This is not a “we as women” testimonial. This is not your “it takes a village, all women are nurturers” untruthiness. This is about parenting kids who will be adults in the real world and how Cindy Gallop makes us better at it.
Before I’m a parent, I’m a whole adult human who has accumulated enough sense to pay attention people who are really smart. It started with Cindy Gallop’s TED Talk — I’ve seen it dozens of times and it’s impressive by many measures. I pay attention to what she has to say because she’s got a fantastic brain, and she uses it for the betterment and safety of humans with brains and hearts and needs.
My brain, heart, and experience do less for me as a parent than I’d like, trying to understand being a kid in today’s world. No amount of life experience really prepares me for the questions. And I’m one of the lucky ones — at least for now my kids come to me with all manner of curiosity. They know I’ll tell them the truth and protect their autonomy and privacy. But damn. There are some moments I never feel ready for.
It was a week of questions — it started with, “Mom, what happens when you die?” and that was the walk to school Monday morning. By Friday afternoon, I was spent and thankful the week was just about behind me. My kid finds me for pickup. “Mom. Mom.” They pull my ear to their mouth. “What’s P-O-R-N?” Did I mention it was pickup from elementary school?
For a moment, anyway. I already knew I could truly impart only a few pieces information so they’d better be good. Those would have to be the groundwork for whatever they learned later. You can’t tell them everything at once.
First, the basics. I asked if they knew what the word was or only how to spell it. (Both.) I asked how they came across that during the school day. (Older siblings of school friends.) I asked if they know what it is. (Videos of people having sex.) Good enough.
And now we had to talk. This is where Cindy Gallop took me from good to great.
No shame. Because of Cindy Gallop, I was able to keep shame out of that conversation. Curiosity, exploration, interest, and pleasure are nothing shameful.
Porn is like any other fiction. Because of Cindy Gallop, I was able to explain in terms my kid would understand that there’s a lot to hold in one’s brain about porn — what you see that’s real, what you see that’s not real, and what you don’t see that’s also real. It’s not bad, just a lot.
No judgment. Because of Cindy Gallop, I was able to explain that preferences and peer pressure are part of figuring out what you think and what you like. They needed a conversational parachute to have in their pocket. It was time for an analogy. This kid loves to eat and hates cabbage. “You like to eat, right?” (It’s an odd source of pride for this kid.) “Do you still hate cabbage?” (The expression of disgust was almost funny.) “Imagine all of your friends start talking about cabbage and they act like it’s the greatest thing. It’s all they are eating and they want you to fall in line. What could you say?” We landed on, “If that’s what you like that’s cool, but it’s not for me. I like pizza.”
We left it with a promise that when they had more curiosity and were ready to get answers to more questions, I’d find a safe way for them to learn and explore. I didn’t fully understand at the time, but Cindy Gallop was always going to be a step ahead of me. She already saw the need and had the vision: MakeLoveNotPorn Academy, ‘the Khan Academy of sex ed’. My kids need MLNP Academy this because there will always be more curiosity and questions and most of them long after they want to hear it from me. My kids need MLNP Academy because bad information and pressure will always be loud by default (for now anyway). My kids need MLNP Academy as a reliable source to understand themselves and others in health, safety, and freedom as they move through the life ahead of them. I need MLNP Academy because I am committed to raising secure humans who know how to value agency, consent, and pleasure.