If you’re like me, you learned about sex the proper way: A mix of television, novels, school gossip and an illustrated book found in the back of your best friend’s parents’ closet. For my entire conscious life, I’ve tried to avoid ever talking about — or even thinking about — sex while my parents were in the room. But some women actually do talk to their parents about sex — particularly their mothers. A recent story by Erin Hill in USA Today — “For mothers and daughters, discussing sex doesn’t have to be uncomfortable” — explores the mother-daughter sex conversation with Joyce McFadden, author of “Your Daughter’s Bedroom: Insights for Raising Confident Women.”
For her book, McFadden talked to women between the ages of 18 and 105 to ask what they learned about sex from their mothers. And what did they learn?
1. Mothers have an extremely difficult time discussing sex — especially since women’s authentic sexual experiences continue to be suppressed in favor of some edition that satisfies men.
2. In order to ease the uncomfortableness of talking about sex, mothers need to start early — like, with their toddlers. “If she knows what her earlobe is, she can know what her vulva is,” says McFadden. If moms wait until their daughters are teenagers to initiate a conversation, that will just make things more awkward.
3. Being clear on safe sex practices is one of the most important messages a mother can convey to her daughter. “If it’s my job to teach her about drunk driving, then it’s also my parental responsibility to teach her how to keep herself safe from disease and infection,” says McFadden.
4. Boundaries are important, so daughters and mothers don’t need to exchange information on which sexual positions they enjoy most.
As both mother and daughter get older, the questions and conversations about sex and relationships will change. Young women are generally more dismissive of their mother’s input than older women and as we get older we tend to recognize and appreciate the traits we got from our mothers.
Like it or not, our mothers’ attitudes toward sex influences our own attitudes. McFadden says women are more emboldened to ask their mothers questions as they get older — less about the mechanics of sex and more about the emotional components. “They want to know if couples last, how does someone recover from rape, why do women choose the husbands they choose and how we live with our sexuality with broad strokes,” she says. “They want to know not because they’re nosy, but because they want to use it to navigate their own lives.”
So what do you think? Did/do you ever talk about sex with your mother — either when you were a teenager or as an adult?