We do a pitiful job of talking to our children about sex. I am appalled at my generation. I suspect we don't talk about sex to our children because we still don't understand our own sex lives. I talk to adolescents daily about sex and when I ask them how many of them had a parent talk to them about sex, very few raise their hands. And even among those, the sex talk generally focuses on “don’t get pregnant (or get a girl pregnant), don't get a disease and the ever popular, if it’s a girl “don't be a slut.”
It depresses me.
I offer you what I have learned from my children and other people’s children – this is what they need us to talk to them about:
1. What is your sexual philosophy and how do you make sexual decisions? What’s the purpose of sex in your life? How will you know when you are ready for intercourse? What do you mean by sex? Have you noticed that people try to skirt responsibility for sexual decisions by using language like “hook up?” And don’t even get me started on sports references to “bases.” Here’s a hint – if the other person you are with is using language that suggests that sex involves someone winning and someone losing, exit stage left. As I tell my own kids, that person at best will be no good at it and at worst quite potentially dangerous.
2. If you can’t talk about sexual intimacy, then you might want to consider that you are not ready to engage in it. Most of us don't want to talk about it because we are shy. But some people avoid talking about it because it puts them in a position of power and it’s those people that we want our children to avoid and when they don’t avoid them, to know how to get out of a bad situation.
3. What types of sexual acts are you comfortable with? Let me clear here. Don't ask your child this because that would be weird. Instead, advise them that this is something they should ask themselves and a potential partner. We should all consider what kinds of sexual acts have experience with and what we are comfortable with. Maybe I have kissed another person and “made out” (what does THAT mean?) but maybe my clothes have always been on and maybe I am comfortable with that and only that for now. Own it. Don’t apologize or explain, which leads me to 4.
4. We never ever have to justify or explain or get approval about our sexual decisions. If you don’t “do” oral sex you don’t have to explain that. The other person can respond “hey, thanks for letting me know.” Pretty much anything else is grounds for suspicion.
5. What expectations do I have? What expectations do you have? Is sexual intimacy an expression of committed relationship and I anticipate there will be ongoing contact and communication? Is the other person on the same page? Or am I not wanting a dating relationship and want to be clear that there will be little or no continued contact. Or something else?
6. If this is heterosexual sex, what forms of birth control are we using? Notice the words WE, not she, but we. We should expect our sons and our husbands and male partners to ask and offer to share in the expense. And for both heterosexual and same sex sex, what safe sex methods are we using?
7. And finally…..Sober, enthusiastic consent is the norm and our expectation. It’s important to be very clear with your child that it is your expectation that they seek consent PRIOR to engaging in sexual activity and that this consent conversation can only really occur if both people are sober and therefore able to give consent.
I live in hope that our children can do better than we have done. Take a deep breath and go talk to your kid.