Schweddy Balls: These moms say “repulsive”, and I say “conversation starter.”
According to NPR, the conservative group, One Million Moms, is asking Ben and Jerry’s to stop making Schweddy Balls ice cream, saying that it is a “vulgar new flavor” that “has turned something as innocent as ice cream into something repulsive.”
And to that, I say “No way! It’s a teachable moment.”
When parents ask sex educators like me when they should give their kids “the talk” (meaning, a sex talk), it’s common for sex educators like me to say something like “Sex education isn’t a talk; it’s an ongoing conversation.” Many of us then give examples – things like:
- “When you teach your toddler the name of his or her body parts – like their nose, cheeks, tummy and feet, teach them accurate names for their genitals too, such as ‘penis’ and ‘vulva.’”
- “When your child asks them how babies are made, share developmentally appropriate information with them that they are able to digest and understand. Depending on their age and ability to grasp various concepts, some parents talk about moms and dads taking their clothes off and making love, and how it involves sperm and eggs. Others include conversations about adoption or parents who love each other choosing to have a baby, sometimes with help from a doctor.”
“If your child finds one of your tampons and asks what it is, you can briefly explain how women get periods, and what it means to have a period in terms of bleeding a little bit each month, and that this happens to most women starting when they go through puberty.”
As you explain topics, you don’t have to go into utter detail. If you finish an explanation and your child asks for more information like “Does it hurt to bleed every month?” or “Where does the man get the sperm?” then you can provide more information. The world is full of teachable moments through television, movies, things that other children say at school, and yes – even from Schweddy Balls.
If you have a son or daughter, frankly I think that Schweddy Balls should be among the least of your concerns. There are a lot of crazy things in the world but the existence of an ice cream flavor that pays tribute to an SNL skit and is a double entendre for men’s genitals isn’t among the craziest. You can use it as a teachable moment. Here’s how:
If your son or daughter asks why people are talking so much about the Schweddy Balls, you – as a parent – get to transmit your values however you want.
Depending on the age of the child, what they are able to understand, and how you feel about the situation, you might say something like:
- “It’s supposed to sound like ‘sweaty balls’, and ‘balls’ is another name for men’s scrotums – their private parts that hold their testicles, where the sperm live. So some people think it’s funny that an ice cream name has a name that’s like a part of men’s genitals.”
- “It’s supposed to sound like ‘sweaty balls’ and ‘balls is a name you might have heard for men’s private parts. I personally don’t like that they called it that, but I guess some people find it funny.”
- You can ask first and answer later. You might start (or follow up later in the conversation) by saying, “What kinds of things are you hearing people say about Schweddy Balls?” That gives you a chance to understand your child’s perspective and what they are hearing. It also shows that you value what your child has to say and it gives you a chance to correct any mis-information they might have.
Sex and genital jokes cannot – and, I believe, should not – be removed from the world. One day, children are going to have an adult experience of genitals. And as children, it’s okay for them to have an age-appropriate experience of them, to get a sense of how people feel about bodies. Whether or not Schweddy Balls exists, I can tell you – from having worked in preschools and kindergarten classrooms – that children, even very young children, try to make sense of their bodies and their friends’ bodies, including the genitals. They look at them. They touch them. They sometimes get scolded for touching them. And all of this is a form of sex education. Hearing “that’s dirty!” or – in this case “that’s repulsive” – teaches a child that a part of their body is dirty, repulsive or even “vulgar.”
But it doesn’t have to be. It could be an okay, even humorous and educational, teaching moment. As a parent, you get to share information with your child and these are some ideas on how to do it.
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PS Sorry for being so light on blog posting lately! I’m busy at work with a variety of projects and, in the evenings, have been finishing up my latest book which is due out in the spring. I’ll be happy to be back blogging more often on MSP! – Debby
PPS Twitter-er @alexkuhl tweeted “good article! should have also mentioned people need to get a sense of humor ” So I will add to this: People, a sense of humor is a fun thing. So is talking to your kids. Combine both? Win-win.