No Longer Taboo: Talking With My Mom About Sex
One day in the fifth grade, the boys and girls were separated. The girls were led to a classroom with a doctor who gave us our first sex ed lecture. I raced home to my mom, full of questions about menstruation and pregnancy. But my excitement wore off as a look of shock appeared on my mother’s face. When she asked, “Aren’t you too young to be learning all this?” I worried that I had crossed an invisible line that I didn’t even know existed!
When she asked, ‘Aren’t you too young to be learning all this?’ I worried that I had crossed an invisible line that I didn’t even know existed!
Luckily, my mom was willing to learn with me, and we were eventually able to have candid conversations about sexuality and related topics. Recently, I sat down with her to talk about why she thought there was such a barrier for her when it came to talking about sex, and how we have been overcoming that barrier to communicate more openly.
Growing Up With Taboos
My mom comes from a small city in southern India. She recalls that her health class included lectures on healthy eating and exercise. There was no sex education. The topic was extremely taboo, and questions about sex were frowned upon. My mom remembers how her own mother told her to end a friendship with a girl who was overheard asking about relationships, saying she “must have bad morals to ask about such things.” Such questions were answered in whispered conversations with cousins or older siblings or from eavesdropping on adults, but no one had a comprehensive sex education.
When my mom moved to the United States as a young adult, she found the differences between the U.S. and India startling. She couldn’t understand the idea of parents having “the talk” with their kids, as that wasn’t something she ever experienced. The first time she went to Six Flags amusement park, she was surprised to see people being openly intimate and teenagers in relationships. She shares that people kissing in public or girls talking about their periods openly did not occur in India. Even today, when my family interacts with other Indian-American families, we don’t talk about some topics, like teenage relationships.
History Doesn’t Repeat Itself
That these topics didn’t come up didn’t felt strange to me until I became a middle-schooler. I noticed that some of my friends, especially those who weren’t first generation Indian-American, were willing to talk to their parents about sex and ask questions. I was fortunate enough to have a really comprehensive sex ed program at my school, but I only became brave enough to ask my mom questions after attending a series of meetings hosted by the Girls Club, an after-school program where we could ask about periods, pregnancy, relationships and anything else we wanted to learn about sexuality and intimacy.
I went home, awkwardly asking my mom to talk with me more about sexuality. To my surprise, we began to discuss the things I learned about in my health classes, like sexually transmitted diseases and contraception. She tried to strike a balance, challenging herself to have open conversations with me but still unsure about the best ways to do that. “It’s hard because no one ever talked with me before,” she admits. “This is all so new.”
Willingness to Be Honest
Now as I compare the relationship I have with my mom to the relationships some of my friends have with their parents, I can see that she made the effort that lots of parents didn’t make. I’m grateful that she took the steps to learn the answers to the questions she didn’t know how to answer. Her willingness to be honest with me made me more comfortable and our relationship became stronger.
My mom still tenses up when I say the word “sex” out loud and I still don’t talk about relationships in front of my grandparents. However, I appreciate all the work my mom put in to make me feel more understood and unrestricted when it came to asking questions about sex. “At the end of the day, I wanted you to hear things from me, not anyone else,” she explains.
Thank you, Mom, for being so open!
Use our Communication Tool to learn how you can start important conversations with your parents about sexuality.
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