Vicky Tuck, the President of the Girls' Schools Association in the United Kingdom, published an article in The Telegraph yesterday that emphasized the importance of parents speaking to their daughters openly and honestly about sex.
Tuck, who helped develop the Mydaughter website, an online resource for parents of teenage daughters which will be launching this January, asks that parents approach sex from a non-judgmental standpoint, concentrating more on helping their daughter make safe, responsible decisions about sex than trying to scare her away from sexuality by mocking her clothes, saying things such as "When I was your age, we never..." or making sex out to be dirty or wrong. The facts, such as pregnancy, sexual transmitted diseases, and the dangers of alcohol (especially cups left unattended) should all be addressed as well.
Once the facts have been laid down, Tuck says, "Tell her that what you really want to talk about is her well-being. Acknowledge that she may think that you are interfering and embarrassing but tell her that you want to have this conversation because you love her and care about how she feels about herself."
It would be easy to rip this article apart from the "But what about the sons?!" standpoint; but Tuck's career has been devoted to helping young women, and so that is where her focus here lies, and it is hard to argue with her thoughtful, honest, respectful approach to helping parents reach out to their teenage daughters (one would hope they'd do the same with their sons).
Tuck's advice is designed to give young women a sense of self-worth, empowerment, and control over their own sexual choices. "Suggest to her that the kind of sex that makes you feel sad and worthless simply isn’t worth having," Tuck writes, "She must value her own body. Avoid ever implying sex is a bad thing. Emphasise the importance of loving relationships. Encourage her to think about how you have brought her up to weigh up the pros and cons of other decisions and feel empowered. She is a precious individual who is allowed to say ‘no’."
I grew up in an Irish Catholic household where nobody ever talked about sex, EVER. I was pretty sure that sex was making out without clothes on until well into middle school. Everything I learned about sex came from friends, health class, and Angela Chase. I often wish my parents had had the tools to talk to me about sex in a manner that gave me the clinical information while also assuring me that sex, in itself, was nothing to be afraid of. Though I eventually found my footing on such matters, the lack of information I had (combined with hardcore Wallflower syndrome and a tendency to prefer books to boys) made it pretty scary to figure out what was going with my body and my brain for a while there in my early teens. It's encouraging that people like Ms. Tuck are there to provide parents with such tools to help both parents and daughters navigate a fairly strange and interesting time not only with the proper information but with a dose of love and self-respect as well.
Weirdly enough, when I was helping my parents clean out their basement a few years ago, I found a stolen first edition library copy of "Everything You Always Wanted To Know About Sex (But Were Afraid To Ask)" that one of my parents had clearly swiped during high school in the 60's. Neither of them would admit to it. I suppose the lack of a sex talk, then, was generational. If I ever have children, however, that pattern will change. As will the stealing of library books. For shame!
Did your parents ever give you "the talk?" If so (or if not), how did it shape your views on things?
Why You Need To Talk To Your Daughter About Sex [Telegraph]