When my older brother was fourteen and about to go on his first ever date, my parents sat him down and told him some things about respecting girls and always using condoms. The reason I know this is that my sister and I, in the next room, scrambled to the ends of our beds and listened in, trying not to giggle too loud.
Maybe a year or two later we were having a garage sale and my older sister lifted one of the books and hid it in her jumper. When Mum found it, the punishment was this: My sister had to sit and read the whole thing aloud. It was a “how babies are made” book, complete with illustrations.
The illustration of the woman giving birth showed her on her back, and I remember Mum saying, “Well that’s not completely accurate – you can give birth in all kinds of positions such as squatting or on all fours.” Like my sister wasn’t dying of embarrassment.
Mum used to give pre-natal classes and was wonderfully straightforward about those crazy, foreign, dizzying sex-related things.
I understood the mechanics, but until I read the incest-sex in Sleeping Dogs I hadn’t realised sex wasn’t a single act of penetration but something that happened over time. Until the first of my friends saw a real life penis at fifteen and drew the rest of us a diagram, I didn’t realise an erection didn’t stick straight out from the body. (I guess that kind of erection is easier to illustrate for the purposes of where babies come from.)
There were things I didn’t know, but I was happy to discover them slowly over time for myself. I felt prepared enough.
Yesterday I wrote a mother-daughter sex talk into my teen romance, and it ended up turning into a feminist manifesto. This is what I’d want to say to a daughter if I had the guts. It probably doesn’t quite fit into a scene in a light-hearted novel, though.
Did you suffer the sex talk? Did it make a difference? Have you had to give one?
Here’s Lexie suffering though:
Mum sat on the end of the bed, and wouldn’t look Lexie in the eye.
Oh no. Oh no!
Lexie buried her face in the pillow. “Please, please tell me this isn’t a sex talk.”
Mum cleared her throat. “You and Jerome seem serious, love. I don’t think I’d realised just how serious until I saw you together today.”
Well, at least there was irrefutable proof she was a hell of an actress.
“I am eighteen years old,” she groaned. “I know what goes where. Seriously, you don’t have to do this.”
“Trust me, I’m not enjoying it any more than—”
“Then don’t do it. I beg, I implore you.”
“Love, Jerome isn’t like the boys you go to parties with back home.”
“I just need to know you’re prepared.”
Lexie stuffed her face deeper into the pillow, and really wouldn’t have been surprised if her blush turned it red. “This is, like, child torture.”
Mum made an annoyed noise. “I can get Mum up here to give you the lecture instead, if you like.”
Lexie gasped and her head shot up. “You wouldn’t dare.”
Mum just raised an eyebrow and Lexie was forced to give in to her superior tactics. “Okay. Give me the talk. Wait – can you tweet it at me? 140 characters or less?”
Mum rolled her eyes and blushed a bit and looked really awkward again.
The irony was not lost on Lexie. All this trouble, when Jerome was the last man on earth she was actually going to be having sex with.
“Um, condoms,” Mum said. “No matter what a boy – er, a man – ever says to you, no matter how convincing he sounds, you never, ever have sex with him without a condom.”
“Well, duh,” Lexie said, which just proved how embarrassed she was. She was normally much more eloquent.
“I know you think you know about condoms, but, well, sex does actually feel better without one. You’ll probably even want to try it. Don’t. Just – please, don’t. It won’t ever be worth it.”
“Okay,” Lexie mumbled. Maybe if she just went with it, it would be over quicker.
“When you’re in a long-term, committed relationship then you can start thinking about maybe not using condoms.”
Dear God, argh! She was going to kill Jerome for putting her through this for nothing.
“But the most important thing I want to tell you is far less easy.”
Something in Mum’s voice – something serious and finally unembarrassed – made Lexie look at her.
“Lexie, as a woman you’re going to feel like you need to please your partner. Like all the pleasure in sex is about being something that he desires. You’re going to think you have to make certain faces and pull certain poses and that it’s good sex if he wants you. That’s all crap. That’s the kind of sex society has told you to have in a million little ways you can’t even see. The only kind of sex you should be having is the kind that gives you pleasure.”
So, on the up side Mum had remembered about feminism. On the down side Lexie wanted. To. Die.
“And I won’t ever do anything I don’t want to,” she said in a rush. “And I should only have sex if I think he respects me. Yep. Got it. We had Sex Ed in, like, year eight. I think that just about covers it, don’t you?” She gave a giant, panicked yawn. “So, um, I’m really tired. I’ll probably just go to sleep now. I’ve got to be up at 4:30. Goodnight!”
Mum shook her head, but looked relieved, too. “One day you’ll have to do this with your kids,” she said, standing up. “Then you’ll feel sorry for your old mum.”
Lexie had never heard a more convincing reason not to have kids in her life. Good thing her prospects for having sex with anyone were nonexistent.