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Friday, August 3, 2012

282

Talking the Talk

They're having a neat conversation over at Feministe about, among other things, the changing sex-ed curricula, and also how parents can go about encouraging kids to delay sex, (if that's what they want for them), without making it about shaming:

I fear unplanned pregnancy. I can have all the birth control talks with them I want, but that doesn’t rule out the possibility that most, namely hormonal-based methods may not even be an option due to family history. I fear them having to face an unplanned pregnancy. None of the options are pleasant. Raising a child in your teens, abortion, adoption – none of these are wrong choices, but none of them seem like particularly pleasant choices.

I don’t want them to delay their sexual lives out of some kind of moral obligation or some arbitrary idea of purity. It’s a protectiveness thing I suppose. I just want their lives to stay… uncomplicated, or as uncomplicated as possible, until they are both fully ready to take that kind of responsibility on.


I feel like my parents handled all these things really well (Dad – "Where are you going?" Nicole – "I thought I would go to our doctor for birth control." Dad – "If you can wait ten minutes, I'll give you a lift."), but there are obviously many different ways you can go about the process, and everyone works through their own hang-ups and preoccupations on the way. Personally, I think that teenagers are some of the most sexual people in the known galaxy, and that a reasonably with-it seventeen year old should absolutely be able to start navigating through the world of sexuality. How did "the talk" change when you were actually on the verge of sexual maturity? And when, really, do you think teenagers should be dropping trou?

282 Comments / Post A Comment

BornSecular

Talk? What "talk"? My mother gave me an outdated, illustrated book and a dense tome instead of actually talking to me. No one in my immediate family was particularly physically affectionate with any one else, so I was pretty freaked out by any physical contact with people. I had a hard time letting my first (and only) boyfriend (now husband) hold my hand. And sex...it wasn't even on my radar until college.

doublewindsor

@BornSecular I went on birth control for skin issues, and after walking out of my first appointment with the doctor my mom said "just because you're on birth control doesn't mean you can start having sex." I was 18. That was my first and last conversation with my mother that ever included the word sex. I am 28.

RebeccaKW

@BornSecular The only sex talk I ever got was from my mom. I was dating a guy in the military, and for high school grad, my present was a trip to see him at HIS parents home. Before the trip my mom said "I'm not paying to fly you out there so he can get laid." The end.

RNL
RNL

@doublewindsor My mother (the doctor who provides pre-natal care to sex workers), when I was 16, in the year 2000: "you know condoms are the birth control of the '90s". Me: "What? Mom, it's 2000.". Her: "Use condoms. AIDS and stuff.". Me: ...

Fin. The end. No more sex talk from her, until now, at 28, when we get to talk about her wild past and all the boys she slept with. Growing up in the 50s and 60s must have been confusing, man!

faience

@BornSecular From my mother, the labor and delivery nurse, around 12 or so, I got a stack of pamphlets about puberty and sex. Dad asked me once if I read them (I had because I would read anything). And then my second summer home from university, mom while driving to me a friend's first suggested that I move in with my then bf to save money (we had been living together at that point for months secretly) and asked if I wanted to go on the Pill. Super awkward to explain I was cool with just condoms.

Besides finding a Joy of Sex manual, hidden in the closet with the Christmas presents I was supposed to wrap this is about the entire sum of my sexual education from my parents. Thank god for high level biology classes and the internet.

MsMisery

@doublewindsor & BornSecular
I have similar stories. My parents gave me books on both sex and periods (but my school district also took us to a really neat place on field trips during elementary school to learn about sex ed- Robert Crown Center for Chicago suburb residents), so I never got The Talk, verbally, from either of them. Also, I went on the pill at 13 because of a health issue (about 6 months after I started my period), so I never needed to ask for it or any other BC.

shiv

@BornSecular Man, Christian parents. I think I got some "bird and the bees" talk in fifth grade after we had some sex ed health lesson. Other than that it was a lot of "sex is great, when it's between husband and wife as it was meant to be" so naturally, I always denied being sexually active. When my dad came across my diaryland (!) when I was 14 and saw that I mentioned giving my boyfriend head he didn't talk to me for a month.
The only other talk my mom tried to have with me was when I was 19 and headed across the country to visit my boyfriend (for the third time) and she called and asked "so, you have somewhere to sleep, right? I mean, uh, we've never talked about it but... I hope you're being safe?" Me: "hahahahha oh god mom no, we're not talking about this".

hoo:ha

@doublewindsor Ugh... I hear you. My otherwise very groovy parents were a bit shamey about sex, so I kept everything totally hidden from them... and still do, at age 30! To this day, when my mom tries to joke about sex with me, it makes me uncomfortable.

marybella

@BornSecular I remember going to the Robert Crown Center when I was in 5th grade for sex-ed!

Mila

@BornSecular My one sex talk: I was 16, not remotely sexually active, my mom walked into my room, apropos of nothing, and said in a sort of angry voice: "We are a very fertile family. There is no time of the month that is safe." And walked out. Never talked about sex ever again. Oh wait, the first time I brought a boyfriend home to visit (when I was in college), we fell asleep in the family room watching a movie. So technically, we "spent the night together" but truly, nothing sexual happened (because I am way to uptight in my mom's house for any sexy times). In the morning she cornered me alone, and hissed at me "I didn't think you were coming here so you could do that!" and stormed away. Ah, Mom, good times.

Scandyhoovian

I'm really thankful that my parents were as open and accepting about sex as a part of life as they were -- they're European immigrants who moved into the Atlanta suburbs, so while many of my friends grew up with abstinence-only-sex-is-the-devil kind of parents, mine were really cool about it. As soon as I started dating, my mom told me, "If you think it's time, I will call the doctor and we will get you on birth control." I never had any trouble with it beyond my own teenage weirdness about bringing it up in front of my dad. Which, uh, once he realized my siblings and I were sexually active, he decided sex was a perfectly normal dinner table conversation topic, so now --a decade later-- we're all totally used to it and I just feel bad for any new girlfriends/boyfriends we bring into the house because they'll never know what hit them, hahaha (I mean, we warn new people, but it never seems to be clear just how open my family is about this stuff).

Faintly Macabre

@Scandyhoovian "They talk about sex like it's a completely normal thing!"

Scandyhoovian

@Faintly Macabre It's really kind of sad how many people are completely scandalized by the mere suggestion of sex.

BornSecular

@Scandyhoovian I'm pretty open about it now. I had a girlfriend in HS whose mom was open about it, so I got most of my info from them. These days, I'm generally the one making other people uncomfortable by being too willing to share/give advice. ;)

Hammitt

There wasn't much of a talk (as my mother said: "that's why we sent you to private school, honey") (n.b. she's a lot less awful than that makes her sound.) But there WAS a lot of talking about being supportive no matter what happened and we could always talk to her, and we could handle anything together, and love no matter what. So I don't think my parents had much to do with the fact that I chose not to lose my virginity until almost 21. Okay, lets be honest, no one made that choice. No one was really trying all that hard to take it before then, either.

I do think the only thing they actively did was just happen to be home ALL THE TIME when I was with my high school boyfriend. As were his. But we also never got serious enough to really start talking about it in any way.

SarahP

@Hammitt Yes! My mother didn't really give me any one Talk, but she's always been so supportive and open to discussions that I knew I could go to her if I had any questions or issues.

CrescentMelissa

@SarahP Your mom sounds lovely. I hope my kids feel the same way about me!

youresmalltime

@Hammitt I once had a manager who, upon getting pregnant after years of terrible and expensive trying, found out she was having a girl. At some point during the pregnancy asked me when I had lost my virginity, because I seemed like a pretty stand-up girl. It was a really chill work environment where a question like this didn't blindside me, and I was honest when I told her I was (also!) almost 21. She then proceeds to ask me what my mother had done to make me wait so long.

She was really disappointed when my answer was, "Uh, she wasn't there to make that choice for me?"

themmases

@Hammitt Looking back I think my then-boyfriend had too much ish to have sex with me anyway, but at the time I blamed my parents for being home constantly too. There were periods when they both worked from home! A nightmare.

juksie

@Hammitt "Talks" I had throughout my life: 1. my mother asked me every time "I Can't Get No Satisfaction" came on the oldies station while we were in the car together whether I knew what it was actually about 2. My mother told me, sometime between those catastrophically awkward song listenings (there were about 5 of them) that if I had any questions about sex I should ask her. I never did.
Worked fine for me and her really, as I didn't have sex as a minor, which I'm sure calmed her immensely.

OhMarie

There's an old South Park episode where the kids ask Chef when you should have sex and he says seventeen. "You mean seventeen and in love?" "Nope, just seventeen." That always kind of made sense to me.

My parents are Catholic and went in for the full-on no sex until marriage route. Fortunately they are also big into knowing whatever you need to know so I had lots of books.

I had one of those moments when I was 16 where I realized that not having sex until marriage was a bad idea and made the leap that, therefore, everything else I'd been told must be wrong as well and promptly lost my virginity to an ex who lived down the street.

I have no idea what I'll tell my own kids.

fondue with cheddar

@OhMarie That's how old I was. It worked for me.

MoxyCrimeFighter

@OhMarie HA! I love that episode. My own feelings are very arbitrary, as well. I generally think people should wait until they've graduated high school. Fuck literally the minute you switch the tassel over, I don't care, but at least get a high school degree.

That being said, nothing is going to change the fact that teenagers want to bone, so get them all the sex ed and contraceptives you can, and let them know that they are in control of their bodies - have sex, don't have sex, the decision is predicated upon what's right for them and not what other people expect. I had a good sex ed program in my schools, but other than a sort of general "abstaining is okay/no means no" motif, I don't remember a whole lot about why bodily autonomy is so important. Maybe whoever designed it didn't have much to say on it, or didn't think teenagers would be responsive to it, or was afraid of pushback from pro-life parents, but I think more discussion of that would be super beneficial to (generalizing here) groups who are more likely to be pressured into sex and the people who do the pressuring/forcing.

MsMisery

@OhMarie Oh, damn. I was 2 weeks from seventeen (although I read somewhere that the American national average for girls is 16). Maybe that's why my relationships from then on were crappy.

fondue with cheddar

@MsMisery At least you were on the edge of seventeen.

Within a two- or three-month span, I got my driver's license, lost my virginity, left the country for the first time, and my parents separated. It was quite a transitional summer.

bluewindgirl

@MoxyCrimeFighter Y'know, I'm not sure all teens just want to bone? I feel like most teens know "most teens just want to bone" and feel vague (or specific) pressure to do that thing, but I just remember a lot of vague, intense Feelings that I didn't relate specifically to sex. But then, I was also extremely emotionally immature. My 17 was probably most people's 13.

SarahP

Haaaaaaa my parents' solution was having an incredibly nerdy daughter who was incapable of reading social cues from anyone in whom she was interested. I sure read about sex as much as I could, but I was nowhere near it at any time during my teenage years.

SarahP

@SarahP This, I should add, is also how I hope to deal with the issue when I have kids of my own.

werewolfbarmitzvah

@SarahP Same here! HIGH FIIIIIIIVE!

sarah girl

@SarahP Hahaha YES. Is this a Sarah thing, maybe?

rallisaurus

@SarahP That sounds so familiar! My Mom was way more into talking about sex than I was. When I started driving she said that the freedom I got from having my own car might make me more promiscuous so I should be careful and blah blah blah. And then I promptly spent the summer reading fanfiction. Ha!

Megasus

@SarahP Yeah, me too! I was never really given a "talk" though, just a book when I was around 8. That was all I needed to know. Oh and also lots of people in my town got pregnant at 13 (and still do), and I knew without a doubt that that was not something I wanted for my life. So I did not have sex until I had my own apartment at 19. No regrets there.

celeec4@twitter

@SarahP Ditto my parents' solution. Talk, what talk? The internet and textbooks were my "talk."

you're a kitty!

@SarahP Hahah yep here too. Though I did get a number of talks—age eight or so, stuck in the car for an hour-long drive with my mom, she decided to get alllll the info out there, and I sat in mortified silence until we pulled into the stables and she went, "...and that's how gay men do it. Questions?" It was really awkward, and in retrospect I think it was way more awkward for her, but it did get the job done. Also I had books. And the internet.

My all-time favorite follow-up conversations were as follows:

Early in high school: Mom: "So... sex?" Me: "I think I'll probably wait until I'm married." Mom: "HAH!"

Then in college we both relaxed a lot and ended up having this incredibly strange conversation (again in a car, ALWAYS IN CARS) that ended with me being like, "Are you asking me for sex-toy advice?!" and her being like "I THOUGHT YOU WERE ASKING ME!"

themmases

@celeec4@twitter I asked for the books starting around puberty so I'd know about that whole mess, and some of them went further and talked about sex too (these were the favorites). The original gURL book ("Deal with It!") will forever hold a special place in my heart... I probably still have it.

isitisabel

@themmases OH MY GOD that book basically was my sex ed/awareness. My sister had it, and I would go into her room when she wasn't home and read it, and then very carefully put it back exactly how it was on the shelf. It is so excellent, and I will definitely be giving it to my daughter when/if I have one.

My parents and I had the obligatory "Have any questions?" "No, not really" conversation when I went through puberty ed in 4th grade and sex ed in 8th grade in school (anybody else have this? In elementary school they had a day where they separated us into boys and girls and told us about puberty and "changing bodies" and menstruation and wearing deodorant all that, but I don't think they said anything about sex until we had real sex ed later). I wouldn't call my family repressed or anything, and there's definitely no stay-a-virgin pressure, but we just... don't talk about sex. Like, I'm sure if I wanted to I could, but my sex life is such a nonexistent that there's really no point.

themmases

@isitisabel I had such a similar exchange with my mom when I was briefly dating a guy a couple of years older than me. I was on the way out the door to go see him and she asked me if I was having sex or needed birth control. "No." If I were, would I tell her? "Probably not." If I were, would I know how to get what I needed myself? "Yes." End conversation. I wasn't rude about it (I don't think... I was 17) but that's pretty much where we left it.

Verity

@SarahP Same here!

maybe partying will help

No talk for me. My mom left it to the shitty school system. Being raised in restrictive religious environments RAWKS, y'all. Less flippantly, I am very grateful that I had a lot of good resources available online and a couple of more knowledgeable friends to talk to when I was finally ready to get down to business (in college). Although, it didn't really matter, since in high school I was awkward enough that I wouldn't have been able to get play even if I hadn't thought that premarital sex was second only to murder in terms of sinfulness.

I guess I think that a lot of teenagers are going to want to have sexual experiences and that they should be able to be as careful and responsible as possible, and that the adults in their life have a responsibility to help them be safe.

Roxanne Rholes

@maybe partying will help On the flip side, and sans sarcasm, being raised in a supportive religious environment really DOES rock! I was raised Unitarian Universalist, where sex ed is a part of Sunday school, and it was great.

maybe partying will help

@Roxanne Rholes

That is what I hear!

KatieBarTheDoor

@maybe partying will help Totally with you here. I don't remember how I learned about sex-- either school or my friends, but certainly not my parents. My mother's contribution was to periodically, in various ways, remind me that premarital sex would send me straight to hell.

TheBelleWitch

@Roxanne Rholes HA, I grew up in a very socially conservative area with one little UU church serving the, like, 20 non-evangelicals in a 50-mile radius. Guess who our public schools hired to teach sex ed? Yep, one of the Unitarian Universalist church leaders. I like to think they could find literally no one else who would do it.

She was great, though. It was definitely abstinence-based, but they showed us all the birth control and didn't pull any of that "If you have sex, you are a used piece of tape" shit.

Roxanne Rholes

@TheBelleWitch Oh man, that's so great! I'm really glad that congregation was there. My church was in a pretty liberal area, so it was mostly people who weren't even Christian. I remember having to get a permission slip signed because they were like, "hey, in case some of these kids are gay, why don't we just show them some illustrations of how gay people bang? Slide show!"

TheBelleWitch

@Roxanne Rholes Oh man, that is too awesome.

Bittersweet

@Roxanne Rholes I went through AYS in the UU church as a 13-year-old and while all the presentations were very informative, they were fairly hard for us middle-schoolers to process. You could almost hear little brains exploding during the guy-guy slideshow. But overall I think it was a good program.

Roxanne Rholes

@Bittersweet Haha, that's awesome. I think we were pretty okay with it (I guess we were maybe sluts?) but I remember a class where each gender group was quizzed about the opposite gender group. One of the questions for the dudes was "how often should a woman change her pad or tampon?" (why a dude needs to know that, I have no idea) and this poor kid was like "every time...she...bleeds?" and the ladies erupted with laughter.

baked bean

@maybe partying will help My mom never even talked to me about my period. She just assumed the school covered that. It was kind of terrifying going through that alone. So yeah, sex was never talked about.

Our school (public) taught abstinence-only. They showed us the scary Kirk Cameron videos with the scary carnival analogies and clowns that told us sex will make you die from STDs, and abortions are something you will regret forever. Since I was pretty clueless and only 12, I believed it, and it took me a few years to get over that.

I was thankfully to awkward in high school as well, and thankfully was more educated by the time the opportunity arose in college.

My best friend, who also grew up in a similar environment, became sexually active in high school. She still believed that condoms are bad and would get stuck inside you from that Kirk Cameron video from middle school health, so didn't let her bf use them. Which is really, truly horrifying, and thankfully soon learned through the internet some facts and truth before any pregnancies happened.

But yeah, our parents had one talk about with my brother and I as older teenagers to wait until marriage.

thatgirl

My parents were super good about the academic-y books (What's Happening to my Body Book For Girls was my favorite as a twelve year old). I sort of discovered the rest through having older friends and reading a lot of smutty fanfiction. I didn't have penetrative PIV sex until college, though. Honestly, I find manual and oral to be more fun a lot of the time, and even now I'm not super obsessed with PIV.

I think that framing non-PIV sexual behaviors as sex would be really interesting. Aside from legitimizing non-normative sexualities (the undying "but aren't lesbians virgins FOREVER?!" question), I could see it leading to less risky behavior (when combined with comprehensive sex ed).

C_Webb

@thatgirl I like this idea, but you'd need to stress no PIA either -- something dangerous STD-wise but they're likely to do it unsafely since there's no chance of pregnancy.

thatgirl

@C_Webb Well, I don't think it's about stressing NOT doing anything. With proper sex ed and harm reduction type of work, the focus is on mitigating risk in whatever behavior is chosen.

Basically, I think that people (especially teenagers, especially ones more likely to engage in high risk behaviors) are going to do whatever the hell they want to, especially if they're told not to. So give them the information on how to stay safe (which means not saying "DO NOT STICK YOUR DICK INTO ANY DOWNTHERE HOLES," it means "hey, if you're going to stick your dick in downthere holes, here's how to do it right, because this is what happens when you do it wrong."

C_Webb

@thatgirl Well yeah, that's what I meant. I was going along with your theme of "framing," not "outlawing." I just keep thinking of those horror stories of girls talked into taking it only in the ass because then they're still technically virgins, which is the sort of thinking that makes me bananas.

RebeccaKW

@C_Webb My official sex ed came from the public school system. I remember in 8th grade, they separated girls from boys and had nurses from the health department come in to answer questions. They let us write questions so it would be anonymous. Anyway, they continually stressed that any penetration is sex. Mouth, anus, vagina, ear, didn't matter. I'm 33 and I remember that sex ed class when I was 14 like it just happened. I'm really grateful that our school system had professionals come in, rather than relying on gym teachers who took a seminar.

you're a kitty!

@thatgirl oh man fanfic. I'm pretty happy with how inclusive and non-judgemental teenagers in fandom are these days about unusual kinks, etc... the dominant attitude on AO3 and tumblr seems to be, "if it's not your thing, that's fine! just don't read it!" and that's a message that I'm reallllllly glad kids are getting. There's also some decent sex ed in fanfic, though obviously it depends on the quality.

Springtime for Voldemort

@thatgirl I got almost all of mine from smutty fanfic. There was a Where Do Babies Come From book that explained, well, where babies come from and what sperm is, but what eating pussy was and how to do it definitely came from fanfic. I did ask my mother what "oral sex" was after about a year of reading smut, because I was only 96% sure that it was the same as bjs and eating pussy, and the look on her face promptly informed me that she thought oral sex was disgusting and obviously only whores do it, so I stopped asking her things. (I have since found out that the look on her face was actually "I hate our president for teaching my daughter 'oral sex'." Little did she know...)

TARDIStime

@thatgirl That's amazing - all schools should definitely do this!

greendrinker

mom of 13-year-old here. and, I got her a book, several books. TRIED to talk with her, but she completely shut me down saying "I DONT WANT TO TALK ABOUT IT!!" So, maybe she's too young, but I don't think so...girls are certainly doing "things" in her grade. How do I handle this unwillingness to talk about sex?? I want to talk and talk and talk some more about her upcoming experiences, but she's too embarrassed to breathe the same air I do, much less have sexy talk! So, to all of you out there who demonize your mother for handing you a book and calling it a day...did it have anything to do with your attitude toward her??? Just sayin'... plus, any helpful advise on how to manage this one is welcome. she just doesn't want to talk to me. And, no, there are no aunts in this child's life. I'm an "only" as is my husband. so, now what??

OhMarie

@greendrinker The book stuff actually worked really well for me. I was INSANELY embarassed to talk about this stuff with my mom (partially because of generally not wanting to talk about it, partially because of the whole religious "your body is a temple" thing).

I think that the only way I wasn't well-served was that the books were really clinical and I didn't get anything about how to make sure that you are in healthy relationships and things like that.

apples and oranges

@greendrinker I did this to my mom and she never tried to talk to me about it again. I would have liked if she had. But seriously, if your 13 year old doesn't want to talk about puberty and sex, out of sheer embarrassment, that doesn't mean they don't need to hear something from you or that they won't want to talk about it later. I would wait a little while and see if she is more receptive, or if not, honestly, maybe just sit her down and pull a "I'm your mom, we are having this talk no matter how awkward it may seem." I bet she will appreciate it later.

laurel

@greendrinker: At what age does a girl start seeing a gynecologist? Would it help to start a transition from pediatrician to gynecologist, where reproductive health is part of her care? I dunno, I'm not a mom, just a thought about enlisting allies and making dealing with reproductive health normal and not so emotionally and socially loaded.

packedsuitcase

@greendrinker Well, when I was 13 my dad trapped me in a car with him, started talking and kept talking until I shut up about not wanting to have that particular conversation. Then he wouldn't let me shut down, he made me actively listen and respond to what he was saying. It was effective in making me listen, but it wasn't super informative. But then, I had comprehensive sex Ed (including a visit to the labour and delivery ward in a local hospital) at school, so he knew I knew the basics. His talk was more about family expectations.

What was super effective was my aunt who is 7 years older than I am letting me stay with her and her husband and talking to me about how much harder life was having had her son at 17 and how she wishes she had waited. I think I was 14 and she was 21 when we had that talk.

OhShesArtsy

@greendrinker GURL.COM. Seriously! It was the only way I found out about sex and body things as a preteen. I was WAY too shy to ask my mom plus she is super conservative and didn't really want to talk about it either. Gurl.com also has (or at least had, I haven't looked for it lately) a book that was excellent.

Clare

@greendrinker From what I've read, a girl should see a gynecologist at 18 or when she becomes sexually active.

Has your daughter's pediatrician given her the Gardasil series? That could become a good conversational opening for a sex talk. Why it's important to get these shots, what it protects you from, what it doesn't protect against and how to be safe in those situations, etc.

TheLetterL

@greendrinker I remember pulling pillows over my head when my mother tried to show me a Tampax-sponsored puberty video and shrieking until she turned it off. Her attempt at officially talking about sex was met with less melodrama but a frosty, even Victorian, unenthusiasm. What I needed was an approach that suited my need for privacy (so, books and websites over forced interaction) and practicality (No "It's great being a girl! Moonsisters unite!" garbage when you are telling me I am going to cyclically leak fluids for most of my adult life.).

So, I would say find a reputable book or website with a tone she'll enjoy. Give her the material and say that you respect her desire for privacy but she MUST have accurate information and you would love to have whatever conversations she wants to have.

BornSecular

@greendrinker Yeah...in all fairness, I probably did some of that too, but my mom never tried to readdress the subject. I was an obedient enough daughter that if she'd be insistent it would have worked, but no idea how your relationship is with yours. I just don't advise giving any books that are clearly dated. Mine had horrible cartoon pictures that looked like they were from the seventies. I hit puberty mid-90s, and whatever good it might have done was negated by my disdain for the age of it.

My husband and I were talking about a similar subject last night, because our experiences were so diametrically different. A lot depends on the general atmosphere of the family, we think. I mean, my family acted like sexuality/sexy bits/sexy times didn't exist, so when they tried to address it, I couldn't even handle it. His family was pretty open since he was a child (his mom's a doctor) so it was never a big deal for him. He had rudimentary knowledge from practically age 3, haha.

harebell

@greendrinker Ouch, that sounds like a hard situation. (I remember doing that to my own mom a bit, and regret it now -- but, the age, the age!)
You might try giving her The Guide to Getting It On, which is a really great book for many different ages & levels of experience. It grows on a person well. They have chapters on kissing, on all the non-PIV stuff, as well as chapters on the standard stuff & pointers useful even to us experienced types. But the best part of all is that it's very, very attuned to the emotions of sex and all about treating yourself and the people you're with with compassion, thoughtfulness, and respect. Plus the tone is funny and down-to-earth. I think she would race through it and it would probably help her with nonsexual friendships as well as sexual relationships -- and it would really, really give her the skills to go as far as she's ready with sexual things but no farther. Plus I think you'll enjoy skimming it over in the bookstore!

New Commenter Name

@greendrinker
I have two daughters, ages almost-9 and almost-5. I'm about half way through this here book which I'm finding quite helpful in terms of organizing my own thoughts and giving me the tools and motivation to start speaking to my daughters about this stuff.

I was going to say, if you have a child who tries to avoid discussing it, the author suggests going for a drive and discussing it in the car where you have a captive audience, but I see a few others here have already left that suggestion for you. She also suggests saying something like: I'm uncomfortable talking about this too, but we're going to talk about it anyway and we'll both be better people for confronting it.

queenofbithynia

@greendrinker How do I handle this unwillingness to talk about sex??

Respect her boundaries, applaud her willingness to articulate her sexual comfort level, and urge her to be as definite about her likes and dislikes with all sexual partners as she is with you? Just for instance.

As long as a girl is curious enough to read it and smart enough to understand it, giving her a book and telling her to read it on her own time and come to you with any questions is the absolute best way to go. Nobody should be made to discuss the subjective experience of puberty and masturbation and all that with their parents, right? (Basic dispassionate biology is another thing, of course, and if it makes her uncomfortable to be quizzed on how her ovaries work she does need to just deal with it.)

harebell

@queenofbithynia I agree with the underlying principle, but maybe it's applied a little to strictly here?

Definitely no one should bull-doze their kids with sex information. On the other hand, sometimes the squeamishness is coming from an immature place with most adolescents -- and it does seem like a good adult value to be able to talk about sexuality -- not what anyone, personally, is doing, obviously, but what sex is, what safe sex is, etc. I do think I would be concerned if my (imaginary) child was not able to do that, and would want to talk about why she feels it is so terrible and impossible to discuss. Because it seems like if she did feel that way, some pretty terrible, pernicious ideas about sexuality must be underlying the discomfort -- ones that I'd want to talk about and dispel!

nyikint

@greendrinker Yeah, that sounds like exactly the reaction I would have had if my mom had brought it up to me at that age. Thankfully she never did, and I eventually figured it out.

So my advice is: don't monitor or limit her Internet use.

Bittersweet

@nyikint Don't monitor or limit her internet use...hmmm. Not sure that's really what you're saying here? The LAST place in the world I want my daughter to learn about sex is from just putting 'sex' into Google and seeing what pops up.

you're a kitty!

@harebell Seconding that book.

Sea Ermine

@greendrinker I think it's less that she's too young and more that she's too old, if this is the first time you've talked about it she's already had time to absorb the idea that this is a super uncomfortable thing to discuss with parents and maybe that's why she's freaking out. I'd go with lots and lots of books. It worked for me when I was her age (I wasn't uncomfortable talking about sex, I just didn't really like talking or long discussions or interaction with my parents at that age). Leave them in the bathroom, in/near her room, around the house. I strongly recommend this book

nyikint

@Bittersweet

Is that really so bad? As long as she doesn't have any screwed up ideas of how it affects her self-worth, I think the Internet can be a valuable learning tool. It'll expose her (npi!) to all the questions she would be too embarrassed to actually ask someone about.

I feel like the only key thing to bring up with her is contraception, framed as a health issue. Everything else she can figure out on her own - and in my experience, kids are usually more worldly than adults give them credit for.

nyikint

@Bittersweet Actually after reading through all the comments, disregard everything I said - I don't know what I'm talking about. Y'all are much wiser than me.

DrFeelGood

@Sea Ermine I have to disagree on the too old front. I found out about the specific mechanics of sex for the first time when I was 8. Earlier, about 4 -5, I knew that a man and a lady do a special hug to make a baby, and I also had the book of life or whatever, the one with the pop-ups, but it didn't really discuss the mechanical aspect. They told us about it in school, and I distinctly remember everyone in the classroom had a visceral reaction of "EW". My first thought was, that's disgusting. My second thought was there is NO WAY my parents do this, then a slow realization of "well, I'm here and my sister is here so they had to have done it at least 2x, but no more". I think it's a very natural reaction to be squicked out about it at first, and for awhile. So age may have nothing to do with her reaction.

I was the same way with my mom (who is a nurse) and she gave me some books and then kept bringing up the issue. She forced the issue a bit too much until I had to tell her, at about 17 to knock it off... poor mom :)

Sea Ermine

@DrFeelGood That's very true. I guess I was speaking from the too old front because some of my relatives waited until their kids were 13 and by then the kids had already heard a lot of people say that sex is wrong and bad, etc (to be fair, a lot of their friends are conservative christians so it could have to do with that) which made it harder for the parents to push through that and talk to their kids. That said, every kid is different and it's important for the parent to think about how their kids personality is and maybe discuss things with one kid starting at age 5 and another at 8 based on how much they think they can process.

Bittersweet

@nyikint No, I wouldn't say that. My worry about just letting my daughter loose on the internet is that she's going to pick up some uninformed ideas...or worse, get exposed to hardcore porn that is anti-woman and disturbing even for grownups. So I'd say yes to internet research, but guided instead of completely free. Of course, I haven't had the big sex talk with my daughter (age 9) yet, so we'll see how that goes...

i make lists

@greendrinker My mom worked at a non-profit that educated pregnant teens. There was pretty much no time in my life when I didn't know about sex. Despite that, I still didn't tell my mom when I started my period (at age 10!) and certainly didn't tell when her I started to have sex...but she's a smart lady, and pretty much intuited both. I think it was valuable to know that she was a resource, but I didn't feel pressured to talk about what I wasn't comfortable with. After I started my period, I think she bought me a copy of What's Happening to My Body? for both girls and boys, which was super helpful.

C_Webb

I raised this possibility with people I consider very sex-positive and got slammed, so I'll try to put it very carefully ... I keep wondering about subtle and strategic ways to suggest almost subliminally (ALLITERATION!) that my daughters are not only informed about sex and birth control but also -- here's the tricky part -- maybe find their way somehow to sex toys. My reasoning is that I want them to have sex because they're ready and because they really like the person they're having sex with, NOT in search of some ideal of ecstasy. Maybe this won't be a problem for them, but some ladies (like me) have a hard time, um, making things happen for themselves, and some ladies (like me) maybe had a bunch of pointless stupid hookups in high school searching for what they thought they were missing.

Point is, if I could have gotten myself off to beat the band in my own bedroom, I wouldn't have put myself in a bunch of situations that could have turned out much worse than they did.

wharrgarbl

@C_Webb I plan on getting any kids I might have a generous giftcard for an online sextoy shop once they're old enough and leaving it at that. Better they be able to get themselves off and explore their own bodies a bit, if they want, before they try stuff out with a partner. I figure it's kind of like handing your kid a map well in advance of a planned road trip.

C_Webb

@wharrgarbl EXACTLY.

TheUnchosenOne

@C_Webb I feel like this is a really good idea. I'm not sure how exactly to go about it, but I like the idea of just getting them a gift card and letting them do the work.

harebell

@C_Webb oh, it sounds like a great idea to me. As long as done a bit indirectly. It definitely takes a while for most women to figure out how their body-mind works/how to get to the point of orgasms, and the skill level of 17 year-old boys definitely does not help!

fondue with cheddar

@C_Webb That makes a lot of sense. I think it's also important for girls to look at their genitalia in the mirror to familiarize themselves with their bodies. I did that, and it really made me comfortable with it. Before I had sex I didn't have access to toys, but I experimented by sticking other things in there. My favorite was a perfume bottle shaped like a caterpillar that is actually quite similar to the glass toy that is my favorite today. Who knew I was way ahead of my time?

MoxyCrimeFighter

@C_Webb I think that's a great idea! I got a vibrator when I was in high school and it was awesome. When I did have sex (right before college), I was already really familiar with what I needed to do to get off, and it made things less awkward for me, in that sense. I'm not sure my proficiency at masturbating necessarily kept me from having sex, although maybe knowing I could always release the tension later helped, but I do think it contributed to me being more comfortable with saying, "This is right for me and my body." Personally, I wish I had had a small dildo or something to experiment with because sex was pretty painful the first few times I had it, and it would have been nice to basically take care of it on my own without worrying that I was disappointing my partner by not really enjoying the experience.

C_Webb

@MoxyCrimeFighter "This is right for me and my body." I LOVE THIS.

TheMongreloid

@C_Webb Ah! I am such a fan of encouraging teen girls to learn how to orgasm on their own. This is one area where Taylor "Racoon-eyes" Momsen and I agree: ladies need to become comfortable with their sexuality and what makes us get off before we have sex. http://articles.nydailynews.com/2010-12-10/gossip/27084057_1_taylor-momsen-gossip-girl-music-video

you're a kitty!

@C_Webb AGREE. The gift card idea is a particularly good one—I remember that when I was young, my biggest awkwardness around sex stuff was a need for major privacy.

When I have kids I'm also planning to give them a lot of (selected) Savage Love articles, because (like him or no) having access to that in high school and college was the most positive thing that ever happened to my sexuality.

Springtime for Voldemort

@C_Webb I know a couple friends who's aunts bought them stuff. But the gift card things sounds nice, though maybe paired with a site with some suggestions? All sex toys/vibes definitely NOT being equal and all. (I know the first couple I bought were such duds they didn't even turn on.)

Diana

@C_Webb

When I used to work at a upscale ladies-centric sex shop, nothing made me happier than moms coming in to buy toys for their daughters. Yeah, it seemed weird at first, but then when they started explaining their reasons for doing so it became AWESOME. I guess Oprah had an episode with similar discussion and it inspired a lot of viewers and for that (and so many other reasons) I want to hug Oprah. One mom said her daughter had just gone through a terrible breakup, and she said "I always thought that boy was a jerk. I don't want her to get back together with him just to avoid being alone, and I don't want her to ever feel dependent on a man to have an orgasm. Giving her a vibrator means one less reason for her to associate with that jackass ever again." We high-fived across the register.

joie

@C_Webb I just really want to applaud your attitude. For some reason masturbation was more of a taboo for me as a teen than sex? which, I didn't lose my virginity until I was 20, but even then, I knew nothing about my own body or how to get myself off, and had sex just from curiosity more than anything else. I think if I had had a chance to figure out what I liked/didn't like, I would have avoided a lot of sketchy dudes and situations. So, please, please do this. I think it's a really great idea, and the sentiment behind is lovely.

Sea Ermine

@C_Webb I think it works if it's done very indirectly (not sure how but there must be a way!) so that the kid can decide on their own what to do. For me, I've never been able to get off with vibrators or sex toys and I think if I was given one (a lot of the advice I've heard is to give your daughter a vibrator for her 16th birthday or something like that) I would have felt tons of pressure to use it and felt bad if I didn't want to (this is partly because almost all of my friends had one in high school and I felt like there was something off with me because I don't like them).

Maybe a book about masturbation or a general sex ed book with a good section on masturbation (if you think she has hangups about it and don't want to scare her off the second is probably better) with a postit note inside for the masturbation section of Scarletteen (One of my friends was curious about it but also had like 0 sex ed knowledge and didn't know what a clitoris was and was anxious talking about it and that website helped her because she could read it on her own time). That way she can have resources that tell her it's ok an normal and knowledge of how to do it.

I know for me it was always very helpful to know what I liked and wanted before I started having sex because even when I was dating selfish losers I alway always made sure they got me off in the way I wanted (because I knew how to show them).

I also love wharrgarbl's idea of a gift card (especially for a sex positive place like Bableand or something) because it's so open ended and they can pick and choose what they like and not feel pressured into using something their mom chose for them. And that way if they find sex toys aren't what they like they can buy lube or condoms or something else.

Squareface

This is sort of how it went for me (acted out by Eddie and Saffron from
Ab Fab):
Eddie: I did tell you the facts of life didn't I sweetie?
Saffie: If you mean that time you sat on my bed and shook me awake at two in the morning, stoned out of your brain, and slurred into my ear 'By the way sweetie, people have it off,' then yes, you told me the facts of life.

marianlibrarian

@Squareface THANK YOU.

werewolfbarmitzvah

I got the talk incredibly early (I was maybe 10, if that?), and my mom did it pretty well, I think, compared to the stories I hear from my friends whose parents either gave them NO talk or a super-conservative version of the talk. My mom gave me a talk that managed to be very thorough and honest, and also really normal and casual at the same time, so whatever complaints I may have about how my mom raised me, her attitude towards sexuality would not be among those complaints. However, I was very shy, very dorky, and I wore Birkenstock clogs every day. Therefore, regardless of how well-informed I was about sex, I did not have a single opportunity to act on any of my urges until college.

SarahP

@werewolfbarmitzvah We would have been bestfriends if we were in the same school. <3

werewolfbarmitzvah

@SarahP Without a doubt!!

SarahP

When I have kids, the way the school runs sex-ed program will also inform how I talk about sex with them. Despite being a public school in rural part of upstate NY, my school system had a really solid sex ed program, for which I'm very grateful. First, a very bare-bones (ha! "bone") (sorry) scientific breakdown of human reproduction in 5th grade, then a sex-ed unit in 6th grade science class where after being given a breakdown again as to how our sex organs worked, our teacher answered all the anonymously-submitted questions we had about sex and sexuality, without any judgment. In 7th and 9th grades we had it in health class, where we learned about every possible STI and their rates of infection, but also every possible birth control method and their rates of success. (And though we were reminded each time that abstinence is the only 100% guarantee of not ending up with STIs or babies, it wasn't in a judgy way.) These years also had sessions where the teacher answered anonymously-submitted questions. While my parents were open/supportive, I never needed a talk from them--I got a good foundation at school.

Roxanne Rholes

@SarahP Never apologize for giggles about the word "bone."

wharrgarbl

I think I was like, maybe twelve when my mother matter-of-fact informed me that men are pigs, and guys only want one thing, and that basically they're the enemy. Thankfully, the local sex-ed programs were reasonably thorough, and the anatomy and physiology textbooks contained (untaught) chapters on how the fuck reproduction actually worked.

spiraldawn

@wharrgarbl Are you me? No wait, my men-are-pigs indoctrination started earlier, like right during/after my parents' divorce when I was eight.

Also - little boys just want to "experiment" on you with their little penises, so don't let that happen.

Seriously, it is amazing that I was/am able to have healthy(ish) relationships with men.

wharrgarbl

@spiraldawn The oh-so-subtle communication of that message was always there, but I don't think she ever sat me down and laid out the "Men suck and here are all the reasons why you should never let one touch you" manifesto before then. If it had been less cartoonish, or fewer of her friends had had not great, but at least clearly loving, relationships with their husbands, I don't even know.

madge

there was no "talk" for me, just my stepmom catching me masturbating once and making a huge deal out of how wacking off was just as bad at having sex in god's eyes.

my older sister did have 3 babies before she was 20, though, so i learned not to take sex lightly from that and in fact didn't even do it until i was 20 myself ...

charmcity

My mom gave two of us the "how are babies made/this is what periods are" talk pretty young. And then there was a 7 or 8 year gap before she randomly told me that "sex is very uncomfortable for most women the first time ... and often EVERY TIME" and that was the last time we discussed sex. I am okay with her thinking I am a 28 year old virgin. My father has never, ever discussed sex with me or in my presence. Or cursed.

KatieBarTheDoor

@charmcity Same. If my father implied sex or even said the word "sex," I think I would die. (We... might not have the most functional relationship anyway, though.)

OhMarie

@KatieBarTheDoor Ugh, my husband made a sex joke in front of my dad (not even about us or anything, about Tim Tebow) and I WANTED TO MELT INTO THE COUCH.

CrescentMelissa

I knew way too much, my parents were cavalier about "adult" material and I figured it out from there. No one actually sat me down. However, the "adult" material doesn't really prepare you for the first time, how crazy painful it can be, blood, all of it. I didn't even really understand what had happened, just that it wasn't so great (actually horrible) and nothing like the 70s porn or dirty magazines I had access to.

So, my kids will know and learn in an appropriate way. I just don't want them to feel embarrassed to ask me questions, and I will do my best to explain things to them in a matter of fact but kind way.

MoonBat

@CrescentMelissa What the....? ARE YOU ME?????

fabel

@CrescentMelissa My experience is different, but I did get the 70s porn treatment on one occassion, apparently so I "could see what bodies look like." I think it was some impulsive attempt to lessen body shame, but at 12-years-old, my reaction was just "MO-OOM!!"

CrescentMelissa

@MoonBat Tell me, you too??

CrescentMelissa

@fabel I can see that as being pretty horrible. I guess at the end of the day we are all just doing the best we can. My daughter already cringes when I dance funny or sing too loudly (she's almost 9).

MoonBat

@CrescentMelissa Oh, heck yeah, all access to all of my mom's Jackie Collins books from the earliest I can remember reading, and lots of adult magazines left within reach while I was home babysitting my younger sister and my parents were out. And there was the one time I found my parents' collection of polaroid self-umm....portraits, and wished I could find some brain bleach!

CrescentMelissa

@MoonBat Blech. Do you hate them or are you ok?

MoonBat

@CrescentMelissa Oh, no, I don't and never did. It didn't occur to me that it was out of the ordinary until much later. I feel like maybe I ended up with a very healthy and open attitude towards sex? Probably more so than most of the manfriends I've had, ha ha!

Lustful Cockmonster

I don't remember a "talk" per se, there were always books around, and we certainly could talk about it whenever we wanted/if we wanted, but I don't recall one particular time when we sat down and talked about it. My parents were and are very much in to each other, so as much as we would have prefered not to think about it, we certainly knew they were doing it, so it was just a thing that people that loved each other did. My mom's arbitrary goal was for us to be out of high school before we had sex. That was never openly stated until we were adults, when we were that age it was more subliminal I think. As someone said above, she just wanted to keep it uncomplicated for us as long as possible, I suspect. It worked for two of us, not so much for the younger ones, though neither of them really got into the casual hook ups that a lot of their friends did, so I think my mom would consider her goals met.

As a bonus, my dad used to write these dirty cards to my mom from work and send them to her at home, my cousin and I totally discovered them and would get an eyeful when we read them. We learned a bit that way too...Ahh, parents having sex. Gross.

Lustful Cockmonster

@Grumplestiltskin Now that I think about it, I was six and eight when my mom was pregnant with my sisters, and I was pretty precocious, I am guessing there were probably some "where do babies come from" discussions then too.

apples and oranges

I really really hope that the new no-co-pay for women's health stuff makes it easier for teenager girls to get on birth control. It has always struck me as incredibly unfair that if a girl wants to start having sex and get herself some reliable contraception beyond condoms, she has to go to a lot of trouble sneaking around OR approach her parents and get who knows what reaction. Meanwhile the dude can just kick back and not worry about his parents losing their mind because he's having sex. sigh.

Don
Don

Betty took a SCREAM and SHAME approach with poor little Bobby when she found pornography on the typewriter.

LaLoba

My parents are the kind who gave no talk, and frankly I am glad? I am really bad at talking about sex though, so maybe not having passive parents who avoid difficult topics could have been helpful. I feel my public schools did a pretty thorough job teaching me about sex in many ways, but the shaming and scare-tactic methods really started in 6th grade and didn't stop all of the way through high school. Seriously could have done without a STARS program, which, among many other things, stated this fun fact on an overhead slide: "Love is not a feeling - it's a CHOICE." I guess I am still remedial then DUDES.

And while I'm sure it's great to inform teenagers that they don't want STDS, the shameful/scare tactic strategy i which they explained them made me absolutely and completely terrified to go to a doctor after I'd had sex. They make you really thing that if you get any STI (they did not call them that back then, they were still DISEASES) you would basically be a leper for the rest of your life. Oh and also the time they brought a speaker to middle school who told us about how she had spontaneous sex once in her life (on an airplane!) and got HIV and now she will die. Sex will kill you dead! All of it!
And how my health teacher told us that she had only had sex with her husband and no one else, why did she tellllll ussss thaaaaaaaaat.

I did some work in public middle and high schools over the past couple years and was always hanging out in health classrooms, where they still have kids make anti drug and anti sex because everything will kill you posters. I mean I'm not trying to give pot to eighth graders or anything, but when you look at the shit they draw I wonder 1) Are they seriously still telling them this stuff and 2) are these kids seriously still believing this??? I guess so?

LaLoba

@LaLoba Also, as far as the no talk, it was still easily inferable that I wouldn't be in trouble or anything if I DID have sex, though they would just expect me to hide it so they wouldn't be culpable and they would consider me responsible and dumb if I fucked anything up big time and got pregnant or something. That seemed to be their tactic with all parenting, sort of, "You're probably smart enough, figure it out."

Elsajeni

@LaLoba I recently student-taught in a middle school, and I was surprised how overwhelmingly "IF YOU SMOKE POT YOU WILL PROBABLY DIE" the message still was, and how cool the health teacher (who was an awesome teacher, I want to be clear) seemed to be with passing that message along without modification. Especially in contrast with how honest and "when you feel ready!" and "as long as you're careful!" the sex-ed components were. Like, no, I don't think it's a good idea for my students to get high, but... some of them probably already have, and have noticed that they didn't die or accidentally cook a baby or whatever, so maybe it's worth being a little more honest with them about this shit.

beanie

My favorite comment from my mom on sex: "I just don't like that it has become a recreational activity." She was referring to the show Friends, which she believed depicted them all hopping into bed with each other. Oh Moms!

charmcity

@beanie Our moms are the same?! We were also not allowed to watch "Friends," because it was TOO SEXY!

KatieBarTheDoor

@beanie I was not allowed to watch Friends for the same reason.

C_Webb

@beanie I actually was thinking that "Friends" had a fairly healthy philosophy about sex -- i.e. one night stands aren't "wrong," and most people have them, but they often backfire, and sex just tends to be better with someone you actually know and care about.

(Not to mention the whole lesbian wedding sideline, which, while it contrasted oddly with homophobic humor from the men, sent a good message as well.)

C_Webb

@C_Webb Yeah, for better or for worse my daughters watched the whole series ... sex-positive message somewhat undermined by increasing emaciation of Aniston and Cox over the course of ten seasons.

maybe partying will help

@charmcity

Heh, I wasn't allowed to watch Gilmore Girls for that reason. Or rather because the only scene of the show she saw me watching was the one where Lorelai and Max make out all over the Gilmore household. TOO SEXY.

Is It a Hat?

@beanie Same here! I clearly remember watching "Friends" with my brother one night and my mom chiming in from the background, "God, is sex ALL they talk about on this show?!"

beanie

@C_Webb I completely agree. I have to give my mom a little credit though-she is a social worker and would tell me about the time she drove a girl who had been gang raped to get an abortion, even though she is a strong advocate for adoption. Even though she's a fairly conservative lady from the Midwest, that story made me realize things were not all black/white.

RebeccaKW

@charmcity Looking back, I'm surprised at some of the stuff my mom let me watch. I couldn't watch MTV b/c of the 'sexy' videos, and of course, no sex scenes in movies, but I watched Golden Girls and that show is just about the dirtiest thing ever. Maybe my mom thought I wouldn't get all the references, but I certainly figured it out. More sex happened on that show that in any Motley Crue video.

@serenityfound

@maybe partying will help In all fairness, while I don't remember that scene specifically, I do remember Max being super hot.

MoxyCrimeFighter

@beanie Oh, man, ME TOO. God forbid I watch a show where consenting adults enjoyed sex with people to whom they weren't married, and had no interest in marrying.

I mean, I totally get why my parents didn't like me watch it when I was a younger kid, but when I was 15, I was like, "Look, I am aware that sex exists in the world in a billion ways other than what you approve of - so either you 'let' me watch this show that's enjoyable for many other reasons, or you're basically saying you a) don't believe I know the difference between fiction and reality, b) don't trust me to make good decisions independent of what I see on TV, and/or c) that you don't trust your own parenting to lead me to make smart choices." After that, I pretty much watched what I wanted (not that it was much, we didn't have cable and I still couldn't rent movies on my own, but small victories!) Parents - sometimes you have to get tough with them.

maybe partying will help

@@serenityfound

He was. And I did grow up to have somewhat of a thing for hot teachers. You were right, Mom, I should have averted my eyes.

@serenityfound

@maybe partying will help I blame it on Professor Bhaer and Indiana Jones. Hot, scruffley teachers.

charmcity

@maybe partying will help Ahahahaha this is hilarious! Of course, I only saw Gilmore Girls because I was in college when it came out on DVD. I am sure that we would NOT have been permitted when we lived under my mother's roof. We were barred from watching "Step By Step" because the kids were too sassy to their parents.

like a rabid squirrel

@RebeccaKW ARE YOU ME?! My mom wouldn't let me watch MTV because it depicted, in her words, "graphic sex," but I was parked in front of the Golden Girls for a majority of my childhood. Ah well, better quality programming at least. :)

Bittersweet

@olliegrace My 9-year-old daughter and my husband are steadily watching their way through all of "Cheers" (they now on Season 6). So I'm thinking she'll think of sex in terms of cheesy pickup lines and amusing euphemisms for the rest of her life.

TheLetterL

@RebeccaKW @olliegrace My one and only comment to my mother during her attempt at a sex talk was a flat and disapproving "And I suppose I'll understand a lot more of the Golden Girls when this is over?" Not a question she was expecting, but it's good to keep them on their toes.

Springtime for Voldemort

@beanie ME TOO! I pretty much got to watch Barney, Sesame Street, some Cartoon Network, Full House, and Star Trek Voyager when I was a teen. But beyond that, it was mostly a bunch of "tv rots your brain, so go read Charles Dickens (because Babysitters' Club also rots your brain)." Didn't even get to watch Saturday Morning Cartoons or the Muppets.

DrFeelGood

@TheLetterL I hope you were eating cheesecake at the time! Also, this: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=6kOewRGhtx8

liznieve

I remember when I first got my period (at 12), my mom sat me down and said "You know you can get pregnant now." My response: "EWWW EWWW who wants to have SEX, I mean, GROSS, and also, DUH." I think my parents assumed their permissive stance toward R-rated movies (although never movies rated R because of violence) was sufficient. They've always been pretty open about sexuality, and now we discuss it as just a part of adult life. Although a more direct approach miiiiight have prevented me from somewhat hastily losing my virginity to my best friend in his pool at 17, but MEH. It was time. Also: never have sex in pools.

liznieve

@liznieve
(and I mean really permissive. I saw Eyes Wide Shut with my parents. In the theater. I was 16. And horrified.)

MissMushkila

@liznieve I was always allowed to watch or read whatever I expressed interest in. My mom took us to go see Erin Brockavitch when I was in third grade and my sister was in 1st grade, I think to show us how hard being a single mother is and to give us a female role model?? I don't know.

My mom was raised by a single mother of seven kids, and so made sure to tell my sister and I very emphatically at a young age to never depend on a man (love them, just don't be dependent).

Rock and Roll Ken Doll

The Our Whole Lives sex-ed curriculum has an activity where teen participants explore their ideas about sexuality by placing cards titled with activities like "holding hands," "going on dates," "kissing," "wearing sexy underwear," "getting married," "anal sex," etc. on a timeline of ages, for where each activity is appropriate. This curriculum recommends doing this activity with the participants' parents to introduce the parents to the curriculum. At our church, a number of the parents put "wearing sexy underwear" after "getting married."

Hmmm...

Tower of Babble

@josiahg "That sexy underwear is between you and the LORD."

Mira

@josiahg My younger sister, who's still in college, was just telling me about this thing The Kids Are Doing where they're "saving their first kiss" for marriage?! IDEK, that is so bizarre.

My parents "talked to me about sex" by leaving a very awkwardly illustrated library book on my bed shortly after I got my period for the first time. After two days, it disappeared, never to be seen or spoken of again. (My family's not so great at talking about things.) Later, when I had my first "boyfriend" in high school, my dad trapped me in the car and made sure I understood that he and my mom would not raise my kid if I got pregnant! I'll never forget the mortification.

Anyway, I didn't have sex for the first time until the end of my freshman year in college. I was a late bloomer. It worked for me. And now my mom really wants me to have kids so she can take care of my babies. Ha!

Sea Ermine

@Mira I read about that!!! It's apparently a thing in very evangelical christian groups, where you either wait to kiss until you are engaged, or wait to kiss until you are married. There are whole books about it! My cousin just married a girl who is like this and I found out about it from her facebook page (she has links to blogs for christian women, and stuff like this ).

Xanthophyllippa

@Tower of Babble "Be sure to leave three inches between you and your sexy underwear so there's room for Jesus."

baked bean

@Sea Ermine What if they told everyone they were engaged and their first kiss will be their wedding kiss, and they accidentally kiss before then? Are they going to tell everyone? Because that would be hilarious.

Sea Ermine

@baked bean I've heard of some people not making it through, and for most who do it quietly it's probably just super awkward and kind of funny for those who were skeptical to watch them tell everyone. But most people don't do it quietly, typically (at least based on what I've read) they tell a lot of people, like friends, family, etc. For those who go out of their way to tell EVERYONE they do so as proof of how "pure" they are that they can do this so they can't slip up or else it would be like a huge...I don't know but it would be a big deal to then tell everyone and feel like they failed and like it was some moral disaster. A lot of the times what they do is also make a big deal of never being alone together to prevent them from temptation or from "stumbling" which I suppose makes it easier not to kiss. It sounds weirdly showy and quite stressful.

soul toast

The extent of the talk with my parents was that every once in a while during my teenage years, one of them would super-awkwardly say something like, "someday a boy might want to have sex with you. make sure you tell him no." I remember thinking at a very young age, "what about what I want?"
Also, my parents would always have me pulled out of class when they did the part of sex ed where they show you how to put on a condom. Everything else was ok, they just didn't want me to have that knowledge? I don't know how things would have turned out for me had I turned out straight.
Also, it's kind of sad how much I learned about reproduction at the age of 28 when trying to get pregnant. Stuff that I really should have known as a potential sex-having teenager.

fabel

My mom gave me several talks throughout the years & we've always been pretty open about discussing sex. This sounds, I guess, "ideal" but it was not without awkwardness. Especially because my mom's kind of an info-junkie & read from probably 100 different sources on "how to have THE TALK" or whatever-- so at times her approach was a little all-over-the-place.

I do wish "sex talks" had more emphasis on...this sounds weird, but...technique? Like everybody hears "wait for the right person, don't get pregnant, STDSOMGSTDS" but you don't learn how to actually make it pleasurable. Discovering as you go is fun (which is why I'm totally cool with teenagers fucking each other) but I also don't think oral sex, masturbation, etc. should be things ONLY learned from friends?

MoxyCrimeFighter

@fabel I feel like that might be, like, too much info to process? I mean, I definitely would not have wanted my parents (or teachers, even) to have been like, "And don't forget to cup the balls!" But if you're not actually having sex, then it's just this barrage of information you absolutely need to know, i.e. how stuff works, plus all this extra stuff about technique that will just jumble around in your head and maybe be confusing when you start getting down to business. I think people figure that out as they go, so emphasizing being comfortable and respectful might do more to facilitate "getting it right" through open exploration than people trying out half-remembered techniques and being frustrated/upset/confused when they don't work like magic.

I see what you're saying, though - maybe the best way to do it is steer teens towards good resources (not Cosmo, for the love of God), so they're spared the embarrassment of having to envision the adults in their lives having sex but still get a wider education than "stick it in, wiggle around."

CrescentMelissa

@MoxyCrimeFighter "And don't forget to cup the balls!". You win for most awesome. I can totally hear a parental voice saying that.

fabel

@MoxyCrimeFighter yeah, definitely-- I wanted to give examples of how these kinds of talks could be conducted, but..."don't forget to cup the balls!" & other things seem like the probably result if anyone actually tried this! I guess a more open dialogue in general could facilitate less weirdness? My thoughts are just like, there's still a shroud around the actual "doing" of sex at a certain time in a teenager's life & it creates a sort of disconnect.

I like what you're saying about emphasizing being comfortable, respectful-- that gets left out often. I guess even acknowledging that sex involves a partner, rather than just presenting it as this shrouded thing, would be an improvement.

fabel

@CrescentMelissa That could totally be the title of an intructional booklet

MissMushkila

@fabel This is why we read Cosmo religiously in high school.

Springtime for Voldemort

@fabel See, this is where I think porn comes in handy. I mean, I know there's a lot of really horrible porn, in terms of sexism and reality (the stereotypical porn), but then there's also a lot of really awesome porn (smutty fanfic, feminist porn). Plus, stuff like the Joy of Sex. Which I never had, but I did have the Joy of Gay Sex, which I think might have been better for learning about what to do with the male reproductive system pleasure-wise, and what the hell Prince Albert piercings were. There should be a line of books with smutty stuff that's healthy and sex-positive and features healthy relationships, where parents could be like "look, just go read this series".

Sea Ermine

@fabel I wonder if that could be done with not so discreetly leaving informative books around the house? That way you don't have to actually spell things out for him/her and create a ton of awkwardness but your kids know that the books are around and they can page through them when you are not home (also, picking and choosing the books you'll drop around the house prevents them from turning to cosmo and trying to put a scrunchie on someone's penis).

BuffyBot

My mom told me never to give head because it was degrading and "that's what hookers are for."
Thanks, mom.

fabel

@BuffyBot This just gave me a flashback to one time when I was like 13? signed into AIM but showing my mom something else on the computer, & all of a sudden this dude messages me out of nowhere going "hey so where's my head?" I met him at the mall or something & gave out my screen name (because that's just what we did in 2001?), he was my age, I'd never previously had a conversation with him beyond "sup" "nm, u?" so therefore never implied I would give him head at any point.

ANYWAY I immediately blocked him, but my mom freaked out & I was mortified. The-end.

adorable-eggplant

@fabel Instant messenger flashbacks.

C_Webb

@BuffyBot My mom also told me that jeans with holes in the knees were for hookers. I'm guessing she didn't know that many hookers.

Rubyinthedust

@fabel giving boys screen names at the mall, so classic. i was thinking about recently how going to the mall doesn't seem to be a thing for preteens anymore. i went to an all girls school and we lived for weekends spending our babysitting money at the gap and trying to talk to boys in the food court.

MissMushkila

@BuffyBot My poor boyfriend wouldn't let me go down on him when we first started dating, because one of his former girlfriends gave him the idea it was disrespectful. This is in spite of the fact that he gives A-MAZ-ING oral sex himself.

Sea Ermine

@Rubyinthedust Apparently it's a thing in some places. In the town where I went to college (and the surrounding towns it is very much a thing for middle schoolers to do, especially as a "date" (they hold hands and walk around the mall). My boyfriend was explaining this to me earlier this year (he grew up in that town, I grew up in a big city outside of the US so this was a new concept for me that I had only read about in YA novels but didn't think existed) that because there isn't really much else to do in that area the mall is the place for kids to go until they get cars and can drive around in circles smoking weed. Then he took me on a mall date so I could not feel like I missed out (it was weirdly fun).

Springtime for Voldemort

@BuffyBot My mom told me that only hooker who streetwalk wear thongs. Not even classy, higher-end, inside sex workers wear thongs, apparently. This was mainly unfortunate because, due to my ass shape, thongs are more comfortable for me than the regular bikini cut. (Is the bikini cut the normal one?) I ended up buying a ton of thongs at the mall, then washing them in the shower and having them dry in the back of my closet so she would never find out.

Tower of Babble

When I was pretty young, maybe six or seven, I asked my mom what sex was (I think I'd asked about babies and received an honest answer, and this was a follow-up question). She gave a very basic and matter-of-fact explanation, complete with "like a finger fitting into a mitten" metaphor. I thought "Oh. Weirrrd." and didn't think much more about it for years.

I think this was our only Talk with a capital T, mostly because I (and my older sister) were so awkward and socially inept that it was a given we weren't going to be doing that for a loooong time. I did start sneakily reading my mom's romance books when I wanted details ("oh! they move back and forth! that's why it takes more than 30 seconds"), so my introduction to basic mechanics came complete with flowery language and regency gender politics. My mom was really good about being non-shamey with sex and would have answered questions, but I was way too embarrassed to ask them.

megmurray

There was no talk. We're a religious family, but neither of my parents even told me not to have sex. Luckily for them, I was a shy and nerdy teenager and not in any danger of talking to boys I liked, never mind sleeping with them. I did read the Clan of the Cave Bear books, though. :)

Now I'm a pastor, and I work with teenagers, mostly. I can tell whose parents talk to them openly about sex, and whose are too embarrassed or unwilling to talk to them (the second group usually has the weirder questions). I make sure that they know they can come to me with things they're wondering about, things they've heard (one 12 year old asked me, "What's S&M?" Thanks, Rhianna), things they're thinking about doing or have done, and not get any judgment. Mostly I want to work with them to so that they can develop healthy boundaries without thinking sex is bad or taboo.

So anyway, this whole conversation is interesting and helpful.

MissMushkila

@xtinamarie Your church sounds awesome. What tradition are you a pastor in, if you don't mind my asking? That sort of open, non-judgmental discussion sounds a lot like the Unitarian-Universalist way.

I'm just very curious about churches. I grew up in a Lutheran ELCA church, but I'm pretty sure sex was never mentioned in any form ever during Sunday School or confirmation or sermons. Ever.

c8pat8

@MissMushkila I grew up ELCA too! The only conversation we had was with our (very conservative) pastor during confirmation. He just kept telling us that "shacking up" was bad, and I was SO CONFUSED about why that was bad. Sex didn't even enter into the equation for me, I just thought they were living together before they were married. SO CONFUSED. Then a boy in my class asked if two guys living together before they got married was sinful and my pastor's head exploded.

TheUnchosenOne

I don't think I ever got any kind of talk. My parents are both pretty conservative when it comes to sex, I think. I mean, probably, I've never talked about it with either.

When I was 12 or 13, my dad noticed I'd been looking at porn on the computer and told me not to do that any more. He didn't shame it, exactly, but I was definitely being scolded.

Years later, when I started dating, my mom would not allow me to close the door to my room when I had dates over. I was a late bloomer, so I was 19 at the time. I don't know what she was thinking. Also, my parents' room was literally right across the hall. My door could have been shut, locked, and bolted (it did not have a bolt) and I wouldn't have been fucking in there. Not that any fucking was going on in that relationship anyway. Which made it all the weirder, because my girlfriend was prettyconservative about lots of things (maybe you are starting to see why I am talking about her in the past tense) and my mom knew her pretty well even before we started dating. I don't even know what she was trying to stop! Hot makeouts? Scandalous!

I feel like I have a pretty healthy attitude about sex, but it's sure not because of my parents. Mostly I just happened to stumble into the right reading material.

Alli525

Sex ed, you say? LET ME TELL YOU ABOUT MY MOTHER.

When I was 7, I casually asked (as 7 year olds who read Marie Claire do) what a condom was. Her response: "OMG FLAIL THERE IS NO SUCH THING AS A CONDOM, YOU MUST HAVE READ CONDOMINIUM FLAIL FLAIL FLAIL!!!!1!"

When I was 12, we went to a bed and breakfast for a weekend, gave me a copy of some Billy Graham, sex-shaming, super-religious book, and made me read it and DISCUSS.

At age 16 or so, I asked her about oral sex, and she looked at me like I had just told her I beat puppies to death with a mace.

And then she went through my things while she was visiting me, read my diary AT AGE 24, and could not get out of bed for the rest of the day because she figured out I was not a virgin anymore.

So... yeah.

CrescentMelissa

@Alli525 Oh dear. Hopefully you have come away from this fairly unscarred! Why so much shame around sex, it can be lovely and wonderful, even if it isn't with the right person, but so much nicer when it is with someone that you care about. Imagine what her own mom said to her to give her the awkwardness.

adorable-eggplant

@Alli525 Did you try "OMG I didn't write 'not a virgin' you must have read 'not a Virginian' FLAIL FLAIL" Taste of her own medicine.

Alli525

@CrescentMelissa Oh, HER mother was a virgin spinster until the age of 40, living with her parents until a preacher in his 60s married her. He died about 20 years later (he was born in the 1800s! my GRANDFATHER!) when my mom was 16... my grandmother never had a license... I can only imagine what my mother learned of sex. Terrifying.

OhMarie

@Alli525 Oh this is awful. :( I asked what gay was when I was about 9, because of a news story about gays in the military, and my dad snapped "Happy! They don't want happy people in the military!!" And then later, my mom gave me a fun talk about root words, prefixes, and suffixes (homo means same! hetero means different!).

you're a kitty!

@Alli525 Apparently one of my grandmothers didn't know that sex and babies were correlated until she was PREGNANT THE FIRST TIME

Alli525

@OhMarie Why do parents think that lying and covering up the truth is going to magically prevent their children from learning about it later? Why is that even a thing? I am 26 now, so it's not like we didn't have the internet when I was 16.

Luckily, I seem to be relatively well-adjusted despite it all... No one was really banging down my door in high school, and I ended up waiting for more than a year together with my college boyfriend to lose our v-cards. I always feel like I made the right choice there, although we NEVER EVER used any kind of protection, which is horrifying in retrospect.

Melusina

@Alli525 Have you read Gilead by Marilynne Robinson? It's about an old preacher born in the 1800s who married a spinster in her late 30s in the 1950s. Anyway.

My mother went through a really, really hard time when she discovered that I had lost my virginity, and felt that she was a failure as a parent, that I had irrevocably betrayed her trust, and that I was no longer 'a Nice Girl'. She still hasn't forgiven me 10 years later. I start to think that it's in the past, and then something will come up to indicate that she is still not over it. Our relationship is good other than that.

CrescentMelissa

@Melusina It's disconcerting isn't it? I know as parents we are responsible for our child's well being, but it isn't ownership. I never understood the betrayed feeling by parents, only because they aren't their holes. They belong to your kid. I don't know, not sure if that makes sense? If your kid seems ok after losing their virginity, why heap your own hangups on them?

Sort of related, my dad went crazy when I started developing. I always had to wear big shirts at the beach over my suit, no tank tops etc and he just couldn't stand me growing up. It didn't help that I was a c cup by the 5th grade. But it made me feel like there was something wrong with me, my body, like I was being "bad", but not able to articulate it. So, can we just promise not to put our bullshit on our kids?

Love you ladies, it is so amazing to have a space to talk about these experiences!

The Lady of Shalott

My mother has never once told me a single thing about sex. She did give me a copy of "The What's Happening To My Body Book", though. Maybe she figured that as a late bloomer I'd have it all figured out by then? But regardless I got the hang of things.

I think my mom's head would explode if she ever told me a single thing about sex.

TheBelleWitch

I really, really respect how my mom dealt with sex talks and have every intent of modeling myself on her when I have kids. She very much did the open conversation, age-appropriate thing, but was also very firm in my teenage years that this was something that was important and that we had to discuss. During school sex-ed weeks, she'd sit down with me every day and make me talk about what they'd told us. I hated it, of course, but in retrospect, it was totally awesome.

Heat Signature

Did anybody else's mom read the "Where Did I Come From?" book to them when they were like five or six? Those naked bodies were enormous! Then when I was like fifteen (after I'd actually lost my virginity) my mom was Crazy Right-Wing Christian and gave me a couple of books on how having sex before marriage would give me AIDS and so forth. Helpful!

I've thought a lot about what I'll tell my own kids, and I think I'm going to go with "wait until you fall in love/are with someone you really like before you have sex because sex is awesome with the right person and your first time should be great and not traumatizing" and supply them with all of the condoms (assuming I don't have any more children or my next child is a boy).

adorable-eggplant

@Heat Signature Girl children need condoms too! I was always packing, which meant my friends knew they could bum one off me (not that they didn't also carry protection, but, you know, in cases of emergency).

Heat Signature

@adorable-eggplant Oh right! I was thinking about birth control pills, but obviously those don't protect you from STIs. Duh.

lora.bee

@Heat Signature My mum gave me condoms when I was a teenager (not that there was a CHANCE I would need them back then) and then her friend gave me a little booklet called "Fireman Steve's Tips on Condom Negotiation!". I wish I still had it, it was hilarious.

adorable-eggplant

@lora.bee Fireman Steve? Was this some kind of incredible softcore? I wish you still had it too, although the 'negotiation' part of the title cause me a bit of side-eye because no wrapper, no dice, no discussion was always my attitude.

lora.bee

@adorable-eggplant That was pretty much what Fireman Steve taught as well!

Springtime for Voldemort

@Heat Signature OMG YES! It was... weird. I remember that I enjoyed masturbating at the time, but read it and was like "I don't think either of them really enjoy having sex. I'm never going to do that."

TheBelleWitch

Also, best fictional sex talk ever? Friday Night Lights, when Julie and Matt have sex? TAMI TAYLOR, am I right?

charmcity

@TheBelleWitch SO RIGHT.

whizz_dumb

@TheBelleWitch Yep, TAMI TAYLOR for a lot of other reasons too. I just finished the last epi of that show the other night. Shows/movies don't usually do this to me because I have ice running through my veins but: nothing, it's nothing, just something in my eye.

panquecito

@TheBelleWitch // Oh absolutely. Tami Taylor is absolutely the greatest.

Better to Eat You With

"You better not fucking get pregnant" was the extent of The Talk for me. To be fair, I was raised by a single mom who had my brother at 19, then my older sister was a teen mom, so whatever she'd done and said before had been, um, ineffective.

whizz_dumb

@Better to Eat You With "Just don't get her pregnant."

like a rabid squirrel

Coming of age alongside the internet, and with relatively unsupervised access, was an excellent supplement to the books and awkward trapped-in-the-car-with-mom conversations. Then again, you have to be reading the right stuff... Thanks gurl.com and various Livejournal communities!

maybe partying will help

@olliegrace

Gurl was amazing. So was Scarleteen (well after I was a teen, but still helpful!).

MissMushkila

@olliegrace I too read a lot of gurl.com (I still sometimes go back there to take the quizzes, shh....)

Rubyinthedust

@olliegrace sextips on livejournal, got so much useful info from that back in the day.

cuminafterall

@MissMushkila gurl.com is still around?! I used to love doing the paper doll personality quiz thing.

cuminafterall

I definitely checked some "how do babies get born" books out of the library in early elementary school. My mom was still birthin' babies at that point, so I was interested in knowing how/why. I remember a conversation about good touches and bad touches that ended with my mom yelling and me scared out of my wits. After that, it was romance novels and school sex ed all the way. At my school they lumped sex in with drugs under "things you shouldn't do."

Oh and when I got my period, my friend's mom smacked my hand. Preemptively. For all the trouble I was going to get into.

fabel

@cuminafterall One of the "talks" I was given involved me thinking I already knew everything (I was 10 at the time & did not, at all) so my responses were all "Ugh, I knowww" until suddenly it dawned on me to ask "Wait...do you & dad still have sex?" (note: do not ask your parents unless you're well into adulthood anddd I don't know, sincerely concerned whether or not they're enjoying life?)

Anyway, my mother was obviously thrown off & didn't know how to answer, so she just said "Umm...occasionally?" which resulted in me bursting out crying, running upstairs & hiding in bed. She felt terrible! (& in retrospect, *I* kind of feel terrible...)

fabel

Oh, & sorry this is a reply-- some of the little things in people's comments are making me recall awkward memories!

MissMushkila

My mom just left age-appropriate illustrated sexual education books around every couple of years, which made me disproportionately embarrassed (and I think she thought it might legitimately be the best way of "talking" to her bookworm daughter).

I never brought anything up about it, but a couple of times I remember her telling us that she started having sex when she was 16, and her Catholic mother found her birth control and had a fit that she was on the pill - not that she was having sex. This was at the same time as one of her older brothers was having a shotgun wedding because his girlfriend had gotten pregnant.

My mom made it clear that she thought her mother's perspective was stupid and told my sister and I she would help us get birth control if we ever needed it.

I also had pretty comprehensive sex-ed in school. Despite all of this, I was abnormally terrified of pregnancy and didn't start having sex until I was 20. My boyfriend first had sex when he was 13(!) with his middle school girlfriend.

Emma K@twitter

My mom, when I was 17: "I'll tell you the same thing I told your brother. 'If you have sex in high school, I'll kill you.'" Not meant literally, but frightening nonetheless.

My mom, about the show Friends (when I was in high school): "People don't really have this much pre-marital sex in the real world."

Springtime for Voldemort

@Emma K@twitter Mostly because most of us can't get a new partner every week or two.

Rubyinthedust

My mom said to me recently (at age 24) "I just want you to know, I think it's totally okay if you are dating someone and want to have sex with them"

ummmm, thanks for your blessing mom.

you're a kitty!

I feel so strongly about kids having proper sex ed that I tried to volunteer with the educational arm of my local Planned Parenthood at one point, and their response was, "yeah we have more people than we need." Stupid liberal towns. Stupid only-places-I'll-ever-live.

The Lamb

My parents never had The Talk with me.

Instead, when I was 10, my 16-year-old sister got pregnant (I don't know if they ever had the talk with her either).

I had to witness all the drama first hand. A lot of fighting while she was pregnant, a lot of grossness in the bathroom during and after, a lot of sadness for a few years when the baby's adoptive parents quickly stopped sending updates and pictures, and the constant looming secret we had to keep from family and friends.

That was enough emotional damage during my formative years to make sure I stayed a virgin for as long as possible while also having a strong urge to become as knowledgeable about sex as possible. Good job, Mom and Dad!

Mira

@The Lamb@twitter Oh man, that sounds awful for your whole family, but especially for your sister. I hope she's doing all right.

Waterbears

I remember my mom giving me the talk using a book that was illustrated with people for most of the text (the "this is what puberty stages look like" parts, etc.), but chickens for the intercourse part. Very confusing. The talk culminated in her looking at me very, very seriously and saying, "And if anyone ever, ever tries to touch your vagina or your other parts, you tell someone RIGHT AWAY. That is NOT OKAY." Kind of an intense approach to take with a six-year old, but whatever.

stuffisthings

@KEO !! In my first sex ed class in Florida (after moving from a more liberal state where I had already been taught real information) they showed us a video about how fish reproduce. Which is, the lady fish lays her eggs on the see floor, and then the man fish swims over them and inseminates them. VERY HELPFUL FLORIDA.

BornSecular

I guess the other major influence I remember in my adolescent life was New Moon magazine. I have a new-age type step-grandmother who thought it would be empowering for me, but it just freaked me out. I was not ready to embrace my moon-flow or whatever. Also, the message I got the most strongly from it was "Have sex now, because you are a woman and you need to do it to prove you are not under the thumb of the patriarchy!" And I was so not ready for that. I knew I wasn't ready for sex and didn't think anyone (even a feminist magazine) should shame me into feeling like I should. Even if my reasons for not being ready weren't the healthiest (ignorance & fear), I am glad I was able to say no until I was ready.

I agree with other comments that being comfortable in your own skin and being respectful of your partner are super important. I recently saw the sex scene from Juno again while with my dad's teenage step-daughters, and made them totally uncomfortable by emphasizing repeatedly that if you aren't comfortable enough to remove your shirt for sex, you probably aren't ready yet.

But that's just my opinion, of course.

BornSecular

@BornSecular And I in no way mean to insult anyone who does like to have sex with their shirt on. I just was trying in my own way to help them know themselves well enough that the decision is thought out. I wish every person's first time could be pleasantly memorable, and am saddened that it isn't always.

no way

@BornSecular I never had any kind of talk, or books, or anything until high school sex ed. Mom actually wouldn't sign the permission slip for me to participate in sex ed in my very small middle school class. So while the 10 other girls were educated in the auditorium, I sat in the classroom with the boys.

And yet, I don't know, I just ended up totally in charge of and in touch with my body. I masturbated from a really young age - like, I don't remember not doing it. I had a few steady boyfriends that probably wanted to have sex but they didn't push it and I knew I wasn't ready.
At orientation weekend for college a cute nice guy truly helpfully walked me through giving a blow job, and I came home and told the guy I was sort of seeing that we should have sex before I went away to school, so I wasn't in a position where I fucked someone I didn't really know just to get it over with.

I don't know how I felt so comfortable and clear in my choices. But I believe the maxim that 'feminists fuck better.' Not that you have to fuck to show you are free from the patriarchy. Just that feminism is anchored in respecting all people as equals, and is about having a voice and saying what you want or don't. Sounds like you were too feminist for New Moon.

stuffisthings

Nicole (shouting upstairs to boyfriend): "Can you wait ten minutes?"

smr
smr

I'm enjoying the conversation -- I have four kids, ages 14 through 7, and the older two have gone through the Unitarian Universalist OWL elementary curriculum, which I'm glad to have seen mentioned a couple of times earlier. I am SO grateful for OWL, because it turns out I am not good at 'the talk.' :-)

Kid #1 (eldest son) went through OWL at age 11-ish and became very comfortable about discussing sex and puberty and all that. He had a detailed conversation with his sister (age ~8) about what would be happening to her body in a few years, at least until she gave me a "MAKE THIS STOP" look and I had to take him aside and explain that while these things are fine to talk about, he should respect his sister's wish not to have this conversation with her older brother. :) On the plus side, big brother had such a good experience with the program that his sister was very excited when it was her turn.

We also have several books for younger kids around the house (I like the 'It's Perfectly Normal' series and 'What's the Big Secret?') that the kids can browse through whenever. We did have to make a house rule, though: no bringing the sex books over to other people's houses when we are meeting them for a first time playdate.

Personally, I've told the kids that I think that sex is an adult activity, and should be saved until one is an adult. Of course, now we have to define 'adult'...

lora.bee

Did anyone else have to watch a birth video in class?? Kids were cowering under their desks.

HeyMatilda

@lora.bee Apparently people in my 7th grade health class closed their eyes while watching said video....so the teacher REWOUND the tape and made us watch it again.

And then I realized I never needed to have children.

c8pat8

@lora.bee YES! Oh my God, it was horrible. We had to watch the one where it goes from ejaculation to birth. In seventh grade. I just remember my science teacher saying, "I just can't believe how tiny the cameras are!"

But, we had a pretty cool school district in terms of sex. We weren't allowed to have comprehensive sex ed, so they just had "speakers" from Planned Parenthood come in and talk to us. My mom tried to talked to me many times, but I just hid my head under a pillow and refused to talk. She was also very "moon goddess-y" though, and offered to have a party when I got my first period, so I rebelled (?) and refused to talk about all things related to sex. I have gotten over it by now, thank god.

HeyMatilda

@c8pat8 I never understood the motherly pride for getting your period. My mom got all misty over it when really she should have been warning me about all the horrors. Now she constantly talks about how she can't wait to go into menopause!

fabel

@lora.bee Ooooh yeah, I actually remember being pretty horrified as well-- birth is sort of a nebulous concept to someone who hasn't experienced it, so the whole thing was just :-o And I remember the atmosphere in the classroom being chaotic, & one guy making a comment about the woman's pubic hair (the fact that it existed)

I also saw a video in my college Human Sexuality class that was almost more horrifying, because it was a digitized demonstration of what happens INSIDE during birth. So, lots of colorful cervix dilation.

Greta M.

@HeyMatilda Saw the same video. I seem to remember a lot of blood and a lot of body hair. And being completely terrified. I think this was meant to substitute for talking about birth control methods.

Xanthophyllippa

@HeyMatilda My mother, instead of helping me and pointing me towards the pads, etc. in the bathroom, immediately got on the phone to her best friend and told her I'd gotten my period. When I was standing right there crying.

TARDIStime

@Xanthophyllippa
You poor thing! That's so sad. I was relatively ready for mine when it came (Mum was of the "leave the book there where I will find it" school that is proving popular here at The Hairpin) and so knew that there were Products about and what to use and how and all that (I was, and still am squicked out by tampons, so it was, and is, pads all the way for me) so for me it was more of a relief. "Thank God I was at home when this happened and not on a plane/train/automobile leaking all over the seat, at school where there would have been nothing to hand, etc. Now I can plan to have stuff with me for next month!"
My mum just said "Awwww" and hugged me. That was the most appropriate reaction I could ever have asked for - none of this ridiculous period party stuff. :-S

Respondona

My mother gave me talks, many of them. Some of them awkward and most of them with no feedback from me, because as it usually happens, the result of her openness was a contrarian attitude of prudishness about the subject. "Mooooom! Stoop! Ugh!" (A mild case of Alex P. Keaton Syndrome) However, that openness certainly gave me a lot of confidence in making my own choices, at my own pace, and getting my own independent sources on the subject, so to speak. But I would say that making sure "the household" considers sexuality as a normal and healthy part of people, and that morality is another thing altogether that is not defined by it and most of the time not even linked to it, does go a long way in helping you navigate your sexuality as a teenager.

DrFeelGood

@Respondona Yes, my mom was TOO open, and it basically made me a prude, for a very long time. So it goes both ways...

Melusina

I did not understand what intercourse even was until the age of 11. I knew that lying down in a bed with a member of the opposite sex would result in impregnation (!) but I genuinely had no idea that...penetration was even possible. Then one day my mom and I were putting leaves in a wooden table, and she referred to needing the male connector on her end of the table. I asked why it was called that, and she was like, Oh you know! And then she realised I didn't know. I was deeply horrified to learn the truth of reproductive mechanics. And that was basically the extent of The Talk.

That and accusations like, "You've been kissing! I told you that would lead to trouble" and "You don't let your boyfriend touch your chest over the shirt, DO YOU," after very chaste dates when I was 17.

OxfordComma

@Melusina : *snort* Oh, moms.

Melusina

@OxfordComma That's not an answer. DO YOU?!

I love my mom. *sigh*

Sea Ermine

I never really had one sit down talk so much as a lot of discussions about it starting from age 5 or so. I think that really helped me because it got me comfortable talking about it at an age where I hadn't already learned that sex is weird or wrong or gross, so discussing it with my parents was never an issue. Also a look of the talks starting from age 12 or so were in the form of my parents giving me really good sex positive sex ed books (I wasn't a talkative child so it was a better way to reach me) which I got from say, age 12-17. All of the talks were with my mom (my dad didn't talk about this with me at all but did pay for my birth control pills from age 16-19 and paid for my IUD when I was 22). I think the fact I also had comprehensive sex ed every other year in school from 5th grade to 10th grade also helped, and I wish more schools offered that (note: I did not grow up in the US and lived in Europe from 3rd to 7th grade so that is probably why my school's had such good programs and the overall cultural attitudes (much of that time was spent in Germany) contributed to my attitudes about sex).

I kind of wish there was some sort of sex ed available for parents to help them be more comfortable talking about it with their children. I realized after moving to the US a lot of the attitudes I held about sex were attitudes I was very lucky to have and I finally began to understand that this is a conversation that is difficult for a lot of parents to have, even one's with healthy attitudes about sex, because of the way they were raised. I think if there was some sort of way to get more parents comfortable talking about it then they could pass that on to their kids instead of waiting until the kid is way too old/already picked up funny ideas about sex and then appearing to be super uncomfortable while talking about it...which just keeps the cycle going once those kids grow up.

OxfordComma

*raises hand*

I'm totally in the minority here, but I need to say a little, "Hey. It's okay to wait until you're married, too."

I mean, for heaven's sake, masturbate so you know what feels good for you, but it is totally fine to wait until marriage to have sex.

My mom completely blew the sex talk--I essentially had a pastel-colored Focus on the Family approved book that said nothing about anatomy and focused solely on "this is just for mommies and daddies!". That said, I educated myself because I knew mom wasn't telling me everything.

I made a conscious decision to not have sex as an adult, and I'm pretty happy with that choice. I do believe it is often wiser to wait to have sex (I don't think my teenaged self could have handled it emotionally), but I also know that it is an *incredibly* personal decision, and kids/teens need to be informed so they can make the best choice for themselves.

In short:

Sex! Wheee! But be smart about it.

Sea Ermine

@OxfordComma Yeah I really appreciated that my mom (and the various sex ed books she gave me) stressed that you should wait to have sex until you are personally ready for that, and that happens at very different places for different people. For me it turned out the right thing was to have sex when I was 16 but it's not that way for everyone and it's helpful (especially in an age where so much sex is on tv aimed at teens) to know that whatever you choose is ok.

Springtime for Voldemort

@OxfordComma I agree that it's totally fine to wait until marriage, but I think there needs to be more. Like, it's totally fine to wait until marriage, but there are some downsides. You might be more inclined to get married to someone so you can have sex, and if you weren't waiting, you might not have married that person. And it's hard to know if you're going to be sexually compatible with someone until you've slept with them, and being married to someone whom you aren't sexually compatible with can be rough. You might not meet someone you want to marry that quickly, and might change your mind, but then have a hard time finding a partner who wants to sleep with someone who hasn't had sex; it also might be harder to connect with people of the same age. Morally, sure, wait as long as you want, but I think there should be some talk about how those choices often play out in reality.

Sea Ermine

@papayalily I think the bit about being sexually compatible is an interesting one because I find that when I talk to people about this they tend to think that it will be a non issue until they start having sex. By that I mean that they'll assume that being sexually compatible wont be an issue until they've had a chance to really explore what they like (because they either have no idea or only know in the context of masturbation...which doesn't always give you an idea about what kind of partner sex you like) and then they realize that sexual compatibility is a big deal. I also agree with the part about not finding someone to marry that quickly, I find that because of all the people who marry young so that they can have sex it's probably hard to figure out how to go about things if you want to wait to have sex until marriage but don't want to rush into a marriage and then end up not getting married or not marrying until you are much older than you expected.

OxfordComma

@papayalily : There certainly are downsides--but that's true of most adult choices.

Here's my two cents on sexual compatibility, because, quelle surprise, I am asked that question ALL THE TIME:

The Fiance and I have been friends for years (13!), and have dated for five. We have made very clear boundaries in our physical relationship because we both wanted to wait until we were married to have sex. This does not mean, however, that we haven't experimented and had a lot of fun friskiness with each other.

Sexual compatibility, honestly, comes down to communication. We have told each other what feels good, what we like, what we fantasize about.

I'm sure that we will continue to talk about what feels good, what we like, and what we fantasize about when we are having sex, and I'm truly looking forward to that. We will have some awkward moments, and there will probably be hurt feelings here and there--but we will work through them, because that is what we have done for years, and will continue to do.

That, and he doesn't snore.

We're going to be fine. :)

Springtime for Voldemort

@Sea Ermine I've heard a lot of women, mostly from conservative families, say how they were great with the waiting until marriage thing when they assumed they'd get married at a young age. But then they were 28, and still hadn't met their future spouse, and started to feel like they were left back in high school while all their peers moved on to adulthood, so maybe they should just lose it now, and then because people got freaked out at the idea of sleeping with a virgin, it's now several years later and they still haven't had sex or found The One. (It seems like an oddly common story. I'm sort of shocked by how many times I've heard it.)

@OxfordComma Well, then that sounds like that works for you guys :) My point was really more about how that talk gets played out, not that each couple is absolutely going to be incompatible, just that it should include a list of possible pros and cons and more than just that one line.

OxfordComma

@papayalily : Absolutely!

Sea Ermine

@OxfordComma I have a question (and if this is way to personally please feel free to let me know and not answer) but how do you (or how do people you know who've also made this decision) decide to draw the line with regards to what kinds of sexual things are/aren't ok before marriage. I only ask because you mentioned you've experimented and it reminded me of something I've wondered for a long time. I think the reason why this is a question for me is because for me any sexual act (so things like oral, manual intercourse, etc. as well as penis in vagina type sex) is something I consider to be sex and for me they are all the same thing/on the same level of intimacy so if I were to hypothetically wait until marriage there would be nothing beyond kissing, which would make it hard to figure out what I like/dislike. At the same time I've heard that there are a lot of people who take sort of an everything but attitude to it so I've always wondered how someone decides where the line is drawn and why certain activities are something you'd want to wait for when other's are not. Again, if this is too personal feel free to ignore it, it's just something I've been curious about and you seem really levelheaded/smart about the whole thing so I figured you'd be a good person to ask.

OxfordComma

@Sea Ermine : My line has shifted a trifle since I was a teenager--as it should, frankly. :)

(Me at 18: "OMG. HE FRENCHED ME. Am I a bad person????" I got over that in a hurry. :)

I believe there are varying levels of intimacy, that often, but not always, coincide with varying levels of undress. The Fiance and I didn't see each other totally naked until about four years into our relationship, when we were both pretty damn sure that we were going to get married. It just wasn't something either of us felt comfortable sharing before then.

I guess my degrees kinda go: Hand holding, kissing, petting (God, isn't there a better word for that???), hand jobs, oral sex, intercourse.

(I also understand that this is from a heterosexual point of view, so take that as you will.)

It varies for most folks who have decided to only have intercourse when they are married--those last two levels are ones that I have chosen to wait on. They are just too intimate for me, personally, outside of the commitment of marriage.

I kinda feel special that he is the only man who has seen me naked, and I'm the only woman who has seen him naked. It's pretty awesome, and totally hot.

(I do have to say that I have several friends from college who held off on everything but kissing before they were married, and ended up just fine--their marriages are strong, and from the smug looks on their faces, the sex is great, too. :)

...

I don't believe that having sex before marriage ruins you, or takes anything away from your future partner/spouse; that horrible old allegory of your virginity being like Scotch tape is a complete lie, and it hurts women and men.

On the flip side, waiting until marriage to have sex also doesn't ruin you or condemn you to a life of terrible sex. Not communicating or being selfish leads to terrible sex--waiting does not.

...

I hope that was helpful--I don't speak for all people who have chosen to wait, but the decision I have made is one that I am happy with, and I believe it is a healthy path for me to follow.

panquecito

@OxfordComma // Thanks for writing that out; it was really interesting to read your perspective. Congratulations and best wishes on your upcoming nuptials!

Sea Ermine

@OxfordComma That was really helpful. I think a lot of my confusion comes from the fact that the people I've known who were waiting were fairly judgmental and I knew them when I was in mid high school (which is when I started having sex) so it was really hard for me to ask them about their reasons for choosing that path. I like that you have actual reasons for doing this based on how it makes you feel (like when you said you felt special that he's the only one who's seen you naked) and defined boundaries based on what you are/aren't comfortable with rather than vague 'don't do it because it's bad' reasons. It was really neat to here the perspective of someone who took a path to having/not having sex that was so different than mine. Thanks!

OxfordComma

@Sea Ermine @elenachicago : Any time! I've sincerely appreciated hearing other folks' perspectives, too--I love the Hairpin for that. :)

baked bean

@OxfordComma Sometimes I get worried about my long-term bf and I neither having had any previous partners. But, I think you're right in that communication is the most important, and we are pretty good at that.
Also, I could see us perhaps working out some kind of open relationship thing if in the future we got frustrated.

Melusina

@Sea Ermine So, I'll weigh in too, thanks to the anonymity of the internet.

There is literally a whole industry of books dedicated to helping evangelicals try to decide where to draw the line. (My personal favourite "Just Good Friends?" by Joyce Huggett, the British 80s cringe-inducing classic.)

My husband and I didn't have sex before marriage, and for us, the line was not taking off or going around clothing below the waist, and not intentionally doing anything that would lead to an orgasm. That decision came out of a good place, but I am not 100% sure I would do it again that way. We knew that we would be compatible more or less, though, because we did have conversations about sex to make sure that our expectations were similar. And I agree with OxfordComma that it's all about communication.

Sea Ermine

What always horrifies me is when people (especially people who otherwise seem smart and sex positive) say that they wont talk to their kids about sex because they didn't get the talk and figured it out anyway or that since they were nerdy/socially awkward/shy and didn't have sex until later than is typical then their kids probably will do the same thing. I'm not trying to point fingers (since I know I've read this on the hairpin both today and on other similar posts), it's just something that I was reminded of reading the comments and wanted to draw attention to.

I get that it's a tricky discussion to have but I feel like this attitude is really dangerous, when you consider the rates of unplanned pregnancy amongst teenagers in the US, and even more so the rates of STI transmission amongst teenagers it becomes really clear that not all kids figure it out on their own/wait as long as you did. Even though I was super nerdy, and socially awkward, and shy, and a little weird and unpopular I still became sexually active at 16 and am really grateful that my mom (a mega prude who thinks sex is unnecessary and waited until marriage for non religious reasons) shelved her ideas to talk to be about it anyway because that's partly why I started out using both the pill and condoms and being secure in only doing what I wanted to do.

I think part of the reason this bothers me so much is a conversation I recently had with a friend. This friend is younger than me, but still she's 20 at an age where we assume people already know what they need to know about sex ed. She grew up in the U.S, has her own laptop with internet access, has access to libraries, and has friends who are having sex. You'd assume that even if her parents didn't talk to her about it she'd figure things out on her own but a couple months ago I had to sit her down and explain what a clitoris is and where it is found. She lost her virginity later that night and came back to me with tons of questions that I assumed everyone her age already knew the answers to (she knows them now, but only because I sat her down and gave her a whole talk about sex with links to helpful scarletteen posts). I knew way to many people in college who were sexually active and yet had a huge lack of understanding of things regarding STIs and birth control efficacy/importance.

I'm not sure where I'm going with this but basically I really wish parents would understand that their kids are not exactly like them and sometimes people need a little help figuring things out/direction towards good resources for learning about sex, especially in the US where you can't count on schools to explain things to them.

OxfordComma

@Sea Ermine : Yes! This! Yes!!!!

nyikint

@Sea Ermine Yes! I'm the person who said that kids will figure it out anyway, and I realize I was generalizing way too much. It is a dangerous thing to advocate giving kids less information - thanks for articulating it so well.

Sea Ermine

@nyikint I do agree with you that I think kids can figure it out anyway (and I know people who were raised in very conservative environments who turned out alright and figured out where to get the information they needed) but not all kids do which is why, whenever possible, I think it's best to try to get the information out to them (even if they might already know some of it). Because it's better to make sure they know than to risk having things go wrong for them if they don't (or if they think they do but the information they have is wrong and they don't find out until it's too late).

Even in a situation where a parent doesn't feel up to the task (maybe their sex ed was terrible or were raised in sex negative environments and don't want their kid to turn out that way but also don't have the knowledge to educate them) they can at least point them in the direction of resources so that the kid has a starting point of healthy information (as opposed to learning from their often misinformed peers), whether that is a book, or the planned parenthood website, or a class the parent and kid can take together.

Lurkasaurus

@Sea Ermine I was a terribly nerdy/socially awkward/shy teenager who never got any kind of sex talk ever (EVER. No books left lying around, no "Don't get pregnant" comments, nada.), and I am bound and determined to embarrass the crap out of any future children with continual open discussion about sex. Because even though I never came close to anything like intimate contact with another human being while I lived at home, and even though I eventually figured things out on my own, the attitude toward sex I developed out of all this silence was extremely harmful. I didn't know what I liked at all, and I was way too ashamed and afraid to ever try to figure it out. I never fantasized or masturbated and was disgusted by the thought of touching myself (a hang-up I'm still working through to this day). I want to establish an environment for my future children where they know sex is a normal part of life and something acceptable to talk about and think about (and ask me about, if they have questions).

Sea Ermine

@Lurkasaurus I think the issue of kids not knowing what they like and being too scared to figure it out (through masturbation, fantasizing, books, movies, whatever) is a way bigger issue than people realize. I know way to many people who just don't enjoy sex but then when I ask them if they try new things when masturbating or fooling around with their partner they say they don't do either of those things. And this includes people who weren't raised with any religious reason not to, they have a vague feeling of being uncomfortable that probably stems from all of societies issues and terrible messages about sex. I think it's so so great that you're working on this and want to make it ok for your children to feel comfortable thinking and talking about sex.

zoe
zoe

@Sea Ermine yes! and (maybe this is covered further down in the thread, and maybe it's too late, being monday, and everyone is moving on already) but it seems younger people now have such super easy access to porn, and both young girls and boys are actually accessing it... which, if there is almost zero other sex ed, gives a totally unrealistic idea of what sex involves, or encompasses, and if younger people aren't being talked to about both sex ed AND media literacy around these kind of sex images, you get a generation of couples who think blowjob-pumping-anal-facecumshot is just Doing It Properly, with no space for other things (including much female pleasure). Scary. talk to your kids about sex, seriously.

klemay

I kind of wish that I had had sex at a younger age. I waited until I was 20 because I told myself I was being Responsible. I felt emotionally ready when I was 16 and dating a long-term partner, but never had sex with him because, I don't know, purity? All I could think about was my mom saying "Once you lose your virginity, you can never get it back!"

...and then I lost my virginity and realized that having lots of awesome sex is way better than having this abstract thing called Virginity.

Sea Ermine

@klemay I suppose you could figure that maybe the sex wouldn't have been as good when you were 16 (I mean, there are exceptions but 16 year olds aren't known for being particularly skilled in the bedroom so it's safe to assume) so you weren't missing out on much?

klemay

@Sea Ermine I suppose. But I still think exploring my body with my boyfriend would have been much more fun/fulfilling than "waiting."

Sea Ermine

@klemay That's true, and I can understand why that would be frustrating. For me though I found that when I started having sex at 16 and when I started having sex again at 22 (after a two year break when I was super antisocial) that the exploration was just as fun both times...and very different because they were two very different people). On the upside though, you still have plenty of time to explore so I guess that's something to look forward to.

klemay

@Sea Ermine I just wish we could stop framing sex as something to do only when you're ready for A Life Without Your Virginity. Because the truth is, I was the same person before and after having sex, and I honestly don't feel I gained anything from waiting. If anything, I'm a little annoyed about the shame that surrounding having sex for the first time.

klemay

@klemay *that surrounded.

Sea Ermine

@klemay Yes!!! I completely agree with this! I remember being confused when I was younger because virginity was treated as this big thing. Whereas to me sex was just another new activity, like learning to drive, or trying a new sport. I mean obviously there are more issues surrounding sex like STIs that make it different than other new activities but I just never felt that the huge importance surrounding it really resonated with the way I experienced it.

She was a retail whore

You guys, my mom could barely bring herself to explain MENSTRUATION to me (related traumatic experience: 14-year-old me inserting a tampon without first divesting it of the applicator; who knew???). We definitely never talked about sex. I say "my mom" because my dad would never even have considered talking with me about sex. My parents are the sweetest, but I think that there was a huge generational issue in play: my parents were older when they had me, and when they were younger, you just didn't talk about that stuff with your kids (apparently). Also, they're Baptists. Luckily, I had health/sex ed from sixth grade on, so I knew the score without requiring a parental explanation.

Xanthophyllippa

@She was a retail whore I had the same tampon problem, probably because my mother never even mentioned the possibility that I might prefer them (an accurate assumption on her part) so I had to actually read the instructions. I couldn't figure out why it hurt so much until I took it out and realized that the cardboard was still there. No wonder it felt like I was sitting on a pencil...

...which is why I didn't even try to use tampons again until I was over 30. And then I bought OB, having decided that a little goo on my finger was preferable to an uncomfortable mistake.

c8pat8

@Xanthophyllippa Buahaha! I DID THE SAME THING! I just thought that the applicator broke off? Like the piece that you push? So I could not figure out for the life of me why my tampons didn't work at all and why they were so uncomfortable. I don't think I figured it out until I was about 18. Ugh.

eager2fly

While my upbringing was decidedly not sex positive, I was able to have a really positive first time when I was 20. It was with my wonderful british boyfriend while studying abroad - I initiated it, I felt "ready" and I felt no shame what so ever afterwards. Although by that time I had done pretty much every thing else (I was raised catholic during the Clinton administration - oral sex didn't count!). All my sex-positive guidance came from a 1975 copy of Our Bodies Ourselves my mom kept hidden in her nightstand (given to her by her best friend with the inscription "for with ourselves and with others"). Though dated, it helped me get a handle on the basics and instilled in me that sex was something I should approach on my own terms.

It also exposed me to masturbation. I started around age 12 and I felt SO MUCH shame about it. My mom still insists that it's something that "boys do." I never quite figured out how to get off with my hands so I used an old taper candlestick (as recommended by OBOS). While I think it was a big part in my development, I have no idea how I'd approach masturbation if I had daughters.

Sea Ermine

@eager2fly I think that for approaching masturbation with your daughters it would be a good idea to find a general sex ed book that has a focus on masturbation being healthy, normal, etc. A lot of the times they explain how to do it (by saying like, "some people find that ___ feels good or __". That's how I figured it out. Flip through some books in the bookstore (for these things I find it helps to get something current (especially when it comes to info about birth control, I had a mix of old and new books and the old one's sometimes recommended things that are now not used or had weird information). Even if they appear not to be interested in the book they'll probably read it when you're out and that way they can figure things out at their own speed. I find that while I was also super comfortable talking about sex with my parents I could not do the same for masturbation (I think because it's too personal? I'm not sure) so books were really helpful.

Sea Ermine

This is kind of late to post but you know what I really wish I would have had more education about before doing is how to put in a tampon. I feel like for every other sex related thing I was very well prepared but it took me 5 years, yes 5 YEARS to be able to put in a tampon without a lot of pain. I was always putting them in at weird angles, or not far in enough or just something was wrong with it that it would hurt or I couldn't get it in or I couldn't take it out and it was a disaster and I had no one to ask because my mom didn't use tampons so the best she could do was an American Girl book with illustrations and instructions.
But that wasn't enough (or maybe there was just some skill I was missing from age 12-16 that everyone else had)? I wish there had been a slow motion video (I mean, not really because it sounds like a weird thing to watch but also it would have helped) showing a woman inserting a tampon or pictures or something.
I think part of the problem is that for a while I only had access to applicator less tampons (like OB type things) and I know some people love them but they are just not beginner friendly (even now at age 22 I can't put one in without feeling excruciating pain every time I walk or shift) and after 2 years I had to start ordering one's with applicators off the internet. Also, I wish someone would have told me to put lube on a tampon because I think that would have helped.

Lurkasaurus

@Sea Ermine ME TOO. I couldn't figure out how to do it "right," and I was a swimmer so I couldn't just avoid them. For the first couple of years I had my period, I had to slather the applicator with Vaseline to be able to insert it, and I still went through 4 or 5 tampons every time just to get 1 in to the point where it would stay put. I *still* can't deal with the OB-type ones.

Sea Ermine

@Lurkasaurus I've finally narrowed it down to one brand I can use just because it has grips on the side of the applicator that help me with putting it in. I don't know what it is that makes it so hard but I think it's because I can't really see what's going on (I tried kneeling over a mirror but that angle made it impossible to go in) and I can't visualize it since I never really learned how, I figured it out through years of trial and error.

baked bean

@Lurkasaurus Aw man, OBs are my fave. They are so much easier to get in the right place. It would have freaked me out as a teenager though to stick my finger "up there," but perhaps that would have been good for me.

Melusina

@Sea Ermine I don't understand how *anyone* can use applicator-less tampons. I try periodically (heh) but I can't wear them. Most painful thing ever. It's like having a bullet up there.

Sea Ermine

I think maybe my issues with OBs are that I can't put them in correctly. I never had issues with putting my hands there, and my fingers are long but still I can't push it as far as it should go or it just seems to get stuck somehow or goes in at the wrong angle and then no matter how hard I push I can't get it up far enough and then since it's too low down it hurts. I feel like there is a secret technique the OB lovers know that I can't figure out.

OxfordComma

@Sea Ermine : Hmmm. I know I have to very consciously relax my muscles in that area. I use my middle finger and push the tampon up as high as it can go. I also use the regular sized ones--any bigger, and it feels all weird.

OxfordComma

@Sea Ermine : And? Everyone's body is different. It's okay if you can't use applicator-less tampons. It doesn't make you weird, nor does it make you a bad feminist. :)

Sea Ermine

@OxfordComma I know it's not bad or that it makes me a bad feminist, I was just connecting this to my previous comment (it was suppose to be a response to baked bean, not sure why it made a new thread) about why I wish sex ed would have covered how to insert a tampon in a more in depth way and OBs stood out for me as being the hardest to insert (and therefore, most needing of extra explanations in school).

OxfordComma

@Sea Ermine : Gotcha! And yes, more detail is almost *always* helpful.

FoleySparrow

My grandmother bought me a set of red and white books in a nice slipcover called the "LifeCycle Library" when I was a very young age, like 7 or 8. She struggled to be very open and honest about sex. I think she felt her mother did her wrong back in the 1930's. My cousins and I even had sex 'quizzes,' like we had to be able to explain to her the difference between fraternal and identical twins. If we couldn’t explain it, we had to reread the correct chapter.

But this approach definitely led to some unintended consequences. Like the time I asked her, "Grandma, can you have sex with dead people?"

She dropped the cooking spoon in her hand and paused before turning around to calmly explain that yes, some people do, but only bad bad sick people. Also it's a crime.

I found a set of ye olde LifeCycle Library in a thrift store recently. They're a hoot! Love the line drawings of little girls with superimposed uteri and ovaries, and boys with superimposed testes and urethrae.

Later in girlhood I came across a copy of my mom's "My Secret Garden," and no that's not the Frances Hodgson Burnett book! Instead it was an extremely forward-thinking (for it's time) compilation of women's explicit sexual fantasies. You know, back when nice, educated women didn't have sexual fantasies. So it was a 'feminist' book. That gave me quite an education. Plus, we had a copy of "Everything You Always Wanted to Know About Sex" around the house. You know, the one that Woody Allen made into a movie. It was pretty awful.

When I was 23 I was dating a man with a 14 year old daughter (bad idea by the way, but you know, life lessons). He was freaking out about his little girl blossoming and how to deal with the whole sex issue. I gently explained the "house full of books that explain everything for you, and if they have questions about, you know, *dead people*, they can ask" technique. Then I went out and bought her a copy of Our Bodies Our Selves for Christmas. She holed up in her room for 2 days with her girlfriends reading it and giggling. She still never liked me, but that's okay. Best Christmas gift for 14 year old girls ever!

If I ever have kids of my own this is totally how it will be done. Even kids who refuse to read will read a book about bodies and sex.

TARDIStime

@FoleySparrow
"If I ever have kids of my own this is totally how it will be done. Even kids who refuse to read will read a book about bodies and sex."

"My Secret Garden" on the English Syllabus for year 7 FTW! THAT is how to make sure your students read their set text!

marianlibrarian

@Squareface THANK YOU.

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