06 October, 2008

Appropriate Sexual Behavior

Hmmm, I have been trying to figure out how to tackle this subject because it is a loaded one on many levels. My intent is to put forth observations and work through some conflicting experiences I have had of late.

Let's start with some context, I am a survivor of abuse. As I no longer identify with victim, I do experience triggers, that propel me into a memory. After years of therapy, 18 on and off to be exact, I have progressed into healing and for the most part have a solid grasp on my experience.

Recently, two experiences have caused me to analyze the healing I have achieved. I am starting to question my current stance and need to rethink some actions in the past.

First experience involves a friend of over 25 years. When we met, we were in middle school trying to make our way through the teenage years, high school crap and eventually making decisions for our future. After school, we maintained our relationship through letters and the occasional visit. I enjoyed an open, honest friendship with this person, who is a man. I was relieved to find a person I could trust, and the fact that he was male, defied all those stereotypes where men and women can't be friends. We were friends, good friends that supported, listened, helped when we could and enjoyed discussing our escapades, whatever they were.

Over the years, I myself was going through various stages of healing. There was the denial, the acceptance, the anger, the acting out, the reclaiming of my body, the letting go, the moving forward, etc. My friend was there along for the ride and heard some things maybe a girl should not tell a boy; went into depth that should not have been discussed? I never questioned it, because I was free of the secret and free to say and do whatever I wanted. I wasn't going to let this event decide my life.

My friend also enjoyed the same freedom of discussion with me and shared many events of his life. I accepted him for who he was, is and wanted to be. Again, this idea was so refreshing, as if we were proving everyone wrong. You can have a great friendship between sexes and share the details along the way.

At one point my friend did share that he had a crush on me, back in school. We laughed and moved on. Or so I thought. Occasionally, I would receive emails referencing my body parts. In jest, I took the first couple, because I was this liberated woman who didn't care anymore what the social norms were and how people lived their lives. Then I married a wonderful man, hubbie, and my friend married a truly beautiful woman, I adore. The occasional comments slowed, then popped up now and then again. This time, it was not okay with me. I didn't like the feeling I had, as if I was doing something wrong to shame my hubbie.

Let me be clear, I have never looked to my friend for more than friendship. To this day, he has been a dear friend to me and I am grateful. But to take it further, was never on my mind. I didn't look at him in that manner. I respected him too much to muck it up with sex. I needed a friend and he was there for me.

This past summer another stray comment came and I decided to make a boundary. I couldn't have another man sharing with me thoughts about my body openly. I can't control what people do, think etc. But I can say I don't want to hear those comments anymore. I went on to tell my friend how the comments came across and eventually how I felt as a survivor. I didn't hear from him for some time.

Not one for letting things go... I emailed him one more time, wanting to know if the friendship was severed or repairable. What came next took me by surprise. It seems the person I am today is not a person he would like to have as a friend anymore. The whole lot of me, Homeschooler, Stay at Home Mom, Someone who secretly wishes for a generous benefactor of cash to wipe out the debt,(seriously, don't we all want Oprah to surprise us and make our day with saying all your debts are gone?), and now a person that sent all the wrong messages along the way to my friend.

I struggle with finding peace in this situation. I do wish my friend all the best in his life and certainly didn't mean to cause harm or pain.

Now the questions that come to mind are how does one talk about sex? Is it not okay to talk about sex? When and where is it appropriate? Is it ever appropriate? Sex is so much a part of who I am, for the various reasons connected to my abusive past. If I don't acknowledge this piece of me, am I denying who I am?

I struggle with this in terms of what I am to do now and I struggle with this as a parent.

The second event...

Friends were here for a visit. She has a little girl the same age as my eldest son. They have known each other since birth, or before if you count "in utero". They were so excited to see each other and it was nice to have them play while making memories.

There were a couple of times us parents witnessed some pecks on the cheek. Kissing... at age 6, is this okay? Is this innocent? I honestly don't know. I have no baseline of a normal childhood to measure from. Additionally, I must recognize that I don't want to go bolistic on my child and take it to the extreme because of what happened to me. Now this is the first girl my son has ever kissed and the only girl. At age 2 we thought it was so cute to see them hug and kiss. They kiss anything at that age when asked. We even bathed them together as infants, up until they were almost 3. AFter that, we introduced privacy and private parts and respect. So kissing is it normal? When is it too much?

My son, put a blanket around her while playing Yahtzee. It was the 4 of us, my two boys, my friend's daughter and myself. My son did it with such care, so that she wasn't cold. Then he put his arm around her as we played the game. Something my hubbie does all the time to me, the boys etc. Then the daughter leaned in to his side and they continued to play the game with me and my other son. I had this fast forward flash... here they were at age 16, dating! YIKES! I tried not to let my mind get ahead of me, but also saw with such innocence a kind gesture. They do love each other, we all do, as friends. But when is it too much, not innocent, too soon, are we to blame, as the parents?

I just don't know and since I have had to rethink my actions around the sex topic, I have no idea how to act. I certainly don't want to do something to encourage inappropriateness, but at the same time, I don't want it to be taboo that they are driven towards unhealthy uneducated exploration that could significantly alter their lives.

I will work it through, but gentle thoughts on this loaded topic are appreciated.


Ally said...

This made me think of this post immediately: http://www.askmoxie.org/2008/02/too-early-boyfr.html The comments are full of good information, and there's even a recommendation for my favorite parenting series in there. Your # year old by Ames & Ilg. One for each year. We just read Your 4 Year Old: Wild & Wonderful.

Linn said...

hmmm...interesting things to think about. My kids are (thankfully) too young to think about this yet, but I know it's in the near future and you've started a conversation in my head.

Anonymous said...
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Anonymous said...

MystikMomma- this is Gloria from Richmond, VA. I think at 6 it is perfectly innocent at this point - it appears that your son is only imitating the good things your husband does for you - like putting a blanket around your shoulders. It is difficult to differentiate good touch/bad touch - not knowing what level of abuse you experienced. This is the part I think you struggle with. Similar to my wrangling with having to be careful when I spanked my son to not get too carried away - as I was subjected to physical abuse at the hands of my parents. I always felt guilt. I think guilt is part of my everyday living - work, life and love. I really don't think that will ever go away honestly - it is with recognizing "why do I feel guilty" that helps me to snap out of it. It might be helpful to go on to some pediatric/psychology sites to read what others in the field have to say about this - I think that might help. Life is not easy, but it becomes even more complicated when we have the demons always around our heads to swat away on a daily basis. Embracing these demons as part of our experience is the toughest thing. Published as anonymous for now as I don't have a Google blog account - I am new to all of this