I’ve been invited to speak at an event for moms of young children this month, and the topic will be sex, which makes me ECSTATIC. The topic makes me ecstatic. And sex done well makes me ecstatic. I meant the former, then I realized it sounded like I meant the latter, then I realized both apply, so ¯\_(ツ)_/¯. Whatever. We’re just going to leave it as is and go with it.
Now, USUALLY when I speak, it’s about topics like adoption and faith and waving in the dark and finding magic in the mess when life goes, well, a little off plan. Last time I spoke with this group, it was on the reality of marriage — beautiful and brutal and, if we’re lucky, beautiful again. I’m an expert on zero things, and so I don’t approach speaking gigs from a “how to” or “what you should do” perspective. Instead, I simply share what I’ve learned and what I’ve experienced — even the parts that aren’t all that pretty — and invite the audience to pick and choose from my life lessons to see if they might use any bits for themselves. I’m less like high end, boutique, carefully curated shopping and more like bargain basement, hand-me-down shopping. You’re welcome at my event in your yoga pants and messy bun, and we’re going to rummage through the bins together, laugh at some of the offerings, recognize there are a few things that could use a good washing, pick up some useful items we were missing, and maybe even find a treasure we want to take home and keep forever.
It’s less like attending a lecture or a class and more like hanging out, chatting with friends about the stuff that may be harder to admit out loud.
And, over the years, I have DEFINITELY hung out and chatted with friends about sex because, to be honest, there are things you can learn from friends you’ll never learn from books or magazines, and there are ways friends help normalize sex that no trashy novel is going to replicate. Not that one can’t get fantastic ideas from bodice rippers. 😉 As the direct beneficiary, Greg always loves it when my reading material goes downhill from literature to smut.
So I’m deep in preparation mode at the moment, working through what I want to share with this group. And, really, I’m working through what I wish I’d heard earlier in my relationship and building a family. I know some of the stories I’m going to tell. I know which ideas I’ve clung to for my almost-25-year marriage, and which I’ve patently discarded.
But I’m also one person with one person’s experience, and I feel like, especially with this topic, it’s important to share what others have learned, too. Or what others wish they’d known.
If I’m going to tell the whole truth as I best understand it (which I am because it’s my best flaw), I’m feeling both excited and cautious about the topic. I’m excited because an opportunity to unpack something so integral to most relationships but so hush-hush in many circles is a privilege and a sacred trust. And I’m cautious because I want to be as vulnerable, authentic, and open as possible while also honoring the women in the room who don’t share my experience. Not everyone there will be heterosexual, or married, or monogamous, or cisgendered, or sexual at all (hello, ace friends), and, while I feel no need to apologize for my background, I also want anything I share to be as sensitive and inclusive and non-assumptive as possible. And the very best way to do that, I believe, is to include others’ experiences, as well.
So I’m asking you, friends.
If you had the opportunity, what would you share with a group of moms with youngsters?
What do you know now that you didn’t know before and wish you had?
What did you always know that still feels essential and true?
Or, for bonus points, share a story with us. When did you have an “ah ha!” understanding about sex? What conversation or book or article stands out in your mind as instructive? Who’s the person you can ask All the Things? What has that human shared with you that would be fantastic for the rest of us to know? Or share something else entirely. It’s up to you.
I’ll go first so you can see the kind of stuff I’m talking about, but I’ll be very brief because no one has time to read through an entire speaking engagement transcript. Here are a few of the tiny things I’ll be sharing:
1. I’m really grateful to my mom for the way she framed sex. She came from a family that didn’t talk about sex but she chose to change that for her children. She was always open with us and couched sex as something wonderful and not gross or sinful. She used correct terminology for body parts and I never felt I should be ashamed of having a vagina any more than I was ashamed of having lungs. They’re just body parts with different functions, and it’s OK to use them for their intended purposes.
2. I have a lot of Big Feelings about growing up in the Church and the messaging about sex from modern, American Evangelical culture vs. what’s actually in the Bible. To be clear, those two aren’t necessarily mutually exclusive. There’s overlap, obviously. And the Bible is also not an Instruction Book or Blueprint for Life-ing Correctly; it’s much bigger and broader and more nuanced than that. But both the evangelical subculture and that culture’s interpretation of the Bible had an enormous influence on what those of us who grew up in the Church were taught about sex and our bodies, so they have a long reach as we consider sexual health.
3. I carried a LOT of assumptions about sex into the early years of my marriage. That’s both OK and normal. It’s also OK and normal to reevaluate what we think about all aspects of seasons of our lives after we actually begin living them. That applies to marriage, sex, parenting, money, and more. Infinite things, really. We simply CAN’T KNOW EVERYTHING going into a new era so the wisest course of action is to take what we knew (or thought we knew) and assess it based on what we’ve learned since. Case in point, I believed (truly and completely) that I should receive 100% of my sexual pleasure from my husband after marriage and 0% from myself. I already felt somewhat embarrassed and ashamed of masturbation prior to marriage — like, I thought it might be OK since the Bible didn’t mention it, but oh my gosh, what if self pleasuring led to obsessive and objectifying thoughts?? — that would be TERRIBLE. I was conflicted to say the least, but I was pretty positive any Sex for One activity was downright reprehensible post-vows. Now I think it’s rather silly to expect anyone to have a fantastic sex life without figuring out how their own body works. We were 4 years into marriage before I sheepishly asked Greg if he ever did it and confessed I might have once or twice and hoped he wasn’t mad. Can I just say?… we’ve come a LONG way since then about openness and bodies and sharing valuable, helpful information, and now I think we were ADORABLE. Repressed, but adorable. What we thought we could and couldn’t do early on was less than helpful. Bless our earnest and well-intentioned hearts.
There are approximately 100 other stories and personal life-lessons I’ll be sharing (presuming they don’t read this, gasp in horror, and cancel the engagement 😂), but I’ll sign off for now.
Tell me, folks. What are your thoughts? What are your life lessons? What do you wish women with littles could know that they might not know yet?
With love (and waving),