Let’s not talk about sex

2011-10-01 15:55

More than half of South African children say their parents have no knowledge of their sexual activity, a study by the Human Science Research Council revealed this week. The research also found that only 12% of parents and guardians discuss sex and HIV/Aids with their children, while those between 15 and 24 have the highest prevalence of adult HIV. We talk to parents and children about their conversations around sex

What the parents say
Talking about sex to his seven-year-old son is “shameful”, says Zuko Mkiva from Gugulethu, Cape Town.

Mkiva (36), a father of two children, the youngest being three, says he agrees on the need for sex education in theory but his parents never talked to him about sex and it would feel “strange” to talk about it with his children.

He believes talking about sex would be seen as encouragement to engage in sexual activity and thinks his eldest child is still too young to understand.

“I do believe our children should know what to do and not to do when it comes to sex, but they are too young to engage in such a conversation,” says Mkiva.

He says when a parent decides to talk about sex with their children, “they must be cautious”.

Yet he says his eldest son “knows about sex”.

“I can see when we are watching TV and a sexual scene appears, he covers his face. But I cannot talk to him about it until he is older.”He would think about it when his son becomes a teenager.

“He is too young at the moment and what I would be telling him would confuse him. “The information we give them must be consistent with their age.

“Sex education is a difficult subject to talk about,” he says, as sex is a private affair between two people and should only be discussed in private. – Sandiso Phaliso

As a father, Mpumalanga jazz artist and journalist Eric “Shabbas” Mashaba (44) believes parents should talk openly to their children about sex.

The father of a 14-year-old daughter and two sons aged 11 and five from KaNyamazane Township says children are exposed to sex at a very young age and talking to them about it should begin when they are five years old.

“There are lots of stories in the media about child rape and I believe children should be taught about sex in general when they are young so that they grow aware of sexual crimes as well as the choices they will have to make for themselves when they have boyfriends and girlfriends,” Mashaba said.

Mashaba says he finds it difficult speaking about the details of sex to his daughter, so his wife helps.

“I tell my daughter straight in the face that the consequence of unplanned and reckless sex may be HIV/Aids but on other issues like contraceptives and menstruation her mother takes over. My sons are like brothers to me so we speak freely, man to man,” he said.

Mashaba said he does not know if his children are sexually active, but believes they do the right thing as he talks to them about sex.“Children should be made to feel comfortable so that they can be open and ask questions,” he said. – Sizwe Sama Yende

Linah Rakgate (42), a domestic worker from Ga-Dikgale village outside Polokwane in Limpopo, started talking to her daughter about sex when she was 16 years old and in Grade 10.

Rakgate decided to engage the teenager, who is now 20, after she suddenly started coming back home very late at night.

“I started doing that after seeing some changes in her life. I didn’t know whether it was adolescence or what,” Rakgate said.

The discussion became easier because the teenager opened up and answered all the questions: “For example, I asked whether she had started being sexually active and she said yes.”

The way in which Rakgate talks to her daughter about sex differs from the way her parents did because very few teenagers were sexually active at that time.

Rakgate added: “My parents called me and said: ‘Know that if you get anywhere near boys, know that you will fall pregnant and a person who falls pregnant means she becomes a woman and can no longer go to school.’”

She has never spoken to her daughter about contraceptives because her church does not promote their use.

Rakgate also fears that such a discussion might also be interpreted as approval for sex.

Rakgate is aware that her teenager is sexually active because she regularly comes home late. She wants her to know the consequences of sex. – Piet Rampedi

What the children say
She does not feel comfortable talking to her mother about sex and instead confides in her Life Orientation teacher, a 16-year-old learner from Grassy Park High School in Cape Town says.

“I don’t think I could talk to my mother about sex.

“It would be very hard. The Life Orientation teacher makes me feel free to talk because she understands more.”

While she has never confided in her mother about sex, the student believes it would be beneficial for her if she and her mother could speak openly.

She has found the sex education at school useful as they were encouraged not to have sex at a young age, and they learnt about protection from sexually transmitted diseases and how to avoid falling pregnant.

“Teenagers who don’t use condoms don’t know what they are getting themselves into. They think that they can handle it.”

She says she is not sexually active and neither are her close friends.

Had she been sexually active she wouldn’t tell her mother because she would feel judged by her.

If she had children and they were sexually active, she would tell them “to get protection and to get themselves and their partners tested before the time”. – West Cape News

Lebo Malope (18), from Nelspruit, gets most of his information about sex from the internet.

“People tell you their opinions and I do my own research. The internet is my playground,” he says.

He says he is sexually active and uses a condom. He also assumes that his parents know he is sexually active because “they see me hanging out with girls and I keep condoms in my wallet”.

Malope says his parents do not have open discussions with him about sex – all he gets is stern warnings that it’s bad.
“I think they are being over-protective,” he says.

“They just tell me to stay away but if they were to sit down with me it would be weird and uncomfortable. I’m cool being independent and doing things on my own,” he says.

“But parents shouldn’t hide stuff because the children may talk to people who don’t have their best interests at heart. It’s good to learn on your own but there are things one needs to learn from parents,” he adds.

Malope says sex education at school is fairly good but he knows more than what is taught.

He says when he becomes a parent he will talk to his children about sex and warn them not to take it for granted, misuse it or rush into it. – Sizwe Yende

Mokgadi* (16), from Polokwane, relies on her friends for information about sex. She does not talk to her parents about sex at all.

“It is uncomfortable. I do not know why but it is just uncomfortable. I talk to my friends because they relate to the questions and have relevant answers,” Mokgadi says.

Despite her uneasiness, Mokgadi would like her parents to talk to her about sex because “an adult’s point of view could be an eye-opener”.

So far the only thing she has learnt from her parents is that “sex brings babies”.

Some of the main sex-related questions Mokgadi and her friends think about are when the right time to have sex is and whether it will be with the right person.

“We wonder if the guy will call you or continue talking to you after it happens,” she says.

They try to address these concerns by talking to their bo

yfriends before having sex with them but Mokgadi says she plans to have sex only after marriage.

She says many girls don’t use condoms because their boyfriends do not like to use them.

She says she tells her parents about her sexual status because “I am not doing it (sex).”
* Not her real name

City Press says
Growing up in rural KwaZulu-Natal, talking about sex with my mother was a no-go area.

I don’t blame her, for it has always been an unwritten rule in that part of the world.

In any case, it wouldn’t have made any difference. I was a nerd at school.

I stayed away from girls and paid almost undivided attention to academic matters.

In the absence of parental guidance on sex, my high school (Phathwa) proved very helpful. We had guidance classes where they showed us some ugly pictures of people’s private parts affected by sexually transmitted infections.

It was those images that put me off sex for some time. But I’ll give my four-year-old daughter, ­Naledi, as much information as possible about sex when she’s ready.

She’s knows a woman must be pregnant before a baby is born. For now, I’ve told her a man makes a woman pregnant and will tell her more when she’s able to understand.

I wouldn’t want her to fall prey to bad influences and peer pressure. – Cedric Mboyisa

I can’t quite remember how old I was when mom called me into my bedroom and closed the door to have “the chat”.

She sat quite still next to the record player and then told me we were going to have a talk after I had listened to it.

The record came with a booklet and, ­between the two, the basics of the birds and bees were made clear. When it finished, mom was crying – it was far more emotional for her than for me.

I now have a 10-year-old who is growing up in a very different world, and I try to be as open as possible with him. If he asks the tough questions, I answer as best I can.

I think knowledge is far more powerful than the whispers of his little friends. – Yvonne Grimbeek

My parents talked to me about sex from a very young age. My mother and aunts have always been very liberal and honest about the subject with myself and all my cousins.

They’d refer to private parts with funny, slang names and warned us about falling pregnant and protecting ourselves.

Though embarrassed at first, I got used to it by the time I was teenager. My friends were always shocked and I enjoyed watching their cheeks turn a bright shade of crimson.

Did it help? Yes, it did. I was always strong enough to say no and stand my ground until I was ready, and about using protection.

I was never shy about the matter and when the time arrived, I was more than ready to deal with it. – Janine-Lee Gordon

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