Reservoir Mum and I have reached another crucial point in our parenting journey. Every year added to Archie’s life makes us beginners again and now that he’s eight we’ve decided it’s time to broach the topic of sex.

My own introduction to sex was delivered by a box of porno mags a friend and I found outside a newsagent when I was eleven. When I first masturbated at age twelve and saw the end result I honestly thought I was going to die. And I honestly thought I was going to die every night for weeks after, until I was lucky enough to hear a friend’s older brother talking about the joys of doing exactly what I was doing.

My Mum bought some Sex Ed books for me a few years later and placed them on my pillow for me to read. By then I had seen a lot of porn, developed a variety of private sexual fantasies, and was involved in daily discussions about sex with school friends that The Australian Classification Board would have classified as WHAT THE!? I remember flicking through the books Mum left for me and being disappointed about the lack of explicit pictures.

When my mind wanders through the rest of my sexual journey, in particular those fraught adolescent years – and while holding no grudges at all against my parents – I have to wonder if I might have avoided certain mistakes, embarrassment and insecurities with an earlier, more focussed introduction to sex.

It’s impossible to say for sure but it seems logical to answer yes. And if the answer is yes then I have to approach the sexual education of my children a little differently. And so after several discussions, triggered by certain things we’ve seeing in Archie’s language and behaviour, that’s what RM and I are doing.

As well as covering the basic mechanics of sex I, personally, feel compelled to add something extra to what will hopefully be an ongoing discussion. As the most influential man (for the time being at least) in the lives of my four boys I feel it’s my responsibility to prepare them for the negativity that surrounds male sexuality today.

The constant media reports and campaigns on sexual and domestic violence are important and necessary but certain well intentioned (yet nonetheless sexist) refrains like ‘teach men not to rape’ have to be countered with a more positive message before today’s boys grow into men who have internalised some damaging untruths.

birds-and-the-beesI want to make sure my boys understand that their gender doesn’t come with an inherent badness and that male sexuality isn’t automatically predatory, selfish or cruel, and that while some men are scary and dangerous, male sexuality itself isn’t. It doesn’t need to be cornered and restricted. It’s something to embrace rather than fear.

I want them to grow into an awareness of men as caring partners and passionate lovers, whose sexual desire is as equally wonderful and affirming and deserving of full expression as that of women’s.

Why is this such a focus for me?

Like most parents, I worry about my children’s future. I want to give them the greatest possible chance at happiness. I want them to grow into their sexuality with confidence, to become sexually active when the time is right for them, to approach their first sexual experiences with the perfect balance of curiosity and desire, shyness and care. I want all possibility of coercion or entrapment, embarrassment or ridicule to be removed so they can share themselves completely, with all the giddiness and euphoria and delight that fulfilling partnerships and a healthy sex life can bring.

In short, I want them to have what I have with RM. Without stumbling along the same bumpy, winding road I took to get there.

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What were your early experiences of sexual education? Did you do most of you learning in the school yard or at home? How did you/will you approach the sexual education of your children?

And Sexuality!