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ParentsJuly 31, 2017

Emily Writes: The birds, bees, Boomers, and banging


Spinoff Parents editor Emily Writes listened to RNZ’s new podcast BANG! on sex and sexuality and thinks it’ll be a hit with parents. The first episode tackled talking about the birds and the bees with your babies.

I am not entirely sure if I ever had “The Talk”. I don’t remember it, but that doesn’t mean it didn’t happen. I do know though that when I first had sex with a dude when I was 16 I bought an entire packet of condoms for the deed. I was unsure just how many condoms were needed. I figured maybe five if it was a long “sex”.

One of my favourite stories of inexperience and naivety is from a friend of mine who put newspaper down before giving her boyfriend a handjob because she was unsure just how messy it would be.

Another friend thought you got pregnant from sleeping next to someone in the same bed. That’s why it was called “sleeping together”.

The first episode of the new Radio NZ podcast BANG!, written and presented by the exceptional Melody Thomas, is “The Birds and The Bees”.

Bang! producer and presenter Melody Thomas. Photo courtesy of RNZ, Photographer: Rebekah Parsons-King

Now that I’m a parent, I think about how I will discuss sex and sexuality with my children all the time. For her first episode Melody interviewed parents (including her dad) about hopes and fears around answering the questions our children have. I was interviewed along with Jessie Moss and Sarah Vidler and Melody’s dad Brian Thomas.

The conversation we had in studio was really empowering. The discussion went full circle from talking about “The Talk” to realising “The Talk” isn’t really one thing but a commitment to discussing sexuality and consent with your children all the way into their adulthood.

The first episode begins with the cutest Q&A with a few little ones about where babies come from and then there’s a sweet conversation between Melody and adorable TVNZ weatherman Matt McLean about their game of “I’ll show you mine if you show me yours” as kids. It’s a great start to the discussion and helps us centre the next generation and consider what they’ll be doing and how we can make sure they know it’s “normal”.

The podcast features Sex Therapy NZ’s Mary Hodson who, bless her, gives some very Boomer Advice. Boomer Advice is that kind of I know a lot in theory about this stuff but I have completely forgotten what this stuff is actually like in practice advice. I have no doubt at all that Mary Hodson is exceptionally qualified to be giving advice on sex, but it’s like she’s never met a child who asks “why?” 800 million times a day. In the podcast she says we should give our kids short but highly technical answers and they won’t ask for more. I almost choked on my tea. I know my child would just immediately say “Can you say again in real words please mama.” And as the mother of a boy, the idea of giving an answer with the express intent to shut down a conversation kind of goes against everything I believe in.

But that’s the beauty of the podcast – the sheer depth of experience of all of those involved, and the respect each individual experience is given by Melody. This is exactly what I want when talking about parenting and health: expert advice I can take or leave, real world and practical experiences, and above all else – the truth about a funny old topic.

Where Emily Writes got most of her information about sex.

Talking about consent with your kids weighs incredibly heavy on the minds of Gen X and Y parents because many of us bear the scars of growing up in a rape culture. We want to spare our children from some of the things we went through. We want to protect our kids while encouraging them to live their true selves – because some of us have lost queer or transgender friends at the hands of society’s toxic, suffocating and hateful attitude to sexuality and gender. This is serious stuff and we want to get it right.

We cannot rely on sex education in schools because most of the time it’s woeful. I mean, have you heard stories of “second virginity”? Jesus Christ.

After listening to the podcast my friends and I talked about what we wished our sex education had covered. The answers were everything from “The size and placement of the clitoris! That motherfucker is huge!” to “I wish they’d talked about pleasure – it was implied that boys got off and girls put up with what they got” and “I wish they’d said that sex can be gross like people fart and queef and there’s fluids and there’s nothing wrong with that.”

One friend brought up something that was echoed by the whole group (of women and non-binary folks): Enthusiastic consent. “I wish I’d heard about communication in sex. Learning how to talk about what you want.” We talked about how we wish masturbation had been discussed – specifically, the mechanics of it. And STDs, but a discussion that included “what to do when you get one” rather than just how to not get one.

All of us wanted a far more positive discussion than what we’d had (or not had) at school. “I wish there had been more encouragement, like it’s OK to be sexually active and here are some things that you might want to do that isn’t letting some 16 year-old stick his dick in you.”

The birds and bees in 2017 and beyond goes so much further than the egg and the ovum. That technical stuff seems the easiest part of the much harder discussion of sexuality as a whole. Parents are looking at their kids and thinking, how do I make sure you feel safe and healthy and empowered as you grow into your sexuality and begin having a sexual life?

That’s what I really like about BANG! so far. There’s so much to unpack in this topic and I’m so glad that it is being talked about in a meaningful way. I’m especially glad that a young mother-of-two is doing the mahi here. Melody is fantastic and further proof that Radio NZ has the best talent in broadcasting.

The next episode is on teenagers and consent and I can’t wait to hear it. I’m not usually a podcast fan to be honest but 30 minutes on sex is totally doable (excuse the pun).

Episodes of BANG! will be released every Monday from July 31st on iTunes and other podcast apps, and will air on Wednesdays in Nights with Bryan Crump after the news at 8pm from August 2nd. In addition, at 8:30pm every week Melody Thomas and an expert in that week’s topics will be live in the studio answering listener questions. To ask your own, download the RNZ VoxPop app now and wait for the prompts.

Emily Writes is editor of The Spinoff Parents. Her book Rants in the Dark is out now. Buy it here. Follow her on Facebook here.

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