Talking to Parents About Sex: An Anecdote

My parents are not perfect.  Surprise!

This post, however, is going to mainly be about my mom.  My dad and I, while close, never had the type of relationship where we talk about boys or sex or feminism too much.  (Although he does send me articles he comes across about feminist issues, which is really sweet.)

Whenever my mom watched TV or a movie with me or my sister and there was a sex scene, she’d be all, “That’s bad, they shouldn’t be doing that.”  I assume this would be different if the couple were married, but I can’t think of a time when that came up.

My mom is fairly liberal.  She is definitely in favor of comprehensive sex ed.  I don’t think she would condemn consenting adults for having pre-marital sex.  But it was made perfectly clear to my sister and I that sex was bad.  She gave me a chastity ring in eighth grade.  She didn’t notice things like how terrible my self esteem and outlook on life were at the time, but she thought it was important to tell me not to have sex.  This particular conversation emphasized the badness of oral sex, and how it is “all about the man” (no, I’ve never asked her if she knows about cunnilingus).

After I’d gone away to college and started learning more about gender issues, I had an interesting conversation with her about my brother.  At one point in high school, my brother had wanted to wear eye liner, and my parents were strongly against it.  This conversation took place about four years later, and I mentioned to my mom that it seemed very narrow-minded of her.  She responded with something like, “Well, I figured if he really wanted to do it, he would anyway.”

This planted a thought in my head.  What if my mom felt the same way about sex?  What if she felt that, as a parent, she was supposed to be an anti-sex force in my life, but that I’d have other influences and make my own decisions regardless?

If that’s the case, I think that’s terrible.  Maybe she underestimated how much influence her opinions had on me, for way longer than I’d like to admit.  I developed some really unhealthy ideas about sex that took a lot of working through.  And at this point, I don’t ever want to talk to my mother about my sex life.  Ever.  She has made it clear to me that she is not a safe confidante for this kind of thing.  And I’m not saying that I think kids and their parents should be able to share intimate details about their sex lives.  I mean, I can’t say, “Hey, I should get tested for STDs, can I bill this through the insurance?” to her, because even the best case scenario there still involves me divulging information that I feel uncomfortable divulging to her.  And that’s clearly not good.

I don’t know if there’s a moral here.  I don’t know if there’s an ideal way for this to work, but I know that I disagree with the choices my parents made here.  I know that parenting is always an experiment, but it’s upsetting to look back at conversations and see them as clearly harmful.

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