With 50 Shades of Grey having made it’s way into mainstream culture, adults who have vanilla sex* lives are getting a smidge of inside knowledge on power play during sexual activity.
In fact, kinky sex has made its way into mainstream culture in places other than poorly written erotica-gone-NYT-bestsellers-list. Music videos like Rihanna’s S&M, Christina Aguilera’s Not Myself Tonight, for instance. Our kids are seeing it, hearing and some of them are even reading the book.
My kids are young so Rihanna videos and EL James’ fiction are not yet on the agenda. But there will come a time when talking to my munchkins about bondage and domination becomes relevant. I anticipate that the majority of learning on the topic will not be from me but they’ll likely see videos and ads, or hear things from peers that could use some context and I prefer to be the person who provides that context. The overarching messages will be about consent, trust and communication.
Those values are not confined to safe and enjoyable kink. When those values are front and centre in a number of contexts and conversations with our kids, we help them see the breadth of their application, the primary importance of these values in positive and healthy human relationships, and, I think, will make that kink convo a bunch easier.
As an example, on route to dentist appointments last week, I had a conversation with my kids about safe words.
Safe words are used in the BDSM* community to ensure that during a sexual scene people involved can communicate their interest to stop the scene or slow it down. I’m not going to spend time on the ins and outs of safe and consensual kinky sex except to say that the cornerstones are, you guessed it, communication and trust. ’Ow’ or ’stop’ may be words people use during sexual activity that are not meant to end the activity. In fact, those words may be sought out during a sexual encounter. So safe words are vitally important.
I didn’t talk to my kids about kinky sex but that will come sometime in the future. See, my kids love and enjoy each other and wrestle and horseplay a lot. While overwhelmingly it’s a mutually enjoyed activity, not infrequently it ends with one injured or aggrieved party.
I introduced the idea of using a safe word to them a couple years ago. If either of them hear the word while wrestling, the wrestling stops and a check in happens. It often gets forgotten or the tears or wails come before someone utters ‘origami’ (the current safe word’).
Last week in the car a vigorous round of rough housing (yes, while strapped down by seatbelts and in booster seats) ended because the safe word was spoken. My older son then said it was an inappropriate use of the safe word because his brother wasn’t hurt. We talked about setting rules for when the word is to be used. I made recommendations and they made the decisions and I reinforced the need to always respect its use. No crying wolf now. We also talked about what ought to happen after the safe word is used. Which is to find out what went down. It shouldn’t just end the activity but ought to make way for a straight up conversation to find out why the activity needed to be stopped, and whether there were any misunderstood needs or perspectives.
For my kids, and everyone, the value is all about developing communication skills. Whether during a physical romp of sex or wrestling with a sibling, communication is key. And that is not part of the message that Rihanna is communicating when she sings “Now the pain is my pleasure. Cause nothing could measure. Sticks and stones may break my bones but chains and whips excite me.”