Dr. Melisa Holmes, an OB/GYN and the cofounder of Girlology, a resource on girls’ health and puberty, shared that there’s a lot of confusion around the term “sex positivity.” It’s not, as some parents misinterpret the phrase, meant to encourage indiscriminate sexual activity in their children. Rather, it’s about thoughtfully laying a foundation for a fulfilling, safe, and healthy future.
“Most sex-positive health professionals use the term to emphasize education and attitudes that help all people enjoy sex that is wanted, understood, safe, and pleasurable,” she said. “Raising sex-positive children means they receive shame-free and judgment-free education about their bodies, gender, sexuality, and reproductive health and wellness.”
It’s Never Too Early—Or Late
If you’re asking yourself when to begin laying the groundwork for sex positivity in your home, the answer is: now. When children are very young, Dr. Holmes recommended simple steps for “creating a shame-free environment where questions and discussion about bodies and relationships are welcome,” noting that conversations should grow more complex as children age. When starting off with little ones, begin by using the correct terms for genitals and provide age-appropriate answers when curious questions arise.
Start With You
Let’s face it: No matter how much we try to conceal the truth from our children, they have an uncanny radar for detecting when something is amiss. That’s why Dr. Holmes urged parents to unpack their own feelings of shame or embarrassment around sex and the conversations we have about it. “That may require getting comfortable with adult conversations first or talking with other parents about the topics that feel difficult,” she said. “If someone has grown up feeling embarrassed communicating about their body or sexuality topics, it is really easy to perpetuate the stigma.”
If someone has grown up feeling embarrassed communicating about their body or sexuality topics, it is really easy to perpetuate the stigma.
By looking inward first and gaining confidence and ease in discussing sex and sexuality, Dr. Holmes explained you will also put your children at ease. “The goal is to make curiosity and conversations about bodies and sex no more awkward than conversations about what’s for dinner,” she said.
Model Body Positivity
Part of raising children with an eye toward sex positivity is teaching them gratitude and awe for their own bodies. Noting that kids live by our example, Dr. Holmes urged parents to watch what we say around our little ones. “Model acceptance and gratitude for your body and avoid commenting on the way other people look,” she said. “When complimenting your child, focus on what their bodies help them do more than how they look.”
When complimenting your child, focus on what their bodies help them do more than how they look.
It’s never too early to start talking to children about consent. “You can increase their sense of safety by helping them feel body autonomy by allowing them to decide how and when they want to show affection or be touched,” said Dr. Holmes.