Gender Inequality, Protective Latino Parents and Sex Ed
Originally Published: October 4, 2016
Revised: November 3, 2016
Since I was a little girl, I have wanted to go to sleepovers, but my parents never allowed me to go. I couldn’t understand why. So, when I was 13, I asked my mother why I wasn’t allowed to go. She said, “Because you’re a girl. Girls have a lot more to lose than boys.” This was one of the first times I was introduced to gender inequality.
At the time, it never occurred to me that my mother was talking about my virginity and reputation. I knew my parents were trying to protect me, but I didn’t know from what; I thought the rules were drastic. I’m a first-generation Latina, meaning I juggle two cultures at once—American and Latin American (Costa Rican, Nicaraguan, Dominican and Salvadorian). I have to understand both sides—sleepovers versus super protective parents—and when my cultures clash, I have to locate a balance, which can be a struggle!
My parents believe because I’m a girl I need protection from sex, and I believe I need the correct information to independently make decisions.
No Sleepovers or Guys—Just Gender Inequality
As I got older, I noticed that my male cousins the same age as me or younger were able to have girlfriends, go out at night alone or with friends, and go to other houses with few questions asked, but I couldn’t. I asked my father about this once. He said, “It’s because you’re a girl. Your cousins are men and can take care of themselves; you can’t because you’re a girl.”
My father has happily had his nephews and their girlfriends come to our home multiple times and encouraged their relationships. One day, a male friend and I decided to hang out. When I came home, my father began interrogating me, asking who my friend was, what we were doing and why. He then said to my mother, “If she gets pregnant, it’s your fault.” I felt humiliated and shocked, especially since he never said anything similar to his nephews.
Taking the Lead in My Sexual Education
My parents made very little effort to discuss sex; the statement my father made was the only time he had brought up the topic. The only lesson I had learned from them in my adolescence was to avoid pregnancy. I have attempted to ask my family questions about sex, but the response has been simple: “You’re not having it, so you don’t need to know about it.” But I was curious, so I turned to friends and the internet, which was not the best choice.
I learned myths like you can’t get pregnant if you have sex in the water or during your period, or if you touch someone with a sexually transmitted disease (STD), you will get it. I eventually realized that I needed to look for credible organization’s websites and make sure the information was coming from professionals. No one told me about the numerous resources available, like Sex, Etc., Planned Parenthood, Bedsider.org and the American Sexual Health Association. I also received six weeks of sex education in high school. We mainly discussed STDs and wrote in a journal about the lesson. That was the only formal sex education I had.
From Different Worlds
If my parents were more open and made it comfortable for me to ask questions about anything sex-related, I wouldn’t have felt embarrassed asking them questions and my knowledge would have come sooner. I believe my parents would benefit from an informative sex education class as well. This could make sex a more approachable topic, bringing us closer as a family as well.
Because I’m first generation, I’m faced with many challenges while trying to bring my two cultures together. While my parents’ ways do not always align with mine, I understand their point of view. I take what they say full heartedly, but I have learned to incorporate my own findings into their advice. My parents believe because I’m a girl I need protection from sex, and I believe I need the correct information to independently make decisions.
Early on, I was told I didn’t need to know about sex and that I could not protect myself; this motivated me to learn more. Researching and not relying on just anyone’s words about sex and sexuality is one of the smartest choices I have made.
Natalya is a contributor who lives in North Carolina.
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