I’ve never understood America’s strange reluctance to discuss sex with each other or their kids. While doing research for a WIP, I came across an interesting site. The page starts out this way:
Sex education, as it is understood today, was unknown until about 200 years ago. In ancient and medieval Europe sex was seen as an integral part of life, not as a separate, problematical issue which needed special study. Sexual knowledge was acquired spontaneously together with all other kinds of knowledge. Children did not live in a “protected” world of their own, but took part in virtually all adult work and leisure activities. Since the majority of the population lived on farms close to nature, boys and girls had ample opportunity to observe the mating of animals. Indeed, it was not uncommon for people to share their house with their cattle. Neither the highest nor the lowest social classes enjoyed much personal privacy, but there was also no squeamishness or embarrassment about the natural bodily functions. Families were used to bathing and sleeping together in the nude. Courtships and pregnancies were discussed openly, and women gave birth to their babies at home. The “facts of life” were never a secret to anyone, and as soon as they reached puberty, both males and females were considered ready for marriage.
While I don’t think sharing a house with cows is advisable, I don’t see the harm in children growing up cognizant of sex. Being open about it would teach them it’s part of life and nothing to be nervous or afraid of.
I am not advocating children engage in sex at a young age, only that they be told about it and its place in life. Neither do I think parents should demonstrate the act for them. ;/ But keeping it hidden and not speaking of it turns sex into a mysterious, darkly compelling thing they can’t wait to explore. We all desperately want to know about a thing no one talks about. The continuing Puritan attitude in America is absolutely the wrong way to go about it.
In the U.S. the most successful of these new crusaders was Anthony Comstock, the secretary of the New York Society for the Suppression of Vice. Comstock had begun his career as a fighter against the “demon alcohol”, but later devoted his life to the eradication of “obscenity”. With his slogan “Morals, not Art or Literature”, he set out to prevent the dissemination of sexual knowledge and to end all public discussion of sexual matters. His intense lobbying efforts persuaded Congress in 1873 to pass the so-called Comstock Act, which made it a felony to mail any “obscene, lewd or lascivious book, pamphlet, picture, writing, paper, or other publication of an ‘indecent character’ “. Comstock himself was made a special agent of the Post Office. This gave him the right to open other people’s mail, and soon he was able to establish a veritable reign of puritanical terror.
Gee, makes me glad I wasn’t alive back then.
… in the second half of the 19th century, most Western nations were gripped by an unprecedented prudery. Ignorance and hypocrisy carried the day, and thus many hard-won civil liberties were quickly surrendered. The phenomenon is, of course, also known as Victorianism, after the English Queen Victoria, whose reign fell into this period. Still, we have to realize that the sexual repression was international. England and the United States were neither better nor worse than other countries.
Like everything we are taught, sex is filtered through the standard of the day. If your parents practice a religion that decries sex as filthy and something only animals should do, then that’s what you’re going to learn.
It’s knowledge that will keep your kids safe. We might be living longer, but puberty happens in the teens, just like always, and if you don’t teach your children how to handle that sudden overpowering drive, bad shit’s gonna happen. Preaching celibacy and turning a blind eye will only get you unwanted babies and ruined lives.
We’re all familiar with the “condom over the banana” device used in some sex ed classes, but if condoms aren’t being passed out along with the visual, what’s gonna keep semen from meeting egg? If I thought a child of mine was ready to be sexually active, I wouldn’t hesitate to get them contraception (to prevent pregnancy) and condoms (to prevent STD transmission). They’re gonna do it anyway. Why not make sure they do it responsibly?
Over the years, this sexual ignorance exacted a horrible price from society in the form of unhappy marriages, unwanted children, and wasted lives. Its full cost in human suffering will, of course, never be known. Still, at the end of the 19th century, at least some of this suffering was so obvious that it simply could no longer be overlooked. An ever growing number of men and women became nervous, depressed, or even physically ill because of their sexual problems, and any treatment remained ineffective until these problems were recognized.
It’s a fascinating read. Go here to access it.