family matters

A friend of mine just posted about how, when you get to your mid-twenties or so, parents feel carte blanche to talk about or joke about their sexual proclivities, and how it's TMI and usually super uncomfortable.

To each their own, certainly, but I must say that I am glad and thankful each and every day that my family is open to discussing sexuality, sometimes bluntly, sometimes with humour, but always with the intention of seeking or giving advice. We do have a TMI rule- any conversation can be ended or hijacked via the cry "TMI!" so if it gets uncomfortable we can stop. Still, we've always been pretty open, and I appreciate it.

I was brought up not feeling awkward about nudity, which is a good start. I was aware that when outside the house you had to be dressed, and that in the house making the effort of a robe was a good idea, but if something flashed it wasn't humiliating. Often we peed with the doors open to the bathroom. I remember coming into the bathroom while my mum was bathing terrified that at the advanced age of 11 or 12 I had breast cancer, because I felt little lumps- my mum reassured me my breasts were just developing and it was normal. I didn't worry about my top being off or her being naked in the bath. It's just skin, anyway. But then, I was brought up Pagan.

Additionally I read lots about puberty- not just girls, but boys, too. I recall being the best informed kid in school, and other kids asking me in hushed tones about wet dreams or physical changes. I mean, there was still definitely the occasional freakout, like the one above, but in general I felt pretty on top of my period and growing breasts and pubic hair.

So that's nudity and puberty, but what about sex? My parents knew I would sneak off with their sexuality related books- Nancy Friday's Women on Top fascinated the young me, along with reassuring me that all sorts of fetishes were normal. I read trashy romances for the sex, along with the Joy of Sex and the Good Vibrations catalog. I dimly recall the video "Sluts and Goddesses" being on the shelf, and I knew where dad kept the condoms. And I also remember having the Kid's First Book About Sex, which made enough of an impression on me that I still remember the artwork.

That was growing up. I wasn't terribly worried coming out to my parents that they'd disown me or anything- I felt pretty sure they'd roll their eyes and shrug and say "of course you are". I discovered this in practice when I came out in various ways between 14 and 18. The one thing I worried about coming out to them as was as a sex worker, and we had some really awesome heart to hearts about it that made me realize how lucky I am. I don't have to hide anything important.

Granted, we don't go into details about our sex lives, either. My parents can and do occasionally read my blog, but they know it has graphic content. Does that creep me out? God no. I love that my parents have given me advice on questions and struggles I've posted about! Sometimes their advice has been exactly what I needed to move forward, or to communicate better with the boy. Granted, it's one-sided- they don't ask me for advice, though once in a while something with jokingly slip about what they get up to. I don't mind. Sex is healthy and pleasurable and I would never wish a sexless marriage on anyone, including and especially my family. Frankly I'm more offended with the non-consensual airing of celebrities private interests. I don't give a flying fuck who in Hollywood is into S/m or is bisexual or sleeps around, unless they're working to raise awareness and acceptance of whatever it is they do. If it comes out, and there's no activism involved, I'm so not interested.

And  this openness has now spread to my grandmother. We had dinner the other day and had a really frank discussion about sexuality and relationships that blew me away, as she and I have NEVER talked that candidly about sexuality. Normally she just sniffs that she's not interested in "that sort of thing" or laughs it off as "you crazy kids". It was really cool to talk to her about her experiences.

I guess I'm lucky. I don't see my parents or my grandmother having sexy naked time in my head when they talk about it. I'm honestly not creeped out. I know that my friends are generally more weirded out by the honesty around sex between my parents and I than I am. But almost every time, the first reaction is "OMG! I could never talk to my family about that!" and the second is a wistful "but I wish I could". "I wish I could say 'this is my other lover' and have that be ok", "I wish I didn't have to hide that she's collared me more than married me", "I wish I didn't have to hide that I'm a bisexual male".

I think it depends on if you see things like nonmonogamy or kink as purely sexual or as a sexual orientation like being queer- maybe if you see it as a sexual orientation you wish you could be open, but if you see it as purely sexual you'd rather keep it to yourself? I don't know. I've never had to think about it because it never mattered. I could always cry to my mum about the struggle around being a feminist submissive, or issues between lovers. I am thankful for that.

Again- it's totally an individual thing. I expect that how you grew up, and where, and when has a lot to do with it. What your parents are like also has a lot to do with it. And every experience is totally ok! I'm just saying that I'm really happy for mine. I don't think I would've turned out so well if I had felt shamed about sexuality at home.

There's only one statement in the article I had an issue with:

"When people get past the age of 50 and they're still fucking, they want people to know that so talking about it is like showing off."

Actually, I fully endorse this. We are a terribly ageist society, and it is horribly sexist that while Hugh Hefner is expected to have a sex life women almost universally expect that sex ends with menopause. There's no good drugs out there to address the decrease in female sexual desire when your hormones stop pumping. There's very few books discussing the sexuality of people over 50. There's rarely romance or sexual desire in people over 50 demonstrated in films or TV shows. I think that's really sad.

I'll tell you all right now, I do NOT plan to stop having sex or talking about it when I turn 50. Nope. And I hope beyond hope I can balance disclosure with tact when/if I have kids someday, so they feel just as safe talking to me as I did with my parents.

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