The overt sexual energy of Beltane makes this an unlikely family festival. However, we need to be able to talk about sex in an open, positive and appropriate way with our children, whatever their age.
“Sex positive” is a term that I am seeing more and more in my research and social media interactions. It is a campaign by Brook, the topic of blogs and the underpinning philosophy of an empowering way of talking about sex and bodies with children of all ages. Sex Positive is a response to the judgemental, body shaming and limited information often available to young people. It is founded in respect, consent and happiness.
A good example of how you can be sex positive with a younger child is to talk openly about their bodies. Naming parts accurately, stomach and bowel / bladder vs “tummy”; penis and vagina vs *insert fluffy euphemism here* helps children understand and starts their control over their bodies, for example by telling you exactly which bit hurts. Singing heads, shoulders, knees and toes with all sorts of other bits thrown in can be a very silly but informative game to play, especially if you extend it to talk about what each bit does. “I know where my throat is and it helps me swallow my food and breathe.”
In slightly older children their control over their body can move into starting discussions about consent. A big bugbear in many of the parenting blogs I read is the enforced physical greeting of adults. When we tell a child that they have to kiss Great Aunt Gretta we are telling them that they don’t have the right to determine what happens to their own bodies. Reinforce this for 20 years and the worst case scenario is that your daughter allows her college boyfriend to do things she’s not comfortable with because she doesn’t think she can say no.
My youngest son is experimenting with this concept at the moment. Sometime he will refuse the offer of a good night kiss, at which point, a hug, high five or a wave is offered in place, but other times he will wrap his arms around your neck and kiss you all over your face. At this point it is sometimes my turn to reinforce a boundary and say “enough, thank you”. He is learning that hugs and kisses are fun and feel good, but sometimes they aren’t so much and then you get to say no.
I am hoping that this open, honest and ongoing conversation about consent and loving relationships as well as demonstrating a respect for other’s loves, lives and bodies will create confident, respectful young adults who will be ready to talk openly about their relationships with my husband and me when the time comes.
So, to bring us back to the start. How can we include our children in the overtly sexual nature of Beltane? In most traditions the actual intimacy is done in private, whether that is in the dark of the woods or in our own homes, the daytime celebrations can be very child friendly. The choosing of a May Queen and her consort to represent the Goddess and her God (and their consummated marriage) involves flowers, parades, dancing and partying. May Queen’s traditionally have a court of young ladies and can be a child herself. She is the one to preside over the fun and bless the community. There is no reason the consummation of the sacred marriage has to be actual, or even represented, if the celebration is family focused or the King and Queen are young. However, adult members of the group may wish to place an athame into a chalise, or to participate in a ritual kiss to represent the more physical aspects. Children will be able to participate in the celebrations whatever their understanding of sex and love if they understand, to an appropriate level, that this celebration is the joining of the Male and Female aspects of Divinity to help the land grow all the crops, animals and food for the coming season.
I hope you all enjoy your Beltane celebrations, however you celebrate and I wish you all the blessings of the season. “May you flowers bloom with the love of Flora and your projects grow as her belly swells.”
*Images from http://www.freeimages.com/