By Keyra Navas
Embracing one’s sexuality is usually considered a loss of innocence. The sexual realm is still one that is “deserving” of shame and criticism. This is not surprising, considering that sexual activity is represented in mass media in erotic and lustful ways. As a result, it is challenging to unsee sexual expression as a vulgar propensity, let alone affiliate it with childhood. Because sexual instinct is ultimately a matter that is shoved under the rug, children and sexuality are rarely thought of as having any sort of association. Nonetheless, kids are sexual beings.
The furthest I can trace back my sexuality is to my childhood. My favorite thing in the world was to play with my dolls. Rather than interacting with other children my age, I preferred to be left in privacy with my Bratz dolls. In retrospect, I realize my ten-inch figures gave me the opportunity to be whomever and do whatever I wanted. Thus, I went wild with my dolls. I cut their hair as short as possible. I covered their bodies with as many tattoos as I could. I made them change outfits every five minutes. Yet, the one thing that made me feel guilty was when I made them have sex.
Jade’s naked body laid below Dylan’s. Both had their jointless, plastic legs restrictively spread, one in front of the other. They started by making out for a bit and then progressed to telling each other how much they loved one another. Finally, the two consummated their love as I made their not-so-detailed genitals rub furiously against each other. Although the doll couple appeared to be having a grand time, I felt a bit saucy for making the dolls do it. It was undeniable that while I made the dolls rub against each other, I felt a tingly sensation in my lower region. It was a pleasurable feeling and, to my advantage, concealable. If my parents were to walk in on the act, they would not be able to notice that I was aroused. And this was good, because I was ashamed.
Why did I feel guilty for feeling this way? It was something that brought me pleasure and, at times, seemed uncontrollable. I neither involved anyone else nor hurt myself in the process. Yet, I felt uncomfortable approaching my parents about the tingly sensation, because I sensed that what I was doing was considered inappropriate.
My parents had never spoken to me about sexual exploration, which is why I felt as if I should not be involved in this sexual behavior. According to The National Child Traumatic Stress Network, “Although talking with children about bodily changes and sexual matters may feel awkward, providing children with accurate, age-appropriate information is one of the most important things parents can do to make sure children grow up safe, healthy, and secure in their bodies.” That is, it is important to create a dialogue with children about their sexuality in order to encourage body comfortability. Body comfortability is the ability to feel comfortable with the appearance and functions of one’s body. In hindsight, I was not comfortable with my behavior. I felt ashamed for wanting to arouse myself with doll coitus. This might not have been the healthiest approach for a seven-year-old, but it was the only way I knew how to express my sexuality, for my parents did not establish a relationship in which I felt comfortable discussing bodily changes.
Since sexual tendencies start at a very young age, sexual activity should not be considered to only exist in the adult, hot-minded world. It should not be expected to revolve around sin, sensuality, and sexiness. Maintaining this mindset makes it impossible to associate children with sexual behavior. Sexuality can be less about lust and more about something else—perhaps curiosity. For this reason, sexual embrace is not a loss of innocence. The reason why it is regarded in such a way is because it is not normalized. Sex talk among peers is still spoken in whispers. The media still presents sexual acts as The Forbidden with the use of dim lights and closed doors. Clearly, there is a call to modesty, but to what degree must sexuality be kept a secret?
The solution would be to take the taboo out of childhood sexuality. Childhood sexuality is barely discussed because sexuality on its own is perceived with narrow expectations. The media holds a decent amount of responsibility for portraying sexuality as merely sexy, mature, and romantic. Although the media is too large of a menace to tackle, the way in which sexuality is regarded in one’s household can be altered for the better. Parents have a lot of responsibility for how children perceive their sexuality. Thus, they should be willing to acknowledge the existence of sexuality in their child’s life. And parents should become comfortable with providing a safe space for dialogue on sexual inclinations and tendencies. Put simply, they should give their children the impression that it is okay to have sexual needs. Parents have a duty to make sure their children know that sexuality is not a matter of shame.