Friday, November 21, 2014

Did You Tell Your Parents When You First Became Sexually Active?

Having a teenage daughter in the house, one who is just beginning the journey of discovering and exploring her own sexuality, is flooding me with memories my own first forays into the overwhelming, exhilarating, and often embarrassing shoals of sex. The unrequited crushes of my junior high and high school years, both the ones I had on boys who didn't like me, and the ones boys whom I didn't care for had on me. The fiery blush that raced over my face when my male pediatrician asked "Are you sexually active?" when I'd barely even been kissed. The even more awkward talk around the kitchen table, my parents telling (and showing) me and my two younger sisters the box of condoms they had bought, the one they'd be placing upstairs in the linen closet, just in case we ever found ourselves in need—not that they were recommending we have sex, no, not at all! 

I never talked much with my friends about sex (Catholic high school). And I didn't talk with my sisters about it either. They are both younger than me, and both began dating at a much younger age than I did; asking them for advice about sex, or inquiring about their own sexual experiences, felt awkward, even prurient, and was more than this shy, introverted geek could ever bring herself to do.

And I certainly didn't talk with my parents about sex. I didn't tell them anything about my sexual experiences with my first boyfriend (during freshman year in college), or about the first boyfriend with whom I engaged in sexual acts that required the use of birth control, not at the time nor in the years since. I wonder, now, though, how much they knew, or picked up from my behavior at the time? Or were they not at all interested in knowing?

Not something parents are likely to hear from their teens...
Given my own teenage reticence on the topic, I've been thinking a lot (and reading a lot) about how best, and how much, to talk with my daughter about her own sexual explorations. Would I have appreciated it if my parents had tried to talk with me more about sex in the abstract/general? About my relationships and experiences in particular? Or would I have simply melted into the floor in a puddle of agonized adolescent embarrassment? (Both, most likely). 

Given that in our culture, sex is most often regarded as a private act, is it an invasion of teens' privacy to try and talk with them about it? How can a parent balance these rights to privacy with the need to ensure that their teens are taking proper care to protect themselves and their partners against unwanted pregnancy and sexually transmitted diseases? (Just came across this fascinating book—Not Under My Roof: Parents, Teens, and the Culture of Sex—which compares the ways parents in the United States and in the Netherlands treat teen sexuality; am looking forward to reading it!)

Did you talk with/tell your parents when you became sexually active? If not, did they know (or inadvertently find out) anyways? Did they engage you in conversation about it?

And are there any good romance novels out there that feature heroes and/or heroines who not only have to negotiate a new romantic and sexual relationship of their own, but who are also faced with the transformation of their own children from asexual to sexual beings? (The only one that's coming to mind is Pamela Morsi's The Lovesick Cure, which I reviewed here back in November of 2012, although it spends more time talking about why the teens shouldn't have sex than talking about it after they already have...).

Photo credits:
First time sex: Kathleen Hassen


  1. I did tell my mom. I can't remember if she had anything to say about it, though I think she mostly kept her thoughts to herself.

  2. I did not told my parents. You know, the first time my mother saw me just kissing a boy -I was 15 years old!! She went like of crazy, shouting from a window. I still remember it as a painful memory. So no, I didn't talk to her about my sex life. She had a very old-fashioned Catholic education.
    Now I have teenagers and yes, their father and I talk about sex, in a very candid way. But we don't go into personal details. I feel as if it's something very personal and they don't want to share it with us. But I hope they know we are there.

  3. My mother did not live long enough for me to discuss my first time with her. Prior to her death our relationship had shifted from parent child to close friends. My father died when I was fifteen and my older siblings were away in college. She had been diagnosed with breast cancer and had a mastectomy the year before his death. I became the person she confided in and I reciprocated. It was the 60’s and I was not rebelling yet but instead I was questioning so much of what was considered right and wrong. I confessed to my mother that I thought waiting for marriage to indulge in sexual relations was not necessary. I might have even told her I was unsure I ever wanted to marry.

    My first two years of college was at an isolated girls’ school. I was accepted to Barnard in NYC for my junior year. My mother developed cancer in the other breast the summer before I left for New York. Despite being ill, she spent much of the summer encouraging me to get birth control pills. I was not sexually active and thought it unnecessary. Her reply was that birth control pills were good for your complexion. I finally relented about a week before I left and got a prescription. My mother died in December, and it took me several months longer before I realized what she had done for me. That year I became sexually active and even experienced date rape. Thank you, Mother dearest.

    I incorporated this kind of mother daughter relationship in my newest release: 'Thoroughly Modern Charlotte.'

  4. I did. I think she's getting used to me being sexually active. She's kinda all over the place since I told her. She asks if I'm safe and the like but I also feel like she's jealous. What I mean by that perhaps that now I'm no longer her little girl in some sense. It's an antiquated thought but my mother is on the older side and more conservative.