For the month of September, Bustle’s Sex TBH package is talking about sex, honestly. We’re delving into how women approach the things they’re taught to be shy or embarrassed about in the bedroom — and, in doing so, we're liberating people to live their best (sex) lives. Let’s do it.
At some point, you've probably had to sit through a "birds and the bees" talk with your mom. Whether you sit down with one parent or both, no two sex talks are the same. After all, everyone has a different kind of mom, plus a different kind of relationship with their mom. There are the mothers and daughters who are best friends and talk about everything, and then there are the mothers and daughters who have more surface-level conversations. And if sex comes up? Hello, uncomfortable!
But that's if it ever came up. Not everyone had the sex talk with their parents. In a 2014 study of 600 young people aged 12-15, about one third of kids said they had never talked to their parents about sex.
And even if you had the sex talk with your mom, it doesn't necessarily mean it was a constructive one. Just like your sex ed class in school may have been problematic, some of our sex talks may have been antiquated, judgmental, or sex-negative. That's why, whether or not you had a comprehensive conversation about sex with your mom, it's so important to define your sex life on your own terms as you grow.
"All the things you have heard about sex from friends and family, throw them away — even how sex is defined," Dr. Lexx Brown-James, LMFT, certified sex educator, tells Bustle. "Create your own thing and go with the consensual flow. It's just that our generation was told so much wrong information about sexuality. That girls do this, boys do that, that sexual appetites have to look like this or you are this — and all of it is trash and so counterproductive to a good sex life. It creates sexual shame, so people are put here having sexual encounters that are unfulfilling because they believe these things they heard from others that just aren't true. I see people across all generations. When I see millennials, it's typically related to sexual shame, abuse, or exploring their queer identity or particular kink."
"Create your own thing" does sound like solid advice, especially when our initial conversations about sex with our parents aren't always the most productive. You may relate — and perhaps cringe — as you remember the first time you and your mom talked about sex, too.
"One word: AWKWARD. My mom and I are nothing alike, so her trying to broach sex should have been videotaped! In high school, I was rebellious. I was probably 15 or 16, wearing all black (from makeup to clothing) and she was freaked out. I was dating a guy who was into the wearing-all-black look, too. My mom was convinced we were having sex, but we weren't. One night when I was meeting him, my mom hands me a bunch of Planned Parenthood brochures about condoms — at the same time, he's at my doorstep, asking me what's in my hands. So, yeah, that was my mom's sex talk. The first and last one!"
"Sex talk?! What sex talk?! My mom and I are close these days, but I come from a very religious background, so sex was never brought up (only in a church/don't do it sort of way)."
"My mom and I talk about everything, including sex. She brought it up in high school after everyone's parents freaked because some girls in school had gotten pregnant. Sex ed was ramped up a TON at that time. She said if my boyfriend and I decided to do it, just always be safe... He and I came close to trying a few times, but I kept thinking of what she said (cue the cheesy music) and decided to wait until I was more in love with somebody!"
"Unfortunately, my mom and I had a sex talk the hard way: I lost my virginity to a guy I barely knew when I was 15, and the condom fell off... so my mom and I had 'the talk' at Planned Parenthood. She was not happy, but at least everything was out in the open! I also went on The Pill, which was HER suggestion."
"My mom and I are not the close kind of mothers and daughters you see in movies! (Do those really exist?!) She never brought up sex… until I was going away for the weekend with my college boyfriend and his family. We were probably 19 or 20? Again, with his family — hardly a time to lose my virginity! She had put together a box of treats for the car ride: my favorite cookies, his favorite cookies, and condoms! Yep, right there in the box of treats! Luckily, my boyfriend's parents didn't see them, but my boyfriend and I never forgot about that (and we did not use those condoms till much, much later!)."
"I was probably 16 or so and was one of the popular kids at school — dating a football player (and every other cliché you can think of!). Over dinner one night when my dad was away on a business trip, my mom asked me to pass the carrots, then said, 'Anyone can have sex and love it, but not everyone can be in love. That's the real test.' I said nothing. (I probably started choking on my dinner, and she probably asked me to pass more vegetables!) She never brought it up again, and neither did I!"
"I'll never forget what my mom told me about sex when I was off to college: 'It's fun, but it won't last long, and you'll be lucky if the guy is still interested in you afterwards.' Yes, it sounds harsh, but what she said only sunk in years and years later. Even after college, it seemed a lot of guys were just after one thing, and the sooner they got it, the less interested they seemed to be. If anything, her words made me be more selective, and I'm engaged now to the best guy ever (i.e., not like the ones above!)."
"When I had a serious boyfriend in college, I remember my mom, during one of our weekly calls, bringing up sex. She said that she knows I may be tempted to try it, but it's better to wait, and how the act itself often doesn't live up to the hype. I probably turned 50 shades of red through the phone! Little did she know that my boyfriend and I had already been having sex (and she was right; it didn't live up to the hype!)."
"My mom had been a teen mom (with me!), so she was 'Miss Let's Talk About Everything Even If You Don't Want To.' Though I hated our weekly check-in talks about life, high school drama, etc., she always told me how hard it was being a teen mom, being an outcast, having her parents practically disown her, having my dad flee so she had to raise me herself, etc. Basically, her talks worked, because she scared me out of having sex. (Read: Condoms can break! Where would the baby live? Will the father help you raise the baby? How well do you know the guy who may be the father of your baby? What do you want to do with your life? Can you do it with a baby?) I HATED those talks at the time, but as I said, they worked! I'm now 28 and not a mom (yet) and super careful about whom I sleep with!"
"My first real talk about sex with mom was when I had just lost my virginity at 17 and wanted to go on birth control. I sort of figured my mom knew I was having sex with my high school boyfriend and was cool with it, but that awkward AF conversation proved that she, in fact, did not. And she felt I was way too young to be having sex. The whole thing still makes me cringe today."
"I can't remember talking with my mother about sex... because she never had that conversation with me. I think it was too awkward for her. Her response was always something like 'Oh, you'll learn about that in school and the movies.'"
"I remember sitting in the mall food court, and I was feeling really ballsy, and I said, 'Mom, I made a list of things to tell you when you die, but I feel like I should get them out there: 1.) I smoke — yes, weed and cigs; 2.) I've watched porn (back in the dial-up days) and that's probably what I was doing when we couldn't receive any calls; and 3.) I had sex with my best friend. Just once.' She had talked to me before about sex and it was as weird as you think. Though we are beyond open with each other, it still felt like a very private thing that she didn't need to know. Fast forward a couple months later, and I had my first gyno appointment. When my mom left the room, I said I wanted birth control, and my doctor said OK! When my mom came back in, she agreed to talk about getting birth control; however, I don't think she knew that, yes, I wanted it THAT DAY. I wanted to keep having sex. That was the weird part, not *talking about* sex for the first time — there was no taking it back — but telling her that I wanted to keep doing it... at 14."
"The first time sex ever came up with my mom (aside from her giving me a book when I was little about how babies are made) was when I found out I had herpes and was devastated. She's more reserved and conservative than me and we had never been open when it came to relationships or sex, but she was so supportive and came with me to the doctor. She played a huge role in helping me deal with the shame and stigma."
Everyone's sex talks with their moms were different. But you could see some common themes above, from the let's-rip-the-Band-Aid-off-and-get-this-over-with to let's-talk-about-this... a LOT. Like with any relationship, communication is everything, but the sex conversation you have with yourself is the most important one.