“Let’s Talk about Sex, Baby” 7

I texted my friend:

I’m thinking about sexual purity and bodily agency and what do I talk to my daughters about?

She replied:

I was just about to text you. So many issues arose and this parenting teenagers is so damn hard.”

We had a short conversation about how the kids were doing and we patted each other on the back about how awesome we were doing as parents. I was reminded about how hard it seemed when these two big girls were wee ones. When wasting shampoo and smashing banana in the carpet was the biggest stress. When naptime lasted an hour and the space between 2 and bedtime seemed to last infinitely every single day. And it was hard. Those are long, and often lonely days.

I texted my friend:
When they’re little, they forget the mistakes we make. I feel like I can no longer afford any mistakes.”

Teenagers can make mistakes that cost them. Parents can make mistakes that hang around for years in the kid’s memory. The stakes are so high. Dropping the toddler a time too many seems minor compared the stuff kids deal with in high school. Just kidding. Don’t drop the toddler.  (This is in no way to invalidate or minimize the parenting of younger kids. Dude. It’s ALL hard.)

So, I’m asking you.

I’m working on a post for Deeper Family later this week. Recent adventures in parenting have left me wading through the complicated waves of faith and sexuality. Because oh, my gosh, I have two teenaged daughters and it has suddenly occurred to me that they will not be, are no longer, my little angel babies. They are beautiful young women. And you know, sometimes, boys happen to, like, notice that or whatever.

I’m reminded of the messages I heard, or didn’t hear, about sex from church leaders, my parents, and my friends. It’s confusing. It’s complicated. It’s often covered in a layer of shame that’s icky and no fun at all. I wish I had heard….well, actually, I heard some pretty good stuff about sex from my parents and church.

But I know a lot of my friends didn’t. What do you wish you heard from someone important to you about sexuality and faith? What is most important for you to communicate to the children in your life? What’s the best thing you heard? What was the worst?

I’ll link up to the post on Thursday. Thanks so much.


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7 thoughts on ““Let’s Talk about Sex, Baby”

  • Abby Norman

    Grace. Put your money where your mouth is. My cousin got pregnant when I was ten and she was eighteen and my mom told us, and told us that she wasn’t thrilled with the choice my cousin made but that she was brave for keeping the baby. Then she put us in a car, drove four hours and threw this girl a baby shower. Straight up. When I was a teen, i needed to know that I would always be met with grace. I knew it was true because my parents extended OTHER PEOPLE grace. That is what I hope my girls know.

  • Caris Adel

    Well I committed the #worstsinofall and got knocked up by our pastor’s son. And had a terribly graceless year after that. I’m always wrestling with how I want to approach this with my kids. I don’t want to just be ‘sex isn’t a big deal’, when it is, but I also don’t want it to be the worst thing in the world to do.

    I realized today that I wish I had been taught about healthy relationships. My parents got divorced right before this happened, and I acted out in very unhealthy ways. But if sex is bad no matter who you’re doing it with, then it doesn’t matter who you do it with. And so I made some very foolish choices (outside of getting pregnant. And thank God that I got pregnant by someone I wanted to marry.)

    Because it isn’t about virginity, or even sexual purity. It’s really about healthy relationships. And if my kids are going to have sex, I want it to be thought out and protected, and with someone safe. Or even if they are just dating. I want them to know the person they are with, and the effect that person has on who they are becoming.

  • Alyssa Bacon-Liu

    To give my parents credit, I feel like they did a good job of sex ed in our home. My mom got books from the library and they let us participate in sex ed classes at my school. They were at least intentional about making sure I had all the right information about it. From the home and school perspective, I feel like I had a very well-informed and healthy view of sex.

    But from the Church side of things, I participated in True Love Waits which is the epitome of purity culture and that’s where I learned that sex = BAD and anyone who had pre-marital sex was pretty much the WORST. At 26 and married, I still think I’m figuring out how purity culture affected me and the choices I made in relationships.

  • Bethany Suckrow

    I am with Caris, and thanks to her for crediting me on Twitter with the healthy relationships bit (I think taken from my post in Addie’s syncroblog in October).

    So, I was a virgin until I got married, although my husband did things before we were married that could be termed sexually intimate. Looking back, I’m really happy with the choices we made, that it was right for us and I don’t have any regrets.

    But I do think that the purity culture I was raised in did a disservice to me in terms of the enormous weight it gave to sex. It was The Very Worst Thing Ever for a teen to do outside of marriage and The Best Thing Ever in The Ultimate Experience of Marriage. That’s so logically incongruous and confusing for young people that have raging hormones. Turns out, sex is a wonderful and beautiful thing and something worth saving for a healthy, monogamous relationship, but it’s not the End All Be All that I was told it was.

    There was no discussion of what a healthy relationship was. It was always discussed in terms of relationship categories: single, dating, engaged, marriage. If sex happened in any category except for marriage, it was bad, sinful, etc. And if any of those relationships weren’t Christian-to-Christian, then it was also sinful. It wasn’t until I was an adult that I realized that most of my “Christian” relationships (romantic and platonic alike) were unhealthy, with a lot of emotional and spiritual manipulation.

    I think that’s what Caris was speaking to with her comment – how do we help kids understand the difference between healthy vs. unhealthy relationships rather than creating these false categories and dichotomies? And going further than that, how do we help kids understand safe, healthy relationships not just in terms of “I like and trust this boy/girl enough to let them in pants” but also with a long-term perspective? Purity culture fed me some serious lies about sex, but thanks to my mom and some other healthy adults in my life, I had a healthy perspective of how sex interacted with other life choices. I understood that sex had potential consequences that I wasn’t ready to contend with. Simply put, it was a risk I wasn’t ready for when I looked at the larger context of my life. A healthy sexual ethic is about a person’s whole life, but purity culture has woefully compartmentalized it.

    • Bethany Suckrow

      I should add though that I was woefully under-educated about what sex actually was. My parents refused to let me take the Health class at the public high school and my mom explained the basics, but the science and biology of it, along with info about STDS, etc? Didn’t learn any of that until college. I think that does a huge disservice to kids, especially when you consider how easily I could have been abused if I encountered the wrong person.

  • forgedimagination

    I think it would be important that the “just say no” narrative isn’t really… well, not really possible. Not that women can’t say “no,” because they *absolutely* can– but that in Western culture, actually saying the word “no” is not a part of how we typically refuse things.

    Women and teenage girls face an enormous amount of pressure to refuse sexual advances in such a way that does the least amount of “damage,” and actually saying “no” very directly is one of the surest ways to ensure that nearly everyone thinks you’re a b****. This is not something we consciously think about– after all, no is just one word, so clear and simple. But social interactions are rarely that straightforward.

  • Briana Meade

    I grew up in a Third World Missionary Kid Culture that was wayyyy too small to make mistakes. (LIke being homeschooled or part of an extremely insulated church environment). I very quickly learned you had to “act” a certain way to be accepted. Once I hit teenage-land, this became vastly more complicated and I began to see the inconsistency within my youth group (some teenagers were elevated to positions of leadership but it was basically a popularity contest and I hated this, not to mention it was all done within the guise of “godliness.”) I never felt like I fit in. There seemed to be two choices available to me: Act out, or conform. Well, I acted out. As a result, I entered vulnerable situations that eventually led to the loss of virginity in a new high school to a popular guy that was not good for me in any way. After that, I literally tanked. I think the purity culture I grew up in made it all the more difficult because I literally thought that I was worthless without my virginity. The fact that the small community I lived in “knew” all my secrets and that one boy called me a “slut” b/c I confessed that I had lost my virginity made this all the worse.