Sexual Self Esteem & Sex Positive Parenting 101

You’ve all heard of self esteem I’m assuming, but have you heard of sexual self esteem? It’s how you feel about yourself as a sexual being and what your level of comfort and confidence is with yourself when you are relating (to yourself or others) in a sexual way. When you have high sexual self esteem you are very comfortable with your body, naked or clothed. In fact you love your body and appreciate all the joy it can bring you. With high sexual self esteem you can be in the present moment and just enjoy pleasure as opposed to worrying about if your cellulite is unattractive, or if you are a good lover or not. It is about accepting and loving yourself and how you choose to interact sexually (with yourself of others).

Increasing your sexual self esteem is work to be done incrementally, over time and it’s probably never ending work too. But it is ultra rewarding. Not only does it increase your everyday self esteem and make you a better lover but it also makes you a better parent.

How do you do it? By learning to love yourself, learning to take joy in the uniqueness of your physicality and your sexuality. No one on this earth has the same curves and lines as you do. No one else brings what you bring to this earth. Think about the most loving person you could imagine having in your life and think of what loving things they would say to you. Then say those things to yourself. Spend time alone with your naked body, appreciating it in whatever form that takes for you. Consider reading a book or taking a course in tantra or another conscious sexuality modality. Explore and enjoy your sexuality. Figure out how to turn yourself on. Do it as often as you want to. Tap into your sexual energy and stay with that feeling, remember how good you can make yourself feel.

So much of the ‘bad’ feelings we have about our bodies are from social conditioning. I was getting changed one day and my then 7 year old ran her hands over my stretch marks.

“What are they Mummy?” she asked me.
“They’re my lines of silver. They’re called stretch marks. Aren’t they so beautiful?” I said, with self love in my voice.
“Yes.” she said. “When will I get stretch marks?” she asked longingly.

And that was the moment that I taught my daughter that stretch marks are beautiful, and something to enjoy and love. My perception of my own body shaped her view of it. Think what a different idea she would’ve had if I had of said “Oh they’re my stretch marks from putting on and losing weight. I hate them but I can’t get rid of them.” My role modelling self love, body positivity and high sexual self esteem will have a knock on affect on how my daughter views her body as a teenager and adult.

Sex positive parenting aims to give kids the understanding that sex is a normal healthy part of the adult experience and nothing to feel embarrassed about or ashamed of. The conversation with teens is a bit different as you acknowledge and guide your child through their sexual feelings and experiences but ultimately still the same ideas of teaching - that being a sexual being is something to be embraced and enjoyed. At every part of the parenting journey consent is taught hand in hand with sex positivity.

Teaching consent is the earliest form of sex positive parenting. It starts with not making your children kiss, hug or touch anyone they don’t want to and with asking their permission to touch them. One of my kids hated to be kissed and hugged as a toddler. Everyone had to ask her permission to do anything that involved her body in any way.

Over and over throughout her life the message has been reinforced by the adults in her life that her body autonomy should be respected and consent sought from others who want to touch her.

Now she is a teenager she has a good grounding in the basics of consent so the conversations are getting more subtle. We do practice runs and I get her to make a plan about how she would react if someone assaults her or attempts to. It’s important that she has a bodily response ingrained as to how she will respond if/when that happens to her — so that she doesn’t instead respond in the way that society socialises girls (to stay calm and quiet and not make a fuss).

With boys it’s the same but with extra reinforcement on the ‘seek consent’ front. It’s ULTRA important (given how much abuse and assault is perpetuated BY men) that boys understand what consent means and learn the importance of and how to seek consent. All of this can be role modelled by the adults in their lives. How the adults interact, seek consent and respond to verbal and non verbal cues offered by others — all of these things are learning opportunities for kids to soak up how to ‘do’ consent and how to notice if someone is uncomfortable. (Otherwise known as empathy!)

Being sex positive means you don’t feel any (or much, depending on where you’re at with it) shame about sex or about enjoying sex. It is viewed as a healthy and normal part of the human experience. Sex positive parents tend to be very honest and open with their kids. as they are not embarrassed to talk about how everything works. So they can answer any questions their kids have and provide them with plenty of age appropriate information. It is never to early to start calling body parts by their real names (penis and vulva are a good start) and to explain that adults have sex because they enjoy it.

The goal for me as a sex positive parent (and I think for many others) is to raise children who are confident about their bodies and their boundaries and who are armed with all the knowledge they need to take them through the teenage years and into adulthood. I want my kids to have no sexual hang ups and for them to grow up to have rich and satisfying sex lives (if they want to of course). Because humans are sexual beings (most of us anyway) and also because sex feels good (when it’s done properly!!) And, like every other aspect of parenting, if you want to do things differently to how you were raised the revolution starts with you.

I suggest some long, loving sex with yourself for a start…