Talking about sexual things can be uncomfortable. I know. As a child, I looked at the porn I found, yet couldn’t tell anyone. In college, I fit the description of a “good” Christian yet crossed many boundaries sexually. My closest friends had no idea, and I carried a lot of shame. As my own kids grew, we had a few talks about sex. It wasn’t always easy, and it wasn’t enough.
Most parents I speak with aren’t comfortable talking about sex and sexuality with loved ones. They pause and put it off, and in the silence, the sexualized culture rushes in. Avoiding such talks can be detrimental to your family and your marriage. But identifying with a loved one’s sexuality can create bridges to good conversations and trust.
Sexuality is God-given, good, and one of the most common aspects of our being! Everyone is sexual. This isn’t the same as saying everyone’s ready for sex. It’s simply saying on a deep level, even molecularly, we are all sexual beings from birth, male or female. A boy has a penis and experiences erections, a girl has a vagina and can feel arousal, but do we ever talk about that?
We discuss other body issues like skin and why we need sunscreen and our eyes and ways to keep them healthy. We teach kids to bathe their bodies. But when it comes to private parts and related issues, we go into Pause mode. We’re reserved. Though we know it’s important, it can feel uncomfortable. Why do we pause, and how can we move beyond that?
Somewhere along the way, we learned to be reserved about sexual things. Some of that was good. Maybe you’ve smiled at the mom of a young child who proclaims, “He’s a guy! He has a penis!” And you wouldn’t yell that now. But most of us went to the opposite extreme. We became ashamed of our own sexuality or internalized that we can’t discuss it.
Who or what will shame your loved ones into silence over sexuality?
I’m encouraged as I talk with parents who realize the importance of early and regular talks about bodies, sex, and porn. Like all of us, they encountered something sexual early on without having a framework for it. Maybe you saw a more developed peer in the locker room, or a friend showed you porn. Maybe it was more serious or harmful like inappropriate touch or exposure. Perhaps a sexualized scene in a book or television show or an ad in a magazine felt arousing, and you had no one to talk with about it. In an instant, your light, innocent heart became heavy with shame, and sexuality became taboo.
Now you have little ones, and you want to lead them well. But you pause. You hear excuses; “I have no idea what to say.” “I’m no expert on all this.” “I don’t want to make them curious about something they might be too young for.”
Did your first sexual encounter catch you off guard? Your loved ones will have encounters that will catch them off guard. Your spouse had some too.
Did you make mistakes sexually? Quite likely your spouse did too, and your kids will.
Did you have a trusted adult to talk with about sex and sexuality? Most of us didn’t, but your loved ones can.
Will it be easy to become a safe place for your loved ones to process sexual encounters or questions? Maybe not, but it will be worth it, and God is on your side.
Young or old, we have an enemy working to derail us in our sexuality. We are inundated with overt and subliminal sexual messages. Cartoon characters have shapely bodies, wear revealing clothing, and are targeted to young children. Viewers can internalize messaging that may be contrary to your family’s values. Children (even many young children), teens, and adults see soft-core and hard-core pornography that is exciting and shameful at the same time. These images can’t just be wiped away. And don’t think your kids would never look at porn. Remember things you did as a child that your parents still don’t know about? ALL kids can fall prey to porn, or sexual sin, or worse, and adults can too. We are human beings, sexual, and living in a sexualized world. You cannot protect your loved ones from every harm or temptation.
Here are some questions to help you move beyond Pause as you begin to talk about sexual things with your loved ones:
How well was wholesome sexuality modeled for me?
Most of us entered adulthood with limited information about sex or learned about it via unhealthy means. You can learn the wholesomeness of it and forge a new way for your family, starting now. God redeems our past and equips us. Check out Authentic Intimacy, or God’s Design for Sex Series.
How did my experiences affect my understanding of sex or sexuality?
Are there wounds or sexual sins in your past that left you believing lies? Is there pain that needs healing or an area of weakness God may want to redeem? We all have some level of sexual brokenness. Consider a Christian counselor, perhaps someone who specializes in trauma care, porn, or sexual addiction. In the Atlanta area, check out GROW Counseling.
Do I have current sin patterns keeping me from living authentically with God and others?
God’s best for us is to live fully known and fully loved. His perfect love for us helps us live authentically. Bringing our sin into the light, confessing to others, repenting, and working to restore broken relationships are markers of an authentic life being conformed to the image of Jesus. Find a more mature Christian to speak with as a starting point. Rather than just call you out on your sin, find someone who will call you up into the holy identity you have in Christ. Satan’s power over sin begins to diminish as we bring it into the light and God’s healing grace transforms us. Be encouraged by my husband’s journey in a five-part blog series here.
How have I modeled healthy sexuality for my family? Does it go beyond simply what not to do?
In terms of sexuality, we need identification as much as we need information. Remember the confusion from your early experiences? Have you ever asked your children about feelings associated with things they’ve seen? Even a lingerie ad can be arousing for both girls and boys. God wired the brain to naturally respond to sexual things in various ways at every age. As sexual beings, we notice sexual things. A friend’s seven-year-old said this about the porn he’d seen: “It makes your penis hard!” Yes, it does! And porn might give a girl a funny feeling in her vagina. It can feel good, but children aren’t ready physically or emotionally for sex. Parents can help kids separate the good feeling from what is best for them, and give them a plan for when they see porn or if they experience inappropriate touch. Teach about God-honoring sex and that porn is the opposite of that and very harmful. Here’s an earlier post about engaging with teens about porn, including identifying with their struggles related to sexuality. We recommend God Made All of Me for younger kids to begin wholesome talks about bodies. (Watch for a future post on using it to segue into deeper conversations.)
Could God have more for me in terms of wholesome sexuality in my life or my marriage?
Satan works to bring couples together sexually before marriage, then works to keep them apart after. Sex is a sacred gift for a man and a woman, bonding them at a deep level within the safety and security of marriage. Science proves this. Brain chemicals released during sex bind us with the object of the sexual encounter and remind us of pleasurable feelings associated with sex. This happens naturally in God-honoring sex or counterfeit sex. Struggles related to sexuality could be a means of grace to lead us into deeper intimacy with God. Begin to talk more authentically with your spouse, repent of past mistakes, and ask God to redeem this aspect of your marriage, for both of you and for your children. Doug Rosenau’s book, A Celebration of Sex, shares biblical truth and practical application. Find other resources on TrueNorth’s site.
Sexuality is precious and important, but it’s also fragile and easily marred in a broken world. We need a guide. Becoming a trusted source of information for your kids and working to create a shame-free home where we can talk about anything are worthy goals. Prayerfully take that next step so you can move beyond the Pause.
Subscribe to our blog to learn more and check out previous posts related to living more authentically in a sexualized world.
So honored to be on this journey with you! Keep going!!
Anne Kerr, Founder and CEO of TrueNorth Freedom Project
TrueNorth is a 501(c)(3) tax-exempt organization committed to promoting sexual honesty and purity. Your financial partnership will mean true freedom for many. To give a tax-deductible donation, click here. Thank you.
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Photo credit: Gabby Orcutt