Give Children a Specific Language to Talk About Pleasure

My 5 year old daughter loves deliberate tickling. She pulls herself together and says: “Go!”

I tickled her chin and she laughed for about eight seconds. Then she says, “Okay, STOP!” I stop immediately and she catches her breath. I wait.

After a few seconds, she smiles and says, “Okay, again! Go!”

We are playing a funny little game. But maybe this is also practice.

Last year, writer and director Sue J Johnson gave a fantastic TED talk called “What We Don’t Teach Children About Sex.” She talked about how for so many years she had become numb traveling the world. When she was a teenager, boys made fun of her changing shape, and she eventually gave up on her own body with no language or skills to separate the good from the bad. “I lost access to joy, pleasure, play and spent decades in this low-grade depression, thinking this is what it means to be an adult,” she said.

Too many women know exactly what she’s talking about. We live in a binary culture. Anything that is not clearly bad is “good.” And yet this may not be the case. Touch can evoke a wide variety of feelings, but there is no indication of how to express them.

In the United States, sex education focuses on the mechanics of intercourse. Teens roll condoms on bananas (if their school is “progressive”) and get statistics on HIV, chlamydia and pregnancy. Parents tell their children “Conversation”, but they often see it as a one-time activity, which is boring afterwards. (“Fu, done! Who wants tacos?”). But by talking about sex in a 52-minute lesson or chatting awkwardly on the couch in the living room, we’re missing out on daily opportunities to teach kids the basics of a healthy lifestyle. sexual experience: pleasure, desire, boundaries and consent. Johnson argues that in all the ways we touch our children, play with them, and engage their senses, we can teach them “what it feels like to be in their bodies and know when they are not.”

These lessons can take the simplest forms. In her TED talk, Johnson explained, “I realized that when I gently dry my daughter with a towel, like a lover does, I’m teaching her to expect that touch.” I see it. When I tickle my daughter and she is totally in charge of how far she wants to go, it confirms the fact that her body is hers and hers alone.

Johnson shares some other ideas on how to help children talk about pleasure:

  • Play games: Johnson uses simple word games to help his children find the right words to express feelings that different types of touch can trigger. In her speech, she explained: “I scratch my daughter’s hand with my nails and say, ‘Give me one word to describe this.” “Violent,” she says. I hug her, hold her tight. Protected, she tells me.
  • Confidence exercises: Have the children sit back to back and try to stand together. “It becomes a metaphor,” Johnson explains. “Do you trust this person enough to give up completely? How much can you maintain balance in the space in which you live? How vulnerable can you be? This is the way the body intuitively understands support, permission limits and vulnerability. “
  • Increase body contact. “My kids are 12 and 13 years old, and sometimes I wonder how often they are touched during the day,” says Johnson. “Teachers sign contracts that say, ‘I will not touch the child.’ But we are animals. We want to touch. We want to soak it up. So when I sit next to them, I deliberately run my fingers through their hair and respond to what they want. “

In this #metoo age, Johnson says, “I often wonder how we can raise children in such a way that they truly have autonomy so that they can explore their own desires? This is what I am still researching. “


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