I was a horny kid. I know it’s not good manners to talk openly about things like this, but it’s true. From the time I was 5, I had no qualms about sticking my fingers up my lady parts because it felt good. By 9, I had mastered masturbation (thank you bathtub faucet), and by 13, I became sexually active. I didn’t have a lot of guidance in the area of sex and relationships, and no one to talk to when I discovered intimacy.
When I became a mother, my first instinct was to protect my children from making the mistakes I did (too many lovers, too young, too reckless). At first, I warned them to avoid sex until marriage, but somewhere along the line I realized I was being a complete hypocrite. Why would I expect them to have unrealistic attitudes about sex when I myself didn’t practice what I preached?
By the time my sons hit puberty, I’d changed my tune. I decided that above all else, I wanted an honest, loving relationship with my sons about all topics, including sex. What I hoped was that my sons would see physical intimacy as a valuable experience in a committed relationship.
I didn’t want my children to feel ashamed about their emerging sexuality or feel like they had to lie or hide their behaviors (within reason, I also taught them about personal privacy). Most importantly, I wanted a different outcome for my children than what I had, and so I had to be willing to try something different.
I made sex an easy-to-approach topic. I didn’t judge or shame my sons when they brought the subject up. If asked, I spoke frankly and honestly with my children about whatever they wanted to know. In our family, sex is treated as normally as eating and sleeping. Just like one wouldn’t eat something poisonous, or sleep while driving, my boys wouldn’t have unprotected sex, either. My husband and I have made it a point to teach our sons that protected, consensual sex can be a positive, healthy experience.
Like me, my sons expressed a certain natural joie de vivre when it came to their sexuality, and it was no shock when my eldest son, then 16, began a physically intimate relationship with his long-term girlfriend.
A year after their relationship started, my son and I found ourselves in a deep discussion about animals and nature, which then led to the topic of sex. My son told me that he and his girlfriend were intimate a few times a week, and then, out of the blue shared a concern he had about not pleasing her.
“I’ve tried to give her an orgasm but I don’t know how. It never works,” he said.
He was 17 and looking to me for support, and because I had taught him that it was OK to speak about sex, he felt safe talking to me about his performance worries. I’ll be honest; it was even a little weird for me at first. I’m not a sex therapist or some expert in the field of human sexuality. I’m just a mom who wants to give my sons a strong, healthy foundation for adulthood, and open communication is one facet of that journey, in my book.
So, I took a deep breath and went with it.
“Alright, well, girls typically don’t orgasm just from penetration alone,” I explained. Yes, I felt my face get red. I know I said I’ve fostered an open dialogue about sex with my kids but even I didn’t know how to navigate this uncharted territory. “Generally speaking, girls need clitoral stimulation to orgasm.”
“Like a dildo?” my son asked.
“Not necessarily. A dildo is just a fake penis, where as a vibrator, which some dildos have, is meant for stimulating the clitoris. Oral sex is another way to do that, but the focus needs to be on the clitoris for her to climax.”
Yep. I said all of that in my kitchen to my teenage son. And, I kept a straight face
I reminded him of the need to have safe sex and also, to talk to his girlfriend about what she liked specifically.
“Listen to her and let her show you what works for her body. That’s the best way to figure it out,” I advised.
Our conversation shifted to more “normal” stuff like what I was making for dinner that night and whether or not my son had homework. I was happy with how I handled my son’s dilemma and proud that he felt like he could talk to me about a subject most people are too embarrassed to discuss.
I know plenty of parents reading this will either be grossed out or think I am the worst parent imaginable. For those of you who feel it’s reprehensible to be open minded and talk truthfully with your children — that’s your call. Your kids are still going to have sex at some point in their lives, and studies show that abstinence-only education is the least effective form of curbing teen sexual behavior.
I’m happy to report that my son, who is now a legal adult, is still with the same girl (it’s been three years), is about to graduate high school and go to college, is an Eagle Scout and has not had an STD or gotten anyone pregnant. He also isn’t afraid to get help when he has a problem. That makes every uncomfortable discussion worth it, in my book.