Sex-positive parenting and social justice

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Mike Reynolds is a father of two girls and an online content creator and community builder under the banners of Everday Girl Dad and the Sew Manly Podcast. Frédérique Chabot is a mother, also of two girls, and the director of health promotion at Action Canada for Sexual Health and Rights. In the context of Action Canada's Sexual and Reproductive Health Awareness Week campaign for this year, which is themed "sexual health at all ages," Scott Neigh interviews them about sex-positive parenting and its connection to gender, sexual, and social justice.

The phrase "sex positive" is often misunderstood as implying a particular kind of sexual appetite, enthusiasm, explicitness, or adventurousness. But as today's guests discuss, it actually means none of those things. Rather, it is about having a certain framework for thinking about sexuality.

In contrast to sex-negative views that understand sexuality as inherently sinful, dirty, or shameful, sex positivity sees it as normal and natural. It resists stigma or moral judgement based on whether people have a lot of sex or a little, on whether they love sex or aren't interested in it at all, on the particular practices that they enjoy, or on the gender or number of their partners. Instead, it's about valuing the consent, wellbeing, and pleasure of everyone involved. And for today's guests, it is about challenging hierarchies of genders and sexualities, and building practices and cultures grounded in gender justice, sexual justice, and social justice.

So while the idea of sex-positive parenting might to some people sound peculiar or even off-putting, it really just amounts to integrating that concern for wellbeing and justice into how we teach our kids about things to do with gender, relationships, and sexuality. It means refusing the stereotype in which parents studiously avoid the topic except for a single awkward conversation in early puberty about where babies come from. Instead, it means having ongoing, age-appropriate conversations with our kids from the start about things like consent, safety, communication skills, gender identity, healthy relationship practices, and more.

It means letting kids know that sexuality is normal and natural, and that bodies are nothing to be ashamed of. It means recognizing that there is ample empirical evidence connecting sex-positive parenting and good sex education with positive mental, physical, and sexual health outcomes for our kids. It means – again, in age-appropriate ways – being honest about risks, but also being honest about pleasure. It means modelling and teaching consent with our kids from the time they are born, and talking about the realities of sexism and gender-based violence. It means finding ways to push back against media, peer, and social messaging that is hostile to queer and trans people. It means not only answering our kids' question, but creating an environment where they feel able to ask in the first place, and also admitting when we don't know the answers and learning together with them. Along the way, it means figurng out our own biases, values, and discomforts. And it means taking action to contribute more broadly to justice and wellbeing related to gender and sexuality.

This year's SRH Week campaign, "sexual health at all ages," runs from February 11 to 15.

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Talking Radical Radio brings you grassroots voices from across Canada, giving you the chance to hear many different people that are facing many different struggles talk about what they do, why they do it, and how they do it, in the belief that such listening is a crucial step in strengthening all of our efforts to change the world. To learn more about the show check out its website here. You can also follow them on FaceBook or Twitter, or contact scottneigh@talkingradical.ca to join our weekly email update list.

Talking Radical Radio is brought to you by Scott Neigh, a writer, media producer, and activist based in Hamilton (formerly Sudbury), Ontario, and the author of two books examining Canadian history through the stories of activists.

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