Why I'll encourage my son to read Savage Love

Apr 29, 2016 at 2:10 pm
Things have changed drastically in Metro Times' newsroom in the last year or so. Formerly, this writer was the only woman on staff and before I got pregnant, no one had children. 

Now, our investigative reporter and our web editor are both women and the latter is a mom of a three-year-old girl. We also have a part-time graphic designer with a 1-year-old son and our project editor, Michael Jackman, is essentially a stepfather to his girlfriend's 7-year-old boy.

Suffice it to say, there's a lot more parent-talk happening in the office these days. 

As a new mom I have a lot of opinions about raising children, opinions I hadn't thought more than three seconds about before pushing a 7-pound, 20-inch-long human out of my, uhm, vagina. 

Now, I regularly google terms like "baby-led weaning," "how many ounces of breastmilk should a 9-month old drink per day," "organic yogurt," and "Carter's Aztec diaper bag backpack." I'm active on a parenting Facebook group and I attend a mom's group at my sister's church weekly. I hired a sleep consultant. I make baby food.

For moms a lot of topics are hot. "Sanctimommys" are a thing. "Mommy Wars" are a thing. Everyone is convinced they're doing the right thing, and if you aren't parenting the same way, well then, you're setting your kid up to be a serial killer. And I'm not even going to start on #shitmymotherinlawsays. 

Being a mom isn't easy. And my kid isn't even 10 months old yet. 

Last week our web editor, Alex Fluegel, had to bring her daughter to the office for a few hours and when "the F word" flew out of my mouth, as it is wont to do, I immediately apologized, but Alex wasn't fazed. "We don't believe in bad words," she said. 

Later on she was riffing about wanting to have sexual relations with every cast member of How to Get Away with Murder, no fucks given about being within earshot of her daughter.

"We're sex-positive," she said. 

It was then that I decided I could learn a lot about parenting from this woman. 

So, when she posted a Metro Parent article about sex-positivity and talking to your children about sex before, during and after puberty, it really got me thinking. 

I've thought a lot about the things I want to teach my son. I want to teach him to have a healthy attitude about food (No shame to my wonderful mother but she took us to McDonald's every Friday night and started giving me Diet Coke at age 8 because I was overweight and had high cholesterol. Guess who still loves McDonald's and Diet Coke.) I want to teach him to love reading and learning. I want to teach him to be generous, kind, and loyal. I want to teach him to respect women. 

But other than promising to accept and love him no matter his sexual orientation or how he identifies, I hadn't thought about actually teaching him about sex. 

I don't ever recall having "the sex talk" with my parents. (Although one time I did walk in on them, uhm, "doing it." And while that was remarkably embarrassing, I've never really been completely grossed out that they would still be into each other enough, after 30-some years of marriage, to get it on. Good for them!)

Instead, I learned about it from sex ed classes at school, friends, and the random vulgarities 8th grade boys hurl down middle school hallways.  

It wasn't a totally comprehensive education. 

And while I'm not saying I would have loved to sit down at the dinner table with my mother and father to discuss sex in-depth, I guess it might have been better than having to piece together the bits of information I gleaned from MTV, Dawson's Creek, and my similarly sex-ignorant peers.

So, I've decided when the appropriate time comes, to have an open dialogue with my son about sex, even though it might be uncomfortable at times. 

And because I'm a heterosexual, cisgender female and not a lexicon for sexual kinks, gay and bi-sexuality, or trans issues I'm going to advocate that, when he's old enough to understand and process the information, he reads the weekly advice dispatched by sex columnist Dan Savage

Savage, whose syndicated column appears in this paper every week, regularly writes about topics that would be tough for any parent to discuss with their child. His last installment included a letter from a trans man dealing with finding a partner because he identified as a man, but had no penis. Savage advocates and writes about uninhibited sex and he's basically the authority on BDSM. 

If anything, Savage's writings can be used as talking points in an open dialogue. They can be used to help normalize and take the stigma out of kinks and obscure sexual preferences that many adults try desperately to hide. 

Because someone who is uncomfortable with sex and uncomfortable with the thought that their child will probably have sex one day is going to read this and try to mince my words: I am not in any way advocating the deplorable and disgusting act of pedophilia. There is a big difference between teaching your child about their body and abusing it. The latter is the most abominable sin, as far as I'm concerned. 

But by teaching our children about their bodies and sex, we protect them from those who might take advantage of them. This is a topic Stacey Winconek handled deftly in her Metro Parent article. 

Michelle Miletic, a psychoanalyst and psychotherapist in Birmingham, says parents don’t want to see their kids as sexual beings, but this puts children at risk of things like sexual abuse. The Rape Abuse & Incest National Network reports that 44 percent of sexual abuse victims are ages 18 and under.

“I think it puts them in a very vulnerable space because they really don’t understand danger situations and clues,” Miletic says. “They are also very curious because they have no one to educate them.”
By teaching our children about their bodies and sex we guard them from reaping this information from other, illegitimate sources. "Be an information source for your child so he doesn’t seek that info elsewhere," Winconek writes.

If my mom reads this, she'll surely lose her shit. Her opinions about sex and sex education aren't exactly, uhm, forward-thinking. But, I hope that by raising my son with openness and honesty, by equipping him with knowledge and real information, that he will be able to live not only a life free of shame but also a life where he doesn't feel the need to shame others for the sexual orientation, identity, or preference. I hope he'll never refer to a woman as a "slut" or "whore" because she enjoys sex. I hope that he can feel accepted for who he is and accept others for who they are. And I hope he'll be a good man and a highly-functional member of society because of it.