What do politics and porn have in common?
The most obvious answer is, they’ve both been around since the birth of our nation.
These days, headlines often alert us to these two worlds colliding. A look back in time shows not much has changed since the US was born.
Erotica has always been braided into our society, in one form or another. History shows that sexuality norms may change…but porn will always exist.
Erotica and history are the focus of our first project in “artsy fartsy sex ed”.
Every week, I facilitate artsy fartsy sex ed class for kids 12 and up. The creative projects are inspired by a card chosen at random from Barefaced game.
The goal is to explore sex and sexuality…not produce a beautiful work of art. Most importantly, I want everyone to just have fun.
Today, we’re going to draw Ben Franklin and Thomas Jefferson with their beloved porn.
We start out the project with some research into 1700’s erotica.
Turns out erotic literature and explicit visual arts were the porn of the century.
Although it seems tame compared to what we have today, racy stories and tantalizing paintings got everyone hot and bothered in the 1700’s.
Ben Franklin and Thomas Jefferson happened to be well known collectors.
As we were doing our research, one of the kids asked if there was lesbian porn back then.
I answered that I’m sure there was, since same sex sexual behavior has always been an expression of humanity. But, people didn’t consider it necessary to identify as gay or lesbian back then.
Did you notice that this is a pretty specific question for a 12 year old? These questions are why I love incorporating creative projects into learning about sex and sexuality.
Making art together creates space for hard questions, comments, and thoughts to come out.
Most tweens and teens won’t go to their parents and say “I saw lesbian porn today!”.
I doubt my kid would; despite knowing I wouldn’t flinch.
The shame of seeing something they’re not supposed to makes talking about it taboo. These kinds of experiences commonly remain a secret.
The problem is, stuffed subjects fester.
This 12 year old somehow knows about lesbian porn. Most parents would freak out about the seeing porn part of this scenario. But, the shame is often what’s more damaging.
The fact that this kid actually spoke the words “lesbian porn” out loud in front of me was a small victory.
In this moment, a little poof of shame cleared out. All I did was create a space for it to happen, and avoid reacting to it.
Moving on…we start to draw.
For a visual reference, I posted a $2 bill and a $100 bill on the bulletin board. That way, we could look at a picture of our porn-loving founding fathers.
I told everyone to simply draw whatever comes to mind when you think of Thomas Jefferson and Benjamin Franklin with their erotica.
There weren’t as many giggling and “eeeewwwww!” noises as I expected.
In fact, the next 45 minutes were dead silent.
Eventually, the kids announced they were done. We gathered around to look (and laugh) at each other’s creations.
At this point in the project, I avoid adding more “teaching” moments.
I’ve found that introducing facts works best at the start of a project; when everyone’s mind is more receptive. I also try to limit myself to just a few sentences.
Sex education works best in small doses, but lots of them.
Once we get into the creative time together, I like to leave plenty of room for the kids to say what they want to say. Even if it’s nothing.
When we’re done, we’re done.
I don’t bring up any more discussion about it. The kids, on the other hand, often come up with more to say at a later time or date.
I ended the project with all of us taking a short walk. That way, any further thoughts or questions could naturally come up. Nothing did, and that’s okay.
It seemed like the kids weren’t hearing what I had to say…but I knew it was seeping in.
It can be difficult to know when enough is enough.
My daughter often complains that I’m always trying to teach her something. I admit…she’s right.
In my defense, it’s a tricky transition when your curious little kid transforms into a shut down teen.
All of the sudden, they go from constantly asking you “why?, to shushing anything you say with an irritated “I know”.
Sometimes, I feel like I have parental whiplash.
When it comes to guiding my teen, I either want to avoid the tough subjects altogether, or force feed the facts down her throat. Neither is productive…or fun.
Finding ways to casually sneak in learning, while laughing and having fun is way more effective. It’s also less painful for everyone.
These creative projects are a fun way to connect with teens, partners, and friends.
Something as complex as sexuality takes time to learn.
Most of us have missed out on these important life lessons, but it’s never too late to start.
After all, we’re sexual beings for our whole lives.
For parents and caregivers, cultural taboos make sex and sexuality subjects that are too often avoided. But, teaching your kids about sexual health is an essential part of their happiness and well being.
I know it’s totally awkward, but it’s so worth it.
Your kids will thank you (one day) for having the courage to help them navigate this. We can make them proud of our badass parenting skills.
Stay tuned for more artsy fartsy sex ed. It’s gonna be fun…promise!
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