My daughter recently turned 9 and is grasping the cusp of puberty. I know without a doubt, she is a confident, responsible, independent, and considerate young person. However, every day I question whether I am raising a sexually empowered daughter. Now, this question might have been easier to answer except I live in a society marred by patriarchy. Not to mention the fact that she spends her school breaks with a misogynist, womanizing fool and entire culture of people who subscribe to “a woman’s place” bullshit. But so did I, and look how awesome I turned out. One fierce feminist!
Sexual liberation begins with sexual empowerment. Sexual empowerment, as with any other type of empowerment, begins with you.
What does it mean to be sexually empowered?
For me, to be sexually empowered means owning all aspects of your sexuality, acknowledging the oneness of your mind, body, and spirit in every sexual encounter, and ALWAYS putting your desires and well-being first. Sexual empowerment means never avoiding the conversation. It means openly exploring desires without judgment. It means putting your health and your personal values first. It means embracing all the things that shape your sexuality.
Once when my daughter was an infant, her paternal grandmother was changing her diaper. As soon as the diaper was off, in normal baby fashion, my daughter reached for her vulva. Her grandmother immediately pushed her hand away and told her not to touch because it was stinky. The statement made me recoil with disapproval as I scolded my mother in law never to teach my daughter that her vagina smells bad. My mother in law looked with a blank stare as if to say, “That was not my intention,” and perhaps it wasn’t. Perhaps she only meant to say the urine soaked diaper made it smell, however, I wanted to make her aware of the message she was sending. A message that could serve as a foundation of insecurity and shame, that could affect her sexual confidence as a woman.
The Talk. . .the dreaded talk for many parents, the “avoided until the last minute” talk, the “I’ll wait until they bring it up” talk, the “we will just assume they already know once they get to that age” talk, the “OMGosh she’s pregnant; it’s too late, now” talk. And if you think this is not the truth, I’ll tell you this, my mother or father have never talked to me about sex. NEVER! Looking back at how much my life has been affected by sexuality and sex education, I’m completely shocked. Like, how can you not have this conversation with your child!? This conversation is as important as the “look both ways before crossing the street” conversation.
Should I talk to my 9-year-old about sex? Is it too early? Is she ready? If not now, when should I tell her? If anything, what should I tell her right now? Certainly, she doesn’t need to know everything right now, right? These are just a few of my more pressing questions. Many of my friends of 9 to 11-year-olds express fear and concern about talking to their sons and daughters about sex. I’m not afraid to talk with my daughter, I just don’t want to inundate her with sex information prematurely but I also don’t want to neglect the subject.
Following HER lead
My daughter has always been an inquisitive child. You can often discover her interest and concerns by the questions she asks. My daughter is an early bloomer. She began showing the first signs of puberty at the age of seven which caused her to have a lot of questions.
There were a lot of “oh my goodness” reactions from friends and family concerning my daughter’s prematurely blossoming body and even a mention of birth control. It has also caused a stir at sleepovers as the girls change into their jammies. However, it has made her completely comfortable with openly asking questions about her developing body. This makes the talk much easier to navigate.
Despite all other influences, sexual empowerment begins with YOU. In this case, my daughter. I teach my daughter that differences, ALL DIFFERENCES, are what makes us magical and unique. I teach her to be honest, responsible, and accountable. I focus on empowering her in all aspects of her life, not just sexuality. Everything about her is beautiful and natural and I instill that in her every single day. I let her know how important it is to instill this message in others as well, even though I don’t always practice it myself. Just the other day, I saw a woman and I said, I love her legs (she had amazing legs) and my daughter whispered to me, “Well, just tell her.” These are the things that let me know that I am teaching her well.
Teaching with Love & Guidance
I do my best to teach with intention and in my moments of imperfection, I forgive myself quickly, move forward and do better. Her dad got upset with me because I taught her to twerk. I know I might get a lot of frowny faces and I won’t defend my stance. Yes, I taught my then 8-year-old to twerk. She asked because she saw me doing it in my mirror and so I taught her. I’m also teaching her Spanish. I also downloaded an app that teaches her to draw, which she’s very good at by the way. I’ve taught her to braid hair, do simple computer setups (because I didn’t want to have to keep doing them for my 4-year-old), and a number of other things that she’s asked me to teach her. The point is, I empower my daughter to seek enlightenment and to educate herself without limits. It does not matter who disapproves as long as it is something she desires.
My entire focus must be centered on my child, her interests, and her desires. I invest heavily in gentle guidance, concentrating more on influencing her perspective rather than her behavior.
Welcome to Womanhood
At this point, my daughter expresses no interest in boys or anything related to intercourse. She is, however, going through pubescent physical development. What she is currently experiencing has nothing to do with sex and everything to do with becoming a woman. Too often, we directly associate womanhood with sex, which in term sends a dangerous message to our girls.
And so, I center our conversation around explaining to my daughter the changes that occur while becoming a woman. I explain to her that her journey into womanhood is the most honorable, most powerful, evolutionary change that will ever happen in her life. Women have a divine purpose. Life begins with a woman, as a woman, and physically within a woman. As a woman, you are born with everything it takes to bring life into this world both physically and most of all spiritually in more ways than pregnancy and birth. Womanhood is a continuous journey.
I make her aware that there will be naysayers. There will be individuals who will doubt you and second guess you long after you have succeeded ten times over because of the negative social constructs designed to control women. I teach her that they won’t just be men.
In time, we will add more to the conversation. We will address those things as she becomes aware of their relevance to her life. In the meantime, her journey into womanhood and what this means for her is the perfect segue to her personal journey of sexual empowerment.