"Mom, what's oral sex?"
It's dinner time. Me, the working single mom, is trying to rustle up something healthy and tasty while my daughter, age 13, does her math homework at the kitchen table. Math is not her subject and I find myself bouncing back and forth between the stove and her math book as she asks for help with each equation. Math is not my subject either, so between the constant interruptions to the dinner progress and my growing realization that I probably really can't help her with the math, my agitation is growing.
Then it comes: "Mom, I have another question." "What is it now?" I ask, (and I admit with some irritation). A pause and then, "Mom, what's oral sex?"
Talk about having to think fast. Relying on my heretofore reliable strategy of answering sticky questions such as this one both honestly and minimally, I reply, "It's when one person puts their mouth on another person's genitals."
"EEEEWWWW," says the 13 year old. "That's disgusting."
"Quite right," I reply. "It is disgusting." I go back to sautéing peppers. I am relieved; the proverbial bullet seems dodged. And then it comes. "Mom, have you ever had oral sex?"
The room swims in and out of focus. It seems like an eternity, it's probably a split second. Finally I say, "I'm sorry, honey, but that's not really an appropriate question for you to ask or for me to answer." Her response is a nonchalant "okay." She goes back to her home work, I retreat into my bedroom where I scream, briefly, into my pillow. Then I go back to sautéing peppers.
I considered this exchange a success. I was truthful. I held the line about divulging too much personal information. The 13 year old seemed satisfied. Was it easy? No.
When my son was around 9 or 10, he woke up early one morning and logged on to the internet at his cousins' house where he was having a sleepover. He Googled the word "boobs" and answered "yes" when asked if he was 18 or older. The onrush of images was enough to scare him right off the computer (and possibly into the next town). And when he called me, breathless and worried about what he had seen, I reassured him it was all okay, and explained that this was both the beauty and the curse of the internet: just because everything is available on-line, doesn't mean that it should be. Upon his return home, I gave him an art book of tasteful female nudes and told him to look at that (in his room, in private) the next time he felt curious (which I felt was a fine solution until he had a sleepover party and shared the book with seven other 10 year olds, whose parents I then felt I needed to notify, but that's another story).
So it leads me to ask, why is it that we have so much trouble talking to our kids about sex? We want them to be healthy and safe, we don't want them to have weird hang-ups or act on misinformation. At the school my children attend, where the parents are largely well educated, progressive and relatively affluent, this subject recently came up in the parent education committee, of which I am a member. Now mind you, parent/child anti-drug dialogue evenings are held every year at this school and no one blinks an eye as they navigate the thorny path of discussing drug use. But sex? People panic.
And considering that our children and teens are barraged with almost incessant sexual imagery and content over multiple media platforms, our collective reluctance is leaving our kids adrift. Teen pregnancy is on the decline, but The U.S. still has the highest teen pregnancy rate in the Western industrialized world. Teen pregnancy is glamorized by the media in such shows as Teen Mom, now in its 4th season.
Pregnancy is the least of it in some respects: there is the concern about disease of course, and also the psychological and emotional components.
My kids are older now, and the questions are more complex. The definition of ‘pansexual" is under discussion as my daughter has self-identified as such, as is the purchase and proper care of a vibrator. And while I know I am way ahead of some of my parental peers in the level of openness I have with my kids about all topics sexual, I still find myself screaming into my pillow on occasion. Knowing your child has just had oral sex for the first time can make you feel a little like your hair is on fire. (My question was: "Was it reciprocal?"—and before you judge, consider that I was only hoping to forestall an impression that it was a woman's job to "service" a man. And her reply of "yes, and he went first because I am in charge of my life," made me think I've done well.) They are going to have sex, whether we like it or not. So shouldn't we talk to them about it to help ensure they have safe, sound and fulfilling experiences? I say yes, just make sure you have a thick pillow.
For more information on how to talk to your kid's about sex CLICK HERE