No, seriously, we really need to.
In a great Alternet post last week, Joyce McFadden explored why American mothers refuse to have honest discussions about sex with their daughters and the consequences on their daughters’ lives and relationships.
“I think, as Americans, our fixation with the taboo of sexuality causes us to overlook its poetry and its greater meaning in our lives, and then we pass this limited view of sex onto our children.”
I am not a mother, so I can only speak from the daughter’s perspective, but I know my mother and I have never had a healthy discussion about sex. In fact, we’ve only had one. And I was nine. I grew up in a strictly Catholic household and went to 14 years of Catholic school (I’m eighteen), so, unsurprisingly, before college, I had never had an honest discussion about sex or sexuality (or even a sex ed class). In fourth grade, my mother told me the basics: sex was what made babies. No, it didn’t hurt. Yes, you were naked. And you never had sex until your married. And that’s all the information I ever got from her. The rest I learned from friends, eavesdropping, Cosmopolitan, and Judy Blume books.
There, I learned to focus on male pleasure, not my own. I learned that the purpose of sex was to have babies, not to create intimacy. I learned to hate abortion, but not how to put a condom on. I learned how to make my body look desirable, but not how to channel that desire.
And why not? Why couldn’t my mother have a healthy on-going discussion with me about sex? I don’t know, but like most women, it was probably a combination of embarrassment, lack of understanding about her own sexuality, and discomfort at viewing me as a sexual being.
But, this is wrong. With the lack of comprehensive sex ed in our schools, the media’s constant focus on a specific type of female sexuality, and the mess of messages from the religious right pervading both pulpits and political speeches, the mother-daughter or father-daughter discussion of sex needs to be honest and often. We need to set aside our embarrassment, as both parents and children, and learn to embrace discussion of sex and sexuality with each other. Talking about our embarrassments, misunderstandings, concerns, and confusion can only bring us closer.
Please let’s set aside the birds and the bees, let’s just talk about sex.