So why are these conversations so challenging anyway?
Here’s an over-simplified in-a-nutshell version of why these conversations about sex with your daughter are so challenging and uncomfortable.
In Europe, back in the 1400’s, women were the property of men and it was considered OK for her husband to do things like beat her. She essentially had no rights. Her place in the world was in the home, raising the children. The burning times had begun and it probably wasn’t a good idea to make waves or attract the attention of those who carried the torches since women were primary targets of the Inquisition.
Fast forward a few hundred years to the 1700’s when a group of people immigrated to America to practice their beliefs in the “new world”. They had some pretty conservative views on sex and strong opinions about women who enjoyed sex. A woman’s place was still in the home and she continued to be at risk for death by torture if accused of witchcraft. Sex during this time had become a taboo subject and meant for reproduction, and the idea of a women enjoying sex was offensive to many.
Unfortunately for us, these elements got woven into the fabric of our society and it has taken us a long time to get “equal” rights, which are still not quite equal. As a result of treating sex as a taboo subject, and not speaking candidly about it for hundreds of years, it has become repressed and twisted around upon itself so that it has emerged corrupt in many ways. Maybe this is why our society has the tendency to want to blame a rape victim, and sometimes wants to protect the rapist (or child molester) when their crimes have been revealed. (I’m thinking of some of the college football incidents which have happened fairly recently where the universities conspired to protect players or coaches when they should of been held responsible for their actions.)
I believe this is where our deep sense of embarrassment about our sexuality is coming from; it’s rooted deeply in our cultural psyche. No wonder it’s so challenging to talk about sex! It can be hard to capture what you really want to say and verbalize it in a way your daughter will hear.
It’s important not to put these conversations off because your daughter is receiving messages every day from the media and your input can minimize the damage media is doing.
Media has played an interesting role in our society when it comes to sex. I remember in the 80’s watching VHS movies at home and learning that my period had names like “The Curse” and that I was “on the rag”. I also learned that it was normal for teenagers to keep secrets about sex from mom and that conversations about sex were supposed to be awkward both with my mom and my boyfriend. I learned that sex happened without any real discussion or forethought and getting swept away in the moment was perfectly acceptable and actually expected.
One of the things that shocks me the most these days is the music videos that are on TV. I rarely watch music videos anymore but when I was a teen I watched them whenever possible. In the last one I saw, it etched vividly in my mind. (I admit I was trying to learn what “twerking” was after Miley Cirus was all over the news for her performance.) In the video I found, the pop star, who I won’t name, seemed so casual about her body, like she didn’t even care. She barely had any clothes on and left little to imagination. There was a real sense of detachment and disconnect from her body. The message was that it was fine to use your body to get money, jewels, men or whatever.
Watching the video was a lot like watching soft porn, and these types of videos are giving your daughter (and her boyfriend) a distorted view of women and what sex looks like. They give an unattainable image of the female body, distorting what a normal female body looks like… it’s a full time job to have a body like those dancers on the video.
Speaking of porn, apparently all men have watched it and rumor has it that boys age 11 and up are the highest consumer of internet porn. Have you ever had sex with someone you swear learned their technique from watching porn? It’s pretty awful…. but think about this, where else do we go to learn when no one will talk about it? We feel naughty when we watch, like we’re doing something wrong. Yet, none of our trusted sources of information are teaching us how to pleasure ourselves or to make love. We all want to be good lovers and please our partners. So how do you go from knowing nothing to becoming a good lover?
We are a society full of contradictions and you might wonder how you are supposed to help your daughter make sense of all of this.
Here you are trying to teach your daughter how to have a healthy relationship with others, a healthy relationship with herself, a healthy body image, how to stay safe and so much more, but what you might not realize is that you are up against at least 700 years of conditioning.
You might feel like a trail blazer out there on your own trying to figure this out. Our parents muddled through our sexual education as best they could, often armed with picture books as they sat down to have “the talk”. When I speak to women about the sexual education they received while growing up, most feel like the information they received wasn’t “enough” and many of them want to do things differently with their girls, as I expect you do too.
Looking back on my own experience, even with my mom teaching me everything she knew and the best our school sex education had to offer (Vermont consistently has one of the lowest teen pregnancy rates in the country), I was still woefully ignorant. I had so much to figure out and I made a lot of “mistakes” because I simply didn’t know any better.
As I learned more, I realized that if every girl grew up knowing this information, they wouldn’t have to experience unintended pregnancies or sexually transmitted viruses that I did while growing up.
I wanted to share my wisdom…. gathered from life’s hard knocks, coupled with an insatiable thirst for knowledge as I sought to understand my body and cycle, because I wanted to find a way to live in harmony with my fertility without the use of chemicals or artificial hormones so that I could avoid conception on my terms. In a way that felt in alignment with the more natural lifestyle I was adopting and my desire to leave a smaller footprint on the earth.
The biggest piece that helped me to understand my body and how to navigate my fertility was to learn what I call fertility awareness. It’s what made everything else click. It filled in huge gaps in my sexual education and about what it means to be a woman; it taught me to understand my body and how to use that information to successfully manage my fertility. I finally understood what my hormones were doing and things started making sense. I learned things about my anatomy that were not taught in school and I discovered that sex could be very pleasurable and that I didn’t need a partner to experience this pleasure.
Ultimately, what I realize now, is this is one of the big pieces of information that is missing from our cultural sexual education. After all, what is more empowering to a woman than to be able to avoid conception without relying on artificial hormones or chemicals? Or to learn that she is capable of having an orgasm and even ejaculate! Our bodies are to be enjoyed. It took me a long time to learn all this stuff…. And, I’m still learning. My conversations with Caroline Muir and Dr. Sandy Bevacqua have been very enlightening!
It’s really wonderful that we can tap this knowledge, bring it in, assimilate it and integrate what feels right. Then it becomes part of your body of knowledge, things that you will naturally share with your daughter when the time is right.
Imagine shorten your daughter’s learning curve by making sure you are able to provide her with all the information that you and I didn’t get while we were growing up. This can help you to create an atmosphere in which your daughter feels safe enough to bring you any problem, even the big ones about sex and relationships…. the things research shows she’s most likely to keep secret from you.
So can you do? Good question. The first step to empowering your daughter is empowering yourself through education and experiential learning.
If your daughter is young… around the age of 8 or 9, you have the opportunity to set the stage for the next 10 years. Our society is going to teach your daughter that it’s uncomfortable to come to you about sex; that you won’t understand; and that it’s normal and expected to hide important, life changing activities from your mom.
You have the opportunity to give her the information first before she starts getting it from the media and from kids at school. You get to shape her initial views and impressions of sex. It can be something that is secretive or something that is spoken about easily and freely.
You can break the cycle of shame and secrecy that surrounds talking about sex and teaching your daughter about her body.
Since our society has made talking about sex so weird, it’s important to make sure that your daughter has the skills to talk about sex to her boyfriend and be confident when asking him to use a condom so that she can be safe.
Wouldn’t you want her to play a primary role in how her first sexual encounter plays out rather than letting someone else who knows the script take the lead and have things happen that she wasn’t expecting, didn’t want or didn’t know how to stop? I talk to so many women who have regrets about their first time; I don’t want your daughter to become one of them.
Talking to your daughter about the different things to consider before the first time she has sex is important. The free gift I put together for the telesummit has a lot of those topics covered. Something in particular I have a pretty strong opinion about is condoms. No one likes them, not really, but they’re super important to protect against viruses and pregnancy. Condoms can very difficult for a teenager to get for a number of reasons. Consider making condoms available in the household where they can be replaced should the stash start to run low.
I strongly encourage all girls to know how to put a condom on correctly and to actively seek out the role of putting the condom on if they’re going to have sex. Does this seem a bit forward? Think about it this way, first she’ll know it is put on correctly thus reducing the risk of breakage and second, it becomes part of the conscious choice to have sex and taking responsibility for her health. This way you have given your daughter an important tool and resource that she can use to protect herself. If the boy wants to put it on (he may have been taught to put it on himself for his own protection) then she can participate or watch to make sure it’s being put on correctly and will recognize and be empowered to speak up if it’s not being put on correctly.
Research has made it pretty clear that the older girls probably won’t come to you with their concerns about sex unless you’ve been having these conversations all along. So by making these kinds of resources available you increase the chances that she’ll act responsibly. Most teenagers don’t want to get pregnant, but it’s not going to deter them all from experimenting.
Even if you haven’t been having these conversations and your daughter is a bit older, all is not lost. It’s never too late to open the conversation. They say we need to hear something multiple times in order to retain it.
If she’s resistant to talking with you or tells you she already knows, then try presenting the information in other ways, like through stories or real world events or get help and have someone else provide her with information so that she’s getting it from different sources. Find her a couple of “cool aunties” that she can talk to if she doesn’t want to talk to you.
If you’re struggling to find a way to get the message through, here’s a possible avenue in. It seems like girls, in general, are curious to learn more about their bodies. This can be a fantastic doorway into the conversation.
I’ve found that when I teach my clients about their bodies and cycles, I have the opportunity to cover the full range of topics in the conversation so that in the end they’ve learned everything they need to know to successfully manage their fertility naturally without hormones or chemicals and keep themselves safe from things they’d rather not have happen. We talk about relationships, STDs, questions to ask before you sleep with someone and all kinds of things you might not normally think of beforehand.
I want to teach you to do the same so that you can have these conversations organically with your daughter, because once you’ve added this to your experience, the next step comes more easily because mothers naturally share what they learn with their girls.
Once you’ve broken the taboo of talking about sex, the door is wide open to have any conversation.
If you caught Julie Brooks or Rachel Fiske’s interview during the Raising Empowered Daughters Summit, you got to see a perfect example of how you can break through those barriers and create an incredible relationship with your daughter where she WILL come to you when she’s thinking about having sex or having some sort of crisis.
Not to mention, you’ll be able to empower your daughter to protect herself from those who might sexually abuse her. When things happen beyond your control, arming your daughter with the right information can protect her from those who don’t have her best interest at heart and prompt her to seek your support when something does happen. Before it turns into destructive behaviors like cutting, alcohol and drug use, risky behaviors, lashing out, early sexual activity, attempted suicide and worse.
This may not seem like an urgent problem, indeed these conversations are easy to put off until something happens and then it becomes a reaction to a crises and dealing with the aftermath rather than taking a proactive approach to make sure your daughter is adequately educated and equipped to protect herself as situations arise or knows how to get help and support if something happens beyond her control.
I know as I learned more about my body through a variety of techniques collectively known as fertility awareness methods, I found myself wishing that my mom had been able to teach me about this stuff. I had a lot of questions with no one to ask. Plus, it would have been nice to learn how to interpret my fertility signs when I didn’t have the pressure of a boyfriend who didn’t like birth control and me not wanting to use hormones. It was a tricky place to be while learning techniques that required training and time to learn.
I know these techniques are not something the majority of us grow up learning and I’d like to change that, it’s a really important skill for young women to have.
I know that if I had someone to talk to, someone to teach me, there’s a good chance I could have avoided the Human Papilloma Virus (HPV) and the moderate to severe cervical dysplasia it caused, and the unintended pregnancies too….
But then if things had been different I might be doing something else besides sitting here writing to you today! I wouldn’t change the things that have happened to me because I love what I do.
I don’t want you or your daughter to learn this stuff the hard way or by trial and error like I did. It’s not necessary because the information is out there, but it’s scattered and fragmented. I’ve been collecting bits of information for almost 25 years and we’re still pulling the pieces back together. I have SO much to share and if you’d like to tap that fountain of wisdom, I’d love to chat with you and learn more about what’s going on and what you think about all of this.
I think it’s amazing that over 1700 of you signed up for the Raising Empowered Daughters Summit, you said YES to a different vision of how you would like to raise your daughter. Now, imagine that difference you are making in your daughter’s life rippling outward and multiplying. There are 1700 other moms out there making this kind of difference in their girl’s lives too. Some day these girls will be sharing with their friends and daughters too as the ripples continue to expand.
It has been my honor and privilege to share this experience with you all. Let’s have some more fun! There’s just so much to talk about, we’re only just scratched the surface!