The Dutch Approach to Sex Education

I’ve been toying for sometime to write about this topic because I know that this is one relevant issue that confronts parents, children and the society as a whole. With population growth exploding especially in developing countries and the pressure on precarious natural resources mounting, there is a big need to address the issues on sex, population growth, and the dire economic consequences if we keep on with the status quo.

I come from the Philippines, the only Catholic country in the far east where the view on sex compared to The Netherlands where I now live is like night and day. Sex is something that is talked about in hush-hush tones and contraceptives are such a no-no especially if the very influential Catholic Church will have its way. They even threatened to excommunicate the president of the country for showing favor to the pending bill in Congress on Reproductive Health which will promote responsible sex and use of contraceptives.

Condoms and the pill

The Dutch approach is completely the opposite. Sex is a non-issue and is tackled just like any normal physiological activity of the human body. It is not sensationalized or attached with malice like the way it would be in the Philippines so it does not become a “forbidden fruit” for which everyone then becomes tempted to pick.

Sometime ago, I remember a conversation I had with an aunt of my husband. Being from the old school, she was peeved to learn that her 10-year old granddaughter (as well as the classmates) were to bring bananas to school because the lesson will be a demonstration on how to apply the condom. Such a generation gap! Her daughter (my husband’s cousin) found it funny that her mother was overreacting. In the Dutch academic curricular, lessons on the human body and its parts are given at six. Kids are being made aware of their body and how to take care of themselves at such a young age and what other people can or cannot do with them. That awareness also helps them from not being abused or taken advantaged of. I see nothing wrong here. Information and knowledge are power. Most cases of child abuse happen because children being innocent, are not aware of what are acceptable and not acceptable to behaviors of adults around them so abuses can oftentimes go on for years because adults with moral ascendancy over them perpetuate ignorance and fear.

Awareness of sex and contraceptives do not make children promiscous as contrary to the arguments put forward by people who oppose the idea of introducing sex education. The opposite is even true where repression of any talks about sex and educating the youth about this all but natural human physiological activity make them more curious to experiment which oftentimes lead to unfavorable outcome. In this day and age where access to internet is a common thing, it is so easy to just google the subject of sex. The thing is that if we do a search on the topic of sex, internet leads us to unsavory porn sites and that is where all the problems start. Doing self education on this subject rather than getting a proper lesson in school leads to the wrong ideas and expectations.

Growing up in the Philippines and being educated in a school run by nuns, this topic has been such a huge taboo. We were made to believe that even just sitting in a place where a male classmate has sat down will cause pregnancy. You can just imagine us with fans or magazines that we would put over any place where we would sit. Extremely ridiculous!

The Dutch approach is just the opposite. When children of maybe around seven begin asking their parents about how babies are made, parents will not tell them of the stories of storks bringing them or of bees and birds. The subject will be approached with a very truthful and clinical explanation which to be honest, makes sex the least interesting topic in the world in the eyes of children.

Bees and birds approach to discussing the issue is ridiculous to the Dutch. Issue is approached with all honesty.

Here in The Netherlands, children are given all the opportunities to be children and to savor childhood innocence. This is especially true when you see the lengths that parents would go to perpetuate the concept of Sinterklaas, the bishop who comes to the country from Spain every year on a steam boat aided by the Zwarte Piets (Black Peters) with presents for the children. The children are told that their behavior the whole year through is being noted by Sinterklaas in his big book and depending if they are naughty or nice, will get the kind of presents they deserve. The naughty ones only get a bag of salt. The point I’m making here is that this moment in children’s life when they still believe in Sinterklaas is regarded as very sacred by the Dutch. Out here, there is a time for everything…to be a child and to grow up well-informed of the essentials in life.

There is always a time to be a believe in Sinterklaas

and Zwarte Piets

Time flies. It will not be long that my daughter will be asking questions about this subject and many more. She will receive honest answers from us for I am sure that with the upbringing she has, she will be wise and discerning enough to follow the right path. This is my take on parenthood. What about you?

About Malou
I'm a mom to a five-year old little girl with interest in cooking, baking, traveling and photography. Castles and palaces are special favorites so when weather permits for a good walk on weekends, me, hubby and little girl are always out for a bit of adventure.

144 Responses to The Dutch Approach to Sex Education

  1. ***The LensMaster says:

    I’m no parent but I definitely won’t lie to my kids one day how they were conceived and stuff…I’ll not introduce them to “malice”.

  2. I agree that repression and strange storeis invoke curiosity and even unhealthy preoccupation and fascination. I know of one school district in this state where the Catholic church denouced sex ed in the schools and aggressively made sure it would not be taught. That district has one of the highest rates of teen pregnancy in the state. Much healthier and respectful to teach the facts!

    • Malou says:

      I was born and raised a Catholic but I am frustrated by the stand of the church on these issues because I’ve seen the repercussions in the lives of people I know. When I was still in the Philippines and staying in a ladies dormitory, I’ve seen quite a lot of students got pregnant, much to the consternation of their parents and at the school as well. There were those who tried abortions in very crude manners that some ended up in hospital and almost died. A few of them I met recently thru Facebook and their kids are now almost the same age as they were when they got pregnant. They told me of their regrets and anger, not because of indulging in sex and getting pregnant but in not getting the right facts then. Had they known that there were ways to prevent pregnancy, they would have done that. They now tell their kids that while it is preferable to wait for that one true love and within the bounds of marriage as what the church says, if the raging hormones can’t be controlled, at least put the rubber on.

      • My heart just goes out to those women. No one should endure such trauma. The Dutch approach is so inspiring and gives hope that compassion and knowledge are alive and well. People like you sharing the sucesses like the Dutch approach are bright beacons of light.

  3. Rachel says:

    It sounds like the Netherlands is doing it right! When I have kids I will definitely teach them the facts.

  4. I started teaching my kids about sex from the time they were little by using bathing suit or underwear covered areas as places no one is allowed to touch without permission. As they got a little older my theme was about emotional responsibility as well as the physical responsibility not to get (or get a girl) pregnant. This all take place LONG before the time when puberty might set in. But I still remember the most difficult conversation with my daughter when she was 18 and she told me she had a UTI as well as a vaginal discharge. With my mother’s voice yelling in my head (I told her to shut up and let me handle it, it was MY kid) we took care of the medical issues and then had a healthy discussion of how to chose a partner who will not get you sick. The public school education was different….in Connecticut sex ed started in elementary school similar to what you have described for Holland…here in West Virginia it is covered ONLY in the mandatory high school class, way too late for many kids.

    • Malou says:

      Waiting too long believing that only when they are far older that the subject of sex could be introduced is just too late. Oftentimes, the kids already got the wrong information from their peers or the internet that what their parents or teachers tell them will just sound too boring and uninteresting.

    • Yes sorry your daughter went through that, I do agree that high school is not the best time to teach sex education. I wish to commend you for the effort you did make in teaching your kids from an early age that at least means they had more than many if not all of their peers. I can’t say this enough….all parents need to be teaching there kids about sex in a dignified manner. And moral values from the Bible are excellent in that regard. It is hard in this world that glorifies ignorance and promiscuity but all effort is worth it.

  5. gerginski says:

    Once again honesty is the key to assimilation and trust.

  6. Bravo for covering such an important subject! It also came into my in-basket at a time when, in this country, Evangelicals in Congress were trying to get at Planned Parenthood through somehow destroying their ability to continue to receive grant funds. It all hit the news when the Komen Foundation (breast cancer related) decided that they could no longer provide huge sums to Planned Parenthood because of their policy to not help fund organizations that are “under investigation.” It seems that a Southern Senator had initiated such an investigation. There was such an uproar, resulting in an unbelievable number of people telling Komen that they were no longer donating to them AND in Planned Parenthood receiving an additional MILLIONS of dollars in direct donations within days, the Komen wound up reversing its decision, saying it was clarifying its policy to exclude “political” investigations. Many of my dearest friends made donations to those Millions, and it was a huge topic for discussion over lunch at a restaurant yesterday. (It should be noted that Planned Parenthood, in addition to its many birth-control-related programs, also funds breast cancer screenings – spending more funds directly on this function than even Komen does!)

    I worry about where the United States is going with its puritanical underbelly. I was a teenager and college student during the turbulent (and exciting) ’60s. It was a hopeful time for women and for so many groups who suffered discrimation and often it seems like so much of what we wanted to, and often did, change is in danger of swinging backwards. I define myself in some ways as a “recovering Catholic” (now pretty much a Unitarian Universalist although not a member of a specific congregation), since my childhood religion was Roman Catholic (albeit not strictly adherred to since Mom was not Catholic), and it was almost “deja vu” reading your description of Church doctrine and politics in the Philippines. I also have a friend who grew up in the Philippines, being a U.S. “army brat” where her father was stationed for years, who has talked a little bit about growing up there.

    Thank you for your candidness. And I also loved the reference to Sinterklaas!

    • Malou says:

      I think that the church should move in with the times and accept the reality that the subject of sex cannot be repressed anymore. The church is anyway not really that clean and very moral to take this very strong and conservative position especially after all these sex scandals involving the abuses of young boys by priests. It seems that the church put more emphasis that it is wrong for couples who are not married to engage in sex or to use contraceptives to avoid pregnancy but the abuse of young boys is permissible (considering all the cover-ups they did).

      The church still has a big grip to Philippine society and although there is separation between church and state, the former seems to at times not respect that separation with its interference in political matters. Don’t get me wrong, I respect the church and I remain a Catholic but I do cherry-picking on its doctrines.

      When I came to Holland, I had a very different outlook which changed over time when I realized that my earlier views were clouded by ignorance. I remember telling my husband how, for instance, the movie “Schindler’s list” was almost never shown in the Philippines after disagreements between the Board of Censors and the movie producers over the rating issue and movie cuts. The Board of Censors wanted to give the movie an R-18 (adult) classification because of nudity (which may arouse sexual desires) or cut the part where the men and women were shown naked because they were about to be sent to the gas chambers. My husband told me that such a view is just so pathetic if not so sick if the Board of Censors still see sexual desires at those emaciated bodies that are about to be gassed.

      In this day and age of the internet, withholding information from the young will just not work anymore. If the school and at home, the answers to their questions on this subject will not be met, they will find their answers elsewhere…unfortunately the wrong ones. Isn’t it better that it is the parents and the school that address them rather than the wrong sources?

      • I agree with you in the parents taking on the responsibility of training there kids from infancy (I know that sounds familiar to you) Do you agree that is is far more beneficial to live according to God’s standards as found in the Bible? In contrast to man-made traditions that as you clearly state are double-standards. Yes it is wrong to have sex before marriage, but it is also wrong to abuse children and there is no justification for that. Having children or not is a responsibilty for the couple to make after all they are the ones that will have to care for them.

    • @Marilyn,
      I was also thinking of the direction the USA is taking against women and women’s health issues when I read @Malou’s fine essay here. Sex education is about health issues not about sex! It’s true that knowledge is empowering…and our kids need to be empowered to protect themselves from predators and disease and teenage pregnancy. In the USA, I believe the key will be that women will need to reclaim our power and use it at the election booth. Otherwise we will be set back 40 years.
      Thanks, Malou for writing such a thoughtful piece!

  7. This was the approach I used with my kids, now as teens I really value the open communication approach I used and marvel at the strong independent thinkers I have. Great read!

    • Malou says:

      Children are not stupid. Some parents just do not credit them with enough intelligence to be able to handle sensitive information. I don’t want my daughter to someday be keeping secrets from me because there are certain things that we cannot discuss at home. It is better that she talk things over with me and her father than with other people or look for answers in other places.

  8. By the way, I was so impressed with this post that I cut-and-pasted its e-address to my Facebook wall. I know many of my Friends on FB will love it.

  9. sillisoup says:

    Malou, your daughter is fortunate to have such a thoughtful – and forward thinking! – mother. Opening the doors to honest communication at an early age is essential as preparation for the more difficult communication that inevitably comes as children enter and navigate the teen years.

    • Malou says:

      Thanks a lot. Starting early with open and honest communication indeed removes that barrier that will likely crop up in teen years when more sensitive issues are at hand and the peer pressure is strong.

  10. sillisoup says:

    P.S. Once again, love your photos!

  11. When I was a young teenager the only sex education was a school visit to the cinema to see a German film called ‘Helga’!

    • Malou says:

      Ha, ha, ha! And I guess Helga is always shouting. My husband talks about those “dirty” Tirol movies that were being shown on Dutch TV way back then.

  12. ichbinhungry says:

    Being from the US, I can’t remember how I was first introduced to the idea of sex, but it was certainly not through school. The first time we had any sort of ‘class’ about it was in 6th grade (around 11-12 years old), and the boys and girls were separated to watch different videos. And even then, it wasn’t really about sex, it was just to tell you that ‘things would start to happen to your body’. I agree that the Netherlands are doing it right!

    • Malou says:

      The thinking of those who are extremely conservative like in my country is that if an issue is not talked about, it will go away. Unfortunately, what happens is that parents are being pre-empted by the turnout of events in their children’s lives before they can even have a say. We can’t control our children’s lives especially when they reach their teens so what is important is that they are well-informed about the facts of life and can be trusted to make the right choices and course of action.

  13. Dor says:

    Honesty with children is a good thing. Except when we tried to explain where babies came from, our son said, “Can I watch?” No, of course not. And when I asked my own mother, she brought home a book called “The Stork Didn’t Bring You.” :)

    • Malou says:

      Your son’s request made me laugh ;-) This must now be a family joke that gets back to him when this subject of sex education crops up if he has kids.

  14. midwestnaturalist says:

    I grew up in Canada the son of immigrants from the Netherlands, but raised my kids in Spain where the approach was similar. My children were taught human anatomy at six and sex by ten years of age. It’s been an open topic in our home, as it was when I grew up.

    However, there is a fine line between honesty and the need for privacy. So we were careful to provide information, but not in a way that would seem like “indecent” exposure. Sure, sex is somewhat scientific, but it’s also sacred. It would be nice to think that there would be something intimate that occurs when a couple first have sex and that it’s not simply the final exam to their human anatomy course.

    Thanks for your thoughts and for raising a great subject for discussion.

    • Malou says:

      I do understand your point that there is a fine line between honesty and the need for privacy. It is still a sensitive subject to discuss which should be approached carefully. I also do not encourage it but if and when the inevitable happen, then the young should be prepared to deal with it. I was born and raised a Catholic so I still believe in the sacredness of sex. What I am just stressing is that ignorance should not be perpetrated and the use of contraceptives even by married couple should not be banned (this is the case in the Philippines) because the church says that is a sin.

      I am the eldest of 8 children (make that 10 if one still born and one miscarriage by my mother were to be included) and I know how tough life is for a big family to partake of a very meager resource. Though we did not go hungry, we were deprived of so many things in life and being the eldest who has to work hard and sacrifice a lot, I felt robbed of my childhood. The church preaches that “go forth and multiply” doctrine which my parents took to heart as their main purpose in this world, not thinking that it was too much for my young shoulders to carry on with the responsibility of caring for so many.

      I believe in educating the youth about the subject and the responsibility that it entails. They should be made aware that this act is not just for physical satisfaction but that there are consequences and repercussions which can be far devastating. Aside from the prospect of pregnancy, there are those teens (especially girls who get in the act too early) who felt ugly and unloved after the act because they did it for all the wrong reasons. The guidance of parents in explaining that sex is an expression of love and its sacredness is because of that reason is something that we need to impart.

      • Thanks for sharing that, I noticed that you mentioned the “church” as saying that contraception is a sin. But is that in the Bible in law or principle? NO. The Bible teaches us to be responsible with how we behave towards one another and to “count the cost” when making decisions. With that said if the Creator does not have an issue with choosing to bear children or limiting the number that are produced then what write does the CREATION have to dictate such?

        I have family members that were born to large families and they had it much harder than was necessary. I mean if one is already struggling with a child then why have more? Wouldn’t that add to the problem? So part of being a responsible adult is self-control before marriage and then even after marriage making adjustments that are for the greater good.

        As far as the go forth and multiply, who was that instruction given to? Adam and Eve. It was necessary to accomplish God’s will. Yet because of the time they lived in it wasn’t nearly the issue it is now or even decades ago.

  15. Jane says:

    I love hearing about the different cultures! Funny how it was so different from you experienced as a child and what your daughter will experience! Honestly, I don’t know what I will do when I have kids, but I think this is a fascinating topic and I am so glad you wrote about it!

    • Malou says:

      If I will persist with the belief that I was raised in, my daughter and I will have an insurmountable generation gap. We’re still not in this “sex talk” phase but the Dutch approach to parenting which consists of frankness and openness at times still annoys me. My husband has to remind me of the world of difference between Philippine and Dutch parenting. I grew up not being able to speak my mind and just follow everything that my parents say. Dutch children though, are reared to be able to speak their minds without that ocean of divide between parents and children. Thus, the Dutch are oftentimes, interpreted to be too frank and direct (or with such big mouths for being opinionated) but that’s because from childhood, they were taught to speak their minds without fear. In the Philippines, however, we would be spanked, belted and given other kinds of corporal punishments if we ever just reason out.

  16. I agree with the Dutch approach, what an interesting post!

    • Malou says:

      Thanks a lot. Having a daughter made me change my thinking because I want her prepared for life when she reacher her teen. Having a well-balanced childhood life (she’s now enjoying the child phase with her fairy tales and princess fantasies), she’ll be wise enough to later confront the more sensitive issues with a discerning mind.

  17. Malou, I think we do kids a disservice by withholding honesty.

  18. A brilliant and well thought out and balanced post Malou. I went to a Catholic convent school where sex education was derisory – too little, too late. As a result, our school had one of the worst reputations for (hushed up) pregnancies. Some of the girls really had no idea. Fortunately my parents and grandparents were open and honest with me and it was no big deal.

    • Malou says:

      Thanks a lot, Tanya. So we share that Catholic convent school experience and it is really true that where sex education is too little, too late (in our case, none at all), there was a lot of pregnancies. I have classmates then who are now being confronted by the same issue they caused way back then. Can you imagine that I am a mom to a 4-year old and they are now grandmothers? The vicious cycle will exist for as long as ignorance is not confronted head on and with great honesty.

  19. ehpem says:

    Great post. Someone above mentioned Unitarian Universalist Church in the USA. In Canada it is mostly known as Unitarian. In both places they have a terrific sex education program as part of their education for children and young adults. It sounds a lot like the Dutch approach. I know in this area if someone who is not a member of the church wants their kid to go through the program, then they are welcomed into those classes. I mention all this because I know in some parts of North America people feel trapped on this topic and don’t know where to turn as all the public institutions have been infested by the Evangelists. Ao, this might be a solution for them – the Unitarians or UUs will be welcoming, but will respect who you are and won’t try to ‘convert’ you (mostly they don’t believe in god anyway). More information on their sex education program (OWLS for short) can be seen here: Our kids are much better for having been through the program – healthier attitudes, healthier relationships, no embarrassing mistakes like STDs or early pregnancies, knowledgeable and able to say no when its needed.

    • Malou says:

      Thanks a lot for this wealth of information about this program that you have out there. You’re absolutely right that kids who are able to get the proper information on this subject will have healthier attitudes and healthier relationships. I know of people who felt trapped and unhappy in their lives (tend to have that mid-life crisis) for having to live with the consequences of their careless actions in their youth.

  20. leslieislate says:

    Beautiful post. I appreciate the candor and honesty. It all just makes so much sense, doesn’t it? Here in the states, we could learn a lot from the Dutch approach. Thanks for sharing.

    • Malou says:

      Glad to know that you like this post. I am from a very conservative upbringing but coming here, I’ve learned to be pragmatic. Hence, this blog is also called, “Going Dutch”. ;-)

  21. Kinenchen says:

    Thank-you for this!

  22. katherinemartinko says:

    Great post! I fully support your approach. I was lucky enough to be raised by forward-thinking, albeit conservative, parents who explained everything to me at a young age. When I did get pregnant accidentally at 21, they were a huge support because our lines of communication were open and honest. I plan to do the same with my kids!

    • Malou says:

      Thanks a lot. As parents, I guess we just have to welcome the fact that our kids are growing up in a different environment and where awareness to many facts of life start early. It is our task to prepare them for life. ;-)

  23. I know that in America we tend to still be embarrassed by the whole topic of sex when it comes to our children. I struggle with it myself, knowing that I need to talk about it, but not wanting to bring up such an uncomfortable thing. Oy, it’s hard!

  24. I too agree with the Dutch approach. Great comparison writing. Also great photo illustration.

  25. The Dutch are so sensible. (I am part Dutch on my mother’s side, and appreciate that strain in me). My 5-year-old granddaughter asked me recently how babies get inside their mommies’ tummies. I told her in the most honest, matter-of-fact and, I hope, age-appropriate way I could. The comment about the Unitarian-Universalists is correct. I’m a UU and think UUs have a sensible approach.

    • Malou says:

      It’s nice to know that as a grandmother, you approached this issue and explained it to your granddaughter with all honesty. I’m sure that my mom-in-law will do the same when my daughter also asked her the same question which I’m sure will just be a matter of time from now. She’s 4 and very inquisitive.

  26. daniemarie says:

    Sounds a lot like Canada. We had lessons about the body and what’s appropriate and inappropriate at about 6-7 and started sex-ed fully at 12. Where I’m from, teen pregnancy is relatively low, so I think it really helps. If I do have kids I’d hope they’d get the same in their education, and I’d be honest with them at home as well (as my parents were with me).

    • Malou says:

      Good to know that the Canadians are as sensible as the Dutch. I guess with the world we live in where the influence of media, internet and peers can no longer be controlled in our kids’ lives, as parents we have no choice but to adapt our parenting to these modern times or be overtaken by events that we do not like.

  27. namitalad says:

    very thoughtful and thought provoking post…thanks for sharing it…and i agree with you on most of the points

    • Malou says:

      Glad to know that you agree on most of the points I raised. It is not easy to discuss this subject in the open but with the current times we have, it is something that we cannot bury in the sand anymore.

  28. Hi Malou,
    I agree with you that education is the answer but I do not feel the schools are doing a very good job. Please go to for my Feb. 14 post when I will address my take on this important subject. .
    I loved your beautiful blog. I think you should write a book and include all your beautiful photographs of parks, flowers, castles, hiking trips, and your darling little girl. I would love to sit in a comfortable chair by the fire and enjoy it over and over again. I have never been to Europe but I would love to go some day and seeing your pictures is almost like being there..

    • Malou says:

      Hi Joy,
      I’m looking forward to your Feb. 14 post when you address this issue. If the schools are not going a very good job at addressing this issue, I guess the parents and the teachers (through the Parents and Teachers Association) should have a discussion and agree on the way to approach this issue to that there are no misunderstanding or ambiguities in terms of the information that the youth gets on this subject. I’m glad to know that you like my blog and thanks a lot for the encouragement about writing a book. Not sure where this blogging will lead me, it is something that I am doing on the side after office work at the moment. ;-) I hope that you will be able to travel to Europe someday.

  29. Great piece! I know some Filipino parents whose idea of sex education to their American-born children was “just don’t do it.” That’s the way they were raised and perhaps for them it was fine. The world is much different. Children – and everyone else, too, for that matter – should have education about their bodies and have access to healthcare. Education and healthcare are basic and fundamental human rights. Thanks for writing this post, Malou. Glad I read down past Bicol Express :)

    • Malou says:

      Thanks Sarahlynn! Yes, in the Philippines it is about abstinence and sex should only be within the bounds of marriage. However, the realities in life especially in this day and age are so much different from the way my parents were raised. We just can’t go back 50 years back with parenting style or we will be overtaken by nasty events which we will just live to regret.

  30. Kongo says:

    Love your photos as always!

  31. I was raised Catholic and as soon as I left home for military I left the Catholic church! I have four children ages 21 to 12 and they know they can come to either parent for answers! I do not want my home to be a “Blue Lagoon “!

    • Malou says:

      I guess we just live under different times and as parents we need to adjust our parenting. Being too strict will just be counterproductive and keeping them in ignorance will just make them vulnerable in the real world. This is one thing that the church has to recognize instead of remaining trapped in age-old ideas which is making them irrelevant in the modern world. Don’t get me wrong, I am still a Catholic but I have to be progressive.

  32. Rneats (MyLifeWhileShopping) says:

    Malou, I loved your article, and I discussed it with my husband. He has spent a lot of time in Amsterdam on business in the past. He too had the misconception that the culture was more liberal due to its’ stance on drugs and sex. I appreciate the unique perspective you offer to your approach to life in Holland – comparing it in stark contrast to your childhood growing up in a strict Catholic family in the Philippines.

    Thanks for finding me on WordPress! I am spending my cold winter day here in Chicago enjoying your past blogs. I love your beautiful photography!

    • Malou says:

      I love the name of your bog, Rneats. Pretty cool! I just feel like I have to write this article to clear up a few issues. There’s always a misconception about the Dutch and the Dutch culture that even back home, they think that Holland is today’s version of Sodom and Gomorrah just because the Dutch has opted to approach the issues on sex, drugs, prostitution, same-sex marriage and euthanasia with eyes wide-open and talk about it openly. In reality, we still live in a very conservative society and the addressing these seemingly taboo issues openly is just a pragmatic approach to prevent abuse and criminality.

  33. Hi, I totally agree with you, I am expecting a baby girl, and I was discussing with my husband the other day our parenting concerns and this topic came to mind. Living in a religious society, we both agreed that when the time comes we will be discussing the issue openly and honestly so the child is well informed and doesn’t rely on internet resources as u said. This all will help form her personality and turn her into a healthy adult.

    Thank you for checking out my blog and following :) I am loving yours and enjoying going through your posts and photos

    • Malou says:

      Addressing this issue as part of parenting will be inevitable in the years to come for us. Together with my husband, we are just being very realistic as we do not want our daughter to get the wrong ideas elsewhere. She should better hear the explanations from us rather than from other people who may never have her best interest at heart. We as her parents brought her into this world and therefore, have the responsibility to make her the best person that she can be and that is only possible if we prepare her for life and its realities.

  34. Stephen says:

    Personally I prefer to prolong the age of innocence. I was left in the dark about sex well into secondary school. My guess is I was probably about 14 before I knew “the facts of life”. Do I feel I missed out? Not at all. Did this stocking absence of information bother me in the least? Not a jot.

    Were we taught about sex earlier than this? Probably, but it all sounded so preposterous I didn’t take it seriously. It was only when our biology teacher went sick and the headmaster took a lesson that I realised people actually believed what was in the text books.

    The best things in life that aren’t taught that well are integrity and character. Kids are pumped full of aspirational nonsense, not everyone can be an astronaut or Prime Minster, by the time kids leave school, or university the reality of life come crashing down on them.

    • Malou says:

      We all want that perfect and ideal world. In this day and age, however, there are so many factors beyond our control which can steal the thunder right before our eyes when it comes to discussing these issues with our kids. I come from another culture and that alone shows the big divide when it comes to the approach in handling this issue. I’d love my daughter to remain innocent for as long as I could but I will also ensure that she does not get her ideas elsewhere when it comes to this issue.

      Good parenting is crucial to raising kids with integrity and character. We have to live by example if we want them to imbibe these values.

  35. ChrystinaNoel says:

    I think as a kid I was way too embarassed (and still am) to talk to my parents about any of these shenanigans (I’m now 23). I’ve got to admit, I think it would have been nice to be able to be more open about it – but there is something great about innocence. Thanks for stopping by my blog and following!!

    • Malou says:

      I agree that there is something great about innocence. And that is also the reason why we cherish childhood fantasies here like the belief in Sinterklaas, the celebration of Sint Maarten, carnaval, etc. Of course, the Dutch are also pragmatic in believing that from innocence, the time will come that children will ask for simple facts of life which should be responded with all honesty.

  36. Gus says:

    Seems like here in the USA, sex is sold as a commodity in advertising. It’s everywhere. Can’t get away from it. But honest, open discussion is verboten. It’s such a mixed message it’s crazy. What we end up with is a perverted, unhealthy attitude toward sex and the human body.

    Thanks for the lovely post that speaks so well to this issue. I hope some day the religious fanatics here in this country may lose their repressive hold on our society.

    • Malou says:

      I’m glad that you like this post, Gus. Using sex in advertising and then at the same time repressing to address this issue is indeed sending mixed messages which lead to confusion. The US approach is no different to the Philippine approach where the church has a big say but cannot control pornography in everything from advertisements, movies and of course, the access to the internet.

  37. Joy says:

    God created humans in His own likeness, and sex has been created by God to be enjoyed within a marital relationship with one man and one woman. Sex is natural and pleasureable, but it is to be ‘practiced’ and enjoyed within the the marriage covenant. The parents are the first teachers of their children in all matters. When a young child becomes curious about their body or sex, the parents can be prepared to explain sexual matters in terms that are age appropriate–in the privacy of their home. When parents abdicate their responsiblity to teach their own children, then they have given the government permission to step in and usurp the parent’s God-given role.

    I used to think that adults did not want teenagers to have sexual relations because they didn’t want them to have any “fun”. It is God’s plan of protection for all to remain sexually pure before marriage. We aren’t so naive as to think that there are no repercussions for being sexually active outside of marriage; pregnancy, incurable sexually transmitted diseases, AIDS, and emotional devastation for those who are used and then tossed aside. Women are hard wired to give their hearts when they have sexual relations with a man. If they are a prostitute, or a woman who does not seem to mind having countless sexual encounters outside of marriage, then they must harden their hearts. God has said that the marriage bed should not be defiled, and those that have sexual relations outside of marriage are called ‘fornicators’.

    People can remain sexually pure before marriage, but certain obvious and common sense boundries should be put into place so that pureness is not a struggle. It is God’s best to come to the marriage bed WITHOUT prior experience, guilt, memories.

    Our morals have deteriorated ever since the fall of Adam and Eve. Satan entered the picture, and took what was created by God (yes, including sex!) and has twisted and cheapened it. Satan comes to steal, kill, and destroy. He has convinced millions that it is okay to have sex outside of a one man/one woman marriage, and when a woman becomes pregnant from that union, Satan has convinced millions that it is okay to kill the baby in the womb, or kill it by stabbing it in the back of the head and having a doctor vacume out it’s brains right before the completion of birth.

    And I, along with your relative, believe that it is totally inappropriate for a 10 year old child to learn how to put a condom on a banana. God help this world. We are under judgement.

    • Malou says:

      I can see your point, Joy. It is difficult to address this issue because of the generation gap that we have with the children nowadays. Then, there is technology like the internet whose hold on the children is usurping what the parents and the school can teach on the subject. A colleague of mine got the shock of her life when she learned that her daughter was posting nasty sexual matters on Facebook and Twitter and she’s all but 13. We can try to keep this issue out of the radar screen but the realities of life in this century has a different way of taking hold on everything that we hold dear.

  38. Interesting post! I enjoyed reading about the contrasting cultural approaches to sex from where you live to where you’re from. Though I’m not a mother, I agree with you that honesty and openness is the best approach, with any subject really. I think it’s ridiculous that people oppose sex education because they believe it’ll “make” kids promiscuous. I totally disagree with that line of thinking. And I like your coinciding birds & bees image!

    • Malou says:

      Glad to know that you found this post interesting, Nicole. This issue just can’t be ignored no matter how we try. As a mother, I worry about my daughter constantly and it is my sole goal that she have a good childhood that will prepare her for the life ahead. Honesty is important because I do not want to lose my credibility with her when she learns that I am not being truthful in my answers to her questions. She’s such a smart kid who never forgets. ;-)

  39. Aaron says:

    Great post! I couldn’t agree more, I’m looking forward to parenthood myself someday and think about these things all the time. I’m a big believer in science and taking a fact based, pragmatic approach to life. Really thought provoking post and blog!

    • Malou says:

      Glad to know that you like this post, Aaron. Parenthood is a big responsibility and so it is best to be prepared as to how you will address issues such as this. ;-)

  40. Great post. I wish that schools in the U.S. would take this approach more often.

    • Malou says:

      Glad to know that you like this post! I guess the US should be more open to approach the issue. To much hush-hush doesn’t mean that this is not being thought about by many. Look at those sex scandals as of late…

  41. thenry90 says:

    Reblogged this on Knowledge & Empowerment and commented:
    A great quality post on sexual health. I learned a lot!

  42. Nice post. I personally don’t see why people have such a problem with talking about and dealing with sexual issues. It’s just a natural part of life. We can’t pretend it doesn’t exist.

  43. Great, common-sense approach. Thanks for sharing this!

  44. IsobelandCat says:

    What a wonderful, refreshing post!

  45. Abena says:

    Hi Malou, thank you for following my blog! This is a wonderful post, and I only wish that Americans were as matter of fact about sex as the Dutch. I look forward to reading more from your blog!

  46. thanks for the follow. thanks for the like.

    In the US, it seems that certain political candidates deny childbirth and children. They don’t wish to fund abortion nor do they wish to fund the support and upbringing of unwanted children. They believe that “Parents have a right to be parents!” implying a sovereignty of the so-called “nuclear-family”. Their plan would work if there were a “nuclear family”. Brilliant contrapost of two cultures and their outlooks toward the future.

    Thanks and Welcome Aboard! A.

  47. jentoo says:

    This has been a good discussion–no hostility, no bashing, just an interchange of ideas.
    I agree for the most part. The only thing I would ask is why are we expecting schools to teach our children about sex? Why is it their responsibility? They certainly aren’t going to cover the sacred and beautiful part. I guess not all children have parents who care enough to teach them so the schools need to step in. Then we need to teach our own ideals related to it.

    It’s funny though, because my parents never talked to me about it directly, they just left books around for us to find. It must have worked. That along with growing up in a strong religious community where sex was not taboo but discouraged until marriage, multiplying was encouraged :), but it was a choice to be made between husband and wife as to how many and how frequently.

    I don’t agree with abortion, and that is my problem with Planned Parenthood. “The Choice” should come before having sex, the choice to be controlled and responsible. If you create life then you are responsible for it. Yes, I know, there is a big debate about whether an embryo is alive or not. It’s not that hard. If something isn’t alive, it doesn’t grow. Women have abortions because they don’t want a baby. Babies grow from embryos. That is life.

    I’m sorry if I have introduced an element to this conversation that is controversial. But “the other side” is very outspoken so I figured I could share my own logic too–not trying to offend or start an argument. I’m not against all abortions either by the way. If it’s to save the life of the mother or if a girl has been raped and become pregnant then I think it is okay. The girl that is raped didn’t make the choice. I think that many people don’t don’t get the education they need whether on sex or on the sacredness of sex and do become sexually active and I do believe they should be using contraception. At least it shows some level of being responsible, so in that way Planned Parenthood does have a role. If they really want to empower women then they could teach the other side of it. The best way to not get pregnant is to not have sex. It’s 100% effective and is very empowering.

    It’s so much better to wait! You don’t have to worry about pregnancy, STDs, being used, feeling dirty or unloved, having your heart broken, feeling disrespected, or not getting your education. You enter marriage with a strong sense of self-respect and confidence and sex is a wonderful thing in so many ways–and no bad memories to taint it!

  48. So true! We’ve been open and honest with our boys from the start, answering all questions openly and honestly. We are relaxed about nudity, while at the same time teaching respect for each others privacy. Both my young sons have a healthy open perspective.

    Conversely, I’ve know parents that used shame around the topic of sexuality. It makes me sad as I know they are condemning young children to a lifetime of shame around something that is a normal, healthy and wonderful part of life.

    (gardeningnirvana) posting from born to organize

  49. First of all Malou, I love this post and have been meaning to comment on it. Your daughter is a very lucky girl. My daughter is now 25 & we always were able to talk about any subject at all, including sex. I think a lot of that was the fact that she was a competitive figure skater & we drove in the dark early every morning to the rink for her lesson. There’s something about sitting next to each other in the intimacy of the car that makes it easier to talk about things that might be difficult in bright light, face to face. She also went to a private school & then after that, back to the skating rink so we spent many many hours in the car. That said, I have to tell you that although I was brought up & of an age where sex (and even having your period) weren’t discussed, I thought I’d be fine with anything my daughter would say. However, I guess I just wasn’t prepared or wasn’t expecting it when one day we were driving (of course). I was at a stop light on a side street about to turn onto a busy highway that runs East/West – I was going to head west when the light changed & my daughter said “Mom you just won’t believe this, it is soooo funny! Do you know that boys think they put a baby in a girl’s belly? Patrick thinks his penis can do this!” As I say, it just wasn’t expected – I think we’d been talking about somebody’s upcoming birthday party & the way she said it just through me. But of course I was a modern mother & I knew exactly how to handle this – the light had changed to green & as I got into the intersection of took too sharp a left turn & rather than turn into the westbound side of the highway I was face to face with the eastbound traffic! Although Boston drivers are said to be the rudest & the worst, they were nice enough to left me back up so that I could maneuver over to the westbound lane & be on my way so at least I didn’t get run over by 50 cars. And we did have a pretty good discussion after I got us headed in the right direction. And her comment after I clarified things for her… “really? that’s weird huh?” And then we were back to party discussions. I think when you make a big deal about things or avoid topics, the curiosity grows & the trust doesn’t develop. To this day Niki & I talk about everything.

    Unfortunately in the States now, this entire topic has become political and the dialogue has become very divisive.

    • Malou says:

      Glad to know that you agree with me on this particular subject, Diane. I know it is not an easy topic to discuss but the realities of today’s modern age is just too hard to ignore. It is easy to assume an idealized world but our children are exposed to so many factors that we cannot control.

      Too bad that the US which is the most modern country in the world has chosen to go backward on this subject.

  50. Such a thoughtful and sensible approach. I have always felt it strange that here in the UK we ‘protect’ children from films with sex in them but allow them to see violence. Being honest and straightforward about sex and recognising it as a natural part of life is so important. Your little girl is so lucky to have you as her Mum. All the best to you and your family.

    • Malou says:

      I guess we just live in a time and age where we have to recognize the influences of so many factors to our core values and adjust accordingly. I am not saying that we should be morally lax but we have to be pragmatic in approaching sensitive subjects. ;-)

  51. Wonderful insights – repression fostered by many churches is indeed a disservice to humanity. I like your comment that parents’ clinical explanation of sex makes it a boring subject to kids. Making it a taboo subject makes it more appealing – there’s nothing like the allure of the forbidden!

    • Malou says:

      Thanks a lot, Cindy. Repression is actually the wellspring for abuses and we can see that across many religions where it exists. Too often, the violence and abuses are directed to women and children who are weak and defenseless.

  52. babso2you says:

    Great article Malou! When I was growing up sex was not talked about. As a matter of fact, when I was in 6th grade (in the 60’s), we were shown the first ever sex education films on the PBS station. My mother wanted to know if I wanted to be excused from the classes! I was handed a book to read by my parents rather than them sitting down and talking to me. It is a good thing to teach the young about their bodies and how they work. We are still a repressed society here.

    • Malou says:

      Thanks a lot, Barbara. It baffles me that the US which is a very modern and advanced country in the world is going medieval into its approach to a very relevant subject like sex. I remember during the Clinton scandal how everyone was hanging on to every gory detail of the affair when there were far more important things that should be given focus.

      • babso2you says:

        That kind of thing happens every day in the news. To me it is more important to get the economy back to where it should be, but the focus of late are college kids having to declare their sexual orientation at the college they attend! I can hear you saying “What?” and see that your jaw has dropped, but this it seems is of utmost importance for the news to report. Who cares? Get the economy back on track and forget others and what should be their personal and private, yes private, lives.

  53. Last I heard about girls in the Philippines was that if they did not marry very young, at a certain age (early twenties) they would be perceived as no longer virgins and, thus, not suitable for marriage. Is this true? If so, it is antiquated, sexist, and sad. I agree with the native American approach in that it is discussed, as you say, the same as all other natural parts of life and earth. Children are responded to directly and the emphasis is on the joy that is possible when relationships and consequences are pondered conscientiously. I was raised Catholic and my mother communicated a lot of fear (four daughters!) which, as the case was made in My Mother Myself, is intuitively perceived by children. In response to my experience, learning about sex in a context of openness, naturalness, peace and joy became my commitment to my children.

    • Malou says:

      Not sure about this, Hattie. What I know is that when I was young, the girls in our village would go to the weekend dance in order to meet boys. That was the way to meet your lifetime partner. I never went to those dances so some guys told my parents that I had a sad life for how will I ever be married. I could only laugh out loud because I could see beyond the horizons as far as my future was concerned while those contemporaries of mine remained there. Some of them even have grandchildren now.

      I just think that we have to be honest and open with the kids on this subject as there is no other way to approach the subject. Hiding behind the facts will lead to too much curiousity and secretiveness. ;-)

  54. Being an immigrant from the Netherlands to Canada, I have to somewhat disagree with Daniemarie and it’s not that much like Canada, as I see it.
    The sex education class in public school is Canada BC is called Family Life and does not deal with much explicit material; parents can chose that their kids will not participate; and it is only taught in the later classes. The province of Quebec with predominantly Catholics and recently a lot of Muslims has recently cut all class time for any sexual education.

    Teaching kids in school what is appropriate conduct and is what not appropriate from an early age is indeed done, but only to the extent of street proofing, and for the recognition by teachers and the prevention of sexual abuse, and so that no kids will be sexually intrusive with each other; it explains what private parts are and about not allowing others to touch those private parts. That’s basically it.

    The teen pregnancy rate is moderate (for an industrialized country, it should be low) in Canada and birth control is not free, while in the Netherlands any birth control is free and the teen pregnancy rate is the lowest, with Sweden.
    The general attitude of parents in Canada is that they hope school will deal with sexual education and even parents of the younger generation have trouble talking about sexuality with their kids, while the teachers need, but do not have, a special training to teach sexuality in a fair and unbiased way.
    No it’s really not much like in the Netherlands, as it’s about attitude and talking freely about it.
    More stats can be found on the website

    Johanna van Zanten

  55. Reblogged this on Been There Done That and commented:
    I’m a former educator and I have seen so many missed opportunities for parents and teachers to provide needed information to children. If only others could use the Dutch as an example.

  56. Such an interesting topic and beautifully written post Malou. It has always been natural for me a s a parent to approach sex education the “Dutch” way! In fact, I have also approached other topics that are tabu in some households (drugs, alcohol, etc.) similarly. Not sure if it was just luck, but it seemed to serve me and my daughters. Both are well-adjusted brilliant healthy girls who are insightful and live life with passion and joy. When asked what I did “right” by other parents, I share that I was honest and open and present for them during their developmental years. Nothing was off-limits, yet I tried to still remain ‘the parent’ so they felt safe and protected during those vulnerable times. Little did I know that Dutch culture was what I was practicing… :)
    Thank you for sharing this great information.

    • Malou says:

      Thanks a lot, Robyn. Glad to know that you are so Dutch in your approach on this sensitive subject which is received very well by your girls. Can’t be any prouder that you have well-brought up girls. ;-)

  57. Hello, Malou!
    So lovely to connect with you…you commented on my Sunday Post Recipe of Cock-a-Leekie soup where I talked about the recipe for building self-esteem in our children.
    What an amazing post you wrote here on Sex Education. It is definitely a topic many parents here in the US are uncomfortable with…and many schools fall quite short of addressing the issue adequately. I loved your honest approach…your photography is wonderful!
    I’ll be following your blog as well. :)

  58. cyleodonnell says:

    This is great. Very refreshing. Thanks for posting. In this time of very controversial topics, it’s tough to come out and write about them hoping to instill the sense of promotion of good ideas, while also sidestepping the toes in the crowd. Bravo!

    Also, have you gotten to see the documentary film that I made from the Philippines? I REALLY enjoyed my visit there (conservative Catholic beliefs in full effect). I have a second visit planned for this fall when I will be taking on the auspicious goal of filming all eleven countries in Southeast Asia to finish my series of Travel Geek documentary films. Check it out if you haven’t already:
    If you like it, please leave a comment and pass around the link. It’s actually going to air on Fil/Am Filipino American TV Channel 31 KVMD Los Angeles! So I am pretty excited about that.

    Thanks again and keep up the great work!

  59. kentiki says:

    Excellent post. Unfortunately, the US way is to pretend sex doesn’t exist until one is 25+. People here are amazed when they hear we planned our child (not that they can’t come about unplanned; ). I even had my health insurance tell me my wife’s pregnancy was a “pre-existing condition,” and might not be covered. Huh? Well, they covered the costs. It’s the same with explaining homosexual relationships to kids: be honest and it’s not really that complicated.

    • Malou says:

      Thanks a lot, Ken. I am baffled that the US wants to go back to the middle ages on their approach to sex when it is a very advanced country. ;-)

  60. danitacahill says:

    Interesting post and well written. Thank you for following my photography blog!

  61. What an interesting contrast! I recently saw a documentary that talked about sex education in The Netherlands vs. in the US. I went to private school until college and actually did not receive any sex education in school. However, my parents and I have always had a very open relationship on the topic, and they were always willing to answer my questions. There are so many differing views out there. I think it is very important for parents to have an influence when they can. If they don’t take advantage of the unique role they were given, they are missing out on a lot of opportunities to shape their children’s views, educate them, and give them reasons to believe a certain way. My husband and I are expecting our first child right now, and this is the approach we plan on taking. My parents’ openness had a huge influence on my decisions concerning my sexuality. Not a day goes by that I regret my decision to only have sex with my husband after we were married. I think it’s so important for kids and teens to understand the possible consequences of their actions and make decisions based on that. I don’t think that sex education and abstinence messages are incompatible. It’s a shame that many members of the church shun sex all together. After all, sex was God’s idea!

    • Malou says:

      The strange thing is that in religions where sex is considered taboo as a subject to discuss in the open is where a lot of sexually related abuses exist. One classic example is the Catholic Church which is being weighed down by the sexual abuses of children which is even worst compared to sex between two consenting adults.

  62. Just back from a road trip with my 17-year-old son and 2 of his friends to visit colleges during spring break. The other boys were at first shocked and a little giggly because of the candidness of my conversation with my son, but within a few hours seemed to be eager for conversation of the type they never could have with their parents. It may be horrifying for young adults to realize us old fogeys understand what sex drive is, but it sure helps them understand their own teenage swings are normal and how to handle them.

    • Malou says:

      I am glad to know that your son’s friends benefitted from your honest take on this subject. I am sure that you made a big impact and their parents should be grateful to you. ;-)

      • Not sure about gratitude there. LOL….The way the guys described it, this kind of topic is off limits for the most part and it took them a while to get over their fear of talking about it.

  63. Well done. The Dutch approach makes the most sense. When I think of the things we tell our children when they are young, such as there is a Santa Claus, there is an Easter bunny, and you were brought here by a stork, I wonder how this all got started. While it is wonderful to see the joyful anticipation of the children regarding Santa Claus and the Easter bunny, I have to believe that telling children the truth about all things builds a greater level of trust. I enjoyed the beautiful photography as well.

    • Malou says:

      Thanks a lot. You are right about telling children the truth builds a greater level of trust. If we make up stories, they will eventually figure things out and by then it is too late to recover their faith in what we say. ;-)

  64. vspain says:

    I also attended Catholic school-12 years! And even though it was in the US similar silly-and dangerous-superstitions were “taught” often.

  65. askjennifer says:

    I am extremely impressed by your post. I plan approaching our son in the same fashion as you have expressed. I feel my husband would agree. Keep your opinions coming. I am all ears!

  66. askjennifer says:

    I am extremely impressed by your post. I was raised by my parents who were born and raised in England in a strict Roman Catholic backround. They moved to the USA in the 50’s and became more “relaxed with the California life”, if you will. I was fortunate that regardless of the strict upbringing they were somewhat open-minded and educated us in regards to your article.

    Keep the posts coming. I am all ears!

  67. chefkurtvk says:

    Great post. Here in the states, it is similar to what you grew up with. If there is not a pandemic of teen pregnancy in the Netherlands, I think that cause & effect is something we can learn from.

  68. Shelley says:

    One only has to look at the Republican candidates for the US presidency to see how backward we have become.
    The Dutch are so much more enlightened!

    Thanks for visiting my blog. I’m glad that you are enjoying it–as I am enjoying yours!

  69. Abby Rae says:

    8 yrs of Catholic school and never had sex ed class!! The teachers would always say we were just too busy at the end of the year to fit it in(giggles!)

  70. Sex ed in The Netherlands sounds excellent and children there are going to be well prepared. I don’t feel the ages they learn at are too young at all. When you consider it may help them speak up and recognise child abuse at an early age. Wish the rest of the world could catch up with them.

  71. cryscaralagh says:

    I think this approach to sex is something which is very commendable. I remember the sex-ed classes in school in India at the age of 14 and even then it was shocking how little we knew about such an important thing. If you were a bit more knowledgeable about it, it was frowned upon and I remember most kids shut up after being looked at weirdly because you asked questions. And even though now, I’m a mature girl of 21, its surprising that so many classmates of my age are still lacking in the basic knowledge of sex and all its accompaniments. And this is quite a cause of concern. Luckily, with the psyche of the youth today changing (hopefully), this approach is the way to go.. Thanks for this.. Its helps towards becoming a responsible mum in future.

  72. citytobeach says:

    Wow, I am blown away by the truth of this post. Thank you for sharing. My mom was raised in the Philippines so this hits even closer to home. I really appreciate your writing style and I’m looking forward to reading more.

  73. danroberson says:

    Many parents would benefit from having sex education along with their child. In addition to health education, which could include information about cleanliness and function of the reproductive system, the child might learn what is normal and beautiful. Misconceptions, wrong expectations, and experimentation should not be the norm. Communication skills, being open and direct with courtesy and honesty, take years to learn. Sex is a normal function communicating love. Keeping any kind of communication skills secret does not help the child.

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