Mommy, what’s THIS?!?
I think we have all heard a funny story of a vibrator being discovered by a little one and parents being absolutely mortified. We have a good laugh and think in the back of our minds, “God, I hope that doesn’t happen to me!”
As you might be able to imagine, after starting Vibrant I’ve had a few internal discussions in my own mind about how to explain to my 9 year old daughter what her mom does for work everyday. After all, we review a good portion of our products before giving the seal of approval and I have acquired quite the collection!
Now before you jump to conclusions, no I don’t have hundreds of sex toys haphazardly throughout my house. I live in what I affectionately refer to as “suburbia”; I do laundry, homework and cook dinner every night just like most of you. I just happen to also be a founder of one of the most innovative social enterprises that sells sex toys.
But let’s back up; how did I get here?
The concept of sex and relationships is not new to me or my family as I worked at Planned Parenthood (aka “PP”) for 15 years. I still remember the day I had “the talk” with our now 23 year old daughter. Yes, she has been raised in the PP family and I had always been open about what I do for work, but there was still a part of me that was nervous to actually discuss sex one-on-one. I gave her a fabulous book by Robie Harris – It’s Perfectly Normal: Changing Bodies, Growing Up, Sex, and Sexual Health and spoke to a Planned Parenthood educator about how to start the conversation. We read the book together and I answered her questions. All of my anxieties melted away and I realized at that point that I was the one who had control over normalizing the conversation around sex and sexuality, and on the flip-side, I was also the one in control of making it into something awkward, embarrassing or potentially shameful.
My advice to parents struggling with “the talk” is to always start with correct terminology. You would never refer to someone’s legs as “tater tots” or some other random term so why would you call a vagina by any other name. If you still feel uncomfortable, I always recommend contacting your local Planned Parenthood for information about discussing sex and sexuality with your kids. They have plenty of age appropriate resources and this is their expertise. My last tip is to talk with your children early and often. I know this conversation is hard but so is drug abuse, death, divorce, etc. Parenting is sometimes hard!
Back to sex toys!
What you might be thinking is, “Ok, Angela, but what I really need to know is what to do when my darling daughter finds my favorite vibrator”.
I can only tell you what worked for me and I am quite certain that if we had another child it would be totally different.
Here’s how the conversation came up: I had been working on the Vibrant concept for months and the day finally came that my family was going to come to the office for a work event. At that time we had an open-concept office with the warehouse and communal spaces together. You know – conference table, and shelves with dildos, vibrators and harnesses within 5 feet of each other. My daughter is an inquisitive little one who isn’t afraid to ask questions. Not wanting to put my coworkers in an uncomfortable position, I had to think of something that seemed normal to her in her short 9 year old life.
I thought about this for what seemed like 100 years and found what I thought to be the perfect explanation. She is an avid swimmer and is hoping to be on a swim team in the future. A few months prior she insisted on getting a new pair of goggles that fit her perfectly. These magic goggles were somehow going to make her swim faster, which I am sure they do (or at least she has convinced her dad and I of this). So I thought, if her goggles make her swim faster and enjoy swimming more, couldn’t a vibrator make me orgasm faster and enjoy sex more. Why yes it can!
With this analogy ready to go in my bag of tricks, we had the talk. I explained what mom’s new business was and I could see the wheels turning in her developing brain. Of course, I used age appropriate language, correct terms and I kept the conversation casual. The day came and we all went to the office. She cruised past the harnesses and dildos at least 5 times and her only question that day was “Mom, where are the crackers?”.
I am not saying that every conversation is going to be this easy but what I am saying is that we as parents and trusted adults have the power to normalize the conversation regarding sex, sexuality and pleasure. As humans, we have sex because it feels good – sometimes with a partner and sometimes with ourselves – sometimes to have a child and sometimes not.
Education is the key and it isn’t just a one and done conversation. The brightest future we can give our young people is education based on facts. Knowledge builds confidence, confidence builds empowered people. People who are able to say what feels good and what doesn’t, what is a healthy relationship for them and what isn’t, what is a safe behavior for their body and what isn’t – these are the people who will have a more confident future.
In Summary – if your child finds your sex toy, the key to navigating this awkward situation is communication and education. Talk to them about sex and pleasure and explain that it’s normal! As with most parenting conversations, the way you set the tone of the conversation can make a big difference in something being normal vs. something being taboo. It’s all about the delivery!