At the recent Sex Expo in Brooklyn that took place last weekend, I interviewed a few vendor owners who were selling sex-related objects or giving sex-related workshops at the expo but who were also parents of youth and adolescents. Without going into names and too much detail, there were some common themes:
- they were all open about how they approached sex education with their young ones. One was already reading to her daughter a book about "The First Kiss", how special it is and how you should reserve it for someone special. They did not find it awkward or embarrassing to bring it up, and in fact proactively answered any questions young kids might have around sexual activity or natural body processes, e.g. "what is a wet dream"
- they were all concerned about the declining "family values in the US, like lower incidence of marriages, higher incidence of broken homes, and how these contributed to poor self-esteem in kids in the long run.
- they equated low self-esteem with a higher likelihood to be promiscuous and have unprotected sex, especially among females. Drawing from their own experience growing up, one mom said that is what she did when she felt bad about herself, she didn't respect her body enough, and used sex as an outlet to feel better about herself in the moment but she did a lot of things she regretted. She wants her daughter to grow up "strong, confident, informed"
My experience this weekend along with these intercepts made me think that perhaps one of the lowest common denominators of this, regardless of what part of the world we are in, is this big question of self-esteem and how can we cultivate it at an early age. Furthermore, going back to articles like the nail salon or beauty parlor, associative spaces where we can open up about sex-related issues, perhaps there are groups and spaces like sports teams, Girl Scouts, etc that help boost self-esteem and sex education and safety can be a topic that is talked about positively and proactively. Self-esteem is arguably a much more multi-faceted topic than sex education (although both equally complex and difficult to instill). We can look to the intersecting areas to find more interesting and effective ways to communicate both.