Becky Knight has a Masters of Public Health in Human Sexuality and is certified as a sexuality educator by the American Association of Sexuality Educators, Counselors and Therapists. Her private practice focuses on women's sexual health and satisfaction. Read more »
A man is trapped on one side of a fast-flowing river. Where he stands, there is great danger and uncertainty – but on the far side of the river, there is safety. But there is no bridge or ferry for crossing. So the man gathers logs, leaves, twigs, and vines and is able to fashion a raft, sturdy enough to carry him to the other shore. By lying on the raft and using his arms to paddle, he crosses the river to safety.
The Buddha then asks the listeners a question: “What would you think if the man, having crossed over the river, then said to himself, ‘Oh, this raft has served me so well, I should strap it on to my back and carry it over land now?’”
The monks replied that it would not be very sensible to cling to the raft in such a way.
The Buddha continues: “What if he lay the raft down gratefully, thinking that this raft has served him well, but is no longer of use and can thus be laid down upon the shore?”
The monks replied that this would be the proper attitude.
The Buddha concluded by saying, “So it is with my teachings, which are like a raft, and are for crossing over with — not for seizing hold of.”
Now, being who I am, I can’t help but think of how this parable has a lot to teach us about sex. There are ways of navigating our sexuality that may serve us during a time, but which are meant to be discarded. If held onto, they become a burden for the journey ahead.
What old sexual “rafts” are you continuing to tote around even though their usefulness has ceased? What is preventing you from laying them down and stepping forward unencumbered?
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Thanks to Shawn Anthony at A Weathered Monk for posting this parable and inspiring this post.
“When a parent takes a child in her arms and comforts her when she is upset, or physically hurt, that parent is teaching the child a fundamental positive ingredient of sexuality. When a father wakes up a child in the morning by quietly talking to him and rubbing his back, he is teaching him about sexuality. When parents, with watchful eyes, encourage a child to jump on a trampoline, or to climb and swing on a jungle gym, you could even make the case that these parents are teaching the child about sexuality. From a young age, all these children associate touch with love and soothing, and they associate their own bodies with play, delight, relaxation, excitement, love, fun, competence, pleasure.”
- excerpt from Sex Smart: How Your Childhood Shaped Your Sexual Life and What To Do About It by Aline P. Zoldbrod, Ph.D.
October is Let’s Talk Month, when parents are encourage to talk to their kids about sex. But why is talking about sex so difficult?
In this interview done by DJ Chuang, I talk about some of the reasons why we find it difficult, and I also offer some suggestions for how to get a dialog with your tween started.
For more help, contact me about upcoming workshops for parents. I also visit community groups and churches to speak with parents of children of all ages — even toddlers! It’s never too early to create a safe space for your child to develop their sexuality and never too early to share your values about sex.
For additional resources, I recommend Advocates For Youth, which has a Parent’s Sex Ed Center with many helpful links. Also, Rev. Debra Haffner has great books for parents, and Robie Harris has several books that parents and kids can read together.
Parents: Are there other resources that you’ve found helpful?
The more I have thought about it, I have come to realize that while I often think of the work I do as helping people “Find a Voice” in their sexual relationship, the natural next step is for them to “Stand in their Power.” Read more…
When you are examining your feelings about being a sexual person, you should first notice how you feel about giving and receiving touch. Touching isn’t sexual per se, but touch is the foundation upon which your ability to enjoy sexuality is built; it is vital to loving and to sexual expression. To have skin contact with a partner and to feel the warmth of his (or her) body remains an essential component of many kinds of love relationships.” (p. 15).
One of the exercises we do in class is to reflect on the ways that our parents or other caregivers touched us. Were those touches:
loving (ie. having your hair stroked or back rubbed)
playful (ie. wrestling, tickling, etc)
comforting (ie. being hugged after an injury, snuggling on the couch)
Some women cannot remember their mothers or fathers simply touching them in a way that said “I care about you.” If a woman has not experienced that kind of loving touch during her formative years, it is not surprising that she’d find the touch of her partner to be a neutral or negative experience.
For a lot of women, class is the first time they make the connection between the touch they received as children and the touch they give and receive as adults. Once the connection is made, then we can move toward creating new meanings for touch — meanings that make touch a pleasurable and desirable experience.
If you have difficulty touching your partner, or enjoying his/her touch, then I invite you to reflect on the ways in which you were (or were not) touched as a child.
Were you able to show your love for others through touch?
Did others demonstrate their love for you through touch?
What did those early experiences teach you about touch?
How have those experiences affected your enjoyment of touch as an adult?
If you find that the ability to give and receive touch is an issue in your relationships, I encourage you to address it. Just as studies have shown that infants need touch in order to thrive, adults also need touch to thrive. Some experts say that regular touching is as important to our well-being as good diet and exercise.
So reach out and touch someone tonight! It’s good for you, and for your relationship.
“Teen birth, teen abortion, and sexually transmitted infection (STI) rates in the United States are higher than in most other industrialized countries. In 1999, 48 out of 1,000 U.S. women ages 15-19 gave birth”a rate 11 times greater than in the Netherlands and four times higher than in Germany. The teen abortion rate in the U.S. is more than three times that of France and nearly seven times that of the Netherlands.
Many factors influence the differences in teen sexual health between the U.S. and these industrialized nations: affordable family planning services; sustained, realistic media campaigns; public health policy grounded in pragmatism and research; and sexuality information characterized by open, honest dialogue. Philosophically, many European countries accept that adolescents, especially older ones, are going to be sexually active. Therefore, policies and programs focus on protective behaviors and skills. In the United States, policies, programs, and national initiatives focus on delaying sexual initiation as long as possible.
Yet, U.S. teens experience first sexual intercourse at about the same time and have more partners than teens in many other developed countries.”
Sexual health is more than the absence of sexual pathology. The anatomy, gender and function of the human body is the foundation of identity. The awareness of the sexual self as an integrated aspect of identity begins in infancy with the attitudes about the physical body communicated by the caretakers.
So begins a wonderful resource by Dr. Loretta Haroian, a former professor at the Institute (where I am earning my Master’s), on the sexual development of children. She details a child’s general development year by year, with special focus on the development of sexuality.
I have read this unpublished manuscript as well as watched about 10 hours of her lectures about the subject. It’s really fascinating stuff and has helped me to understand my kids’ development so much better. Every parent and person who works with children needs to understand and appreciate that children are sexual creatures and that our interactions with them affect the development of their sexual behaviors and attitudes. That’s not to say that one wrong word will ruin them for life, but if we can try to love and accept the WHOLE being and body of a child we go a long way towards helping them be a healthy sexual adolescent and adult.
Also, let me say that I do not *think* I agree with everything she believes. This was written in the 80s and I expect that recent study and work in the field may have made some of her points obsolete. However, it’s worth a read.