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How My Mom Made It O.K. to Talk About Sex

By , 18, Staff Writer Originally Published: August 22, 2019 Revised: August 22, 2019

When I was in fifth grade, my mom would drive my little sister to gymnastics class, and for the next hour, we would sit in her parked car as we read the book Sex, Puberty, and All That Stuff. At the time, I was extremely embarrassed, but I thought this type of open dialogue was normal for parents and their kids. I’ve since learned that this wasn’t the case for some of my friends. I was curious why my mom had decided to be more invested in teaching me about sex, so I recently asked her some questions.

Mom’s Lack of Sex Ed

First, a little bit about my mom. She was born and raised in Japan and immigrated to America as an adult. She’s the oldest of three daughters, so she didn’t have any older siblings to rely on while she was growing up and didn’t feel that she could freely speak to her own mother about sex and puberty. Not only that, she felt that she wasn’t given a sufficient sex education at school.

Of course, I was a little scared, but I wasn’t ever scared to talk to her about it. Because of this, I don’t feel embarrassed or ashamed of my body.

Compared to the United States, Japan’s sex education is lacking, which may sound surprising because U.S. sex education can be lacking, too. Although recently there has been a push for more sex education in Japanese schools, when my mother was growing up, she received “basically nothing,” as she describes it. My mom says that in fifth grade, she and the other female students were given a brief lesson on menstruation, and in her middle school health class, they were taught when a sperm fertilizes an egg, a baby is created. She wasn’t even taught about different types of contraception or sexually transmitted diseases (STDs)!

O.K. to Talk to Your Mom

As for outside the classroom, my mom says that when she was in junior high, a male classmate drew a messy sexual picture and talked about “doggie style.” She had never seen or heard anything like it. What’s funny to both of us now is how, when I was in the fifth grade, I had a similar experience. One day, my mom heard me saying “whore” and asked me what I thought it meant, to which I explained “the person who dresses trashy.” My mom later found out that there were two girls in my class who liked to Google sexual things to “show off” to the class. My mom explains, “I was afraid that these kids just looked at whatever was available on the internet and translated whatever they could understand and told you guys halfway.” She was nervous that I would start believing myths.

When I started talking to her for this article, she stressed that her intention wasn’t to teach me everything but to “make the impression that it’s O.K. to talk to your mom.” She started to look for resources and found that book about puberty. Thus began our sex-education-in-the-car “class” during my sister’s gymnastic classes.

Prepared, Not Scared

I see now that it wasn’t just my mom’s lackluster sex education that prompted her to talk directly with me about sex; it was also her relationship with her mom. My mom didn’t want me to feel discouraged opening up to her. It makes me sad that she didn’t have the type of relationship with her mom that she and I have. Because of my mom’s efforts, I felt prepared when my body started changing and I started my period. Of course, I was a little scared, but I wasn’t ever scared to talk to her about it. Because of this, I don’t feel embarrassed or ashamed of my body.

Open communication about puberty helped our relationship become what it currently is and I’m very grateful that she put in the extra effort. (Also, shout out to my dad for trying to talk to me about my period! As much as I was embarrassed back then, I appreciate it now!)

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