A person’s mind is much like a glacier, only a small portion is above the water, and is visible to us. Like a glacier, a huge chunk is below the surface and we’re completely unaware of it. This is what those in the psychology field would call the “subconscious mind”, which influences the rest of our mind and experiences without even realizing how it plays a role in our thinking. So let’s explore how subliminal messages around sex can become ingrained throughout development and impact your love life.
Sex Education starts incredibly early. Think about the infant that’s held and lovingly cared for, that’s their first understanding of love and intimacy. The infant crying and you as the parent, responding, that’s their first attempt at communicating their needs (and hopefully getting their needs met).
Has your toddler ever walked in on you while you’re getting dressed in the morning? How you respond sends a message about whether it’s good or bad to be naked (or mostly nude), and how comfortable you are in your own skin. What words does your toddler hear coming from your mouth about your own body… are you kind and loving or are you critical and harsh? Do you appreciate your strong and healthy body or do you just comment on the superficial?
You find out your adolescent is viewing “dirty” images online. You realize he’s started masturbating. Do you teach him this is “normal” and age appropriate exploration and desire, or do you shame and embarrass him? Do you set expectations around masturbation being okay, but sex “should” be saved for marriage? What values do you want to instill and what limits do you want to set on what he’s able to view? Do you explain that any images he views will be with him and how that might impact his future love life and marriage one day?
Do you address masturbation with your teenage daughter and have similar conversations or is it a taboo topic because she’s a girl? What message might that send her about being a sexual being? Do you teach your child about contraception options should they decide to have sexual relations? Do you teach them about the risks of sexually transmitted infections?
Do you talk with your children about how expressing affection can be a normal part of a healthy and loving relationship?
These early parent-child interactions set the foundation for how your children think and feel about sexual matters. Are these conversation you’re comfortable having? If not, why not? As the parent, one of your many jobs is to be an educator, providing accurate information to your child. You’re hopefully creating a space that your children feel safe going to when they want more information or clarification on a topic. You know they’ll likely be discussing these topics with their peers too, but good grief, you want to be the one instilling your values into them, and to know that they’re receiving accurate information!
It’s important to know all direct and indirect messages you’re sending to your children about their bodies (and other peoples’ bodies), and sexuality will likely have an impact (at least in some ways) on their sex lives later on. Please help them develop a healthy and age appropriate understanding of their bodies and sexuality topics.
Think about your own upbringing for a minute… Did you grow up in a home where sex was a taboo topic? No one talked about it, ever! What message did that send you? Did you grew up in the home where you were taught that sex was “dirty” or the only reason to have sex was for procreation purposes. Did you hear your parents label girls who had sex as “whores” or “sluts” (already sending a message that women are not sexual beings, who should seek out and enjoy sexual pleasure in the right context). These types of direct or indirect messages really do become ingrained over time! How are some of the messages you were sent as a child, teenager or even young adult impacting you now? Do you need to “reframe” some of your thinking around your own body, and on sexuality to lead to a healthier you ?
It might be worth speaking with a licensed professional to learn about healthy sexual development and address any areas from your childhood, adolescence or young adult years that are impacting the love life you want to have.