Today I am thinking about my teenaged daughter’s sexual health.
This has been on my mind for a long time but in the last few weeks, since she told me about her “new big brother,” I have been trying to find a way to talk to her about boys and what their intentions and expectations may or may not be.
The “big brother” in question is a boy she met over Memorial Day weekend while visiting a friend. He’s seventeen — my daughter M is fourteen. This boy has already had at least one fourteen-year-old girlfriend… though I don’t know how intimate they were.
Apparently the boy is moving away soon to go to college. I’ll admit this is a bit of a relief for me because I see this friendship progressing rapidly and I worry that it could grow into more than brotherly affection. I’ve been very forthcoming with my concerns while trying to remain calm and rational. Although it’s been difficult, I feel that I have done a good job of being open to listening.
I know this is normal and we all go through it but I want to try and make sure she is prepared to do it safely, and on her terms.
I am painfully aware that M is quickly approaching the age where she won’t be able to resist the primal urge of her loins, and she will either pursue a sexual relationship or will give into pressure from a boy that she likes. I know this is normal and we all go through it but I want to try and make sure she is prepared to do it safely, and on her terms. I was unable to take charge of my own adolescent sexuality and my adult relationships have suffered as a result.
What parent doesn’t want the best of the best for their children? How do we strike balance between helping them achieve their goals while not imposing our own goals upon them? Expectations are normal and healthy; demands are not. As such, I refuse to take the stance of abstinence. I think it’s cruel and unrealistic and I will not demand it of my children. Instead, I want to make it easy for them to obtain information and birth control.
A year-and-a-half ago our then fifteen-year-old daughter told me she was bisexual. She asked if a girl she's experimented with can spend the night as... Read more
I contacted Planned Parenthood today to ask for advice and information on how to introduce my daughter to their services. They were incredibly warm and easy to talk to. The woman I spoke with confirmed that their services are confidential and if M were to go to them for any reason, she would be helped without having to call her parents. The lady also suggested that I allow M the responsibility to set the initial appointment.
Of course, I would like to be involved in M’s sexual health — my field of knowledge is reproductive health, pregnancy, and childbirth. However, I know that it can be uncomfortable to talk to your own parents about sex.
So, I will give her the reins to her own sexuality and not impose my own expectations and beliefs. She’s a very smart young woman. She knows how to make good choices. Most importantly: I trust her.
Comments on How I’m preparing myself for my daughter’s future sex life
My own mom is a sexual health nurse who worked in the free clinic in downtown Miami while I was a teenager. She was ALL ABOUT making sure my brother and I made healthy choices.
She kept a big stock of condoms in the house, let us know they were there and true to her word, never asked where they went (to be fair, mostly to horny friends).
But I hit my limit when she took me for my first pelvic exam. She had a very traumatic experience her first time, and wanted to make sure I was comfortable.
I had done a lot of reading on my own, so I wasn’t nervous at all. My Dr and I were coasting through the thing, easy peasy.
And then Mom, who insisted on holding my hand during the exam, asked if she could look at my cervix.
I told her to get out.
[/cool story bro]
I would like to respectfully state that not all teenagers reach a point where they are “(un)able to resist the primal urge of (their)loins,” nor do I find abstinence to be “cruel and unrealistic.” I, and all my friends, many in relationships of two years or more, have all recently graduated high school without ever engaging in sex. I’m glad you are willing to support your daughter in the health decisions she has to make in the future. But I have often come into sex ed. classes where the assumption is teens will inevitably engage in sex, and I honestly feel a bit insulted. To me, abstinence is the safest decision physically and emotionally. I wish more people could understand that I am capable of making that decision and holding to it, even as an atheist with no belief in a god or religious purity. (And, as a disclaimer, I am speaking only for myself, the decisions I make are certainly not ideal for everyone.)
Yeah, I think it’s best to let M make that choice on her own. I personally would present her with all the options, abstinence being one of them.
Honestly, just speaking from my own experience, my husband and I waited until we were married to have intercourse (we fooled around beforehand) and I’m glad we did. We also were only together for 13 months before we got married, which could quite possibly play a role in that. However, I don’t think either one of us would have ended up worse off if we hadn’t waited. However, if I had had sex with my high school boyfriend, I think I would have been much worse off. Just food for thought.
Best of luck to you both!
Ditto to both of the above commenters. I was a virgin when I go married last year and am quite happy with the decision to wait. I understand that you do not want your daughter to feel like you would disown her if she has sex or that she can’t come to you if she has sex and problem comes up. However, 14 is far too young to be having sex and abstinence is the safest option and can be a realistic option for some young people. So, by all means, make sure she has access to all the information she needs if she decides to have sex, but encourage her to wait until she is older (at least college). She really won’t regret it.
I have to respectfully disagree. I very much regret not experimenting more before I “married” (domestic partnership – we’re both female. I’m 25 now, and we’ve been together almost 6 years). I first had opposite-sex vaginal sex at 16, but experimented with other women as young as 11. If I’d been braver and more assertive as a teenager and gotten more experience and skill, I think my married sex life would be a lot more fulfilling for me and my wife.
I have to agree a little with everyone. I think, no, I KNOW, my husband wishes he had had more sexual encounters prior to our meeting and would be more comfortable in our relationship if he had been more “experienced”.
I on the other hand, regret the amount of sexual encounters I’ve had.
I do know people for whom abstinence is the best choice and for whom it is not. I definitely think you should be honest with your children about all the possibilities and make sure they understand that, when done with care and safety in mind, sex is not a bad thing.
There a lot of room between “wait until marriage” (which I don’t think anyone here is recommending) and “go for it at 14”. The average age for American women to get married is 26 now. You can put off sex until late in college or high school and still do plenty of experimenting.
My biggest concern with a 14 year old having sex is that odds are she’ll be having sex with someone older. That’s sifts control of the relationship away from her and it’s not a good thing.
Just want to encourage people who are in their 20s, recently married, and wishing they had more skill or experience: it is not too late! People in their 30s, 40s, and 50s+ try new things sexually and — trust me — get better at it too. Your flexibility may eventually limit you, but otherwise the doors are still wide open.
My thoughts exactly, and I’m so glad somebody commented about this soon after the article was posted. This is such a loaded statement I’m surprised it’s on Offbeat: At what age to people lose the ability to abstain from sexual urges? Am I not aged properly, or “mature,” because I have always been able to abstain from urges–even as a teenager? Am I somehow less of a person because my husband is the only sexual partner I’ve had in my life? What about asexual people, who may never experience these urges? There’s a LOT more to sex than “urges” or “being convinced” to do it. Just because it was “inevitable” for the author, doesn’t mean it will be so for her daughter, or anyone else. Just because it’s “normal” for teens to have sex, doesn’t mean it isn’t ALSO “normal” for teens NOT to have sex.
I want my daughter to make the right decision for her when she’s old enough. I’m going to present her with the information that at the age of 37, her mom and dad had been with two other people, people we loved and cherished. We both waited until we were adults, understood ourselves and our hearts, and thought that we could build relationships with the people. I want her to wait until she’s in love, in a position to cope with a pregnancy, and with someone she thinks could be right.
But if I could somehow slip her birth control just in case, I would.
Oh, my mom had this conversation with me when I was 17, just starting to date my first real boyfriend and sex was nowhere in my mind. It was very awkward and felt as if she was hoping I would follow the same path as her. In my opinion it did more damage than good and a simple statement of her trusting me would have been much much better…
To all of the above posters, I hope I don’t come off rude. But I think the point that the author was trying to make, or at least what I got from it, was that most parents think their precious little angels would never do that, or that even though the parents don’t have to go more than two days without sex, they assume that kids can go without it. No parent wants their 14 year old to have sex I know alot of people, myself included, who have gotten into a lot of problems young because their parents told them abstinence was the only option and they were afraid to talk to their parents about sex after that.
I agree. Although my experience was the opposite (parents gave me all the facts and treated me like I was responsible and that abstinence was my choice and I could make my own expectations, so I waited until I was in college to have sex with my then boyfriend/now husband) I found that being trusted to make my own decisions led to wanting to make the correct ones. I know others who were treated as if they should just pretend they’re not sexual beings and rebelled and regretted it.
Same thing happened with my teen years! My mum was -always- very open about sex and never made me embarrassed by my sexuality. Because she was so thorough, I was not ready to have sex until I knew I could handle the consequences of STDs and pregnancy.
I didn’t have sex until I was 20, with my then-fiance, now husband. At that point, I was ready, we’d fooled around a lot, and I knew that if I were to get pregnant that I would get an abortion.
Overall, I’m very happy that I waited, and I don’t think that being married inhibits my sexual learning. In fact, my husband and I often talk about either opening the relationship and experimenting or going poly.
I have an eleven year old son sitting on the couch in the living room due, partly, to my parents cramming abstinence down my throat. When I started having sex, I was terrified to be caught with a condom, let alone birth control pills. I truly, had no one to guide me. I have made a vow to be open and honest with my kids about sex. Abstinence education, for me, backfired in a BIG way.
That sounds like my friend that BEGGED me to get her birth control because he parents wouldn’t. So I took her to planned parenthood, I was 16 at the time (not having sex) but didn’t want to see her screwing up her life.
Thank you, Alexis, for understanding where I’m coming from. I was reading the comments thinking, “Oh my. I really came across the wrong way.” My husband and I have always been open and vocal about sex; not condoning it, rather explaining that the best sexual experiences happen when you’re older and understand how to let it be a beautiful thing.
You might have noticed this yourself, but I’ve noticed that a lot of sexual health/puberty/smart sex choices information tends to focus in on the ‘pressure’ aspect above all else. A common theme is that teenage boys are horny sex obsessed fiends, and that teenage girls reluctantly give it up due to peer pressure/wanting to feel loved/If you loved me you’d do it/I bet your friend would do it/i’ll tell everyone anyway. Very rarely do you see a sex ed leaflet or video that acknowledges that some teenage girls might actually just want to have sex – not to make a boy love them, but because they’re horny. It’s very important to make sure your daughter knows it’s okay to have the desire to do it, as well as knowing the risks involved if she chooses to take that to the next level and actually do it.
Very, very true.
Parallel to this is the lack of information out there about safe sex between females – after all, if teen girls only want to have sex because the boys make them do it, how would teenage lesbians *ever* have sex? There is so much misinformation out there – some of it perpetuated by medical professionals – including the idea that women cannot pass STDs on to each other (which… just… no).
I recognize that while many girls (hello, me!) give into pressure, as an adult I also now recognize that ANY time a person does not give exuberant consent it really is rape. Pressured consent is not consent at all.
This is what I’m teaching to my sons. They need to have exuberant consent, enthusiastic consent, real/non-pressured consent. And I’m quite positive that many young women would be happy to consent to sex; I don’t think boys are more or less horny. But I do hope for real consent between all parties and so this is a major component of my talks with my kids.
Oh, and if you haven’t found it yet, http://scarleteen.com is an amazing sex-positive, very honest resource for both of you!
I love Scarleteen! Heather is an old friend, and we’ve featured her sex-ed on Offbeat Mama before: http://offbeatmama.com/2010/06/kids-sex-and-body-education-books 🙂
My Mom was very kind in offering information about birth control. And I learned a lot about hetero STD prevention. But from her, and from both high school and college sex ed, there wasn’t anything taught about same-sex protection. As a nearly-lesbian bisexual teen, all I wanted was for my sexuality to be acknowledged and for same-sex safety to be taught.
I’m seeing a lot of assumed heterosexuality in the comments here. Please Please PLEASE don’t assume heterosexuality. There are risks to sex for -all- orientations and all orientations deserve to have the knowledge to protect themselves.
Heh, I made my comment before reading yours. 😉 Obviously I agree!
Sex would be so easy if no strings were attached. Strings are always attached, and I’m not speaking emotionally. The hard truth is that pregnancy can be handled (I’m not saying the different options, EVERY girl who is thinking or having sex should know those). I’m speaking strictly of STDs. There are many that kill. End of story. We make like of HIV these days because of the advances in medicine (and too often forget about it’s partner in crime, AIDS), but it’s still a terrible disease to live with. Hepatitis, syphilis, AIDS; these disease will kill you, and you most likely to get these through intercourse. While I 100% applaud PP, be a mom, and tell her like it is. Don’t sugar coat it. I’m not against one-night stands, but there are a lot of stupid people out there who don’t care what they pass on to who (or if they even know they have an STD). We CAN’T sit there and say parents are the biggest influence on their kids and must be a part of their lives, EXCEPT when it comes to talking to them about sex. If you want to be a fair-weather mom, then, quite frankly, you’re falling short of your parental duties. I apologize for coming off a bit militant on this, but I am tired of the “should I talk to my kids about sex?” conversation. OF COURSE YOU SHOULD. You’re the parent! Act like it! And please keep in mind, I am not intending to cite drama. However, I don’t see a need to sugar coat what needs to be said.
Saying “Hepatitis, syphilis, AIDS; these disease will kill you” is a huge exaggeration. Regarding Hepatitis B: the WHO website states that “about 90% of healthy adults who are infected with HBV will recover and be completely rid of the virus within six months.” (http://www.who.int/mediacentre/factsheets/fs204/en/)
Syphilis is treatable. The Centre for Disease Control has a somewhat helpful page (http://www.cdc.gov/std/syphilis/treatment.htm) that says “Syphilis is easy to cure in its early stages. … Additional doses are needed to treat someone who has had syphilis for longer than a year.” From what I can gather, you are completely cured of syphilis with this treatment.
Your point about the importance of talking about STIs is completely valid, but exaggeration is not useful (and not particularly necessary! Precautions should still be taken even if STIs are not necessarily going to kill you).
^You were experimenting by 11 but still feel like you didn’t have enough experience? How early do you think you would have to start to be experienced enough by 25!? No disrespect, I’m just not sure what you’re saying.
I do agree with the comments about many teenagers being able to make the decision to remain abstinent. But in defense of the article, I think she’s just trying to say that it would be unrealistic for her to tell her daughter “no sex, and that’s that” and assume without a doubt that she’s being listened to. Some teenagers would, some wouldn’t.
For me, we’re 20 and have played around but are saving intercourse until we get married, purely because my body can’t handle BC and I refuse to get pregnant during college. Our families are also religious and would be totally crushed (crushed, not angry) if they somehow found out we were having sex. We do have fun–we can wait until after college. It’s not worth the potential trouble.
By that comment, I was meaning to say that 14 isn’t necessarily too young. Just because I started at 11 doesn’t mean I continued or that I was promiscuous. I spent several years celibate in high school and I can count the number of sexual partners I had from 11 to 19 on one hand.
When I was 15 I had my first serious boyfriend who was 17. My parents liked him and my mom sat down with me and talked to me about how important it was to have a plan for birth control and STD protection BEFORE I started having sex. She told me that if I wanted to go on the pill she would pay for it as long as I was still in high school and as long as she felt I was in a healthy relationship and not just sleeping around with the whole football team. She also emphasized condoms to protect against disease. When my bro got his first serious girlfriend she stocked condomsunder the bathroom sink and told him he was just as responsible for birth control as his girlfriend was. When we finished high school she pointed us in the direction of the birth control clinic which has cheap or free birth control and medical advice. I used the clinic while in college when I couldn’t afford to pay for my own pills. In case you are wondering I have slept with 3 guys. 1 my high school sweet heart, 2 a hookup in Europe when I was 19 and 3 my now husband and have never had any funky diseases or unwanted pregnancy scares.
Your mom sounds awesome. I’ll have to tuck her tactics in my memory bank for when my kids gets into their teens.
If your daughter is at all a reader (and even if she’s not, but then in reduced amounts, though the topic might motivate) I’d recommend getting her reading marterial. Be it from the library, the bookstore, or the internet (http://www.scarleteen.com/ seems like a good site from what I’ve read on there, though I didn’t know it in my own teens).
Of course the ability to ask questions face to face is worth something and that appointment seems like a good idea for that, but face to face (even though a stranger in a professional setting is better than a parent sometimes) can be intimidating. You have to actually say all those new words out loud and have to remember what you meant to ask and have to have a clue what you want to know in the first place. A bit of preperatory reading where you can be sure that nobody’s watching you can’t hurt.
I’d also add, that there’s not just the issue of sex ed, but also the issue of actual sexual experiences that can be covered a bit with reading marterial. I sure LOVED books with steamy sex scenes in them. I mean, at 13/14 it is totally possible to get turned on by educational stuff, but that’s really not the only option that should exist.
Getting the opportunity to read about actual sex (maybe starting with relatively harmless stuff) prepares one for framing these kinds of interactions in ones mind and also provides marterial for jerking off, which is totally a good thing to do. Just to enjoy it, but also to find out what you like and what not and to experience that sex is something to enjoy and then you can also share it with somebody else, but you don’t HAVE to have sex with another person JUST to get off. ETC. ETC. … (I’m sure I’m sayung nothing new.)
I would try to make sure that the marterial provides a somewhat healthy impression of what sex is supposed to be like (consentual, respectful, enjoyed by all involved parties etc.).
I found that continued exposure to both educational (theoretical) and made to entertain reading also helped reduce the strangeness of the whole thing and made it seem like something you could actually talk about and talking about what you want with your partner(s) is an important skill.
I’m so glad you brought up masturbating! Another commenter said something about how so much of the educational material assumes that boys want sex and girls get pressured into sex, and I think that sometimes carries over into talking about satisfying one’s own sexual needs. I don’t know if it’s too weird to offer to buy your daughter a vibrator, but it seems like a good thing to at least let her know that she can enjoy herself without a partner.
There’s an awful lot of research to support the idea that education and options lead to fewer teen pregnancies and, actually, more kids waiting to have sex until they’re a little older.
I didn’t even know that masturbating was something women could do till I took a psychology of human sexuality class in college! (Years and years ago, that ws.) And yes, Scarleteen is a great online resource! Highly recommended.
Yay for masturbation!
Hahaha. I had to consult my sexual anatomy textbook several times to find my clitoris. I spent my freshmen year of college figuring out what actually goes on during the non-bleeding weeks of my menstrual cycle – it only took 19 years of life to learn what my body actually does!
Yes! Parents should not only terrify their teens with the consequence of unprotected sex, but protect them from years of thoughts like “what if there’s something wrong with me because I’m not feeling what I should” (usually, though not always, a problem cleared up with time, experience, and self-knowledge). My point is that a mother who mentions the word “condom” but not “clitors” is doing her daughter a disservice.
A little rationality lifts the quality of the debate here. Thanks for cntorbiuitng!
I was 14 dating a 17 year old and having sex, but I had already had sex with another 14 year old for my first time. The 17 year old was my boyfriend, looking back… definitely not a ‘predator,’ we dated for over a year until I broke his heart. I was never felt pressured, I wanted to have sex. Unfortunately a condom broke when I was 15 and I did get pregnant. Planned Parenthood was the best resource, they took such great care of me, I did have an abortion. My parents did not talk to me about sex and I wish they had… because maybe then I would have been on the pill. Not their fault, I think they thought I was too young! I did go on the pill on my own, thanks to Planned Parenthood! I never did tell my parents about any of this because I was over it and didn’t want to cause them grief. I am not all all disturbed by any of this 20 years later. So, my point is, I think it is great you are talking to your 14 year old now… she may just want to have sex, and she should know all the resources available to her! You won’t be able to stop her anyways.
I’ve been telling my daughter since she was 11 or 12 ” Sex is going to happen. When it does, if you are still under my roof, it’s ok to tell me. I won’t judge. If you need the pill, condoms, whatever, just let me know.
Sure enough, when she turned 16, we were chatting one night and it just happened to come up that she was sexually active. I was blown away. I mean for one thing, my little girl was growing up. She was having sex. For another, she was actually TELLING ME! This was mind blowing. I will say though, this was how I was raised. My own mother let me know from an early age that it was okay to talk to me about ANYTHING. And I did. I told her when I started having sex, and she made sure I was informed and protected.
I think you kind of have to go into it thinking the worst will happen, and accepting it. And telling your daughters that you are there for them and willing to listen, not matter what.
You also have to look at it from the point of view of a mother to a son – not only do you have to make sure that they know the consequences of their actions (STD’s, pregnancies…) but also the respect issue. You have to somehow teach them that sex isn’t something to be used as a way to gain control or get what you want. I remember so many guys in high school trying to be dominate/controlling/manipulative in regards to sex and I cringe at the thought of my son becoming that guy. And these were guys with (seemingly) loving parents and little sisters that they adored so it would seem as if they were getting good vibes from home. AND how do you even bring that up without completely insulting/alienating them? “use a condom, this is where they are kept…and don’t pressure any girls into giving it up?”
I’ve been talking to my boys about this in a very, very honest way. Nearly every woman I know has been sexually assaulted at one point in their life, which is just sad. And our high school had huge culture of this dominant/manipulative sex and the boys there were congratulated for acting this way by their peers.
But I TELL the boys about this (appropriately, not in detail) and that it’s their job to not be that guy. And I tell them how. I mentioned it in a comment above but for me, the issue of what consent is and how important enthusiastic consent is plays a huge part of our talks (we have many as they come up, not one “big talk”). It’s just as important as learning about STDs, pregnancy, gendered issues (careful I have not assumed my boys were hetero), etc.
All I can say is to make consent and respect a big part of your conversations. And good luck!
I agree, how to teach your sons about respect/consent is as huge an issue as how to teach your daughters about self-respect and autonomous decisions… but it’s hardly (if ever) talked about. I agree with Melissa – I think frank – and frequent – discussions about privilege, rape culture, and gendered assumptions are a very good base for specific conversations about respect/consent in a sexual context as they get older. The best way to teach awareness is to enable your kids to recognize privilege and power dynamics, so they are conscious of how those imbalances affect them in different situations.
There are also a few really good teen books that address this – Inexcusable, by Chris Lynch, is one of the best, especially because it is told in the first person by the male (pro?)tagonist, a high school football star accused of raping the love of his life. The book is his defense against that accusation, and it’s bone chilling as you watch him fight through his perceptions of himself and finally come to the realization that “good guys” (those ones you remember from high school) can be monsters, too.
Another great read is Speak by Laurie Halse Anderson – this book is actually required reading in a lot of high schools now. It’s a first person narrative by a girl who was date raped, and it’s essentially her struggle to come to terms with what happened and name it for what it really was – rape. It’s a great conversation starter for talking about rape as “sex without exuberant consent”, as an earlier commenter called it, not only as a violent attack by a stranger, which can be the only definition a lot of boys (and men) consider. When the author was doing school visits on her book tour, in EVERY school there were a dozen or so boys who would tell her they “didn’t get” the story – they didn’t understand why the main character was “so upset”, because after all, it was just sex, he didn’t beat her or “hurt” her, she was fine, it only lasted a couple of minutes… what was the big deal? what was the point of the story? She said the first time someone asked, she was mortified and wanted to slap the kid across the face… and then by school 10, she had realized that this was the most common male reaction to the book. Which is as heartbreaking as it is terrifying, I think… but anyway, clearly there’s a lot we need to talk about with our sons…
i agree almost to a 100% except when my daughters start having sex, i am going to schedule that pelvic exam and ask them to talk to their doctor about birth control options. if they are old enough to do adult things like have sex, then they are old enough to see a gynecologist and have an exam. i would want my daughters to be informed as much as possible about the risks and how to prevent those risks from happening when they see the doctor.
Having a relationship with a doctor was something my mother was very insistent upon when I hit 14. She pretty much told me it was so I could talk to someone else about my sex life instead of worrying about telling her. So I would recommend it along with planned parenthood if it is a financial option for you (I’m in Canada so it was for us).
We also read a couple of puberty/women’s health books together and she gave me a few to read on my own that were less technical and more relationshippy in focus.
I do think that sex not being a mysterious and forbidden thing meant I waited until I knew it was right for me rather than giving into pressure.
I do think it’s also important to note that the pressure I mention isn’t pressure from a particular partner but just the general sense you can get in high school that everyone is having sex and that having sex is an important high school rite of passage that makes you more mature.
I first had sex at the age of 14 & to this day, 16 years later i still regret it and i also regret every other sexual partner i had before the age of 18. I honestly believe i just wasn’t old enough to be making those decisions for myself. I didn’t know how to say no. Saying no isn’t always easy and i think girls need to learn how to. They aren’t going to regret the boys they say no to but will very likely regret the ones they say yes to.
I also don’t think that sex in the teenage years is something inevitable. I didn’t have sex until I was 18 and that worked well for me. My mother was really open about sexuality so I knew about masturbation and all different ways of being intimate. Still my mother stressed for me that I should wait until college, and I almost did, and I think that is still good advice. She talked about all the emotional stuff that happens with sex complicates things (and for a teenager relationships are complicated enough) and about delaying gratification can strengthen a relationship as well as avoid the guys who aren’t really interested in you. I think think the abstinence only camp has one thing right, by behaving as if sex is inevitable then more kids will do it. Behaviorally what someone expects from someone often will influence outcomes which is a particularly strong influence for teenagers and children. In other words, by saying to a child that they will have sex colors their choices and I think that it’s much better to wait to be more emotionally adult and have romantic relationship experience before having sex as well as having a fully adult body, so after high school. Abstinence education does not necessarily mean ignorance education, although unfortunately that seems to be the majority of it.
That’s not entirely accurate. In fact, most statistics show that young people who have sex education and birth control made available to them waited longer to have sex than the equivalent group that had abstinence only education.
I agree with a lot of the comments, I think we need to educate our teens about protecting themselves from STI’s and getting pregnant but abstinence should always be an option and taught as the safest one. I also don’t understand why our society has stopped teaching self control. Just because you have an urge to have sex with someone it doesn’t mean you have to or should. This goes for everyone, not just teens. In the long run succumbing to too much sexual urges will only hurt the people involved and even society in the long run.
I’d like to add that everyone should teach their teens about their state’s age of consent laws as well. I know a girl that was 15 and having consensual sex with her 17 year old boyfriend both of her parents knew what she was doing beforehand and got her on birth control. One of her teachers found out that she was having sex, and was legally obligated to report it. The age of consent in our state is 16, and that meant that what they were doing was statutory rape. The court didn’t care that it was consensual or that her parents approved of the relationship. He is now a registered sex offender and will carry that with him for the rest of his life.
This is very, very important. When my younger sister was 13, she used to lie and say she was 16, which was easy for her to pass. She wasn’t having sex yet, but she had NO idea how much trouble her boyfriend would have been in. I ended up telling my parents for two reasons: I was concerned she would get in over her head with older boys later or inadvertently get one into lifelong trouble if they did have consensual sex.
I remember when my mom found out I was active, well both my parents, I was dragged home to be talked to. EMBARRASSING. I wanted to die. I had gotten the talk before, but I felt like I was on trial, which led to me quickly being put on the pill. I wish I had been smart enough to say NO to the pill, because I was safe and the pill seriously messed up my body even after I went off. I love my folks, but it was very poorly handled. Pushed onto the pill and then made to feel like a villain. I know parents don’t want their kids engaging in sex generally, but forcing them onto the pill and then telling them they’re not allowed to be alone with their partner is a very confusing message.
Okay, rant over.
Anywho, I have no idea how I will eventually handle it when I have teens, but it’s very helpful to see all of your comments 🙂
I can sort of relate to this, particularly around getting mixed messages.
One piece regarding talking to your kids that isn’t often discussed is being honest with yourself about how much you can handle knowing about your teen’s sex life. If you want to be comfortable being your teenager’s confidant, but you’re not actually up to the task (for whatever reason) you might not want to claim that you will. My mom always claimed to be open to discussing this, but when I told her I was having sex at 16, she flipped out and forced me to tell my father. I felt betrayed and confused. If she had been honest about the fact that she does support my right to choose in theory, but has some trouble with the reality of it, it would have led to a lot fewer issues between the two of us during my teen years, and to a lot less confusion on my part about the nature of sexual relationships.
If you can’t handle the reality of these discussions, one option would be to find a friend of yours who is willing to act as a adult confidant to your kid. Someone who is able to be a bit more detached, but who can provide the right information, support during doctor’s appointments and help navigate the world of birth control.
I’m not a mom yet, but I think this is awesome. When I was 11 or 12 my mom told me- “I hope you don’t choose to be sexually active now, but if you do or when you choose that let me know so you can talk to the doctor about birth control.” Then, I remember thinking that I’d definitely not be having sex for years to come. But when that time came, I went to the local clinic, took a birth control class, picked out a bc. She was totally open about everything, including her decision to have sex at a young age. When I meet a person who had to sneak behind their mom’s back I am even more thankful that I was always safe and had someone to talk to. Great post!
I would also suggest you tell your daughter that she has free reign to research her own answers online and point her to a few good resources. I was *that girl* in high school. The one whose parents let her look up any information she wanted and the one whose friends turned to her if they had a question or problem that they would get into trouble for asking/searching for. My parent’s permission for me to make my own choices led to better sexual health for my whole group of friends, not just me
I’m not sure how this fits into everything else, but two of my friends actually had to go to another friends house to, y’know, get it on. The host-friend actually suggests her house for anyone willing and safe (using bc, not drunk/high, etc).
Adolescent sexual risk taking usually happens within the context of other risk taking behaviours.
It’s important not to focus on one to the exclusion of the others.
I don’t actually remember ever having “the talk” with my mother, I just remember there were always condoms on top of the fridge if anyone needed them, no questions asked and I remember knowing that 4 our of 5 of us kids were accidents!
My mother was on birth control for 4 out of 5 of my siblings (well actually one was a botched tubal ligation) but still, my family is super fertile so the sex = babies message was always VERY clear to me. Clear enough that I was paranoid about getting pregnant pretty much till I was married!
But it also meant I made sure to be on two forms of protection, and I remember I asked my mum to take me to the doctors to organise.
So even though there was never any official talk (or maybe I was too young to remember it), sex was never an embarrasing or off limits topic. I think my mum did say to me a couple times it should be with someone you really love, but it was discussed around our house pretty much how its discussed between friends, very casually.
I was 16 when I had sex for the first time with my boyfriend of a year (who I dated for another 5 after), and I have no regrets.
“I am painfully aware that M is quickly approaching the age where she won’t be able to resist the primal urge of her loins…”
I find that statement absolutely condescending. Just because we adolescents have hormones doesn’t mean we can’t help but follow after every “primal urge” we have. How would a middle-aged woman feel if I said she would fly off the handle in a tantrum because of her “primal” menopausal mood swings?
I’m 20 and I fooled around with my boyfriend in high school a lot, and I wish I hadn’t. Sexual activity usually has emotions involved, especially when you’re young, and oh how I wish I had waited till I was more mature and with someone I really trusted and cared about.
Of course give her all the information she needs to be safe whatever choice she makes, but please don’t act like just because she’s a teenager she can’t make rational decisions about what’s best for her heart. She’s not a cat in heat, she’s a human, and although sex is beautiful and special it can come with a price. Abstinence isn’t “cruel and unrealistic”, it can be beautiful to wait. I’ve known so many people who have waited and are glad they did. Let her make her own decisions about whether it’s best for her to wait or not instead of assuming she just can’t help but have sex now.