I saw an interesting T-shirt on a fourth grader at our elementary school’s campus: It said “got wood?”
I understand the “got milk?” ad campaign and how funny that was. This one I just couldn’t get. I had a hard time picturing what that actually was an ad for… Baseball Bats? Carpentry? A new line of T-shirts for beavers and wood chucks? I’m just not sure. So I went to my computer and I googled it looking for this T-shirt in the shopping section. The first one that shows up is for a woodworking shop.
Then the second one was very obviously not woodworking (or maybe it was depending on your definition of “working your wood”).
This second website’s shirt gets to the heart of what I think the one on campus was getting at, and of course, that got me thinking: What kind of messages are we sending with having sexual innuendos on T-shirts for kids? Could this boy understand the T-shirt he was wearing? Did anyone sit down with him and explain why that was funny? Is that too much information? Are there parents who are offended? Or thought it was inappropriate? Did anyone else notice??
In my humble opinion, most everything is about sex whether people recognize it or not. And it is surely at the forefront of my mind because it is what I’m studying. I do not wake up thinking about it (most days) but it pervades my day and how I see other people’s behavior. And I think when most people say “sex” they’re thinking of the act. I think of it as more encompassing in “sexuality”: the capacity for sexual feelings. This T-shirt is a good example of that. Most people look at that shirt “got wood?” and chuckle. They get it instinctively, don’t even have to think twice… “Wood” being a euphemism for the erection of the penis.
So my question is this: when you see T-shirts like this do you explain them to your children, and if so, at what age? Had my eight-year-old Marcia seen this T-shirt with me I may have started the discussion. I could see asking her what she thought it meant and then listening to her description. I could see asking her if she wanted to know what came to my mind. She knows a little about the male anatomy. I think this would be a good place to start a conversation about why a man’s penis gets erect, and why a T-shirt about that would be funny. I could also see this being the start of a discussion about sex and advertising. I know there’s a lot of material about that subject.
Perhaps it is just me, and maybe I do think about sexuality nearly 24 hours a day, 365 days a year but this to me is yet another example of an opportunity to have an open and frank discussion about sexuality with kids. What better way to help kids be sexually informed and make it through the world by being a parent (or an aunt or uncle) who is seen as a safe person to have these conversations with and guide them yourself… while they still listen to what you have to say.