At 6 years old, my daughter insisted on seeing her little sister born. I had the baby at a birth center in a white-knuckled 20 minutes after arrival. Mia couldn’t take the screaming and sat outside with my friend for most of that time. Since then, she’s often said, “I’m never having sex. I don’t want to have a baby.”
She knows how babies are made, obviously, but she also thinks I’ve only had sex twice. I have yet to sit her down and explain to her that sex is, actually, enjoyable for most people. But my plans for this conversation won’t stop there. I believe girls shouldn’t just learn about sex being enjoyable with partners; they should first learn how to pleasure themselves.
In addition to getting a worn copy of Our Bodies, Our Selves, my girls will get vibrators.
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When I started having sex at 17, for a couple of months it was the closest thing I’ve come to true addiction. My boyfriend was over the whole thing in a few months and pulled away emotionally, then physically. I resembled a strung-out person looking for a fix and clawed at this boy for the next year, desperate to get back those feelings that, to me, had come out of nowhere. I still had no clue about masturbation. I only knew that he’d made me feel something I’d never felt before and I could only get that feeling from him.
As a single mother, I know about the statistics released from the Centers for Disease Control, saying that 12-year-olds with single parents lose their virginity at a rate 4 percent higher than 12-year-olds who grow up with two parents.
In a recent interview with Terry Gross, author Peggy Orenstein argues that girls need to learn about ways to pleasure themselves in sex ed to help combat some of this. They need to learn about their clitoris along with the ovaries.
What happens is girls start having sex with boys because it’s expected of them, but they don’t expect pleasure in return. Boys, with their access to pornographic material, expect girls they have sex with to enjoy it like the women in the films do. Girls, wanting boys to like them, agree to sexual acts that are well beyond their maturity level, and often ones a lot of grown women don’t find pleasurable.
I beg the question: What if these girls already knew what felt good sexually? What if they’d been at home, curled up with a copy of Jamye Waxman’s Getting Off: A Woman’s Guide to Masturbation, learning about their clitoris? She should be getting herself off while reading Forever (specifically around page 85 when Katherine and Michael have sex for the first time) by Judy Blume or The Miseducation of Cameron Post by Emily Danforth. Or The Basketball Diaries, oh god, The Basketball Diaries.
Wouldn’t an eager boy’s erection be a little less tempting (if it’s tempting at all) when countered with knowledge of what good sex could really feel like?
It’s important that we have these conversations with our kids and teach them about sex starting at an early age.
A Women’s Weekly article from Australia noted that Holland’s open discussions about the positives of sexuality result in 12 pregnancies (including abortions) per 1,000 women under 19, compared to Australia’s 44. In the U.S., where abstinence-only sex education is still taught, there are 85.
Sex education, including consent education and learning what rape culture means in age-appropriate ways, needs to start as soon as kindergarten. It starts with asking friends if they want a hug and knowing they can say “no.” It’s never, ever being told that if a boy is mean to you, it means he likes you.
Unwanted sex, no matter what the circumstance, should not be a normal part of a teenage girl’s sexual exploration. I hope that my daughter is able to say “no,” and that she says “yes” only when she’s ready. I hope she says “yes” breathlessly and loud and not in a silent absence in fear of saying “no.” I want her to have mind-blowing, amazing sex, and she won’t know how unless she first knows how to have it with herself.
Tonight, she’s still only 8 years old and having a friend over to spend the night. It’s almost midnight on a Friday. I’m exhausted and trying to let them giggle, fight over the pillow and curl up in the blanket. It won’t be long before they can’t do this anymore. My daughter’s friend is a boy. I relish in their sweetness, quarrels and working it out in their own words. I see him acting tough, and her not understanding. I hear them talking about sex sometimes, both deciding they’ll never have it, and he declares he’ll never marry.
I want them both to stay their dorky, farty, funny selves. Friends. Without the sex part getting in the way. It’s hard to imagine them five to 10 years down the road, rebelling, eye-rolling even more and needing talks about birth control.
I know it’s coming, and I’m anxious to give my daughter the self-pleasure knowledge I grew up believing was a sin.
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