Jim Bob and Michelle’s big mistake… don’t make it yours…

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Everybody’s talking about the Duggars, and probably for good reason (much of the time, anyway). Just in case you’ve been living under a rock lately, here’s a link to an article detailing why the Duggars have been – yet again – in the news.

I don’t want to join the thousands of haters. I don’t want to condemn Josh Duggar for his past transgressions, though I have concerns about that, too. I don’t want to blame him for this current situation because, let’s face it, folks: he did not ask for this. Nor did his victims.

You may disagree with nearly every defense the Duggar clan has made about this whole debacle. You may absolutely hate them for a myriad of reasons. You may have supported them in the past and now, you just don’t know what to do. Whatever your current stance, I think we can agree that there were many “mistakes” made in this sad story – not just “mistakes” (a loose term in this situation, in my opinion) made by Josh, but also mistakes made by his parents, Jim Bob and Michelle Duggar.

The Duggars are a hyper-conservative family and openly oppose hot topics like abortion, LGBT issues, and a slew of other things. A lot of their commentary is just downright insensitive in my opinion, though there are many who support and agree with them. They are part of something called the Quiverfull Movement, a disturbing religion-based community that places misogynistic power on childbearing, dating relationships,  and of course, sex itself. You can read more about it here and about a woman’s revelations after being raised in a Quiverfull family here.

So knowing all this, and now what we know about Josh Duggar’s “mistakes” (as the family has chosen to call them), what can we say about Jim Bob and Michelle? Is it fair to accuse them of also making mistakes?

Abso-effing-lutely.

Like me, you may disagree with how the Duggar parents dealt with such a serious issue in their home. The amount of time that passed, for one, before they sought help is troubling. How they went about seeking help is also concerning. But what’s the biggest deal that no one seems to be talking about in all of this mess?

Chances are, Jim Bob and Michelle Duggar never talked in detail with Josh about sex, human bodies, hormones, and all the stuff in between.

As I mentioned earlier, it’s no secret that the Duggar clan is a devout religious and conservative family. While many of their values are admirable, some of them are incredibly outdated. I would even argue that, in this day and age, their methods are archaic and a complete disservice to their children.

Let me explain.

In a day and age where sex seeps into nearly everything; where kids are more “informed” at a super young age about stuff than most of us were; where porn is widely available online and so easily accessible; it’s imperative that you talk to your kids about sex. All of it.

I’m not a parent. You caught me. But I was a kid once and I learned a TON about sex as an adult, much of which I think I would have been better off knowing at a younger age. I’m not saying you need to get into dirty details with your kid, but you do need to talk to them. Because if you don’t, someone else will.

Below, I’m listing 5 reasons why you should talk to your kid about sex.

1. Educating your kid on “right touch/wrong touch” shouldn’t end at explaining what “bad touches” are.

At some point, your kid is going to understand that boys and girls have different body parts. They’re going to be curious. They may even ask questions. This is not only totally normal, but it’s a good indicator that it’s time for you to start talking about stuff with your child.

This isn’t the time to start talking about “actual sex,” but it’s a good time to start talking about how boys and girls are indeed different and that all bodies are beautiful.

Children are naturally curious and are going to ask questions. Rather than opening the door for them to take their “curiosity” to an inappropriate level like Josh Duggar, explain these differences when your kid starts noticing them.

Professionals argue that you should even use anatomical names for all parts – call a penis a penis and a vagina a vagina, a breast a breast – and skip all the “cutesy” names you might want to use instead.

2. Your kid is human and will go through all the natural changes that every human experiences.

Hormones are going to rage. Body changes are going to happen. That early curiosity is going to come back, but in a totally different way.

You remember this, right? You were curious about sex: how it worked, who it worked with, what it was like to “do it,” and – most fascinating of all – what it actually felt like. Your kid is going to experience all of this and their outlets for resources are way more open than yours ever were.

Some kids realize on their own that touching themselves in certain ways just feels good. No one told them or touched them in an inappropriate way, but kids are kids and they figure stuff out on their own. They may experiment on their own by playing “doctor” with their friends (which I totally did, by the way). They might play “house” where one plays the “mom” and the other plays the “dad.” They’re going to simulate the parts they know, and they’re going to guess about the rest.

Talk to your kids about these body changes. It doesn’t matter that you’re uncomfortable – they are, too. Don’t you remember talking with your mom or dad about all this stuff? Not fun. But oh, so necessary. Puberty sucks and it’s awkward and it’s painful emotionally, but it’s a part of growing up. Talk to your kid, Dude.

3. Your kid is, at some point, going to start experimenting with themselves, with or without your commentary.

Whether it be by their own discovery, as I mentioned above, or whether it be by the discovery of a friend who tells them about it, your kid is going to start touching themselves.

NEWSFLASH: This is totally normal and should be ENCOURAGED.

Recent studies have shown that masturbation is actually pretty healthy. Don’t tell your kid that his penis is going to fall off. Don’t tell your daughter that her vagina is dirty and she shouldn’t touch it. Encourage your kid to explore themselves, but explain to them – AGAIN – what kind of touching is appropriate.

Talk to them about their curiosities and urges. Don’t pretend like they don’t exist. Remember you at this age? How horny were you?! Your kid is going to feel, likely, the same way. They want to know more about the other sex. They want to know what it will be like when they finally experience their “first time.”

Talk to them about how awesome orgasms are. (Yes, I wholeheartedly believe you should talk to your kid about this, especially if you have a daughter. Her pleasure should be 100% a part of her sexual experience and she should know it. But that’s a whole other topic for another day.) Masturbating can releave all kinds of stress and tension and it’s totally safe.

She will want to know if it’s going to hurt and if she’ll bleed. He’s going to want to know all kinds of stuff , about things like wet dreams and how soon it will be over the first (few) times. (Much of the “boy” curiosities I can’t really comment on because I’m a chick and didn’t go through the boy phase.)

Talk to your kid. Let them ask questions, regardless of how awkward it may seem for either of you. Offer to tell them everything they ask about. Don’t keep secrets. Trust me: this will come to bite you in the ass later or, at the very least, totally distort and miss your intentions.

Here’s what you SHOULDN’T do:

  • Shame your kid and make them feel like they’re dirty
  • Place unnecessary emphasis on “purity” and insinuate that masturbation is a violation of remaining “pure”
  • Forbid your kid to masturbate
  • Leave the discussion with unanswered questions

4. Your kid has the right to know – and should know – about safe sex.

Regardless of whether or not you preach abstinence in your home, you’re doing your child a disservice if you don’t talk with them about safe sex. Kids these days are becoming sexually active at a younger age and as a result, they’re so disgustingly uniformed.

It’s not just pregnancy you need to be worried about. STDs are on the rise and lots of things that used to be treatable, like gonorrhea, now have strains that are unresponsive to medication.

NOTE: I am NOT TELLING YOU to scare your kid into compliance with “your way.” I’m not telling you to horrify them with stories of herpes, chlamydia, or teenage parenthood. This is totally counter-productive and, again, will probably just result in your kid ultimately doing things their way anyway.

Kids need to know what “no” means. They need to know what safe sex looks like and how to protect themselves and their partners. They need to know the emotions that can go along with sex: the beauty, the risks, and the fun of it all. Leave nothing out.

If you’re okay with your kid being sexually active, talk to them about it. Don’t just assume they’ve got it covered, or worse, that it’s the school’s responsibility to teach your kid about safe sex.

If you’re not okay with your kid being sexually active, explain to them why you’re not. If you’re in this camp, perhaps the most important thing for you, the parent, to understand is this:

Your kid is ultimately going to make their own decisions.

Jim Bob Duggar alluded to this in his and Michelle’s recent interview with Fox News’ Megyn Kelly. Duggar said that they “tried” to raise Josh in the “right way,” but that in the end (and I’m paraphrasing here, this isn’t meant to be a direct quote), “kids will be kids and will make their own choices.”

Talk to your kid about those decisions, but don’t try to scare them. Be honest, but be understanding.

5. If you don’t tell them, their friends or the internet will.

Information is more accessible now than it ever has been. Gone are the days of simply talking and learning from friends on the playground at recess or at sleepovers. While these things still happen (and did for me), the internet is a beast of another form and will give your kid all the answers (and more) they ever wanted.

Porn is so easy to find these days it’s insane. Even if you’ve got parental settings on your home devices, what makes you think your kid’s friend’s parents practice the same protection?

If your kid is anything like me, they will find information while they’re away from home. I didn’t have a ton of internet access (as it was in its infancy when I was at the age of looking for these answers), but I assure you, I found porn. I was fascinated.

And it’s not just full-blown porn sites anymore. Tumblr allows explicit sites that are nothing but re-blogged photos and videos. You know what’s amazing about these particular sites? They often fall through the cracks of those parental safeguards and other filter systems.

Let me give you an example. I live in South Korea, where pornography is illegal. You can access it with a VPN if you want to, but via straight-up Korean access, it’s blocked by the KCC. Want to know what I can access, despite this fact? Yep. Tumblr. My guess is that this means your kid could potentially find a work-around for your filters if they really want to.

I know you know this, but I can’t stress it enough:

YOUR KID IS GOING TO FIND ALL THE STUFF YOU WON’T TELL THEM.

Kids talk. They will ask each other what they want to know because it’s less awkward than asking you. If you don’t want your kid learning about sex from the kid down the street, do the responsible thing and talk to them yourself.

There are so many things I wish my mom had talked with me about. There are so many ways I wished she would have handled it differently. But you know what? She tried. Do I agree with how she did it? Nope. In fact, I think that while her intentions were good, her delivery and scare tactics were totally ineffective.

My story isn’t the important one, here. Yours is. Your kid’s story is. Reader, talk to your kid. Don’t hide or shy away from this responsibility.

I truly believe that if Jim Bob and Michelle Duggar were more open with their kids about sex and the human body, Josh may never have made those “mistakes.” He wouldn’t have been “a little too curious about girls.” Curious? Yes. Definitely. But curious to the point of inappropriate touching and a guilt-ridden conscience? I doubt it. The shame he felt was realistic for a number of reasons, but no child should ever be ashamed of curiosity or their own body.

Talk to your kid about sex. Do them a favor. Put your own mind at ease. Give them an opportunity to ask questions and leave the door open for more questions in the future. Encourage your kid to come to you when they want to know things. Don’t shame them for being curious or making decisions that are different from your own.

Above all, let your kid know that you love them no matter the decisions or mistakes they might make. More than anything else, that’s what they really need to know.

Cheers, Reader.

3 Comments

  1. aewickham says:

    Thanks for your thoughts on this issue that’s super difficult to talk about. I totally agree that this is one of the primary take-aways from the tragedy. But I’d take it a step further, because a lot of children aren’t fortunate enough to have parents who actually sit around and ponder, “How can I be a better parent? How can I do the best thing for my kids?” all the time. REAL sex education needs to be a much bigger part of public schools in the US. As one of the most developed countries in the world, we have one of the highest teen pregnancy rates among other developed nations. It’s because our sex education consists basically of fear mongering about STDs devoid of any real value. It looks something like this: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=U5xkxTfVLSA It’s not enough to leave it up to the parents if we want to see real change.

    • Thanks for your comment, Anna! I agree – I think there are several areas that need an overhaul, including in schools. I also believe, however, that it’s irresponsible to leave sex education to the school. Both parties have a responsibility to educate kids on safe practices and understanding that “no” means “NO”. I think so many times, kids are scared into staying abstinent and the moment they make a “mistake”, they’re ridden with guilt or worse, end up with an STD or pregnant. Of course, this isn’t always the case, but I think we, as caring adults, should be preventing these kinds of things as much as possible.

      Thanks for reading and joining in on the conversation! :)

  2. Pingback: the class we loved to hate: the horror that is Sex Ed… | a little bit brave

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