This post will try to summarize the effects of sexual education on gay sexuality.
First of all it is necessary to define the concept of sexual education. We start from a premise: the development of studies indicates that sexuality has a genetic-epigenetic base which is substantially defined already in the uterus and at most in the perinatal period. This genetic-epigenetic imprint determines not only the sex, that is, gender belonging in anatomical and physiological terms, but also the gender identity, that is, the perception of gender and sexual orientation.
The awareness of sexuality, its models, the more or less repressed manifestations of sexuality over the years, and the consequences on an individual psychological level, are instead largely determined by that familiar and social interaction, which we can call “sexual education” and which is not limited to just a single part of life, but follows the evolution of the individual according to the progressing of age.
The fact that sexuality, understood in its most profound aspects, is closely connected with the affectivity induces to consider sex education as an integral part of affective education.
A concept, in the educational field, should never be forgotten: education acts on the basis of an individual biological genetic-epigenetic substratum but is also linked to the stages of development, to possible pathologies and many other factors. Education means to develop the potential of an individual “respecting first of all the biological identity”. A good gardener knows that by placing an apple tree in the ideal conditions for the cultivation of an apricot tree, not only we will not be able to obtain apricots from the apple tree, but it will suffer a lot and may even die. Cultivating a tree means understanding first of all what tree it is and then providing it with the appropriate care for that specific tree. This is also true for people.
Let’s start from the family dimension, i.e. from emotional-sexual education inside the family.
The family is the first environment in which a child begins to build relationships. In order to begin to feel an affective gratification, the child must perceive the sense of acceptance and affectionate care from the parents. If the child is the subject of confrontation (unwanted children, doubtful parenthood, a child that has become an object of contention between parents and grandparents or between the parents themselves), he easily becomes aware that he’s not the center of family life and begins to experience the sensation of marginality and abandonment yet in tender age.
Perceiving the disagreement between the parents is inherently traumatic and transmits automatically, by imitation, a model of behavior that is not emotional but competitive, stimulates aggressiveness in one direction and sense of frustration in the other. The child also instinctively senses the discrepancy between words and behavior. Cuddling a child for a while and then leaving him alone in the walker or in front of the television not only causes a sense of abandonment but also provides an initial model of falsehood: “I love you so much, but you must keep calm and stay aside because I have other things to do!” The speech is basically inconsistent and false because it brings together declarations of affection and behaviors that show disinterest.
Often the frustrations of parents, their claiming attitudes, their blaming of this or that, their justifying only themselves, transmit to the child the feeling of unreliability of the parent who begins to be a faltering reference point. Nothing is worse than raising your voice to impose your point of view, and I don’t even want to talk about the possible physical violence in the family, which is experienced by the child in a devastating way: a father who tugs at his mother, who slaps her, a mother who plays hysterical scenes and screams at her husband, represent models that the child will certainly internalize, or by imitation or contrast, identifying, according to the situations, as an aggressive person or as a victim, and this will move the child away from the emotional contact, which is the true purpose of emotional education.
There are several other behaviors, apparently neutral, which transmit a sense of insecurity to the child:
1) A parent who speaks in the singular setting himself against the other (“I … while your mother …”) . The use of “we/us” conveys the idea of affective family, harmony and solidarity.
2) To talk too often about money or about who brings home money, or about social hierarchies that don’t see parents at the same level.
3) To speak badly about other people the child knows.
4) To show that it is difficult or impossible to speak with the other parent, that he/she has defects, that doesn’t care for the family and, worse of the worst, doesn’t care for children.
The presence of parents in the life of young children, up to preadolescence, should be constant, affectionate, dialoguing and never abstractly normative.
A particular consideration must be given to managing family conflicts that may arise, and indeed inevitably arise in the family over the years. It can be the conflicts of the parents with other relatives, of between parents themselves and also of the conflicts between parents and children. The management of conflicts must always be discursive and shared, no form of violence, even verbal, can be admitted for no reason. Recognizing the other’s reasons and seeking conciliation doesn’t indicate weakness but the exact opposite. The child must realize that the parent can see things in another way and you can talk to find a point of equilibrium without coming to breakage.
Affective education suffers a violent trauma when the parent-child relationship is dominated by the fear of the parent’s violent reactions. Even worse is the idea that a parent invokes the presence of the other parent to induce fear in the children, such in the classic: “I’ll tell your father!”
As one grows, one element takes on particular importance: confidence, which must be accompanied by confidentiality on the part of the parent. If a parent receives a confidence by the child, he must keep it for himself, if he doesn’t, he would induce the child to immediately interrupt the relationship of confidence with the parent that will anymore be resumed. Any attitude that shows the tendency of the parent to abandon himself to gossip, devalues him in the eyes of his son and reduces the possibilities for dialogue.
A general criterion must always be kept in mind: education operates through the example, not through words: children tend to assimilate and imitate parents’ behavior, not to put into practice what parents say in words but don’t do themselves.
What has been said so far, as it is easy to understand, requires from parents a substantial affective maturity that too often is taken for granted, assuming that the parent is always substantially up to the task of education and that at most he needs a training aimed at the conscious rethinking of contents and methods of education. Sometimes however, and not very rarely, these assumptions don’t occur, in some cases because parents themselves have been in turn educated (assuming that this word can be used in these situations) with completely improper and substantially non-educational methods, and in other cases because one or both parents can be psychopathological subjects (for example paranoid or perverse narcissists). While in the first case it is possible with regard to the parent a concrete action (even if of long duration and with uncertain outcome) of reorientation or re-education of the adult, in the second case such action is essentially impossible and the parent-child educational relationship can turn into a framework of family violence and abuse, up to the most extreme consequences. It should be emphasized that violence and family abuse practiced by paranoid or perverse narcissists parents are often not visible on the outside and create very deep suffering in the children with unforeseeable consequences even in the long term.
Sex education of the child
Today, children are bombarded starting from an early age with images more or less erotic and very often begin to take an interest in sexuality in a very abstract way well before adolescence, so they assimilate, in a very tender age, banal visions of the sexuality as a “forbidden game”. Pedagogues have often been concerned with how to convey to children a more correct concept of sexuality: typical is the model of the flower, the pollination and the fruit, but in this way there is the risk, for gays far from being indifferent, to provide only the concept of sexuality aimed at reproduction, this will also convey the concept of sexual role, of the boy and girl as society conceives them, and of typically male and typically female behavior, taking for natural and obvious cultural attitudes often very questionable.
Accustom a little girl to the idea that femininity involves high heels and makeup means distort the concept from the beginning, like to think that the boy should be interested necessarily in football and in certain types of games is in itself misleading. It is very easy to see that in a school class of children who are not yet pre-adolescent, boys tend to play “boyish” games with each other, and girls tend to play “girlish” games with each other and this is the result of an education for sexual roles, how society understands them, starting from an early age.
The child before puberty sometimes shows an embryonal hetero affectivity, which involves interest in being with little girls, talking with them, playing with them, or an embryonal gay affectivity, which involves interest in being with other boys, talking to them and playing with them. These behaviors are the first manifestations of sexual orientation, they are not yet conscious, but they are elements on which we should reflect a lot and to which we should pay the utmost attention, but, I must say very clearly, never a repressive attention. I would like to point out that the transmission of role models deforms and often stifles these spontaneous tendencies altogether and tends to let the tendency towards homologation prevail, based on the fear of marginality within the peer group.
In the memory of many gays, the recollection of the first affectionate friendships with other boys and often the worried attitudes of the parents in front of such manifestations remains well imprinted. We are talking about friendships between children, not yet pre-adolescent who, if not totally conditioned by education, begin to show signs of homo-affinity or hetero-affectivity.
Parents, who often lack a broader horizon on sexuality, consider themselves as the only possible model for the sexuality of their children. The idea that children are not and cannot be a photocopy of parents is still struggling to get accepted. It is precisely for this reason that some children’s behaviors alarm parents and trigger a short communication circuit that ends up disrupting trust and establishing suspicious attitudes.
The child who plays with dolls or puts on his mother’s high heels or wig or dresses up as a woman generally raises questions in the parents, and this happens even more strongly if two children develop a very close friendship. Apart from the fact that these are completely different phenomena, because the first refers to gender identity and the second to sexual orientation, it is very probable that the child experiences in these situations the concern of the parent that manifests itself through limitations, prohibitions or simple removals.
The basic criterion of a good sex education is to promote the spontaneous development of affectivity and sexuality, avoiding a repressive sanctioning behaviors. The parent facing behaviors that are not what he would have expected believes that it is his duty to “correct”, to “guide” the child’s behavior, to “defend” him from dangerous influences, this attitude, which is perfectly understandable, is acceptable , positive and necessary, if “to correct ” means to demonstrate by example how one can have affection and respect for friends, without demanding too much and without running away from one’s duties towards those friends, if “to drive ” means to explain, to make the child understand the meaning of affective relationships even in adult life, for example by receiving friends cordially and affectionately, if “defending” from dangerous influences means to accustom children not to trivialize, not to exploit friendship, to take it seriously and to respond adequately when the need arises, but “to correct” means for many parents only to repress, “to drive” means to remove freedom and “to defend” means to segregate.
I would like to stress that the signs of homo-affectivity are generally very precocious and repressing them means inducing the guilt and submission of the child who begins to consider himself wrong. The repression of infantile homo-affectivity sometimes manifests itself explicitly, and sometimes through a systematic attempt to remove the child from contexts in which that homo-affectivity tends to manifest: if the child has developed a strong friendship towards another child or even towards a boy a little older during the summer holidays at the sea, the next year instead of going to the sea the family will go to the mountains.
A very delicate subject in this area is the prevention of sexual violence and abuse. Clearly, the child’s segregation reaches the goal but at the cost of a total repression of the individual freedom. The real problem lies in avoiding the risks (which are not only fancy) leaving the child a freedom commensurate with his age. Leaving a child (under 12-13 years ) alone for the whole day together with his playmates exposes him to objective dangers, which he may not realize. But if sexual abuses perpetrated by external pedophile subjects are generally the most feared, experience teaches that abuses are practiced only exceptionally by strangers and for the most part they rise from a family environment. Parking children by relatives or friends from morning to night means abandoning them to situations that can be objectively risky.
Before 12-13 years it is good that the child finds its spaces for the most part with the presence of the parents: the parents speak in the living room, the children play in the next room. Parents in this way give their children an example of socializing and leave them freedom spaces according to their age.
Beyond the age of 12-13, the risk of abuse doesn’t cease because abuse can also be committed toward adolescents or preadolescents both by family members and by educators, priests or teachers, especially in contexts where the minor cohabits with other peers for education or care purposes. Particular attention should be dedicated to the education of responsible use of the web for the risks of priming to which minors are exposed on the net. It is important to be vigilant in order to catch any signs of disturbance, alarm or exaltation in children, talk to them about it, if it is possible, and contact the postal department or the local Police Office to receive assistance when faced with dangerous situations. Obviously, the best prevention of priming risks on the net is realized right through risk awareness, the habit of always thinking before acting, and the habit of protecting one’s own privacy and that of others, and on these aspects education has a decisive influence.
When a child manifests the first forms of curiosity in relation to sexuality, it should be taken seriously, avoiding trivializing and manifesting evasive attitudes. It is essential that sexuality is never detached from its affective implications and is not reduced exclusively to procreative purposes. The child must become familiar with the idea of a sexuality that is not a forbidden game but a manifestation of affection for another person. Many parents never show explicit emotional behaviors in front of their children, for example, the father and mother don’t hug each other in front of children and avoid any physical act with each other, even the simple caresses, others instead let themselves go to forms of more or less sexual play in front of their children who in this way feel themselves excluded from the relationship with their parents. Of course
It’s necessary to find a balance between these opposing attitudes: the spontaneous caresses and affections between parents, the cuddles, which end up with the involvement of the children in the affection of the parents themselves are extremely positive in stabilizing the mood and in developing a harmonious character in the children. The double bed must become a non-exclusive environment, reserved for the parents only, but must be an environment in which children can also be admitted. The physical contact with parents, commensurate with the age of children, must lead to the idea of the affectionate embrace between adults, which expresses participation and sympathy.
Let’s come now to one of the key points of the speech: how to deal with the issue of homosexuality. The parent who is explicitly dealing such an argument with the child for the first time, must never forget that if one takes for granted that one’s son is hetero, in 8 cases out of 100 he is mistaken. Sending positive messages about homosexuality certainly doesn’t induce heterosexuals to become homosexuals, but can help homosexuals to grow accepting without complexes their homosexuality. Many parents believe that the specifically sexual education of children is not up to parents and should be delegated to school, church, doctors and other educational agencies, as if sexuality were an object of study or a question of faith or health protection. Obviously all these aspects are not foreign to sexuality, which, however, is a very complex reality that cannot be considered only under sectoral perspectives.
Sexuality is a component of the ordinary life of all of us and one of the essential contents of a serious educational relationship. I have been dealing with homosexuals for many years and I have often seen gay adult men, still deeply conditioned by the conflicting relationships with parents due to homosexuality. The vast majority of homosexuals not publicly declared, speak about their own homosexuality just with a few trustworthy friends, while those who talk about it openly in the family are very rare, perhaps today less than ten years ago, but it is still a narrow minority. For a gay boy, talking to his parents and finding their respect and their affection even in an atmosphere of clarity is absolutely essential and stabilizing. On the other hand, misunderstanding and rejection leave deep traces and greatly complicate the achievement of true autonomy on the part of the children.
I add a fundamental thing: a gay boy who feels accepted within the family will not need to go and look for other environments in which to find understanding and tends to develop his affective life without hiding and for this reason objectively also running much less risks. When a gay guy presents his boyfriend to his parents (what was once unthinkable and now becomes more and more possible) he realizes at 100% the dimension of the normality of his affectivity-sexuality. Surprised, reticent, perplexed or hostile attitudes of parents severely undermine their children’s self-esteem and create often irreparable fractures.
I would like to touch on a very delicate last subject. Sometimes the boys who grow up, whether they are heterosexual or gay, find themselves instinctively experiencing drives that alarm them, classics are examples of sexual fantasies about much older people, pedophile fantasies, sadistic or masochistic fantasies and erotic drives addressed within their own family. It is objectively very difficult that topics of this kind enter explicitly in speeches between parents and children regarding sexuality, because if the fear of negative reactions to homosexuality is already strong, the fear of negative reactions to those contents can be much more alarming. The issue of pedophilia can be responsibly tackled by highlighting the very serious objective damage that those behaviors can cause but stressing nevertheless the fact that those tendencies can exist even in very good people who would never put them into practice. If there is an attitude that a parent must show in front of such things, it can only be to clearly distinguish the fantasies that one cannot control, from the actions that can and must be taken under control. A similar argument can be used also regarding sadistic and incestuous fantasies.
With regard to intergenerational relationships it is necessary to avoid confusing them with larval forms of pedophilia, because intergenerational relationships are relationships between consenting adults even if of very different ages.
A correct attitude in the face of all these things helps people feel understood and accepted and enhances their morality and their capacity for discernment and this is the basic premise to accept themselves and to be able to self-control. It should be emphasized, however, that pedophile fantasies, of which people almost never speak in a scientifically correct way, are a reality very complex and difficult to manage. In many cases these fantasies are found in adults who have in turn been victims of violence or sexual abuse. It should be clarified that, although fantasies and actions are distinct things, it happens that fantasies are or may be prodromal to actual or possible behaviors, which, even if only considered merely as hypotheses, can cause levels of profound suffering.
Slipping from fantasies to pedophile behaviors can sometimes become easy and almost obvious. The sex tourism, for example, can lead the adult to look for more and more young partners of one or the other sex, producing a slow but effective slip towards pedophilia. The use of Internet child pornography should be considered as a sign strongly indicative of a dangerous corroboration of fantasies, prodromal to possible pedophile behaviors. According to what I learn from people who experience pedophile fantasies I’m led to believe that slipping into occasional pedophile behaviors, which can be the origin of recurring pedophile phantasies, also of obsessive types, is certainly possible even for people who have never had previously this kind of fantasies.
A person who experienced this kind of fantasies told me: “I had never had such fantasies before, then it happened to me an experience in which it would have been easy to come to the action, but it didn’t happen, but taking a step without return would have been very easy. And since then, such fantasies remained strongly stamped in my mind. I don’t like them, that somehow compromised my sexuality for years because I think that I wouldn’t even talk about such things with my partner, because he would react badly.”
I will not analyze here the possible compulsive aspects of pedophilia but because many men who have pedophilic fantasies are aware of it and are afraid of being able to practice pedophile behavior, in some countries (in Germany, in England and in the US) there are support services who deal with prevention by providing specialized psychological support to those who request it because they experience pedophile tendencies.
At the general educational level there is still an ancestral fear towards psychologists and psychiatrists that should be eliminated, leading people to understand that they are health workers who can provide psychological and even pharmacological support if necessary. Prevention education, which deserves a detailed examination, is not only carried out in providing information on sexually transmitted diseases, but also in the prevention of other risky behaviors for oneself and for others such as pedophile ones.
Certainly less sensitive are the themes related to the couple’s relationship structure: monogamy, indissolubility, socialization and formalization of the couple’s relationship, relationship between friendship and love. Insisting on the legitimacy of a single behavioral model collides with the reality of affective life which is often not monogamous, not unbreakable neither reducible to structure. The meaning of the couple relationship is usually assimilated by imitation already in childhood and, according to the general rule, is transmitted through the behavior of adults and not through their speeches. The relational aspect of sexuality should never be overlooked, according to this relational aspect the fundamental satisfaction in a sexual relationship derives from the realization that our partner is really involved and is in turn gratified by the relationship. Needless to say, these must be relationships that are actually wanted consciously and freely by both partners.
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