Teaching The Girl About Puberty and Emerging Sexuality

The wisdom that resides in the core of myself sometimes takes the form a wise woman who can teach, comfort and care for the younger, anxious parts of myself.

Tonight the wise woman knocks on the bedroom door of my sixth-grade self, a tall, skinny girl who has started to have some sexual feelings and has a great deal of curiosity about puberty and the changes just starting to affect her body.

With permission, the wise woman enters the room and shuts the door. She sits down on the blue carpet, leaning up against the wall. The girl remains lying on her bed.

“I was thinking,” the wise woman says, “that you might like to have more information about your body and the changes it is going through. I see you have been reading the information you were given at school, and you seem interested.”

The girl says nothing, but she turns her face away.

“It’s okay,” the wise woman tells her. “I know it feels uncomfortable. Your teacher can’t hide her discomfort, and your mom tried when you asked her a question, but she can’t talk about sex easily either. It’s really common in our society for people to feel uneasy about such a personal topic. But at the same time, I think it’s important for us to understand our own bodies and what is happening to them. It helps us to know what is normal and to have the language to accurately describe how things work and how we feel.”

“Furthermore,” she continues, “there will be a time when you will want to have sex. Not now, but in the future. Maybe you would like to know a little more about that as well.”

The girl turns her face back and nods. “Yeah, that would be good.”

“Do you have any specific questions?”

The girl shakes her head. “No, well, I don’t know… No.”

“Okay then,” says the wise woman. “I wasn’t sure where to start, but when I asked E about that today in therapy, she suggested I offer you some different information. So I want to suggest three different articles. You can take a look and see which one is the most interesting to you. We can start with that one, read it together, and talk about it a little. Then you might have more questions, or you might want to move to one of the articles. We can just decide as we go along. Does that sound okay?”

“Yeah, that’s good,” the girl sits up. “Do you have the articles with you?”

“I do, actually. I brought them with me. Take a look, and see what interests you. And if none of them seem right, you can tell me that, too, and we can keep looking for something else. There’s a lot of information out there.”

“So here’s what I brought you. First, I thought you might want to know more about puberty and the way girls’ and boys’ bodies change. I know in your school girls only got to learn about girls’ bodies and boys about boys’ bodies. But I think it’s useful to know something about both, to understand how male and female bodies are similar and different. So if you want to know about that, I thought we could watch these Norwegian videos together. Or you could just watch one of them and see if you want to watch the others.”

“Second, I was thinking you might want to know about more than how babies were made, which I know you learned in school. You’ve surely noticed that sex is a big deal, that grown-ups think and talk about it a lot, and not just when they are making babies. So maybe you want to know how adult bodies look and work and why sex is so pleasurable. I just noticed that no one talked about pleasure in your class in school. I found a very informative website [never mind that websites didn’t exist when you were in sixth grade] that you might like, called Scarleteen, and I wanted to point out a particular page on we could start with, if you want to learn about sexual anatomy and sexual pleasure.”

“And the third topic I thought might be interesting to you was how other girls feel emotionally about going through puberty, what they tend to worry about, and how that might be similar or different from what you think about. For that, I think there is probably a lot out there, but we could start with a website that PBS made for preteens. There is an advice section on that website, too.”

There’s a glimmer of interest in the girl’s face, but she doesn’t immediately indicate where she’d like to start. “I’ll think about it,” is all she says.

“No problem,” replies the wise woman. “There’s just one other thing I want to say. I know as we embark on this learning together that all the other girls and young women, the three-year-old and the thirty-year-old, all of them, they are all listening in. And each one brings in her own experiences or concerns. In this learning, everybody matters. If anyone gets triggered, or even nervous about being triggered, we will slow way down. We will look at the emotions that come up. I’m not afraid of emotions; all emotions are allowed. Okay? There is no rush to get through this, no final exam on a fixed date. Does that sound all right with you?”

“Definitely,” the girl agrees. “But can we go get a snack now? Maybe some popcorn?”

Definitely.

4 thoughts on “Teaching The Girl About Puberty and Emerging Sexuality

  1. “In this learning, everybody matters… and there is no final exam.” This is exactly what I needed. I am going to write it in my phone if that’s okay and refer to it often. Sixth grade you (and all the other you’s) are so lucky to have wise woman. I learn from her, too. 🙂

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    • My wise woman has a lot of affection for those in your system!

      Don’t forget, though, that you also have your own wise woman. Sometimes it’s hard to hear her voice, especially when there is a lot going on, but she’s in there too.

      Sending you hugs, Q.

      Liked by 1 person

  2. What a lovely way to approach things. I’ve found that educational material around consent and bodily autonomy that is aimed at children has been enlightening for me personally – an aha feeling of “so this is how it *should* work”, but also a feeling of sadness that I’ve spent so much of my life and had so many bad sexual experiences through not even knowing that this is how things *could* work and just putting up with things I didn’t like or want.

    Scarleteen is a fabulous website that I can’t recommend highly enough. I too really, really wish I’d had some of that information available to me when I was a teenager (or for that matter when I was discussing things with my daughter when she was a teenager). Most of what I’ve EVER learnt about consent and how you negotiate to have a mutually enjoyable sexual relationship (and also some really basic physical stuff such as how to do certain things without hurting the other person) has been in the last 2 or 3 years and comes from websites like that.

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