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Sex Positive Parenting 101: How to Teach Children About Consent

    It's easy for us to discuss sex and consent with other adults, but children are difficult. That might be an understatement for all of you parents out there. Sex-positive relationships don't only apply only to the grown-ups. Your kids need to know this stuff too. As awkward as it may feel, you need to protect your children from the dangers of this world. They need to know how to say "no" – what is appropriate and what is not. Airial Clark, the Sex Positive Parent, shares some first-hand advice on sex-positive parenting.

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    Being a sex-positive parent

    Being a sex-positive parent means believing that consent is the basis of all sexual activity. There will be times when you want to be sexually intimate with someone and there will be times when you don't. There are times when it's appropriate to act on sexual desire and there are times when it's not. We have to empower our children to say yes and no.

    One of the many purposes of being a sex-positive parent is to protect our kids. Since we know the difference between ‘good sex’ and ‘bad sex’ we can teach our children to know that difference. Every parent who wants to protect their child has to have the conversation with them about their right to say "no" to unwanted touching and that if someone does touch them in an unwanted way they need to tell you. I had to have that conversation with my sons when they were 3 years old. Three. Let that sink in. I had to warn my children that someone may try to do something to them against their will. Let me tell you how angry that made me.

    The sex-negative culture

    How unfair and wrong those conversations are; yet, totally necessary because we live in a sex-negative culture where victims of sexual assault get shamed and blamed while predators get excused and ignored because our cultural understanding of sex is mired in shame, violence and oppression. I also had to tell them that if someone did violate them it was not their fault. I had to tell them that even if they were too afraid to say no, it still isn’t their fault and to never be afraid to tell me, that I would never be mad at them. And we’ve had these conversations over and over and over. Every time they start a new school year, every time they join an after school program, every time they spend the night at a friend’s house.

    Children can’t give consent. Plain and simple. This is why we all need to call out media outlets that mislabel sexual assault and rape crimes as “Sex Scandals”. Sex means consent. Anything else is something else and we have lots of very technical names for those.

    Our sexual health

    So yes, an understanding of sexuality based on mutual pleasure and desire is what we want to impart to our children. This is more than just biological urges. This is the role that sexuality plays in our identities, it is the social reality of how sexual desire is expressed, it is how we view ourselves and each other with compassion. Our sexual health is just as important as our physical and mental health, and we can model that as parents.

    The easiest way to go about this is to not be an abusive creep. The next easiest is not to be a hateful, misogynist homophobe. Then you go up a level if you just don’t know what to say and when to say it, so you don’t say anything… see? There are varying degrees of sex-negativity that parents can fall into. When do we start being sex-positive? When we take the time to have the awkward conversations, when we share our lived experiences, when we don’t shame our children, when we discuss consent.

    Cross posted with permission from Airial Clark's blog.

    Airial Clark is a San Francisco Bay Area based parenting expert and sexologist. She completed her master’s degree in Sexuality Studies by conducting original research on race, parenting and alternative sexuality in 2012, all while raising her two sons as a single parent. Airial is a contributing writer and content expert for several award-winning media outlets including Plaid for Women, the Good Vibrations Magazine, Shades Magazine, Oakland Local, and Fearless Press. You can download her Quick Start Guide to Sex-Positive Parenting at
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