It should come from you, mamas.
When I was a teenager no one talked to me about sex. My best friend started having sex at the time I had a boyfriend. I told him that I thought it was time that we had sex. He asked me why, since we were nowhere close to ready to have sex. I said that I had been thinking about it, and since my best friend was doing it I thought we ought to give it a shot.
We weren't even emotionally ready to have sex. But I felt like everyone else was doing it, so why not?
I was extremely naive when it came to sex and sexuality at 15. I was self-conscious about my body (as most teens are), and yet I wanted to fit in with the crowd of girls who seemed to have it "all together."
As a teenage girl I engaged in risky sexual behavior. I blame the fact that I went to an arts high school where we never had a real health class. No one was talking about syphilis, teen pregnancy or HIV. We were learning voice and diction and Shakespeare. There was a gross deficit of information pertaining to sex.
I'm so lucky I didn't get pregnant or end up with an STD in high school. Not that I was sleeping around, but I wasn't particularly careful about using condoms. I was in monogamous relationships throughout my adolescence, but again, not the point. I still could've gotten gonorrhea or had a baby put up there.
One day, my daughter will be a teenager. I want her to feel comfortable talking to me about sex. I want her to be able to ask me the questions I felt I couldn't ask my parents because I was too shy to do so. I know: me, shy? Weird, right?
Here are six things I will teach my daughter about sexuality.
1. To feel comfortable talking to her mom about sex.
I will create an open and honest environment where she's free to ask me anything she wants about sex. I will not shame her. I'll tell her that if she plans on having sex, she's welcome to ask me anything beforehand. I will also make sure she knows about STDs and teen pregnancy.
2. To know the importance of sexual health.
If my daughter wants to see a gynecologist about getting on birth control, I will allow that. That's a sign of her taking responsibility for her body.
3. To love her body.
When I was a teenager I wasn't confident in my own skin. I will show her that there are different kind of bodies: skinny ones, curvy ones, big bodies and smaller frames. They are all beautiful in their own way. I want my daughter to love who she is on the outside and the inside. I will encourage her to dress the way she likes so she feels beautiful.
4. To know that she is the most important person in her life.
I will encourage her to love herself, first and foremost. I learned from a young age (being brainwashed by romantic comedies) that co-dependency was the new normal. The truth is that you can't love anyone unless you love yourself. I want my daughter to look inward and love herself. That's priority number one.
5. To never settle for less.
If I notice that my daughter is in a relationship where her partner is treating her disrespectfully, I will tell her. I can't control if she stays with that person or not, but I will let her know that she deserves better and doesn't need to stay with someone who doesn't treat her like the prize that she is.
6. To know she always has your support.
Lastly, an issue that I want to address is the idea of gender and sexuality. If my daughter realizes that she is gay, bi, trans or gender fluid, I support her 100 percent. I want my daughter to know that she can be open and honest with me about sex. I don't need to hear the details of her sex life, but I do want to know that she's taking responsibility for her body and her life.
Read Sarah's book Old School/New School Mom here.