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My wife and I are having our first child this July and a conversation that we have now and then is the prospect of having sex with our baby in the room.

I've read other questions related to this topic but I have found all answers to be inadequate...

Here is my position:

Children of ANY age are unharmed by the awareness of their parent's sexuality and sexual activity if the parents age-appropriately explain how intimacy goes along with their lovingly committed relationship.

Here is my rationale:

  1. I am of the opinion that parents are best positioned to talk to their children about sexuality because the children trust their parents. In the context of trust, talking about how two people who are committed to each other also physically enjoy each other will make sense of the parent's affection and sexuality. If the parents are concerned that the child may be misinterpreting the sounds coming from the bedroom as violence, the parents can easily clear up the confusion by explaining it as the noise they make when experiencing the pleasure of love making - which leads to my second point.

  2. The earlier parents communicate with their children about sexuality, the less likely the child is going to explore their curiosity on their own. There are a ton of YouTube resources* to demonstrate how sex leads to childbirth that are very academic. Guiding your child through how sexuality functions will deter your child from "playing doctor/mommy-daddy/other euphemisms for sex" games with their peers. If the consequences of sex is appropriately explained, children will be less likely to "play with fire."

  3. Children who grow up knowing that sex is natural, pleasurable, and good in a committed relationship will be much more prepared to protect themselves from being taken advantage of AND they will be more equipped to deal with their emotions if they tragically are taken advantage of. Children who are aware of their parent's sexuality and its expression will be able to develop a framework for how they will personally experience their own sexuality.

What I'm not saying:

I'm not saying that you should flaunt your sexuality in front of your children or invite them into the intimacy you share with your spouse. The framework should be one that establishes that sexuality (as well as bathroom nudity) is something that happens in private; that sexuality shared in an intimate relationship strengthens bonds and affections; that sexuality has powerful consequences both chemically as a couple and physiologically if a life is conceived.

I'm not saying that there is no risk of harm. If you fail to navigate the issue well, I would not be surprised if the child grows up and has strange sexual proclivities, is unable to "unsee" what is seen, and needs therapy sessions to talk things through with a professional.

*Here's a YouTube video which beautifully explains how conception works with graphics appropriate for children: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=BFrVmDgh4v4

To restate for StackExchange purposes: What's the harm?

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    Note that you can accomplish all of your goals without once exposing your child to your sexual intimacy. – anongoodnurse Jan 9 '15 at 21:28
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    I've acknowledged that in my "What I'm not saying" section. It's the knee-jerk reaction of believing that children are witnessing something harmful that I believe is actually harmful. – Voltaire Jan 9 '15 at 22:06
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    There seems to be no question here. – user7953 Jan 9 '15 at 22:19
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    Welcome to Parenting.SE. You struggled with how to phrase this, but did you know that you can answer your own question? You've asked a simple question at the beginning and in "Here is my position" section, proceeded to answer it. Next time, feel free to ask the question and provide your answer -- you're likely to get additional responses too. – Sylas Seabrook Jan 10 '15 at 0:17
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    Also, why is in a committed relationship in bold? That's clearly an opinion piece that may preemptively defeat good answers. If sex isn't a bad thing, in and of itself, then why must it only be for certain types of relationships? I don't find myself wanting to give a researched answer on why sex and sexuality isn't harmful if it's going to be tossed out for not conforming to someone's moral standards. The morality component of this questions makes me feel it's asking for an opinion, not an answer, and that the OP has already given their answer – user11394 Jan 11 '15 at 6:46
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None. There isn't any harm.

There's more harm to be found in children not "knowing that sex is natural, pleasurable, and good in a committed relationship". If they were brought up to think the opposite - that sex was unnatural, painful, and bad - that certainly wouldn't be a good thing!

Your approach seems to me eminently sensible. It's not a secret that parents have sex.

Were you expecting disagreement? Your view seems mainstream to me.

The Sears website, for example, says:

"Your child ... needs to know how sexuality operates in healthy (...) relationships"

Which seems to be basically the same thing that you're saying, unless I've misunderstood.

From Parenting Magazine:

"In little ways and as they’re ready, I work lessons about health, sexuality and how bodies work into our daily conversations. Physical intimacy is special and our private bodies are private for a reason, but sex shouldn’t be something that’s scary or shameful"

Again, it seems to me to be pretty much what you're saying.

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  • I'd drop the "male-female" from the Sears quote, because it opens the ground to future prejudice to limit the knowledge to just heterosexual relationships. – Mindwin Jan 12 '15 at 16:56
  • @Mindwin, I see your point. I don't want to misquote the source, but I'll put in an ellipsis for now. – A E Jan 12 '15 at 16:58
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    Keep the quote intact. Just the remarks in these comments are enough. To Dr. Sears his own. – Mindwin Jan 12 '15 at 16:59
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    I did the edit again. Let's keep the comments in case someone asks why the ellipsis was added. – Mindwin Jan 12 '15 at 17:01
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I think you should not worry about all of this. Just talk to them when you think it's appropriate age for them to know about how this work and what nature is, and stop worrying too much about parenting.

After all, we were in your shoes when we were not parents, turns out is not that bad, but be warned its not that easy either!

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I think it depends on the context and age of the child.

I doubt a baby would be harmed by witnessing their parents have sex, as long as they aren't having sex with the child. However, an older child might be tempted to imitate what they saw their parents doing, which could lead to inappropriate behavior (eg trying to have sex with a peer). If they do engage in sexual behavior beyond what is typical for their age, not only could this cause problems for them and others, it could also lead to suspicion that the child may be a victim of sexual abuse (since sexually abused children often show inappropriate sexual behavior). Certainly, do reassure them if they are concerned about the weird noises that mommy and daddy are making, but don't let them see what you're doing.

As for a kid who is close to puberty, I'd be worried about it affecting their sexuality if they had too much exposure to parents having sex. There is a theory that fetishes come from stimulus-response learning from the contexts in which the child first starts feeling sexual feelings. If a child who has started puberty witnesses anyone having sex, there's a decent chance they may get aroused by it, and you do not want a child getting aroused by their parents. That will definitely mess them up.

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    Can you link to some more information about your last paragraph regarding fetishes? – Acire Jul 4 '15 at 1:23
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    "I doubt a baby would be harmed by witnessing their parents have sex, as long as they aren't having sex with the child." It's hard to take your answer seriously when it starts out like that! Please read about the Stack Exchange model in the site tour and visit the help center for guidance on how to use this site. – anongoodnurse Jul 4 '15 at 4:17

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