“Childhood sex play is not psychologically harmful under ordinary circumstances and is probably a valuable psychosocial experience in developmental terms. However, psychological harm can come from harsh parental reaction. When children are discovered in sex play (touching genitals), from the child’s viewpoint, play is play, but for the parent, SEX in capital letters flashes across the scene. The parent who reacts with ominous threats that continuing such “bad” behavior will lead to dire consequences is frightening the child. The parent who says “that’s dirty” may be interpreted very literally by the child, sowing the seeds of an attitude that may persist into adulthood.”
-Masters and Johnson
Because I’m a sex educator, I can correlate much better to the sexual inquisitiveness of my tender child. Being a sex educator has made me non-judgmental and normal about the word “Sex”. For me, sex word is just as usual as the word grocery. In my house, I see my child being inquisitive about my breasts when I wear a body-hugging t-shirt with a deep, plunging neckline. My child could see my cleavage and tries to put his hands inside it. If I was sexually ignorant, I would have been threatened and would have shooed him off and reprimanded him. But I understand that his touching is just an anatomical exploration as he sees my body different than his. He is particularly inquisitive about my breasts because it’s the only body part that is visibly different from his because my genitals are covered.
Sexologist duo Master and Johnson explains this:
“One purpose of sexual experimentation behavior in children is seeking knowledge: “How different am I from others who are like me?” and “How different are members of the opposite sex from me?” Another purpose is testing the forbidden to see what happens: who finds out, how they react, what can I get away with, and so on. These two components are interrelated since forbidden knowledge is usually more alluring than easily available knowledge.”
In my two decades of old adulthood, I have been ogled, sexually assaulted, leered at public places and in the confines of my bedroom. The men I dated were sexually repressed and objectified me. As a rational person, I always went back tracing the raison d’etre of their sexual obsession. I firmly believe that no person is a criminal by birth and circumstances define who he, she becomes. It is clear that most men have grown up in sexually conservative and sexually uneducated families and have had minimum interaction with members of the opposite sex. This has led to a bottled up pressure and makes these men obsess about women’s bodies.
I feel as parents, we should handhold our children in their sexual inquisitiveness. Sexuality is not just about intercourse, it is a creative force that allows us to be our most authentic, loving, and connected; it’s the best thing about being human. Equipped with this understanding I try my best to answer my child’s inquisitiveness rather than shaming or shutting him up. Here’s how I do it.
My 7-year-old kid is inquisitive about my breasts and tries to touch them, squeeze them as if they are squeaky duck bath toys. Earlier as he tried to feel them, I would freak and panic, and embarrassed too. I would shoo him off but his curiosity would escalate. It happened for months as he sensed that there is something intriguing about my breasts, it is different from my other body parts.
Till one day, I decided to put an end to his curiosity and provide information to him through a routine conversation. It so happened that he again caught hold of one of my breasts and started tickling it. I remained calm; it took me a lot of restraint to not panic, given my own sexual conditioning; and let him do it. I then used that moment to ask him to name all my body parts including my breasts.
What is this? Legs
What is this? Mouth
What is this? Eyes
What is this? Breasts
Yes, it took me 3-4 days to let him feel the sensation of this body part as well as liberate my bosom from sexual shaming by normalizing its discussion and touch. At the same time, I also explained to him that this is a private part and he should take consent before touching it. This shaming and silence on our sexual organs is the root cause of sexual repression when men and women grow up to become adults. Men become obsessed about women’s bodies and women become repressed with their sexual desires. Parents! Please know that if your kid knows all his or her body parts except penis, vagina, and breasts, you are aggravating our already hyper-sexualized culture.