatomy lessons. Plus, it’s too late waiting to discuss such a sensitive issue in the last two school years.

That leaves parents to step in. Many mums think the job is done by preparing girls for menstruation. Boys may get a book tossed at them by dad, with male v/s female body parts sketched about as clinically as a frog’s lifecycle.

For the most, hormones rage through budding bodies as pre-adolescents struggle alone to cope with everything from sullen silences to alarming mood swings. City psychologists admit being privy to some startling confidences and rampant confusion among youngsters who latch on to answers from smutty sources like loo graffiti, porn clips and locker room jokes.

Where’s the chance to ask those questions? In our nurturing home space, my brother and I weren’t laughed at when we innocently posed what now seem quite idiotic questions. They ranged from wondering how a mother claimed her star sun was Virgo the Virgin after having kids, to wondering if oral sex meant any more than talking about sex!

Gone, thankfully, are the days when kids fretted over risking pregnancy from necking or snickered at kissing scenes in films. Yet, flooded with bolder media exposure, 10-year-old girls still worry they might die bleeding monthly, while boys blurt out nervous queries like “Is it wrong to touch myself down there?” Left unaired, these doubts trigger acts of aggression. For the few introduced to sexuality, it’s mainly sermons on contraception and stranger danger — a half-truth because much child abuse happens at the hands of family members or friends.

Parents jump in shock when psychiatrist Pervin Dadachanji suggests that curious eight-year-olds actually need to be addressed. ‘They’re too little!’ is the refrain. She explains studies which show that early conversations on sexual health encourage children to wait longer before randomly experimenting with sex.

So tell it as it is. In a solid place called home, whose “alert, not alarm” mantra lets kids know the world isn’t all unsafe and not to be trusted. 

Meher Marfatia is the author of 10 books for children and two for parents. She has mothered her own kids well past the terrible twos and almost past the troubled teens.

Touch me not
 Forget CCTV protection. Your child’s best security device is you.
>> Nurture shared confidences in your relationship. Paedophiles prey on a remote family environment, rarely rocking a close-knit one. Urge kids to speak freely, ignoring threats from abusers.

>> Rely on your instinct, never doubt a child. Instead, question the motive of adults interested in spending private time with kids. Check for hide-under-the-covers and “Doctor Doctor” type of games that initiate physical intimacy.Advise kids to pick up on possible advances made by tuition teachers.

>> Boys don’t cry is the worst gender expectation. Scary encounters, including sodomy, go neglected as a result. Reassure a boy to dismiss taunts of “weak” or “not masculine” if he wants to report “bad touch”.

>> “When children ask, they are ready for answers,” says Dr Dadachanji. Kids always deserve intelligent explanations. Stumped by a sudden question, say ‘Let me think about this and tell you.’ Then stick to your word.

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