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Dad Talk is a fortnightly column where our guest contributor KC Wong muses on parenthood and being a father to his two children.
“Let’s talk about sex, baby, let’s talk about you and me.” You should be familiar with this catchy hit from 1991 by Salt ‘n’ Pepa. How about the reggae beat of “Girl, I’m& gonna make you sweat /Sweat till you can’t sweat no more /And if you cry, I’ gonna push it some more” by Inner Circle? And of course the latest sensation ‘Despacito’, sung in Spanish, but when you Google the English lyrics, the unsubtle sexual reference is not lost in translation.
We are constantly surrounded by sexually implicit and explicit messages in pop culture. Because they are everywhere, we have grown immune and oblivious to them, until one day when I found out how they can creep up on your children.
Under the guise of discussing school projects, my daughter is part of the class group chat. As experienced adults, we know nothing constructive can come out of group chats. True enough, one of the boys in her class has been spamming the chat with pornographic materials. I was incensed, not because of what he did, but because he beat me to introducing the topic of sex to my daughter. My wife and I have only our procrastination to blame.
I know I will have to sit my kids down one day for a lecture on Sex 101. We have never eschewed public displays of affection or nudity in front of them. That is the way we are made and there is no shame in letting them know how a mature man’s or woman’s body looks. We sometimes still take showers together, and managed to address the obvious issues, such as what the male and female reproductive organs are called, pubic hair, fully developed breasts and menstruation.
We call a spade a spade, by teaching them the correct terms like penis and vagina, instead of using euphemisms. They know why “mummy bleeds once a month” and that daddy’s sperm can swim to the egg. What we conveniently left out was HOW.
Our original plan was to talk about the actual act of sexual intercourse when my daughter has her first period. Unfortunately, circumstances dictate that we bring the plan forward. I do not want pornography to be her introduction to sex. She must hear about it first from either my wife or me, in plain, unadulterated language. Besides delivering the facts, I think the most important and valuable part of sex education is the moral obligations that come attached to it, that of self-respect, responsibility and of course, love.
By emphasising the above, she should be able to view sex as something that is natural and precious. She should be able to see sex as something not for the exploits of herself and others, and that it should be treated with sanctity. By treating her like an adult at age eleven, we hope she will be mature enough to make her own decisions. It should also eradicate the potential problem of her satisfying her curiosity in the wrong places or with the wrong person.
Incidentally, the education ministry in China made headlines not too long ago for publishing a series of illustrated books aimed at teaching kids about sex in a scientific and positive way. Its effort was lauded by many for the liberal and progressive stance in a country that is notoriously conservative on the subject of sex. Happily, my order on Taobao arrived at the most appropriate time, like a godsend. For parents well-versed in Chinese, you can read the book together with your children like any other bedtime story. Don’t worry about embarrassed stammers either, as the answers to awkward questions can be found in those books.
Are you guilty of saying things like “Don’t ask me, ask your mummy” or “You’ll understand when you’re older”? You spend so much time and money making sure your kids do well in their schoolwork. Why hold back on teaching them the very basics of life which will have a huge impact on their future relationships? Use this as an opportunity to build another bridge of communication with your kids. If you can have a frank and open conversation about sex with them, you will have less to worry about when they decide to do more than just talk about it in future.
As for my daughter? My wife got the job done. Hopefully, my little girl can also teach her future boyfriend a lesson or two.
KC Wong is a photographer and father of two. He has a daughter aged 11 and a son aged nine.