Is there anything you can do to keep your kids from having sex? Or at least, having sex with the wrong people?
After one dad wrote in to the Daily Mail's advice columnist
asking how to keep his 16-year-old from having sex before she was ready, we kicked around the question of whether our parents influenced our formative sexual experiences -- when we had them, and with whom.
The next logical step? Poll a bunch of Former Teenage Girls (aka older, wiser women) about their experiences: Was there anything we wish our parents had (or hadn't) said about sex? Was there anything they could have said that would have meant we didn't
We don't know if there's anything you can do to keep teenagers from being teenagers, but our Grown Women Panel definitely had some interesting takes on the topic. (Names have been changed to protect the no-longer innocent.)
"I wish my parents had said to 16-year-old me, 'The feelings you have now are impermanent. Just remember that that guy in that super-cool band is going to seem really ridiculous and lame in five or 10 years.' Just have some perspective."
"I was raised in a fundamentalist Christian environment and made to feel really guilty about sex and sexuality. So when I was raped when I was 13 by a friend's boyfriend, I felt like I'd done something wrong and didn't tell my parents. The unresolved feelings and trauma of that incident made my resulting adolescent and young-adult sex life (until therapy) a big effed-up mess, to put it mildly. I wish my parents had created open channels of communication about sex so that I could have gotten the help I needed before banging a bunch of dudes who didn't like me very much."
"I completely, 100 percent could not talk to my parents about sex ... I basically went through my childhood/adolescence believing that there was something really wrong and gross about wanting to have sex. And I wish someone had convinced me to continue healthy fantasizing and masturbating instead of having quick, awkward sex -- maybe my number wouldn't be in the 40-50 range if I hadn't started at age 15."
"My dad and I straight-up did not talk about sex. I think it's harder for fathers. I think the best you can do is instill girls with enough self-confidence so that they can say no when they mean it. So much of negative experiences that young women have are because they're scared or ashamed. We need to teach them to be strong and smart about everything, and the sex part will naturally follow."
"I think that more than anything, my parents instilled in me a true horror of getting pregnant. They were always really vocal about all the cool things you could do before you had kids and couldn't do after them -- college in cool cities, travel, etc. -- versus how much my life would suck if I had to live at home and go to school nearby and work. It was always less about the actual sex than the possible consequences."
"I don't think it's an age thing. I didn't have sex until my 20s, but still ended up doing things I regret. I think if I were to advise teenagers, it's that when you're older, you may think back on a lot of the people you've slept with and end up smacking yourself in the forehead in crowded places because of the shame, and then a lot of people stare at you and you feel like an idiot. This conversation would be illustrated with pictures printed off the Internet of herpes and genital warts outbreaks."
"My mom and I were pretty open about sex, but only as a far-off event that might require birth control and a tearful but moving chat. (Like, 'When you fall in love with a guy, we'll have a talk.') But I wish she and I had a more general talk. My loss of virginity itself was totally normal and healthy, but I got pressured into blowing a prized asshole of a dude when I was way too young to even know what a 'blowjob' was. My mom never said, 'Hey, when you start getting to the age where some 15-year-old sack of shit will whine about blueballs, let's have that talk.'"
"My mom found out I was having sex after she picked up my homecoming pictures at the drug store, unbeknownst to me, and realized the hotel room in the photos definitely wasn't the house party I'd said we were at. Oops. I was 15 and she was Catholic, so that goes a little ways in explaining her reaction. But I do wish it hadn't been: "You little slut. You're going to ruin your life." I didn't. I used two forms of birth control and wound up dating the guy for five years. So maybe her reverse logic worked? Either that, or her God intervened."
"I think this would be a serious deterrent: Listen, sweetie, there's no way to tell if a guy is carrying HPV -- and there's no way to protect yourself from it. Catching it means a lifetime of colposcopies, where they peer deep into your uterus, every six months."