Kenya is reputed to be a city of polite folk. We have euphemisms for everything, including sex and the necessary organs to perform it.
But can we really afford to keep being polite when statistics show that children as young as 9 years are already having sex?
Before you protest, think of the neurologist Sigmund Freud who said that human beings are driven by primary instincts, mostly sexual and aggressive. He asserts that from the day we are born, we all possess an instinctual libido, a sexual appetite.
Children, including me as a child, often refer to sex as “tabia mbaya” (bad manners). Really? I think this attitude is the root of most problems.
Reading Maryanne Waweru’s article in the Daily Nation a few months ago titled “The shame of being 16 and pregnant”, I could not help but wonder about the role of “polite” sex talk in her ordeal as a young teenage mother.
It starts when the children are too little to understand anything. We have little nicknames for sexual organs like penis and vaginas. We call them weewees, dudus, veevees and whatever other names that one may choose to fancifully call them.
Sex is often a taboo topic and speaking from a personal experience, my father would often switch channels whenever a raunchy Mexican soap opera scene came on.
“These things are not for children,” he would grumble as he fidgeted with the remote control to look for more “age appropriate” content.
We would all fumble in our seats, and learnt from quite an early age to associate sex withshame, shame shame.
I remember when I was about ten years old , having been “sufficiently” guided and counselled at school about this monster called sex, watching pregnant women on the streets and wondering to myself;
“Are they not ashamed to be walking around announcing that they have had sex?”
My young mind thought it was shameful, nay, scandalous, for pregnant women to walk so freely.
The guidance and counselling lessons, while they were meant to help, only succeeded in letting us know that sex was bad, bad, bad.
Relationships between boys and girls were basically banned in my time in primary school, and any couple that dared to be together were flogged publicly when caught.
By the time we were starting our journey into adulthood, we were convinced that sex was one of the greatest sins, somewhere up there with robbery with violence , murder and blasphemy.
As a “digital” parent, I cannot help but wonder how differently I can build up my child’s reality about sex without distorting the facts. About how I can tell her that sex is a beautiful act when the person and time is right without condemning the whole act as evil.
I fear that the need to protect by daughter for as long as I can against the “evil” of sex may cloud my good judgment and make her regard sex with too much undeserved suspicion.
What if we just called a spade a spade and stopped hiding behind silly birds and bees’ stories?
What if we warned our children who are of age about the dangers of unprotected sex but also about the beauty and pleasure of it?
Perhaps if we rebranded our discussions and stopped all the polite sex talk, it would pave the way for a trusting relationship with our children where they would open up about their fears and experiences and always have us, the parents, be the people they come to first.
Utopia? Maybe. But if there is anything I have learnt as a product of parents who gave me polite sex talk, it is that it just does not cut it.
Cut through the euphemisms, call things as they are- that is my new mantra regarding all sex talk with my daughter.