Lions and Tigers and Bears, Oh My: Sex Ed and Consent Mechanics

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Bowser, is exhibiting behavior which is NOT suggested when dealing with this topic.

I went to WisCon again over Memorial Day. It was wonderful and difficult and continues to be wonderful and difficult, even as it’s over for the year (maybe emphasis on the difficult, but that’s a story for another day).

On Saturday I went to a panel called Sex Education for Kids: Consent Mechanics, and I would like to tell you about it. The panel description:

“It can be hard to know exactly when to talk to your kids about sex and what to say. Let’s talk about what we’ve tried, how well it worked, and what lessons we’ve learned in the process. The Positive Consent model is different from how things were taught thirty years ago; how can we learn to model and teach it outside the ‘birds-and-bees’ lecture?”

So I mean, how could I not go? Jetpack is five now, and man, things are just going to get more difficult. I LOVED this article, What If We Admitted to Children That Sex Is Primarily About Pleasure, and it also legitimately terrified me. I don’t know how I am going to talk to my kid about sex! We’re still working on respecting personal boundaries, and no, I don’t want your feet in my face. Working on consent mechanics in the sandbox? Got the idea down, but it’s not easy. How to you teach the next steps?

Anyway, my buddy Mo was on the panel, and did a bit of blogging about it (it’s the first panel he talks about). I appreciated his point that sexual education and sexual consent are linked, because it wasn’t a line I’d drawn in my head before—if a person doesn’t know what they’re agreeing to, what kind of consent are they giving? Making sure our kids know what they’re agreeing to, or refusing for that matter, seems paramount.

There was a lot of discussion of well-meaning but horribly awkward methods of dealing with sex ed, and what to do about them. Books seemed like a great way to start the discussion, without making kids feel on the spot. It seems like normalizing those books in the home was good—rather than tossing them on your child’s bed when you decide It Is The Time, having them on their bookshelf for access when they feel like the time is right. As with so many things, not having all the answers is okay, and probably a pretty healthy way of continuing dialog and also helping your kid empower themselves (”I’m not sure. Let’s go look it up in your book!”)

Related to books—please teach your kids to look critically at their sources! Mo volunteers at Scarleteen, and was discussing how very many teens he talks to who have gotten “answers” from Yahoo Answers. Please never take Yahoo Answers as any kind of authority, and please, teach your kids to be careful what websites they trust.

There was one parent (? I think? It was two weeks ago; my memory is foggy) who said that when they were a kid, they were told that when they did decide to have sex, to please do so at home, in their own bed. The reasoning was actually pretty good: they wanted their kid to have sex in a environment where they would hopefully have the space and leisure to use protection, to be less likely to be coerced, to be more likely to think it through and make safe and consensual decisions. Which is pretty brilliant, if kind of scary.

There was also a discussion of teens saying things like “my parents will kill me if they find out…” I think the commonness of that phrasing, along with the prevalence of rape culture in our society, drives home the truth that discussion of sex in a positive way, with a bent towards consent, is so important. IF you teach your kid before they become a teen that sex is okay, and here’s how it works; IF you teach your kid as they’re becoming a teen about what is ACTUALLY happening to their bodies, and what could actually happen to their bodies; THEN you have a teen and an adult who is empowered, strong, and smart enough to make safe, consensual decisions when they’re thinking about sex. Maybe if we taught kids about consent from the beginning, maybe there would be less men’s right’s activists in the world. Maybe.

Reading Materials! WisCon is always good for leaving you with a long list of books you want to look into. Here’s what the panel mentioned:

 

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[Lit Crit] 3 Links, 3 Books

Some small links ahead, before your proper post:

  • Y’all should check out the new www.villageq.com site. I’m thinking there’s some familiar faces out there…

Now! Book post! We have one disappointing book, and two fabulous books. I’m not sure why the photos are so grainy, besides that the camera is new and I must have some settings off…also, Vanna Jetpack wasn’t real patient with this photo shoot 🙂

Anyway.

First book:

Who's in a Family cover

I flipped through this book and bought it, both for research, and because Jetpack liked it at the bookstore. I was excited. Scanning mindlessly, it looked like a fabulously perfect book.

Who’s In A Family was published in 1995. I’m a little surprised, actually, because I would’ve pegged it at a late ‘80s publication. The back gives a good summary: “Who’s in a family? The people who love you the most! Chances are, your family is like no one else’s–and that’s just fine.”

Good start, right? It doesn’t pidgeonhole (And Tango Makes Three is a great book but I want something a little queerer, too!). It shows different families (almost like small family stories on single or double pages) and also different types of animal-family configurations.

It starts to fall apart on page three.

Who's in a Family? Whitey.

The main text reads “Families are made up of people,” and then the next page says, “and animals have families too.” So…I’m not sure why the author and artist thought this page was necessary. In a book showcasing different types of families, this one starts with a definition of family–mighty white, heterosexual, and nuclear–which takes a dump all over that.

Who's in a Family moms Who's in a Family dads

Here’s our two main lesbian/gay appearing families. On the left, the text reads, “Laura and Kyle live with their two moms, Joyce and Emily, and a poodle named Daisy. It takes all four of them to give Daisy a bath.” On the right, the text reads, “Robin’s family is made up of her dad, Clifford, her dad’s partner, Henry, and Robin’s cat, Sassy. Clifford and Henry take turns making dinner for their family.”

Now, if Henry is the fellow with the porn star moustache, I guess I can understand some reticence in claiming him as dad (I jest). But there seems to be a huge disregard for the family unit on the right, versus the family unit on the left. There’s also a page which states “Lots of children live in families with their mothers.” But nothing similarly sweeping for father-led families.

Who's in a Family lions

Similarly, there are awesome showcases of animal families (Jetpack picked his favorite to show everyone). But not one is father-led (hello? Seahorse dads are badass. Or any of these animals, really). There’s no mention of adoption (at all). And step- or blended-families are glossed over.

In conclusion: if you run across Who’s in a Family, by Robert Skutch, just keep on going. There’s better books out there.

other books

These books, though. They’re not about families, but they’re really great books, and kind of subversive in a way that makes my writer-heart happy. And here, Vanna Jetpack was bored with holding books entirely, so please excuse the lack of inside pictures 🙂

Chester’s Way, by Kevin Henkes, is about two mouse best-friends, Chester and Wilson. Yeah, it’s two boys who are super close friends. I feel like this is a rare occurrence in kids lit, and I love how great the friendship between Chester and Wilson is. A new kid–Lily–moves into town, and Chester and Wilson learn about tolerance, and friendship, and it’s sweet and adorable. It doesn’t moralize, but it’s a very positive and has a lot of meaning.

The Story of Ferdinand, by Munro Leaf, is a story about a bull who doesn’t like fighting, but instead wants to hang out and smell the flowers. Seriously. Everyone wants him to fight and be hyper-masculine like the other bulls, but he wants to be peaceful. His mom worries that he’s unhappy, and when she discovers that he’s not, she just lets him do his thing. It’s a great book, the illustrations are absolutely beautiful, and it has another fabulous message. Plus, it was banned in fascist Spain and burned in Nazi Germany. Who can argue with that kind of a resume?

Lit Review: Be Who You Are

Hello! While E and Mama are away on a spring vacation, I thought I’d review a kid’s book I got in the mail last week. Be Who You Are by Jennifer Carr, pictures by Ben Rumback.

This book is, overall, really amazing. It has age appropriate, clear language. I read it to the 5.5 year old kid a few nights ago. In the story, a kid assigned male at birth expresses feelings that they’ve always felt more like a girl inside. Their parents are unflinchingly supportive and have her talk with a therapist who understands.

I did wince a bit at the “born in the wrong body” language, because I really feel like that is an oversimplification on an experience. Yes, some trans* people feel like they were born in the “wrong body”, but this puts language in where there doesn’t need to be. To say that some bodies are wrong, that means that most bodies are right. Instead, I like to think that all bodies have value and self-determination should dictate what we get to do with and to, our bodies. We don’t need to classify them as “wrong” in order to change them.

A kid of color! A trans* kid of color! Awesome! It would have been a lot more important that the main character be a kid of color, in my opinion, because of the prevalence of whiteness in our world. Yet again, people of color stay in their supporting roles on the side. 

The ending was nice, without the pretense of perfection. It was pretty amazing that the parents in the story were so supportive, although if you are a kid receiving this book – I think your folks are already going to be supportive.

I posted my excitement of this book to my Facebook page last week. I got lots of people interested and excited about it, and even a few people who had heard it already! I did get many questions about where to purchase it, with the explanation that the person knew someone who had a kid that would benefit from reading it. At first I was happy that people were interested in purchasing the book for the trans* kids in their lives, but then I started to think more about that. I got this book to make sure that our house has a wide representation of people. The kid has books about families with two moms, families that are divorced, families that live in other countries; this is just another book about the different ways to be a person in the world and how your family supports you. The kid shows no sign of being trans*, but she’s also 5 and a half; I have sweatshirts older than her. She may turn out to be a poly queer homo trans person. She may turn out to be a fiscally conservative hippy straight cis woman. Having books, media, and people in her life to show her what sorts of choices she can make help her figure it all out. She has two supportive parents and plenty of adults in her life that remind her that she doesn’t need to grow up into what the patriarchy expects her to.

People who wanted to buy the book specifically for kids who may be trans* miss the fact that their kid still could be trans* and come out later in life. Or they may have a friend or family member who comes out as trans* someday. Or they may just grow up to be a decent human being and learning about people who may be different than themselves is actually a great thing for anyone. So buy this book for the kid in your life. All the kids, not just the trans* ones.

Linktastic Linkathon

Baby Jetpack

Hello fabulous readers! You’re looking especially well-rested today, and what you’ve done with your tentacles is just absolutely divine.

This week we had scheduled as a Guest week, but alas, we’ve all been quite busy and have no secured said guest. (Do you want post? Check out our submission page up top, or send us an email!)
So I’m going to just throw some lovely things your way, links and whatnot, and you WILL all be happy.

The Purim Superhero: LGBT Jewish Picture Book
I know, I know, Purim was this past weekend. And this isn’t a Jewish blog. But this book makes queer-me super duper happy for a handful of reasons.
1) The first english-language LGBT Jewish picture book EVER.
2) This quote by the author: “I’m very excited that this is a picture book about a kid with same-sex parents where his family structure is not the problem, but is still an important part of the story.” YES. It’s a book about queer families where their very existence isn’t the point of the book. Thank you, thank you, thank you. (Also, it looks like a fab book, especially if you’re interested in Jewish stories, and have the money to spend [I don’t right now, but soon…]) And if you buy it (or have bought it), let us know what you think!

Lesbian Family: Adoption Around the World

I notice in the comments that the map isn’t fully accurate, but it’s an interesting thing to look at. In the comments, there is also instructions to a much more detailed and up-to-date map that is unfortunately not linkable. Relatedly, while Germany un-banned “same-sex” couples adoption, Puerto Rico‘s Supreme Court upheld a ban . (Because nothing says “best for a child’s dignity, stability and well-being” like de-legitimizing a 12-year-old’s family).

How White Queers Can Be More Inclusive of Queer POC

We here at Queer Dads have not, to the detriment of this blog, talked much about race just yet. The post has just three short points. Even people who consider themselves allies need a little reminding, sometimes.

Raising a Son Within Princess Culture

I link this with two caveats: one, I don’t necessarily agree with everything the author says, and two, I try to avoid Huffington Post links. But on the other hand, it warms my heart that more mainstream parents are addressing the failings of binary gender designations with regards to our kids. (A word of warning: do not read them comments.)

That’s what I’ve got this week! If you have a link you think would be of interest (on topic or off, self serving or just something you ran across) please feel free to comment!

[Lit Crit] What Makes A Baby

This is the first of what will be a regular-ish feature of queer book reviews. This one is a book written for kids from a queer (well, sort of; you’ll understand in a bit) perspective, and there are a handful of those I’m going to review. Hopefully, I will also look at books for adults from a queer parenting perspective. It seems like a lot of parenting books, even those written for an LGBT audience, buoy a binary that just doesn’t apply to some families. I’m going to be looking at them, however, and trying to find awesome ones (and not so awesome ones) for the benefit of all of us! If you have suggestions, please leave comments, or contact us through one of the methods on our About page.

What Makes A Baby was my first Kickstarter. Though Kickstarter launched in 2009, up until recently I was definitely too poor to throw my money at amazing projects. So What Makes A Baby is kind of special in my heart, because, d’aww, your first Kickstarter. Kind of like your first social network site, but without the tragic aftertaste of Myspace. Or Livejournal.

It is ALSO special because it’s flawless.

Jetpack Helped with the Photos

Jetpack Helped with the Photos

It’s really pretty.
silverberg dance
It’s well written
silverberg firstpage
And my 3-year-old loves it.

Honestly I was planning on reserving it in a closet until he was a little older. But it came in the mail, and I opened it, and I couldn’t stop myself from reading it once. And Jetpack LOVES it. I don’t mind, because it’s actually pretty appropriate, despite him being a year younger than the target age.

What Makes A Baby hits my queer buttons, too. It completely avoids gender pronouns in a way that is fluid and composed. It avoids quantity of parents, too. The overall arc is that “a sperm and and egg meet in a uterus and make a baby, and then that baby comes out of the uterus, and then you’re here! You’re pretty special.” So it’s appropriate for single parent families, triple parent families, families of all sorts of genders, and even heterosexual, monogamous families. The thing about What Makes A Baby is that it’s flexibly oriented and full of gaps—gaps that the family and the child can fill in, in order to understand and elevate their own family unit.
silverberg hipster
The hipster on the right is Jetpack’s favorite drawing in the whole book. He loves him. This may be indicative of the adults in his life. Maybe.
silverberg last page
This is the last page, and I love it so.

I cannot more highly recommend What Makes A Baby. Here’s a link to the website, where you can still purchase it (I think). It’s being picked up by a larger publisher and re-issued in May, so if they at some point sell out, sit tight and you’ll be happy soon enough! And (I’m personally more excited about this) the absolutely fabulous author Cory Silverberg and illustrator Fiona Smyth plan on writing a second book geared towards older kids (7-11), with a lot more specifics. Personally, I’m going to be first in line to buy one. Fingers crossed that it’s out in less than three years, because my kid is growing fast!