This week my daughter’s school emailed the parents to inform them that they would be teaching sex education in their PHSE lesson.
This is a reality that most parents never want to face. I would argue that most of us probably never had a sex talk with our parents. And that most of our facts are gleamed from films that we probably weren’t old enough to watch. The most I recall was my mother giving me a book to read which had no pictures (yawn) and the writing was too dull and dry to even bother reading. I went to a Catholic school, so you can imagine the sex talk or rather video, and can anyone take a sex talk seriously when it is given to you by a nun? I don’t think any of us listened, although I do recall that the message was clear: If you wore a mini skirt, it would be your fault for getting raped and all men were evil Piranas ready to attack at any moment.
I still blame my Catholic education for my teenage pregnancy.
Anyway, I was not really sure how one went about giving the sex talk. With my 18 year old son, I mistakenly rented the film, “American Pie” when he was thirteen and I landed up in the kitchen mortified beyond belief in relation to the saucy content, whilst he laughed hysterically with my ex. However, probably the worst thing to discover for a parent was that your son had porn mags in his bedroom, along with condoms. As a progressive parent, naturally, I contacted my closest male friends, who decided to mock my son the next time they saw him and I proceeded to arrange his porn collection in date order. I left the condoms in the room. I was happy and safe with the knowledge that if I needed them, I knew where to find them.
In Paris, as our apartment is tiny, the first conversation I had with my son (on the metro,) was a ban on sex- and yes, that went for both of us. I think he has broken it.
But this kind of easy-going attitude is fine for boys and acceptable. Again, I would argue our attitude towards girls is still the same- traditionally old-fashioned. I do not want my daughter sleeping around nor do I want her dressing in a mini that is too short. This makes me seem really old-fashioned and yet my behaviour, as a single woman contradicts my parenting nature. I find this difficult to weigh up and work out.
So I am left with humour and making light of something that should be serious. I think it is because girls attach a different meaning to the act of sex that I want something different for her. Don’t get me wrong, I always tell my son to look at sex from a girl’s perspective. But even he, at the age of 18,is telling his sister not to have sex and that boys do get the wrong message.
So what exactly do I tell her?
I do tell her that I get it wrong all the time but in relation to sex, what should the message be in a modern progressive society where men and women are more equal?
Honestly, I have no idea.
Having said that, it was lovely to be able to discuss her first sex lesson which was about masturbation on the metro heading home. It was very casual and we laughed. Often, I wonder what the French must think of us, especially if they are able to follow our conversations! Are they shocked or amused? I guess it doesn’t really matter as long as my kids are happy.