• http://needia.blogspot.com invalid-0

    hi Heather–your reply to RespectIsSexy about educating her 15 yr. old autistic sister is generous, intelligent and makes sense…and it’s overwhelming. I’m not a sex educator, but my background is feminist therapy and I spend time thinking about what’s missing in so-called “sex-education” in the U.S.

    Although you touch on the idea of owning one’s sexuality by discussing boundaries, I think the idea of boundaries is hard to get if you don’t know that feeling sexual and being sexual with others are two very different things.

    One of the stages that is entirely skipped over in sex-education is the one that occurs when one is completely unaware that the feelings are normal, natural, pleasurable, and form a part of one’s cohesion as a self. The 15 year old girl is discovering her self, and that’s what she needs to have reflected back to her.

    I think this is a fundamental issue of healthy sexuality and I never hear it discussed. We skip over the masturbation phase as if it’s training for “real sex” with other people. In my experience, feeling sexual belongs in the repertoire of feelings and needs to be integrated into a sense of self as an important expression of being human. Like all feelings, being turned on can be felt alone or with an intimate, can be shared or kept to oneself.

    If we allow a young person to feel empowered by self-discovery, which might be masturbation or might be a kind of proto-masturbation, then we would be laying the foundation for her to truly own her body and conceive of sexual expression as powerful language that she can share or experience alone.

    One last point: I wonder if any 17 year old can adequately teach her younger sister what I’ve just discussed. I’m thinking that in order for a young person to really get that sex is not a series of emissions, techniques and prohibitions, she needs a teacher who can reflect back to her what is probably right now both inchoate and insistent. RespectIsSexy might need this herself.

  • invalid-0

    The first thing I think the writer should do is take the letter she sent to Heather and give it to her mother because this is a very valid concern that the mother has to deal with. If I had a younger child and an older one I wouldn’t feel obligated to update the older child on how/when I was dealing with the younger child’s sexuality education; so I don’t understand why everyone is assuming that the mother is just totally clueless and doing nothing. I would also suggest the writer and/or her mother contact http://www.autismspeaks.com They would certainly have some good, specific advice. I do agree though, what a wonderful sister!

  • heather-corinna

    Hey there, Madama.  I agree with you in talking about self-directed sexual feelings and activities vs. other-directed feelings and activities. When I talk above about self-directed feelings, that is what I’m reffering to, as well as masturbation.  I wasn’t meaning to use a euphemism, but to speak about it more boradly than just as what one might do to onself.  As well, nearly all the books I suggested give ample time to discussion of masturbation and sexuality per the self, not just per others, and in the way I do sex education, I talk about masturbation a LOT.  I agree, it’s missing in most sex ed in the states.


    I do think older siblings can be great sex educators, and we’ve had many users at Scarleteen report over the years that some of their best sex education came from caring older siblings.  The sibs don’t have to have a lifetime of sexual experience to be good educators, and as well, many older adults haven’t had such broad experiences themselves anyway, nor necessarily have a better idea about sexuality as holistic than younger people do, so I don’t think it’s safe to assume that age alone makes sex ed better, you know?

  • heather-corinna

    I hear that, cmarie, save that given the older siblings experience with her parents and sex as she describes it, I do think it’s probably safe for her to assume that her younger sister — especially given her disability — has been getting better sex information from her parents than she did.  More times than not, those who are disabled get LESS information, not more (in part because it’s so typically assumed the disabled are asexual or won’t need the information like abled people do), so I’d be inclined to agree with the OP when she presumes her sister isn’t getting any more information than she did.

    • invalid-0

      also, the parents may be ignorant of a lot of aspects to sex. for instance, my mother had never heard of a flavored condom. people from an older generation (boomers and older) didn’t get sex ed in schools, and people didn’t talk about it much back then. so there may be a lot of questions that the sister may be able to answer better than the mother, simply because she was educated on the subject. and based on the fact that the older sister didn’t get a whole lot of info, probably the younger sister didn’t either. the family doesn’t seem to be open about sexuality, so why would we assume that they adequately educated the child who may be thought of as less needful of the information. often parents of children with disabilities over-protect them or try to shelter them from life’s hard truths.

  • harry834

    While the mother MIGHT be more supportive than the father, it remains yet to be seen given the daughter’s description. Maybe we should ask for more details, but I think it’s pretty thorough. It sounds that if the mother was a supportive contrast to the father, the daughter would have mentioned that. She mentioned every other detail.
    It might be the case that giving the letter to the mother might "wise her up". Then again, she could just react, freak out, talk to daddy, and new restrictions will be placed on who the daughters can communicate with bt mail and internet. They may have to have MORE of the father’s (and now pastor’s) shaming lectures.
    It might be worth asking about the mother, but I feel we’re just fishing. I’m not sure why cmarie thinks the mother might be sympathetic, not reactive, upon reading that letter if she did. Where in the daughter’s testimony do we see reason to think this is plausible?

  • harry834

    hiding from these parents isn’t a sustainable strategy. It’s indeed a tough situation, and we can only hope that some reason will light through their heads. Heather’s advice in talking about safety, but concealing the talks of pleasure, is perhaps as good as advice can get in a situation like this.

    I wish for much strength for the daughter in finding the support she needs from adults who will understand. Kudos to advisers like Heather for being there with words, ears, and knowledge. 

  • invalid-0

    yea after all who does she think she is, only the mother. Only the parent who has raised BOTH these girls for fifteen years and like you say she might freak out- just like you might freak out if one of your kids decided to contribute to and moniter the sex ed of another. It’s not as if the parents might know more about their younger daughter than her seventeen year old sister. Lets say your first child comes back from a semester at college and says “Dad I’ve found Jesus! I’m also becoming a pro life Republican”. If he’s an adult there not much you can do but I’m fairly sure you’d call interference if he began preaching to your younger kids. I know its hard to see the prespective of people with whom you have fundamental differences but try. We have no reason to think this woman is an idiot. Give her a chance to parent her own kid.

    • invalid-0

      first of all, nobody said the mother was an idiot. she might just be overprotective and trying to shelter her special needs child. there are many ways that a parent can accidentally misinform, which is why we have sex ed classes in school. i think it’s brave and caring of the older sister to be worried about her younger sister’s sexuality and reproductive safety. a mother might be uncomfortable talking about masturbation with her child (especially if they’re older, and grew up in a time where these things just weren’t talked about) but the sister may have some tips. you also aren’t giving the older sister much credit. she could know a lot about sex because she researched it or had a sex ed class that her sister didn’t. she could know about contraceptive options that the parents have never heard of. she also probably knows more about the boys in their school and which ones you shouldn’t trust, and things like that. please don’t assume that people are bashing the mother just because they’re praising the child. obviously the mom must be doing something right because her older daughter is so loving and caring, and wants so badly to be there for her little sis.

  • colleen

    I’ve read it a couple of times and can see no mention of the mother at all. The young woman who wrote it mentions only her father when she talks about her sex education (or, rather, lack thereof) and that in itself seems odd.It does not sound like the mother is present in the home at all so perhaps the parents are divorced, the mother is institutionalized or she (the mother) has died. 

    The (to my eyes) remarkable and unusually  thoughful young woman who wrote this implies that because the father is not of help in this situation the responsibility falls on her. The fact that she does not mention their mother at all, not even when speaking of the time she was trying to figure out what sex at about at 9 or 10, tells me that, for whatever reason, the mother is not available.

    It’s odd that the mother isn’t mentioned but why go off on folks about the existence of someone who isn’t even mentioned?  

  • harry834

    regardless of what we might assume the mother to be – helpful, not helpful, smart, idiot – we really have nothing to base our assumptions on besides this letter. And, like colleen said the letter only mentions the unsupportive father and never mentions the mother. This is all we know. We do know that the daughter mentioned being afraid of "my parents" finding out about their sibling conversations, as opposed to just "my father".

    So this all we have to go on. We can HOPE that the mother is supportive and helpful – and we just might know little enough for that possibility to be open.

    But I think the fallacious part of your defense cmarie is that you assume the mother will be helpful, only because she’s the mother. Clearly the father shows that being a parent, in and of itself, does not mean you know how to treat your children or talk to them. That abusive parents exist is further evidence.

    If you want us to refrain from calling social services because we don’t know enough about the parents, fine. That makes sense, and that is proper restraint. But let’s not delude ourselves into thinking that a parent knows how to talk to her child, simply because she’s the parent.

    Not all parents are the same, and we shouldn’t be required to assume they are. It should go without saying that suspecion towards one parent is NOT suspicion towards parents in general.

    Everything I’ve said and speculated is based on the letter written. If new information comes in, if new surprsing information comes in,  lets accomadate that.

    We don’t need a search warrant to make assumptions (for now) based on the facts presented in the letter. It is fallacious to not entertain the thought suspecion of this particular mother (not mothers in general), and it is even more fallacious to insist that we block these thoughts.

    Turning a blind eye to particular parents in front of us is NOT the right way to respect parents in general.


  • harry834

    It would be preferable to learn more if we could, but I would think the letter above – our only facts so far – should cause one to at least think that the mother MIGHT be the similar to the father.

  • heather-corinna

    I want to inject into this that often, even in the best of situations,  in families who actively initiate quality sexuality education with their children, that parents certainly are rarely the only sexuality educators of children, but also very often are not the primary educators in many respects, however ideal that may not seem to some.


    Young people frequently report that they prefer sex education from other sources than parents; from people with whom they are in different realtionships than parent/child: be that aunts and uncles, siblings, teachers, mentors, pastors, healthcare providers, counselors, what have you.  Ideally, they often tend to report that sex information from parents AND others is what they want most.


    I say that because while I do think that sex education should be considered part of parenting, I think we have to be careful suggesting that anyone who provides sex education to a child or young person is parenting them or trying to usurp a parent: that just isn’t true.  Sex education in and of itself is NOT parenting, no more or less than education on any other matter is.


    Too, I think it’s worth recognizing how many things older siblings often run interference on with younger siblings in families.  A sibling relationship is hardly minor, and can have a whole lot to offer, including filling in gaps for parents, or something like sex information where a sibling simply may be more comfortable and open with a sib (or even more accurate/current, given generational gaps) than they would with a parent.  I also have encourntered plenty of parents who don’t find this at all threatening (as you seem to), and would even encourage older siblings to help with sex/body/relationship talks with younger ones.


    I don’t think myself, the OP or anyone here is judging the parents involved in this situation, nor suggesting the parents here are idiots, so I’m not sure I understand the defensiveness you seem to be expressing around it, cmarie. As well, any parent in this has — as far as I know from the question asked — every chance TO parent his/her own child and/or to provide her with sex education if they choose to.  The older daughter doing some herself does not prohbit the parents from their own contributions.

  • invalid-0

    well, sounds like you all have it figured out; in the same way that the newly conservative student would probably be encouraged by his church that his younger sibling deserves to receive the light of Jesus despite his parents apathy. I guess as long as you’re consistant with that thinking there’s nothing to argue with. I’m still not willing to give up on the mother though. I doubt very much that she’s institutionalized (hello??) or dead (writer would have mentioned that). She’s got one parent who has not been helpful. Anyone who discourages her from seeking out the other parent to discuss this is not being helpful.

    • invalid-0

      wow, cmarie, you are really angry. nobody claimed to have it all figured out; we’re just offering advice when it was asked of us. you’re kind of flinging accusations out where none are deserved. nobody said anything bad about the mother. i haven’t mentioned her much because her daughter didn’t raise the mother as a possibility for help, which might mean she’s not. maybe they’re divorced, maybe the mom’s an alcoholic, maybe her mother always defers to the father’s decisions. all we know is she didn’t mention her mother so we can’t assume she’s there for help.

      “Anyone who discourages her from seeking out the other parent to discuss this is not being helpful.”
      we don’t actually know that the mother wouldn’t be abusive if she found out. the daughter doesn’t say. and if abuse is a possible outcome, then it would be very UNHELPFUL and also possibly dangerous. since we don’t know, let’s not assume.

      oh, and i really don’t get how finding a new religion (be it Christian, Buddhist, Hindu, Muslim, etc.) has anything to do with sex ed. When my aunt found eastern religion, we were all very happy for her, and would listen to her talk about it with no problem as long as she’s not trying to convert me, as I like my current religion. Educate me, cool; lecture me, uncool.

    • invalid-0

      At an early stage of development – in the childhood – the majority of children are in rather favorable “contact” conditions at the expense of congenital potential and parental care. Differently, leaving from under an umbrella of parental care, the child falls under influence of the hostile world for its health more and more… It is thin architecture of interrelations it is very strong during the given period. Therefore it is necessary to lay the foundation at an initial stage…

  • heather-corinna

    cmarie: I don’t actually SEE anyone here, including myself in my answer to her, discouraging her from seeking out help from her parents. I can’t figure out where you’re getting that from.

    In fact, I make very clear in a paragraph and a half of my answer that I think it would be ideal to have the parents support and inclusion in this.

  • harry834

    that some of colleen’s points might be speculating too far beyond the facts (especially the latter two suggestions):

    "It does not sound like the mother is present in the home at all so
    perhaps the parents are divorced, the mother is institutionalized or
    she (the mother) has died."

    But in Colleen’s defense she did express her doubts and her unwillingness to speculate. This is good because having doubts in one’s speculation is a healthy skepticism.


  • harry834

    "It’s odd that the mother isn’t mentioned but why go off on folks about the existence of someone who isn’t even mentioned? "


  • colleen


    The thing I was not speculating about was that she makes no mention of her mother at all, anywhere in this letter. You appear to know that the mother is present in the home. How did you reach that conclusion? I see no hint of it. Why do you think this young woman fails to mention her mother anywhere, not even in her description of trying to educate herself about sex (at age 9 or 10)? Does it not strike you as odd that this young woman only speaks of her father?

    I was not implying that I have “it figured out” anymore than anyone here is trying to, as you claim, “discourage her from trying to seek out the other parent”. For whatever reason, She clearly has no intention of seeking out the other parent. I was suggesting a few of many possible reasons this particular daughter might not have mentioned her mother at all. Do you think it was just an oversight on her part?

  • invalid-0

    I wonder if any 17 year old can adequately teach her younger sister what I’ve just discussed. I’m thinking that in order for a young person to really get that sex is not a series of emissions, techniques and prohibitions, she needs a teacher who can reflect back to her what is probably right now both inchoate and insistent. RespectIsSexy might need this herself.
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