Sexuality – should we talk about it with our children?
As part of my counseling school, which I just started at the beginning of April, we have to read a few books. Here I am in our holidays at the campsite in the south of France with my children and I take the opportunity to read the first book of the compulsory reading: My choice falls on the smallest of them all, an A5 format book with barely 100 pages written by Gérald Brassine.
And the title of the book?
Prevent, detect and manage sexual abuse of children. – Should we talk to our children about this?
(Prévenir, détecter et gérer les abus sexuels subis par les enfants. – Fautil parler de ça aux enfants?)
Sadly enough, this book exists only in French and Spanish. I worked with the French version, and translated parts of it into English. All page numbers are from that French version.
We live in an era where sexuality is shown everywhere. On television, there are movies showing what we do not even dare to talk about, explicit advertising posters are in full view for everyone, films and newspapers are very liberated on this subject. Paradoxically, at the same time, there is a taboo on sexuality with regard to the child adult relationship.
Brassin describes on the first page of Chapter 1 that
“we must recognize that we still have a reluctance to talk about sex, let alone with a child. That for adults, sexuality seems trivialized, but as soon as it concerns children, we don’t know how to do it.”
He speaks of a culture that, despite this “liberation”, maintains a real taboo on sexuality. (p.16)
A culture that builds a wall of silence and makes us believe that the things of sexuality are said, explained and understood while the child often perceives only a partial, distorted or even false image.
A partial, fragmented or truncated vision. As a result, a child in this situation does not know where the good and the bad lies, while it has fully understood that this subject makes adults uncomfortable.
This leaves a door open for all kinds of mental manipulation and even abuse.
Whith this we have reached the first objective of this book:
Prevent. Prevent the child from being easy prey for abuse.
Contrary to popular belief, this is not done by limiting the child’s contact with the real world.
It is much more effective and useful to educate a child to face the taboos and exaggerations that will sooner or later dictate his or her culture.
Create a family culture (p.20)
“Create an active family subculture that does not wait for problems to happen only to react to them afterwards, a subculture which does not let itself be influenced by the first noise from the outside… »
The author proposes to discuss the subject and talk about sexuality with the child from an early age, i.e. three to three and a half years old (and to talk about it repeatedly). (p.20)
This is indeed a surprising approach – and one may well wonder how to do this at that age.
Here are the reasons given in this book:
- A child understands everything or almost everything.
- It is given points of reference for the exchanges that will follow.
- A child at this age is factual and receives without problem what is told to him without embarrassment or shame.
(“This is a wiener, a willy, a foo foo, etc.) ” or “making love is pleasant ” are not perceived differently from : “This is a duck, a chair, etc. »
- Waiting for the child to ask the first questions to talk about sexuality is likely never to provide the right time to talk about it.
“First, because it is likely that, spontaneously, the child will never ask any questions and will then grow up building an incomplete or distorted image of sexuality. Second, because children who are abused from an early age are manipulated and will never ask questions to avoid revealing what they are going through.
Talking about shared love, pleasure and desire (s.22)
“When we talk about normal, positive sexuality, we say the opposite of abuse, we are talking about the antithesis of rape.
A positive and normal sexuality, – that is to say we are talking about love, more concretely about shared pleasure and desire (see an example of Claudine here).
It is also important to talk about sexuality as a relational process. (Personally, we talk to our children about the framework of marriage, between men and women).
Sexuality must be freely chosen and experienced as pleasant: It is something good but it concerns adults, the “grown-ups”, and is not practiced in any way but by taking care of the other.
Then, we must insist on the emotional and relational aspects of sexuality because we realize that young people, even if they seem informed, most often only know the technical side.
Talk about sexual deviances? (p.24)
“It is very important to talk about sexual deviances but only – and this is also very important – after explaining the concepts of shared love, pleasure and desire so that the child places this new information in the right place, on the margins of healthy sexuality. Presenting only deviant behaviour to prevent any illegitimate attempt is not only ineffective but also disruptive to the child because sexuality, approached in this way only, is demonized. »
Talk about your own experience (s.26)
“Some mothers, abused as children, silently guard their children in such a scrupulous way that they transmit their own anguish to them, while a good discussion about the pleasures of sexuality and the horrors they once experienced would be the best prevention. This surveillance, in any case, is usually useless, but the anxiety is all the more insidious because it is less clearly expressed (…)
“To share ones own past experience, ones own past pain – the child, at this moment, feels concerned – or understood, accepted and supported if he or she is abused -; the child perceives the seriousness of the thing through words, but also through the emotions and all the non-verbal signs that accompany such a story.»
Saying “no” is not enough (s.27)
Recommending that the child says “no” to the pedophile who would approach him or her is only valid advice under specific conditions.
- This can only be done after – and only after – having explained sexuality – all of the sexuality to the child because he or she must know that the request made to him is illegitimate and that he or she does not like it.
- After presenting the abuser as sick – not as “bad guy” – so that the child can distinguish and identify the abusive nature of a request even when it comes from an adult whom the family generally considers “nice”.
But even if these conditions are met, the refusal of a child will not necessarily stop the abuse. Worse still, advising a child to say “no” without knowing perfectly well that you are ready to act to help him or her as soon as you are notified can expose him or her to further violence when your advice was supposed to protect them from it.
Use simple, concrete terms (s.29)
It is important to talk to the child about sexuality in simple, concrete terms, in words that are accessible to the child and exclude any medical jargon or abstract terms. It is essential to use words that the child knows. (…) for the little girl, we will take the opportunity to distinguish between the vulva and the anus. And then yes, it will be necessary to describe sexual gestures in concrete terms such as “putting the willy in the foo foo” (or whatever terms you use with your kids). Finally, to avoid any room for misunderstanding, it may be useful to have the child tell what he or she has understood. In any case, the important thing is to set up a real dialogue with him or her.
Set limits and prohibitions:
The author states that:
We must be vigilant and precise because my approach may not be all about benefits. For cultural reasons mentioned, it is not very widespread: also, informing your child in this way sometimes means “marginalizing” the topic compared to children of the same age.
(…) Some of my readers or critics might take issue with me if they imagine that I am suggesting that children experience their sexuality together – this is obviously not the case and in what I propose, there is clearly a line between “talking about it” and “applying it”.
He also explains that the purpose must be framed according to the child’s age with limits and prohibitions:
- Explain to him that we do not speak with the same freedom in all families
- Tell the child that talking freely about sex or sexuality can shock other children or their parents.
- That there is freedom of speech that should only be exercised at home.
- That to make love is a pleasure and happiness that he will experience later, because only adults can fully enjoy it. Just because the child knows how this is done does not mean that he or she is free to act.
- Sexuality is made for the context of a marriage between a man and a woman (I added this point).
- Finally, the child must be made responsible and shown what could be the consequences if he or she unfairly accused someone of pedophilia.
Summarizing the first part of this little book, I have tried to provide some basic information on the author’s approach. If the subject concerns you(and you speak French or Spanish), I advise you to buy this little book, which takes little time to read but is full of very important content.
In the next article, I will summarize the second part of the book:
Why don’t the children talk?
Why can’t adults see?
In the third article we will talk about how to manage a situation of child abuse, in both relational and family areas.
Brassin, the author of the mentioned book states:
I give this short text as an example. It can in no way constitute a “standard text” to be given to your own children. What they expect from you is the expression of your inner voice, the story of your experience as a father or mother, your words and your personal sensitivity evoking the most intimate of all:
The pleasure of loving and being loved, the pleasure from which your child is born.
Read this text… and recompose it your way!
You know you were born because Dad and I love each other very much and it’s by loving each other very much that people make babies.
We call it “making love”. By hugging each other very tightly, we caress and hug each other. When Dad feels very loved by Mom and he also feels a lot of love for her, his sex grows and hardens like a little stick. It rises straight ahead, then looks for a small place to keep warm close to the mom. Slowly, he will enter the mom’s vagina, a small hole next to the one she uses for peeing. This little hole then becomes very hot, very soft to welcome Dad’s sex. It’s very cheerful and, at some point, parents have so much fun that there are little baby seeds coming out of Dad’s wee-wee to’settle into Mom’s womb. Out of all these seeds, which are tiny, only one will be able to find its way to the nest in the mummy’s womb. That’s where it’s going to grow up, to become a baby. And when the mommy’s belly is all round, it’s because the baby is ready to come out.
But, to make love, both of them must agree, the gentleman and the lady. And if they love each other very much, they will make love often, not just to have a baby, but just to show each other that they love each other and to give each other pleasure.
You, for example, will one day make love with the one you have chosen, whom you will love with all your strength. Until then, your “kiki” is yours and nobody else’s.
No one can force you to show it, no one has the right to touch it without your agreement.
I say this because, unfortunately, there are people who do not respect this rule and who want, for example, to play having sex with children.
They have no right, it’s forbidden! and if that happens to you, you should not hesitate to say “no, I don’t want to”, and then come and tell me because a person who does that, whoever it is, is a sick person. By refusing to “play” with him and then talking to me, you are helping him.