Toronto Star

Talking to my young Muslim son about sex


“Mom, is B-O-O-B-S a bad word?” my 7-year-old son asked, spelling out the word. “Where did you hear that?” “This boy in class keeps talking about it. And about S-E-X,” he whispered, a look of delighted horror on his face.

“It’s not the proper word,” I responded calmly, my heart hammering. “The scientific word for boobs is ‘breasts’ and all women have them. Boobs is not a bad word, but it’s a word that makes breasts sound dirty, when actually they are just a normal body part.”

I still hadn’t addressed the other word my son mentioned, the much bigger S-E-X. “Do you know what SE-X is?” I asked him, not really wanting to know the answer. He shook his head, a vehement no. “OK,” I said, relieved. “We’ll talk about this later.” Later turned into two months. As a high school teacher, I firmly believe that education is the best defence against ignorance, the light that will arm my son against the halftruths swirling around the play yard.

As a mother, I was terrified. How could I talk to my kid about sex? I’m a hijab-wearing Muslim South Asian woman.

In my conservati­ve family, sex is never talked about. Also, boobs are something white women worry about.

Desis slap on a sports bra and pretend nothing happened. And don’t get me started on menstruati­on.

So I turned to Google for help. I typed in “how to talk to your kids about sex” and received a plethora of responses, mostly of the unhelpful “I caught my teenager watching porn” variety.

Then I turned to the local library and struck resource gold. The New Speaking of Sex, written by Canadian nurse Meg Hickling, was honest and hilarious. I devoured it, then gave it to my husband to read. He supported me100 per cent, except for the actual part where he talked to our son.

As a teacher, I believe education is the best defence against ignorance, the light that will arm my son against half-truths

In search of backup, I ordered a few books to read with my kid — What’s the Big Secret? by Laurie Krasny Brown and Marc Brown, and Boys, Girls & Body Science by Meg Hickling. Cartoon diagrams would be easier to look at than my flaming red face.

The books arrived promptly (damn you, Amazon!) but still I waited, gathering my courage, tormented by questions.

Why is “the talk” so hard? Would he always remember this as the moment his childhood ended? HOW COULD I LET THIS HAPPEN? Seriously, what was wrong with that classmate of his? Mommy guilt had me paralyzed. Finally, one night I just did it. “I bought you a special book that will answer those questions you asked me a while ago,” I told him at bedtime.

I took a deep breath and started reading What’s the Big Secret? It started with a cartoon diagram of a naked girl and boy, then a close-up of the inner workings of the genitals. He was fascinated.

“Girls have eggs inside them?” he asked. And, later, “But where are the sperm?” This was followed by one entire minute of shocked silence after I explained the main event — what happens during sex. “All animals do that?” “Yes,” I said, miserably. “Is there any other way to make babies?”

“Well, I guess some people make babies in a lab . . . ” I said, thinking of in vitro fertilizat­ion. “Did you and dad have sex?” Oh Allah. “Yes,” I said. “I never realized how warm your bedroom is!”

“Was I made the regular way, or in a lab?” “The regular way.” Another moment to process this. My toes curled in anticipati­on of his next question.

“Can I take this book to school to show my friends?”

The book stayed at home, but the next night he asked if we could continue reading about “body science.”

“Sure,” I said. “And this might be a good time to talk about menstruati­on.”

 ?? DREAMSTIME ?? Read a book about human bodies together to teach your kids about sex.
DREAMSTIME Read a book about human bodies together to teach your kids about sex.

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