My daughter loves to run around our house naked. I celebrate her freedom and innocence in our home but when she started flashing our neighbours through the window I decided to pull out this book.
(Note: very little is TMI for me so I talk about body parts freely but with respect. Just a warning that words such as penis and vulva are mentioned in this post. I wanted to give a heads up because I used to blush and feel very uncomfortable with any mention of certain anatomy. More about that later… )
“We’re going to read a story about vulvas and bums” I said. Those are some of my two year old’s favourite words so she was very interested. When the story was over, she asked to read it again and again and again… after the fifth time I was ready to play with duplo!
Perhaps one reason why she liked the book so much is because there is no shame associated with what are called “private parts”. The authors, Justin and Lindsey, repeatedly affirm that God made every part of our body and every part is good. Why is this so important when talking about genitals? Because for many of us “private” has become synonymous with bad, dirty and shameful rather than precious and valuable.
Valuable things need boundaries. I don’t want random people walking down the street to see my daughter’s full anatomy through the window. But communicating those boundaries can be tricky.
Here is where I share the dark secret that weighed my little girl heart for many years. When I was very young my exposure to things on tv, my neighbour teaching me a song about Barbie and Ken having sex, plus a very curious mind and love for affection lead to experimentation with my friends. I knew that it was something that adults did and a little taboo which made it even more enticing.
When my mom found out she sat me down in due diligence and with best intentions, gently explained that I shouldn’t do those things but I wasn’t able to verbalize my why or what was on my heart.
My interpretation of the experience was that those body parts made me do bad things and therefore were bad and some forms of physical affection were bad but I wasn’t exactly sure which ones. Was sitting on someone’s lap still okay? Was a long hug okay?
I started avoiding taking baths as much as possible because I didn’t want to be reminded of my shameful actions whenever I saw my vulva or bum. I didn’t know what the word “virgin” really meant or what intercourse was yet but I remember telling my close friends when I was 12 that I wasn’t a virgin.
As a teenager, I became excited about puberty and marriage and having babies. My past was buried deep within.
I just needed to wait until my wedding day all would be well.
I could never have anticipated that I would be raped at the age of 19 and my dark secret brought to the surface again.
I remember when people were grieving for me I felt like a fraud. In my mind I said “I’m not the innocent virgin that you think I am.” So deep was my shame and misunderstanding that I felt like I deserved the rape as punishment for my sins as a six year old.
The healing journey from that misconception has been long. A kind, gentle and patient husband, counselling and learning that God loves my body is helping. And my mom’s words that sex can be an act of worship, giving thanks to the one who created it all , including my clitoris. (Yup, I warned you.) and giving myself freely to someone that I love. That sex and the anatomy involved should be private (ie. not broadcasted on tv. One of my most passionate soapboxes that I may write about later) but private doesn’t mean that it’s bad. It means that it is a special, exclusive gift in the flesh. A gift that literally creates life.
Fast forward to now. I am volunteer teaching Sex Ed to high school students and parenting a very curious, affectionate little girl. Honestly, there are times when I want to run away from it all. After teaching about consent, STI’s, assault etc.. I am a wreck. Seeing my daughter delight in her nakedness in a childlike way reminds me of the times that I didn’t. Having a husband who loves my body sometimes more than I do can be overwhelming.
But it’s worth it. It is worth it to see a light go on in Elaina’s eye when she hears that God made all of her good. It is worth it when she learns that she can say “no” to hugs and kisses and say “stop!” (which she practiced very loudly).
It is worth it when I hear the buzz of teenagers engaging in conversation with each other about these topics and know that I facilitated that.
It is worth it when writing this blog gives me new freedom and insight into my always evolving story (another word that we shouldn’t be afraid of).
If no one has ever told you, let me be the one to say that your body is precious, and uniquely crafted and in God’s words “very good.”