How Not to Tell Children About Sex
Dan Savage writes the internationally syndicated relationship and sex advice column "Savage Love." Savage has been outspoken in his support for gay rights and his hostility for social conservatives. In 2010 he and his husband Terry launched the "It Get Better Project" in response to a rash of suicides among LGBT teenagers. The project encourages gay LGBT adults to record videos for victims of bullying with the simple message that life gets better after high school. Savage is also the author of several books including "The Commitment: Love, Sex, Marriage, and My Family."
Question: How should we talk to our children about sex?
Dan Savage: We’re constantly talking to our children about sex. TV is constantly talking to children about sex. The covers of all the trashy tabloids in the supermarket are talking to your kids about sex. We need to let out kids... We need to inform them about the realities of sex because the unrealities of sex on television and film and tabloids on the Internet and pornography are coming at them all the time. And you need to explain to them how sex really works and how love really works because if you let just the mass media shape their attitudes and their ideas it can really warp them. Age-appropriate, you need to talk to your kids about sex.
I say this while having screwed up the birds and the bees talk myself. You know, when our son was curious where babies came from we explained and we had the sex talk at the appropriate time. And then one day he came down to the kitchen and jumped up on the kitchen counter, looked at me and narrowed his eyes and said you and Daddy have sex for no reason because you can’t make a baby. And I was just like "Oh, fuck." We had left out sex for pleasure when we talked to him about the birds and the bees and everybody does right and sex for pleasure is 99.99% of the sex that everybody is having on any given weekend. It’s the only kind of sex gay people can have, but it’s the only kind of sex straight people have most of their lives. Straight people have a handful of children and a lot of sex. Gay sex happens for all the same reasons that straight sex happens for except those handfuls of times when the straight people are trying to make a baby. And we left that out, that sex is about pleasure and intimacy and a personal connection and cementing a bond and love and sex exists so that you can live with somebody for decades and decades and not kill them, which is an important part of it you know.
There are certain times I'm fighting with my boyfriend. Relationships involve a lot of conflict and I'm looking at him and the front of my brain, my higher intelligence is saying now is the time to wrap your hands around his throat and kill him and my reptile brain is going no, no, no, you need that throat for later. That throat is many good things to you, so please don’t kill him.
Recorded on October 18, 2010
Interviewed by Max Miller
Despite giving people sex advice for a living, Savage screwed up the "birds and the bees" talk with his own son. Like most adults, he forgot to explain the concept of sex for pleasure.