Generally, when I tell friends that I openly talk to my parents about sex, let alone my own sex life, I am met with one of three reactions: admired, bewildered, or horrified.
It’s true, though; I openly discuss sex with my parents. I know what you’re wondering right now, “Why in my world would I want to discuss sex with my own parents?! I would rather eat my own foot.” Please, I beg you, don’t eat your foot. I have my reasons, so bear with me. Talking about sex with my parents has not always been easy, but I can promise you breaking the ice on the topic has been one of the greatest choices I’ve ever made.
When I first openly expressed my views on sex with my mother I was nearing the end of high school, and let me tell you…it was not pretty. I went to a private Catholic school up until 8th grade, my mother is a Catholic school teacher, my father is Methodist, and I went through not one, but two Purity Programs. I was made to believe that sex was something that we kept hidden in the closet and pretended didn’t exist until you walked down the aisle in a big, white gown. I didn’t even have Sex-Ed until my sophomore year of high school, which could easily have been described as laughable. Frankly, I was sheltered. I stayed silent and I didn’t question what I was told.
However, as high school continued, and I had more and more friends that became sexually active, I started to question the perception of sex that had been thrust upon me growing up. I no longer identified as religious around the time I turned 16, and it was because of this that at first, I didn’t feel I could go to my parents to discuss my developing opinions. I started to feel trapped. I had my friends, but I couldn’t ignore the gnawing feeling that I had it wrong.
It wasn’t until near the end of my senior year of high school, after having been in therapy for awhile for an eating disorder, that I decided I was done being quiet. I had learned through therapy, that honesty, even if it hurts at first, is the best thing for yourself and all those involved. It can be uncomfortable and awkward as hell, but there is nothing more peaceful than resting in your truth and not feeling like you have to hide. Which is why I finally decided to ask my mother what I should have been asking all along, “Why?” Why did she believe what she believed about sex?
I simply started the conversation by trying to understand the views of her and my father. I was respectful; I didn’t roll my eyes or laugh at her views. I simply listened. Over the course of the next couple months, my questions turned into an open discussion. I slowly began to express my own views. The first time I blatantly expressed that my views were the opposite of my mother; she was shocked, confused, and worried, but she didn’t scold me. Because I had been approaching the topic by asking her questions and sitting back and listening quietly, she did the same. Even when it was difficult to hold her tongue, she did. I put it all out in the open for her to digest – my own personal philosophy on sex.
I believe that when and how one has sex is a completely personal decision, and should be up to the individual alone. If you want to wait until marriage, then go for it! If you don’t, that’s okay too! It is YOUR body and YOUR life. Never judge someone else for the decisions they make with their body, as long as they are being safe and not harming others. Sex should be respected, but it doesn’t need to be hushed.
Personally, I decided that waiting until marriage was not the path I wanted. I wanted to date, experience sex with different people to determine what it is that I like and don’t like. I think that sex is natural and should be enjoyed in whatever capacity an individual chooses, as long as it’s safe and healthy. I also I believe that living together before marriage is vitally important to determining if a relationship will truly work in the long term.
With time I explained all this to my parents, and yes there was plenty of awkward silences and a few tears, but I couldn’t help but feel better. I was being honest, no longer pretending to share views that were not my own. And guess what? My relationship with my parents actually got better. By having an open discussion and working through the taboo of talking about sex, my parents and I learned so much about each other. Our relationship improved and we actually became closer. People, especially parents, value honesty, even if the truth isn’t necessarily what they want to hear. By expressing your views on a sensitive topic, whether opposing or not, in a respectful manner, you’re showing a level of maturity that many have yet to master. My parents respect my views and support me because I took the time to talk it through with them, to explain where it is that I am coming from. Not many young people take the time or value the importance of honesty with their parents in this way, so to simply sit down and have the conversation shows a level of maturity with which not many parents can argue.
I understand that it can feel truly cringe worthy to talk to your parents about sex, but I am telling you it is so very important. Breaking the ice will not only add a dimension of honesty and openness to your relationship with your parents, but it can also open up new doors. For example, when I chose to become sexually active, I was able to go to mother and be honest about why I wanted to get on birth control. We worked together with my GYN to find the best birth control method for my body. We had honest discussions about what I wanted out of my sex life. She gave me advice, listened to my concerns, and above all expressed her gratefulness for trusting her to be a part of the process. The fact I let her in on one of the most personal decisions of my life meant more than the fact that my beliefs went against her own. I gained a confidant and support system that I would not have otherwise had. And when I decided to practically live with my boyfriend at the time one summer, my parents disagreed, but still supported me. We had built that trust, honesty, and mutual respect between us that trumped any opposing views. And when I experienced a tough breakup, my parents were able to be there for me in a truly holistic way because they understood the capacity of the relationship.
The beauty of opening up on one sensitive, occasionally awkward, subject with your parents is that you can now feel comfortable to discuss so much more. You might even feel comfortable to take the conversation elsewhere, as I chose to with my two older brothers. They are two of the first people I go to when it comes to advice on sex, dating, and relationships. Basically, you’ll be expanding your support system with every person you trust yourself with to be completely vulnerable and honest.
So if I have swayed you in even the slightest way to talk to your parents about sex, I advise you to take the first step of simply listening to their views first, even if you think you already know. Ask again, and then slowly transition it into a back-and-forth conversation. Be real, be you. Do not attack, do not point fingers, and above all do not blame your parents for trying to pass along their views to you. In all likelihood, they were doing what they believed to be best. As someone who found common ground with parents with completely opposite views, I think you’ll be surprised by the connections you can make with your own. Give them a chance, I promise all the cringing will be worth it in the end.