How Do You Discuss the Multiple Layers of Love?

Last week I wrote a post for Love Isn’t Enough (formerly Anti-Racist Parent) about how to prepare for "the talk" with your
child. One of the many points I made during that post was encouraging parents
to think about love and sex separately.  I wrote this because I think that youth often do not get strong messages about the two and when they do they are often
conflated and compounded. Often I’ve found, some youth think "love" is enough to have sex,
unprotected sex, a child, and in many cases this may mean risking their lives.

One reader was "appalled" and "baffled" that I would suggest
this to parents because their value and belief system was one where the two
could not be separated. So I responded in the following way:

Many people, not all, experience love multiple times in
their lives with multiple different people. Have you considered this scenario
in the teaching of love and sex with your children? Or does this not fit in at
all in the belief and value system your family has? You don’t have to answer
these questions here, publicly, yet I think they are important to consider.

There are many forms/layers of love. Do people believe that
there are many forms/layers of sex too? Think about how you may love your
partner versus how you may love your children, cousins, family pet, yourself,
or other people/things/animals in your life. How are explanations of love
limited in our communities? Often youth ask me how they know they are in love.
Are parents prepared to answer this question? How would you answer it? How will
parents respond to their children who say: "you have to love me because you are
my mom/dad"? See, I think love is more complicated and thus needs to be
examined on its own. I’m not advocating that it always has to be separated from
sex, but I think until we have a clear understanding how we want to discuss
love with our children that we can then build strong messages about love and
how it intersects (if at all based on our beliefs and values) to sex.

I’m curious to know how many of you have considered
separating the two topics: love and sex? Has this worked? Has this failed? Why
do you think this occurred? I also would like to know how we can begin to have
such conversations that also do not isolate or marginalize people who experience
love multiple times in their lives and thus may have multiple partners. I’m
sure we can all come up with a list of terms that identify people with multiple
partners that youth know and use all too often.

If we were to nurture the self-love of youth prior to
connecting it to sex, what could happen? Are parents willing to discuss
masturbation as a form of self-love and an alternative to sex with someone
else? Is this not the ultimate in self-love: the ability to discover what
pleases us on our own terms? To discover the amazing things our body can
create, produce, and feel?

How do we talk about the complexities of love with youth?
Ourselves? Our partners? Our lovers?

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Follow Bianca I. Laureano on twitter: @latinosexuality

  • cat

    For seperating sex and love, chocolate is a good metaphor. People like chocolate, they like to eat chocolate, and they often recieve chocolate from a variety of people. However, sometimes, like when it’s valentines day and there’s a heart shaped box, chocolate is used as a part of romance. You don’t have to only like chocolate when your boyfriend/girlfriend gives it to you as a gift for valentines, you can like it in other situations that don’t have that romantic meaning.

    “”you have to love me because you are my mom/dad”” I think this one would be very hard for me, considering my emotionally and verbally abusive narcicist of a father. It’s hard to explain to little kid the idea that not everyone’s parents love them.

  • vivacia

    i think this is a really interesting and valid topic. i can remember asking my dad when i was little, why, if he loved me, he wasn’t inlove with me. i found it to be very confusing how the love for me was different than the love for his wife.


    as well, i know we talk a lot about sex without love (and obviously people’s personal beliefs influence how wrong or right they believe this is) but we never talk about love without sex. i fell inlove for the first time with my boyfriend and we never had sex. and when we broke up, it definitely changed the way i thought about the relationship between love and sex.  it was hard for me, because i doubted my love for him because of the fact that we never had sex (and our society ties the two so closely together).  i finally realized that i didn’t need sex to validate how i had loved him, which was a realization to me that the two don’t have to be related at all. 

  • heather-corinna

    Vivacia: a couple weeks ago, we were just talking over at Scarleteen about platonic romances like this, and how people in them often get the message, or feel like (or both), that they are somehow not bonafide because they aren’t sexual.


    Absolutely agreed that this shold be talked about more, and that everyone could use more inclusive and holistic messages about the many ways love and sex are or may be different or separate.  And this is one great reason why!  It’s so, so sad when anyone in any situation is experiencing and enacting love and feels or is told, overtly or covertly, that it isn’t valid or actual.

  • sdffsd

    You want to seperate love from sex, but you call masturbation “self love?”  I don’t beat off because I love myself, I beat off to get off, why confuse kids with such rhetoric