I was 10 when I first begged my parents to tell me about “the birds and the bees.” I wanted to hear details about this thing that everyone fussed over so much. I didn’t have any preconceived ideas or colorful visions running through my imagination; I was simply curious and felt I was old enough to hear about this very important matter. I sat on the sofa with my ankles crossed and my hands clasped tightly in my lap, eager as if I were waiting to receive a huge bag of candy.
My parents sat on either side of me and took turns providing me with an overview of how the male and female body parts fit together, and that the result of the meshing of the two was a baby. Then they handed me a cartoonish book—which looked like it was printed in the late 1960s—and left me alone to delve into its contents. I saw both the male and female body parts of a couple who was married and in love, and even a G-rated sex scene. So, there it was all laid out in front of me; I now knew what sex was and I felt satisfied in the knowledge that was bestowed upon me.
But what I didn’t realize then was that sex is more than just a physical act. I was educated on the mechanics, but not everything that comes with it. It takes a higher level of maturity to discern when you’re ready and determine if you’re with a suitable partner. Although you will never know all there is to know, you must assume responsibility in making wise decisions that keep you emotionally and physically safe.
Now that my daughter is 10, I am formulating a sex talk for her I wish had been given to me. I want to have more than just one single discussion centered solely around the inner workings of the body and warnings about STDs, pregnancy, and staying away from bad boys. While these things are essential and must be pointed out, it is equally important to go a step further and have an ongoing conversation about everything that emanates from being intimate.
I will tell my daughter that while it’s easy to tell when you are physically ready for sex, it’s not as simple to determine if you are emotionally ready. When you’re young, it’s easy to be susceptible to the pressure of having sex. After my first experience, I assumed sex was something that should happen all the time. Speaking up and saying what I wanted never even occurred to me. My daughter will know how to set boundaries and that she has the final say in what does or doesn’t happen.
I want my daughter to have realistic expectations about sex. When you’re constantly told that you should abstain and wait until marriage—or that you should be a certain age, or that “nice girls don’t do things like that”—it forces you to ignore natural thoughts, feelings, and curiosities that should be explored. It gives you a very skewed view of what you may actually want for yourself. I was taught that you should be in love before you have sex. That’s a nice thought, but I don’t believe love should be the only precursor. Sex and love are not interchangeable; focusing only on the emotion creates an imbalance in the act and in the dynamics of the relationship.
Most importantly, I want her to know who she is as a person and as a young woman. Having sex, especially for the first time, can change who you are as a person—it can also change your relationship. Confidence and good decision making can quickly go out the window when you’re unsure of who you are and what you want. I want her to have sex on her terms and to know that her body does not exist solely for the pleasure of a man.
My parents didn’t discuss these things with me and I struggled, succumbing to what I thought was expected of me instead of finding out what it was that felt most comfortable for me. My desire for this updated sex talk is ambitious, and some may even think it’s absurd, but these discussions will not happen all at once; some things can wait until she reaches certain levels of maturity. But the basis of our talks will be to provide her with facts, answer any questions she may have, and create a space where she isn’t told how she should feel and what she is supposed to do. As my daughter becomes a young woman, I want to have an open and honest dialogue with her about all things sex, from the moment we have our first conversation and throughout her adult years.