‘The importance of speaking candidly about sex’

Oct 23, 2018
World events provide plenty of opportunity to discuss sexuality, says Ruth. Source: Pixabay

Perhaps you’ve heard about the big brouhaha in the United States over the appointment of a Supreme Court justice, or maybe you’ve heard of the British parliamentarians accused of sexual harassment, and of course we all know about the sexual assault charges against churches worldwide. All of these cases present an opportunity for grandparents to speak candidly with their children and grandchildren about sexuality.

No matter your politics, this topic is now everywhere – on TV, online, in coffee shops – and we must take this teachable opportunity. There is no need to be shy; you can talk candidly about current events in a way that is difficult when discussing your family’s actual lives. It’s much easier to have difficult conversations when your grandkids do not feel lectured or bossed around, so use the the news as an opportunity to openly discuss moral dilemmas that they may be facing.

Beyond the “he said, she said” what can we learn from these situations? How do we treat others? Are we responsible for youthful behaviour? Is it ever appropriate to break the law? How does one show remorse and atone? What are the dilemmas for females? For males? Do drinking and drugs excuse behaviour? What is the cost of confessing? Of silence? All of these are questions you can pose; use them to start conversations.

If you’re an American over 40, you can begin by comparing these hearings with the Clarence Thomas/Anita Hill testimonies. How did you feel when you listened all those years ago? Explain the differences in the treatment of Hill and Blasey Ford, and, sadly, the many similarities. Or, if you have had a #MeToo moment yourself, this may be a good time to share it. Let your sons and daughters know how you felt. Did you report it? If not, why not? But don’t stop there – be clear that you hope you are a safe place to come to if anything untoward happens.

Talk to your loved ones about the art of moving on. How did some of the victims of these various sexual crimes overcome their trauma? Many of them managed to cope – to have relationships, to do well at school, and to have a good career. What skills does one need to overcome adversities? You could share with your kids how you have dealt with your own traumas, or research strategies together.

Ask your grandchildren whether they are proud of their own behaviour, and would want to be judged on it. Do they feel their actions now should have long-term implications? Compare drastic examples – such as murder – with less extreme ones, like cheating on a test. Even young children are familiar with the concept of a ‘permanent record’ at school; ask them if that affects their behaviour.

If you’re religious, use your texts to explore gender relationships. Look for stories about gender, rape, behaviour – I guarantee you will find some. Read them together and discuss: Do the themes resonate? Repel? Do your children draw associations with their own lives? When a story mentions reputation, ask how much do others’ expectations matter? Do the male-female relations seem fair? If not, what has changed? When virginity comes up, ask if it’s a concept your high schoolers care about. Do you?

For those with no religious affiliation, discuss books and movies that portray both positive and negative gendered behaviours. Watch American Pie with your high schoolers – does it reflect their own schools? Do some scenes seem familiar? Does it remind them of these news stories? Ask them if they think the boys’ behaviour is appropriate, and then compare those drunken actions to those discussed on television recently. Show them Animal House, too. Is it funny? Which of the characters and behaviours do they admire? Do you admire?

For younger children, consider the multitude of picture books about making mistakes and forgiving, or the many children’s television shows with hidden moral messages. Ask your grandkids, candidly, if they would tell you when they messed up. Would they tell their parents? Why or why not? Do boys and girls feel differently? Tell them about a time you had to apologise and did not, or found it difficult, or weren’t forgiven. What does a good apology look like? What would a person need to do to really show they deserve forgiveness?

Begin the dialogue. This is a conversation which will take many years with many wonderful and many difficult moments. This is a time when you, your children, and your grandchildren can really share your experiences honestly — don’t miss it.

Have you spoken about any of these things with your children or grandchildren? Is having a conversation about sexuality something you would be comfortable doing with a family member?

Want to go in the draw to win some great prizes? It’s as easy as putting pen to paper, or fingers to keyboard, and sharing your thoughts with other 60-pluses. Sign up as a contributor and submit your stories to Starts at 60 here, and join the Starts at 60 Bloggers Club on Facebook here to talk to other writers in the Starts at 60 community and learn more about how to write for Starts at 60.

 

Leave your comment

Please sign in to post a comment.
Retrieving conversation…
Stories that matter
Emails delivered daily
Sign up