Sometimes we get an irate email from a reader who has a problem with our long-running sex advice column by Robyn Salisbury.
The complaints are usually the same: “My 9-year-old was reading a story in your magazine only to turn the page and be confronted with SEX! Shame on you.”
I’ve written before about Robyn and the respect I have for the work she does – not least as a columnist for Sunday and the Stuff website. Her advice is considered, sensible, kind, and reflects her years of experience as a therapist.
A grandmother, Robyn is married to the same man she began dating as a teenager, and yet she still seems to understand the wide range of increasingly complicated problems encountered in the quest for human connection.
Of course, mention children and sex in the same sentence and everyone gets understandably tense. Probably because the sexual abuse of children is among the most repulsive and damaging crimes possible.
But children knowing about sex and being inappropriately exposed to it are not the same thing. I’m not saying that we design Robyn’s column to be read by kids – we don’t, and what’s appropriate for them to see is a personal matter for every parent.
But why do we shroud one of the fundamentals of life in secrecy and shame? Anyone who has ever talked to a small child about sex will know that their reaction ranges from matter-of-fact curiosity to total boredom. All the kink and the intrigue and wink wink, nudge nudge – that’s added by adults. We’re the ones who can’t cope with the subject and maybe that’s a result of the way we first learned about it ourselves. Be open with kids about sex and they will grow up more able to both protect themselves from unwanted experiences and embrace the ones they actually desire. At least, that’s what former escort agency owner and Stuff columnist Jennifer Souness believes – her views are on page 12. Check out Sunday magazine online