Q: My daughter is 14 and I’m very suspicious she is sexually active. Her father and I do not think she’s ready for the responsibility that comes along with the decisions she’s making. While we do not agree, I want to be able to have conservations with her about sex that help her navigate this territory in a healthy way. How do I have this conversation without making her think I condone her behavior?
A: Most kids aren’t ready for the responsibilities that come with having risk-aware partner contact, and many adults never become responsible at all: but it’s never to late or early to learn some good ideas around sexuality.
Firstly, read these relevant pieces relating to porn and talking to your kid about sex and secondly, good on you for giving your daughter’s health and safety a priority: studies show that teens who receive sex education and health screenings are less likely to have sex sooner, acquire an STI, or become pregnant accidentally. People who are having sex (or are about to) should have an idea of how to put on a condom, why lubricant is good to have, or how to tell if they’re getting vaginal irritation, and many other things. Start offering education from reputable sources that are geared toward kids. Leave Scarleteen.com open on the browser perhaps, or mention that you found a good site for teen health.
Next, Avoid scare tactics such as "If you have sex you’ll get an STI!" but offer education and news, such as the fact that women aged 14-25 make up half of all chlamydia diagnoses in the last CDC measure. Don’t freak out, but this brings me to the next point.
Tell your child that it’s time for a sexual wellness checkup and offer to schedule at a local clinic and to take them there. Kids tend to hate going to the dentist, doctor and gyno, and you certainly can’t force your child to have a pelvic exam, but you can encourage it. Let your child know that their disclosure to a provider will remain confidential, and indicate to the provider that you want this to be the case. Let your child know that you are always able to bring them to the provider if they are having any questions or confusion around their sexual health.
Fourth, check in with your own biases: do you ever shame people for their consensual activities? Stop doing that—whether it’s foot fetish cartoons or pee-play, there are plenty of things that adults do consensually and safely that are often named as "bad" or "gross" or wrong. And it’s easy to make jokes in passing, which many people and parents do. 20% of men in America have a foot fetish, and I was raised to think that was weird. Not by my parents, but by society. And it would turn out that more than a few of my boyfriends liked touching my toes, and I liked it too, but my inherited shame prevented me (and them) from being comfortable with these desires. The odds are, you and your husband and your child are turned on by SOMETHING that society has taught people is shameful, whether it’s same-sex attraction, furry play, or anal stimulation. People don’t stop having these arousal cues, they just work harder to hide their true sexual proclivities because of inherited shame. Please don’t ever make your kid think that there are "better" ways of experiencing pleasure than others. There is no Right Way to have sex.
Lastly, pat yourselves on the back for being more open-minded than my parents were!
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