This is a guest post from Robin, SEX+STL volunteer and mother of two. Please join us Monday, June 27 for our next Sex Positive Parenting group at Shameless Grounds, 7pm!
My favorite Sim is a bit of a cad. Devon is high in charisma, but low in commitment. He has had 10 girlfriends, each of whom he quickly broke up with. He has children he doesn’t support or visit with eight of those girlfriends.
Although he’s primarily straight, he seduced an older man so he could marry him and acquire a big, beautiful house and a large bank account. Devon moved into the old man’s house with a lesbian couple he’d been living with. Then he promptly divorced the older man, while keeping his house and money.
But then things changed and Devon fell in love with one half of the lesbian couple, Tala, an exotic green-skinned redhead reminiscent of one of Captain Kirk’s conquests. Now that Tala has had his baby, Devon is changing his ways and becoming a family man, although he still struggles with commitment issues.
I often play The Sims 3 with my five and a half year old daughter, and that has resulted in a number of uncomfortable conversations about the odd courtship and mating rituals of humans. It all started when she realized that I had a new baby Sim who I hadn’t started the game with:
“Mommy, how did you get a new baby Sim? You didn’t have one before!”
When I was pregnant with her brother, I talked to my daughter about the basic mechanics of sex and baby-making. Egg and sperm get together when a penis is put in a vagina, and that’s one of the things people mean when they say “have sex.” Sometimes the woman will get pregnant. My daughter really wasn’t all that interested and didn’t ask any other questions. She seemed vaguely disbelieving and might have thought it was all a not very creative or interesting fairy tale. Now she knew what sex was, and she didn’t care.
At least she didn’t care about sex until she realized that was how new Sims are made.
Technically, Sims don’t have sex. They WooHoo. They get under the blankets, the blankets move around a lot, little hearts float up, and then the Sims reappear looking satisfied. But they don’t WooHoo with just anyone at any time, they take a little seducing. My daughter didn’t have the patience to get though the seduction process to the point where the options to WooHoo or Try for Baby appear. She got frustrated and gave up.
Another uncomfortable conversation occurred when she noticed that Devon had many children with different women, none of whom lived with him, and none of whom he was married to.
“Why doesn’t he live with his children, Mommy?”
It was difficult to explain that some fathers and mothers are not interested in being a parent and don’t take care of or spend time with their children. I had to reassure her that of course her super-awesome daddy would always love and care for and spend time with her. We talked a little bit about how people can use things called contraceptives to stop them from getting pregnant if they don’t want to be a parent. We talked about how one of the men in her life has had a surgical procedure called a vasectomy so that he can’t have babies.
One day she heard the wedding march playing from the computer and came over to see what was happening in the game. I told her that Devon had just gotten married.
“Who did he marry?”
“He married that old guy, DeAndre.”
“You mean DeAndre is a woman?”
“No, DeAndre is a man.”
“Is Devon a woman?”
“No, Devon is a man, too.”
“But, how could a man marry a man?”
I was shocked she asked that. We have tried to be very careful to avoid using hetero-normative language when we talk about love and marriage. When we talk about her future, we often tell her that when she is older, a teenager at least, she might choose to have a boyfriend, or a girlfriend, or both, or neither. We’ve talked about friends we have who are gay. We’ve talked about the civil unions that are being legalized around the country. But we live in suburbia and the relationships my daughter sees modeled all appear to be heterosexual nuclear families. Clearly what she sees and hears from her friends has much more weight than the lip service we pay to talking about how other relationship types are good and normal, too.
“Well, in the real world men sometimes love other men and have men as boyfriends or women can have other women as girlfriends, and in some places they can get married or have a civil union, which is like a marriage. But not in Missouri. They don’t allow gay people to marry in Missouri.”
“Why don’t they allow it in Missouri?”
“Well . . . . ” I struggle with answering questions like this. My own opinions on the subject are strong, but I don’t want to be judgmental. She has friends and family who are against homosexuality and I don’t want her to condemn them as people, even if we disagree with their opinions. I want her to understand all sides of an issue and make her own choice. “Some people believe it is wrong to be gay. Many people who believe that it is wrong think that way because they are Christian and the Bible says being gay is sinful or because their mom and dad thought being gay was bad and taught them to believe that too.”
“But we don’t believe that?”
“Your father and I believe that people should love and marry whoever they want to love and marry. We don’t think there’s anything wrong with it if you’re a man and you love or date or marry other men or if you’re a woman and you love or date or marry other women. You will have to decide for yourself what you believe.”
The most awkward conversation with my daughter occurred when she asked why Devon had married DeAndre. Children always find a way to push your comfort zone. I was congratulating myself for being a hip parent who had no issue with talking about sex to her daughter when she threw out that question and made me realize that I was uncomfortable talking to my young child about romantic manipulators and gold-diggers. I admit I didn’t handle it very well.
“Well, uh, Devon only married him because . . . well, because DeAndre had a really nice house and a lot of money. But, uh, anyway, let’s talk about how cool the swimming pool is in the back yard . . . .” Mercifully, she didn’t ask any more questions and the conversation went on to other topics. But clearly some day when she’s a bit older I’m going to have to come back to the topic and talk about how not everyone has the most loving intentions in starting a relationship.
Partially as a result of these conversations, this June I will be taking my daughter to the St. Louis Pride Fest to march with SEX+STL in the parade. She will get some personal and up-close experience seeing that men can love men, and women can love women, and they can have families, and that is a happy and good and fun thing. She will participate in an event that reinforces the idea that people should love, WooHoo, and marry who they want to and can be happy doing it.
My daughter and I still play the Sims sometimes. My daughter has still never had the patience to seduce a Sim into WooHooing, and she has wisely given up on the difficulty and messiness of human mating and reproduction. But she hasn’t given up on the dream of a baby Sim. She just figured out how to call the adoption agency.