Guest post from Lady Jane
My therapist is quick to ask me about my childhood when addressing my issues as an adult. Sure, it would be easy to point the finger at Mom and Dad for screwing us all up big time, but let’s not be too quick to harshly judge our upbringing.
While sitting in the airport this morning, I couldn’t help but admire the mom next to me juggling an infant, an infant’s luggage, her own luggage, using a cell phone, feeding said infant, listening for her zone to be called to board the plane, and doing all of this with amazing grace and poise. Talk about Wonder Woman. I’m not a parent, but what I do know is that parenting is HARD.
There are other superhero moms and dads all around me; pushing athletic strollers, looking amazing, fit, and some even got their toddlers to sleep. Sometimes I think the challenges in my life pale in comparison to childbirth, raising a little human, day in and day out, AND pushing 40 extra pounds of weight around the running track! If that’s not a feat of super-human strength, I don’t know what is.
Although, now as a sexually active adult, I do wish that my parents had had a different approach to giving me “the talk.” I have had many moments in my life where I wished I either had some previous knowledge, a conversation, an anecdote, or some other point of reference with which to navigate certain sexual situations.
With this in mind, I present to you the top 10 things I wish my parents had told me about sex when I was growing up, in no particular order:
1. The sole purpose of sex doesn’t have to be to create life. It can also be just for fun.
2. Not all sexual experiences will be positive, dreamy, perfect, romantic, and straight out of a fantasy.
3. Whatever sexual experiences you consent to and choose are normal, we support you, and love you. Celibacy? Having a baby without being married first? Same-sex marriage? Fetishes? Exploring your sexuality in other ways? It’s all okay, it’s all normal, and it’s whatever you choose, feel comfortable with, and consent to.
4. Here are some birth control options besides “just don’t have sex”…
5. Women can take the lead when it comes to seduction and it’s okay to ask boys out on dates.
6. This is how babies are made… When I was 7 years old, maybe 8, my childhood friend and I were obsessed with horses. We collected horse figurines, pretended we were horses, took riding lessons, went to summer camp at stables, read Black Beauty a million times, and treasured equestrian tack catalogues. We also had this innocent and naive understanding that horses made other horses by biting each other. Yep…
It’s true, we couldn’t quite connect the dots and thought that since horses bit each other a lot during intercourse, that was how they exchanged genetic material. We even asked my friend’s mom who replied, “Horses mate the same way that we do,” though, this didn’t help us one bit.
I really wish that the adults in our lives, aka our parents, had had the wherewithal to just be honest and give us the facts.
I hope that parents stop putting off “the talk” until puberty. It seems by then, it’s too late. Kids are already curious, have questions, and are realizing they are sexual beings. When or if your kids bring it up, that’s the right time to have “the talk.” I feel if my parents had just given me the facts, I would have had time to process and mature along with the information so that when I reached puberty, I would already have been partially prepared.
By the time the information had become relevant to me, I would have had some time to really think about it, become comfortable with it, and make more informed choices about what I wanted.
My parents totally blew that child rearing moment and I was left to think that horses (and people?) would bite each other, then, 9 months later, a foal was born. I know parenting is hard so I don’t blame my parents for failing to teach me how babies are made, it’s just that there was a lot of gray area surrounding this topic during my childhood. As a result, instead of my parents teaching me these things, the gray area was filled in by society, pop culture, my friends, and movies.
7. The best relationship for you may not be a conventional one. I’m not saying that parents should divulge their own personal x-rated forays, in fact, it’s probably best to leave out ANY details about your personal sexual experiences. Give the facts and try to leave yourselves out of it. We don’t want to hear about that time you and Dad did it in the back seat of my high school car or about the night I was conceived, but we do want to know your thoughts and opinions on marriage, different sexual orientations, how the body evolves over time, monogamy, and information about sexual health (that you have learned over the years).
I wonder if my parents have ever had an open relationship or if they have had sex with anyone else besides each other. I DON’T want to know who they’ve had sex with or in what positions (gag), but I do want to know if they believe in monogamy or have had any experience, positive or negative, with non-monogamy or a different sexual orientation.
8. Make your needs known and advocate for yourself. This is especially good advice for young girls who are still led to believe that Prince Charming is going to come along, give you a ring, and be your monogamously married husband for the rest of your life. He might not come at all, or he might be disguised as Mr. Darcy from Jane Austen’s “Pride and Prejudice” instead. I wish they had told me: when you have a sexual relationship with someone, just like if you have any kind of relationship with someone, you have to speak up for yourself, talk about your wants and needs, and know that no one is a mind reader. When something bothers you or doesn’t sit well, bring it up sooner rather than later. Don’t let things stagnate in your mind.
9. It’s okay if you’re not a virgin on your wedding day. It’s okay if you are, but it’s also okay if you’re not. I don’t know about you, but before I buy the car, I take it for a test drive. I even test drive a few others, keep a spare in the garage, and borrow a friend’s car every once in a while just to appreciate my own car more, keep driving exciting, and to feel how other cars handle between the sheets, I mean, on the road.
It’s also okay if you don’t have a wedding day at all.
10. Sex is important. You’re going to have great sexual chemistry with some people and terrible sexual chemistry with others. In the end, it’s your life and you get to decide what’s important and what makes you happy. If you’re happy being asexual and never having sex with the person you marry, that is all right, there is nothing wrong with you. If you never marry and have the best sex in the world with your high school sweetheart, kudos.
In my case, on more than one occasion, I tried to force a relationship that had weak sexual chemistry into a long-term commitment and it didn’t work. I figured my boyfriends at the time and I had enough other stuff in common that sex wasn’t really that important. It never worked and only made my sexual self more dishonest, dissatisfied, and frustrated.
In fact, my longest and most satisfying relationship is with the person who’s never been my labelled “boyfriend” and with whom I have the best sexual chemistry with. I just wish I had known all 10 of these things years ago and had therefore been more at peace with those particular relationships at those moments.
Still, there is value in learning things for yourself in your own time. Since parenting is one of the most difficult jobs on the planet, we should be gentle, forgiving, and thankful for the lessons our parents do pass on to us. Finally, for both parents and children, let’s also not be afraid to ask questions, no matter how uncomfortable and difficult they might seem.