I read an article today that completely boggled my mind. It was talking about a single mother with 3 children - 1 older daughter and 8 year old twins (one boy, one girl). The mother was talking about how her twins share a room and she has gotten a lot of bad reactions to this situation. Apparently most people feel like parents have an obligation to buy a house large enough so all children may have a separate room and failure to do so is some sort of a social crime. The part that blew me right away was the attitude displayed in the comments... many people felt that it was *extremely* dangerous to have two children of the opposite gender sharing a room because they might see each other naked!
Oh no, a penis!
Ack, a vagina!
What do they expect will come of this? Does anyone really think that the children will instantly decide to have some kind of underage incestuous love affair because they caught a glimpse of the other's genitals? It makes me crazy to think that people assume something terrible will come of looking at someone of the opposite gender without clothes on. The children will be curious as to the differences, no doubt, but with regular exposure they will come to the conclusion that 'I have these bits, and they have these other, different bits' and then move on. I personally like to lay the blame for this mostly at the doorstep of religion but I assume the source of our collective terror of the power of exposed sex organs probably comes from many sources. It certainly seems ridiculous when you consider the sorts of swimsuits people wear - there is a tiny strip of cloth covering the smallest portion of the offending region that is legal and yet somehow this is different from actually being naked?
I cannot help but wonder at how this sense of propriety is resolved when one considers that so much of the world lives in tiny spaces where the expectation of a separate room for each individual is laughable. Much of the world lives in housing where families containing 10 people live in 1-2 rooms. There is no such thing as privacy under those conditions and we aren't even restricting it to children in this case - clearly sex has to be happening regularly to have all those children around but there isn't any place to have it that is away from the current flock. For the majority of our evolution it is clear that humans lived in large family groups where nudity and sex could have no expectation of privacy and in the modern day many people are still in that situation so I find the argument that it is a big problem to be lacking. As a matter of fact I am quite convinced that closeting children away from the other gender and treating genitals as something dirty and shameful creates problems rather than solving them.
It has been abundantly demonstrated that abstinence programs to control teenage pregnancy are an utter failure. We cannot avoid children learning about sex and sexuality thankfully but we can make sure they have the facts and attitude they need to make the best decisions possible. (Teenagers especially are still going to do foolish things but we can help them to do foolish things *less*) Teaching the facts instead of teaching shame and secrecy is by far the best way to make sure our children grow up comfortable with their own bodies and able to enter into sexual relationships with a healthy dose of preparedness.