Here is a letter I wrote for my daughter: 12 things I wish my mother told me about sex.
Dear Teen Daughter,
When I was a teenager a friend of mine got pregnant. Another got talked into having sex when she did not want to. A third got raped by her boyfriend and a fourth got a sexually transmitted disease. But, to this day, none of them has ever spoken about these things. At the time they convinced themselves that it was their own fault. They remain ashamed and embarrassed and continue to live with terrible memories. They have no idea whether the men involved remember it happening.
These four girls suffer all for one reason: they did not know about sex. They did not know about birth control, they did not know about saying no and they did not know how to deal with rape. They did not know how to prevent disease and more importantly, they did not know how to engage in healthy and loving sexual relationships. Neither their parents nor their teachers spoke about sex, often fearing it might promote sexual activity. This is wrong.
I am writing this letter to you because you told me you feel too embarrassed to talk about sex. That’s okay, but as your mother, I feel I have an obligation to tell you a few things that I wish my mother had told me.
Although things have improved a bit, most girls grow up not understanding sex at all. And to make matters worse, our society feeds girls distorted messages about their female bodies and feminine sexuality. Often you don’t realize this socialization is happening to you and also harming you and your relationships. I refuse to let a society that does not understand or value female sexuality be your teacher. I hope by sharing this you will become part of a generation of sexually empowered women.
Here are the 12 things I wish my mother had told me:
- Knowing about science is not enough. I know that a handful of teachers taught you about your human sex parts. They taught you about menstruation, masturbation, erections and some scientific aspects of sexual intercourse. You also learned about sexually transmitted diseases and about the many ways of preventing pregnancy. However, it’s highly unlikely that you learned about desire, love and the immensely emotional, erotic, sensual and powerful nature of sexual relationships. This is mostly because most people learn these things over the course of an entire life. You, and you alone, are responsible for making sure your sexual needs are met and maintaining a healthy and equal sexual relationship. It’s a lot to learn for a teenager.
- Sex is more emotional than physical. Your body is biologically designed in a way to attract a mate and your sexual urges and feelings help to make sure this happens. These deep emotions emerge through looking, touching and talking to each other and are part and parcel of the act of sex. These feelings may lead to sexual intercourse, but need not. Basking in these feelings is a physiological, emotional and psychological high! For females, these emotions are extraordinarily powerful and are often more overwhelming than the specific act of sexual intercourse. Most women will tell you that this sense of being close to a person and of feeling intimate is perhaps the most precious feeling on earth. This is love. This is not sex. When combined it can be quite amazing.
- We learn how to behave sexually. Some of our sexual behaviours are instinctual and genetic, but most is learned over a long period of time. We learn how to touch and how not to touch over many years of fumbling about in relationships. This is because as a society we do a terrible job teaching our children how to start, maintain and end intimate relationships, sexual or otherwise. Because we have so few positive sexual and loving role models too many of us resort to imitating actors, models and even pornography. I hope you are able to rise above the lack of instruction and poor role models and try to create your own model of intimacy that consists of self-love, kindness and compassion.
- The media harms intimacy. As a society (mostly through the media) we try to convince teens that sexual intercourse is quick, easy and uncomplicated. TV shows, movies and advertisements often make sex look totally unemotional. Males are portrayed as being cold hearted and in a perpetually aroused state. They are able to get an erection at the slightest glance at a female’s breasts or bottoms. Often women are treated with violence. As well it seems that the goal of all sex is the male orgasm. It is the prize or the pot at the end of the rainbow. Females, on the other hand are often cast as weak and afraid and ready to be pounced upon. They are objectified and sexualized; rarely strong or powerful. Because of these images we grow up with a distorted view of what true love-making is all about. In real life sex is often slow, gentle and always terribly intimate. Lovers are totally vulnerable and love-making is never violent. Let me repeat, healthy sex is never violent. Don’t let the media harm your intimacy.
- Female sexuality is powerful. Sadly the sexual life of females is rarely discussed and as a result often seems like a deeply hidden secret. This is because of our terrible history. For thousands of years women had no rights at all, yet alone rights over their own bodies. Menstruation was seen to be a curse and sexual desires or cravings by women were seen to be unnatural. Indeed, our grandmothers were virtual sexual slaves to their husbands. Even today in some countries a husband is permitted to rape his wife. In our invisible patriarchal system, some men still think they need to control of women’s sexuality and all birth control. As a result, to this day, we barely understand female sexuality and arousal. Indeed there is no word for female masturbation. Because of this cultural hangover, women still experience enormous shame around their female bodies and their sexual power. And sadly, women’s sexuality is still defined by men. For example, women are considered sexy if men see them as appealing. This is wrong. I hope you will learn about goddess wisdom and women’s sexuality and learn how to recognize and express your own true desires. You may also need to educate your partner so he or she rejects out-dated mindsets that might limit your powerful sensuality.
- Hooking up is shallow. As for hooking up and FWB (friends with benefits; the benefit is sex) I am sure that having sex without any emotional attachment feels okay to some people. But before you engage I urge you to ask yourself (as a female) a simple question: Why are you doing it? Do you think it’s cool? Are you looking to find intimacy? Do you want to feel powerful and in control? It seems that men do it because it feels good to fondle and touch women and ejaculate without having to put much effort into a relationship. Some women do it because it makes them feel powerful and desired. Yet in our society we still shame girls for hooking up or expressing their full sexuality. Women who have frequent sex are often labelled as sluts, while men are labeled players. This is an unfair double standard. As well, there is the obvious embarrassing feelings you might get when we see the person the next day in daylight and realize you have shared something intimate with someone you don’t even like. In simple terms: hooking up is shallow. So, if you want shallow and don’t mind treating sex as a fair exchange, then please make sure you are getting your end of the bargain. As I say: If he has an orgasm and you don’t, then something is wrong. It’s your body and it should not be squandered.
- Sex is intimate. Placing a penis near a vulva, in a vagina or in a mouth or placing a tongue in another’s mouth are some of the most intimate acts you can perform. Given this vulnerability, I hope that you will select your sexual partners carefully. Your body is sacred and should only be shared by someone who values it, otherwise you debase yourself and this, in turn can lead to low sense of self-worth. You are a goddess. Sharing your body with a stranger feels nothing at all like sharing it with a lover that you trust and care deeply about.
- You must always feel safe. If the person you like makes you feel uncomfortable, weak or afraid, you must leave, no matter how your heart may feel. If he or she kisses you before you are 100% ready, it is too soon. You must feel totally comfortable saying you are not ready and must never feel you are being pressured. If either of you have been drinking this ability becomes compromised and indeed, this is the most dangerous type of sex. I have heard men call vodka “panty remover.” It’s never a good idea to have sex under the influence. If you would not have sex sober, then don’t have sex.
- Always use a condom. You know about condoms. You know that males have to actually put them on for them to work. You may also know that often men forget to buy them. Others prefer not to use them (“It doesn’t feel natural”) and will give you excuses as to why a condom may not be needed (“I promise not to ejaculate” or “My swimmers are weak”). There is only one thing to say to a partner who does not want to use a condom: NO CONDOM- NO ENTRY. Period. Never ever take the risk of disease or pregnancy. Any person who asks you to have sex without a condom is insulting you personally and is not a person you want to have sex with.
- Always use birth control. As for birth control, for some reason we still tell girls that women are responsible for preventing pregnancy. We tell you to go on the pill, buy a patch or insert an IUD. Why? Because THEY (girls) could get pregnant. If a couple has sex together, they are BOTH responsible. This means attending the doctor’s appointments together and sharing the cost of all birth control. It helps if you remind your lover that if you get pregnant, you may keep the child and if so, he will he will be legally and financially responsible for that child for the child’s life. This usually wakes men up to thinking seriously about pregnancy. I hope that we will soon invent a male birth control pill. Think about it: Why don’t we have research on how to kill sperm since disrupting a female’s entire body through hormones is so intrusive?
- You deserve respect. A person worthy of your intimacy is one who respects you, cares about you, knows you and has feelings for you. This person laughs with you and shares his or her intimate feelings with you. You feel safe with this person and vice versa. You both show affection and never aggression towards each other.
- Aim high. As for desire, this is the cherry on the cake. This is the feeling of complete attraction and craving for another person. When he or she touches you, you will feel alive, needed and loved. You will feel completely safe and free in sharing yourselves and will experience deep intimacy in addition to sexual connection. This deep passionate feeling (not to be confused with lust) will likely happen to you several times in your life. I truly hope that regardless of your sexual impulse you will experience this deeper passion. Most of all I hope you will find a lover who completely desires and adores you – body, mind and soul. This is what you deserve and what you should strive for, always.