Why We Like Jessica Biel’s Toddler Sex Ed Strategy

And what you can be co-opting for your own conversations.

They’re teaching their toddler what?!

Actress Jessica Biel is making headlines for her parenting choices after she announced she’s teaching sex education to her two-year-old.

Before you freak out, no, she’s not teaching him about the birds and the bees — yet.

Right now, she’s focusing on anatomy and the proper names for private body parts. And you might want to keep reading, because there’s some real data to back up the fact that what she’s doing can go a long way in establishing self-confidence and openness. Most importantly, though, teaching your children the proper terminology when it comes to body parts makes them less likely to be singled out by sexual predators. It also helps them to be more descriptive and forthcoming if they are targeted.

Biel is working on a series of sex education videos with the Tryst Network to help women raise their sexual IQ. She says she’s brought her work home with her, too, teaming up with husband Justin Timberlake to make sure their son Silas uses the proper terminology.

“We shower together, and [we say], ‘This is what I’ve got. This is what you’ve got.’ We just talk about it,” Biel said. “I know it’s really young, but I really believe that if you start this early, there’s no shame.”

While many families raise their daughters to believe they have “hoo-has” and sons have “wee-wees”, the American Academy of Pediatrics says that’s a major no-no and encourages the use of proper language.

The AAP offers this tip to help parents prevent sexual abuse: “In early childhood, parents can teach their children the name of the genitals, just as they teach their child names of other body parts. This teaches that the genitals, while private, are not so private that you can’t talk about them.”

The use of those euphemisms — “pee-pee” or “girly bits” — can signal to a child their parents are uncomfortable talking about those parts of the body, according to Psychology Today, and can signal to children that talking about them is naughty or bad.

We teach our children an arm is an arm and a leg is a leg; teaching them a penis is a penis and a vagina is a vagina is not only logical, it can help protect them from predators.

A 1990s study of preschooler’s knowledge of genital terminology found very few children even knew the correct term for their penis, scrotum, vagina, and clitoris. Researchers Maureen Kenny and Sandy Wurtele use their data to argue teaching those terms is a must — starting from the very beginning.

“Children who lack sexual knowledge may be more vulnerable to sexual abuse,” their research concluded. “Some sexual offenders avoid children who know the correct names for their genitals, because this suggests these children have been educated about body safety and sexuality. One convicted offender (who had assaulted 75 children before he was caught) reported that when children knew the correct terms for their genitals, he would leave them alone.”

Jessica Biel — known to raise eyebrows with her choice to not vaccinate her toddler — says teaching her son about his body is empowering.

““I don’t want to tell him, ‘Keep your private parts,’ and this and that,” Biel said of her son. “It’s a beautiful thing. You have it and mine is different and it’s cool, man. We have to respect ourselves and respect each other. So I believe it starts really young.”

Image from NY Daily News

Hanna Nakano

Hanna Nakano

HANNA NAKANO is the News Editor at Well Rounded. She's a D.C. based journalist + writer, and mama to Mila Yayoi. She's married to a medical doctor with a culinary degree; you can find their recipes and ramblings at Chef Meets Girl. Say hi on Instagram.

Comments {1}

  1. I’ve already been going down the same road with my son for over a year now. He’s two as well!! He knows he has a penis. My Dad thought I was crazy for teaching him that word so early. I told him why would I not tell him what he has between his legs. Although I haven’t spoken of my body part, I have no issue in calling it by its proper name.
    I also make sure my son knows that no one is to touch him there and to never be ashamed of telling me. Although I know he may not fully understand now, he will!!
    Keep up the good work Mrs. Timberlake!

    Mommy with Purpose

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