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History Table of Contents
1991 Summer Conference
 
Summer Conference 1991
Growing up on the Edge: The Emerging Generation and Canada's Future

Realities

SUE JOHANSON,
Broadcaster, Educator, Counsellor
and Author on Human Sexuality

I don't know anybody who starts out to be a rotten parent: I'm going to screw up this kid but good.

We all set out with one goal; we are going to be good parents to our kids. And we try our best, but its very difficult to be a good parent to your kids and still give them the information about sex and sexuality that they need to survive in today's world.

In fact, we have trouble accepting the fact our kids are sexual human beings.

If your baby boy is just delivered and they've put him in the basket stark naked, it takes the little guy five minutes to discover he has a penis. It takes another five minutes for him to discover that it feels good to touch it.

Five minutes later his mother looks over and says, ah, isn't he beautiful. Oh, he's perfect... oh what's he doing playing with himself! He's just like his father.

And immediately they take his hands away and they put this great big diaper on. It's not much fun playing with yourself through twelve layers of paper.

When we change his diaper and he makes a grab for his penis, we go, ooh don't do that, dirty, dirty, dirty. You'll hurt yourself.

Have you ever seen a boy hurt himself?

But, we try: you'll hurt yourself, you'll damage yourself, you'll injure yourself, no, no, no, dirty, dirty.

The way we react, our kids get the message. Ooh, ooh, mommy doesn't like it when I play with my wee wee. And, so he becomes surreptitious and sneaky.

He has to do it in a hurry and that sets a pattern for sexual behaviour that will follow him through the rest of his life. It's got to be in a hurry.

Is it any wonder that males suffer from premature ejaculation?

And, so the pattern is set.

As parents, we would love to be the prime sex educators for our own kids. But, I'm a mother. I've got three kids and I know there was no way I could talk with my kids about sex. I could talk at them. I would lecture, I would preach and I would moralize and I would say really important meaningful things, significant garbage.

I never told my kids what went on between the neck the knees, cause that's where the action was and I didn't want my kids to think I knew about the action. So, we deny our kids information.

Every parent that I've ever talked to says, oh yes, my kids and I are very close. We can talk about everything and anything; they tell me everything.

And I think, garbage, undiluted garbage.

When was the last time, Mom, you sat down with your daughter when she's got a boy friend and they're spending hours on the chesterfield and there's great giggling and laughing, tee heeing and romping around, and then there's dead silence.

And your lying in bed and your listening, what are they doing? How far are they going, are they going all the way? I'll kill him.

Finally, you pull on your housecoat and you come flipping out to the living room and you look at your daughter and you ask, what are you doing?

Nothing, mother.

The next morning can you talk to your daughter and say, hi, dear did you have a good time last night?

I'll just bet you did, how's old what's his face? the one with zits, you know.

Can you talk to your daughter and say, I don't know where you and old what's his face are going in this relationship but I'm scared cause I remember what it was like for me. I came that close to an unplanned pregnancy, and I don't want that for you.

So, honey I don't know what your doing and I don't know where your at but, honey, if your going to have sex that's an adult behaviour.

If your going to be involved in an adult behaviour that means that you have to go through some very adult processes.

That means knowing exactly what your doing, talking to your partner about sex, deciding what your going to use as a good method of birth control, because prayer is not a method of birth control. I have three children to prove it.

Can we talk to our kids about our fears about sexually transmitted diseases?

With our sons can we say, hey, I hope you've had a good sex education at home, but I'm really scared and I know how embarrassing it is for guys to go into drug stores and buy condoms. So, I went into the drugstore today, dear and, I hope you don't mind but I put a package of twelve condoms in the top drawer of our dressing table and any time you need it help yourself.

You don't have to sign a requisition in triplicate and I will not account for them, its ok...they're there if you need them.

Let your daughter know they're there, too.

We'd love to talk to our kids about sex, but as parents we can't. How many parents have detailed information sexually-transmitted diseases? Most people haven't a clue.

That kind of information, therefore, must be given at school.

But, you're not off the hook. It's up to you as parents, as adults, to make sure that the sex education curriculum is a good one. A curriculum is no better than its implementation, and so it's up to you to make sure that we are teaching kids not what we think they should know, but what they want — and need — to know.

And that means talking about information that we as parents find very difficult to talk about; that teachers find very difficult to talk about.

The most common question that I get on the radio, on the Sunday night sex show has to do oral genital sex; they don't understand oral genital sex.

We and the schools need to be able to talk about that.

I teach 47,000 kids a year. I travel right across country and teach four mornings a week in huge assemblies; 1,100 kids at a time. And, before I can talk about oral genital sex, I have to get it cleared by the principal. Every principal will tell me what a small "c" conservative community it is.

The fact that they've had 14 pregnancies since Christmas has nothing to do with that.

We need to be able to talk about more than oral sex, we have to also talk about rectal sex.

In all my days in teaching I have never been given permission to talk about rectal sex, yet in 1988 there was a study done of 30,000 kids across Canada. They found that by the time they graduated from senior high school, 15 percent of the students had been involved in rectal sexual activity.

High risk behaviour. And you can bet money they did not practice safe sex.

We have to talk to kids about masturbation. It's the number one major concern for males, because they have heard all the myths that we gave them. If you masturbate you'll go blind, you'll go bald, your acne will get worse, you'll reduce your sperm count, so that when you do get married and you do want to have children you'll be shooting blanks.

When I reassure a kid those are purely myths, you should see the look on their faces.

Our females need information about masturbation, too. Madonna has done one good thing. In her latest video, she depicted female masturbation. We have to give her credit. What she did for females is enlightenment, because when I talk to kids about female masturbation they are so embarrassed they just don't want to hear about it.

That's the kind of information that kids need to know today.