Margaret Mead concluded in her highly acclaimed and provacative anthropological research on the island of Ta’u, American Samoa that the young women of Samoa were sexually free and promiscious. Though that may have been true when the sun sets in Samoa and in the dark recesses beyond the vigilant eyes and ears of pious Samoan elders, many young Samoans today dispute Mead’s findings on the basis that sexual openness and the mere utterance of carnal thought was and still is a closed subject. Though the common language of today and yesteryear are laced with deep sexual undertones, explaining the body and its biological changes and the maturation process is still left up to self discovery for our Polynesian youths.
My dad is a typical Samoan father reared in a typical Samoan household where discussions about sexuality and the “birds and the bees” were and to an extent still are taboo. When I came of age for that rare and important discussion that is for many the discourse that ushers a young boy over the threshold of childhood and into the realm of manhood, the extent of my education on the matter of maturation and sexuality consisted of something rather frank and yet very broad.
I hardly remember the conversation because there really wasn’t much of a conversation. He uttered something to the affect of, ‘Mind your manners around girls and don’t be a nuisance.’
When I asked my older brother about his discussion with dad he merely shrugged, took me under his wing and told me that when the time was right, I would know what sex means.
I was thoroughly disappointed. So my education, like many of today’s youth was learned in the back corners of the school library going through science texts, asking friends who were sadly as misinformed as I was and basically learning about those elusive and blasted birds and bees on my own.
Now the Utah State Education Board is being blasted again for the candid manner in which they are educating our kids about the subject during school maturation days. In most schools, parents are given the option of opting out of the maturation classes for their kids. Some of those brave parents prefer to educate their kids at their own pace and in their own way. Some parents who have sat in on those programs have walked away wondering why the programs have to border on explicit and as one mother described one program, pornographic in an article that appeared in today’s Salt Lake Tribune.
I’ve sat in on a few with my older boys and I have to admit that even though the material was a little too detailed for my own liking, the instructor was at very tactful and covered the information in good taste and on a level that the kids could understand.
Part of me wants to tell my sons, “Hey see that? Keep it behind your zipper unless you need to go to the pottie, okay? And when you turn 21, you will magically figure out other uses for it.” But who am I kidding?
I’ve always loved the saying, “Knowledge is power.” If I don’t give my sons the information that is vital and useful in their youth when it is important to make insightful, informed decisions, they may very well end up like I did, struggling to learn all of those lessons on my own.
I don’t blame my dad because as a father to my own sons, I kind of see why he had a hard time discussing the subject with me or with my brothers. It’s awkward, it’s embarrasing for you and for him and who wants have those kinds of conversations with their kids? I sure don’t. But I would rather be the one to teach my sons than to have another pimple crusted, testosterone fueled, girl crazy teenager teaching them.
In my mind, the discussion must be handled delicately but with candor. Expectations from your personal morality gauge and from a health standpoint should be part of the discussion. And if you’re like me you’re going to pepper that heart-to-heart with some light-hearted humor but don’t let it override the real message which is that your body is a temple and should be treated as such and always, always treat women with the utmost respect. Finally, don’t let the conversation turn into a discourse or sermon. Allow your son/daughter to ask questions. Give them time to process the information and they will appreciate you for it.