The Birds and the Bees

I want to talk about sex. Don’t freak out and leave, I’m so not interested in specifics or TMI, but rather, I have been thinking about some of the married LDS women I have become friends with, and the common situation several have abashedly or quietly shared with me about their experience with sex. These are my observations only, and not meant to be blanket or value statement about anyone else’s experience

One of the things stressed in many Christian religions, and the LDS religion in particular, is keeping chaste before marriage. The social and personal benefits to this are easy to imagine- specifically in the arenas of heath issues, unplanned pregnancies and the horrible problems that box opens up, to the intangible but vital self-respect gained when treating oneself as special and treasured. In my observation as a relative outsider, joining the church as a married adult, I can clearly see the benefits, believe it is a good principle on every level. Almost.

Almost? Yes, almost. Here is what I have noticed. Several of my women friends were so unprepared for sex when they got married, so uninformed about what was to happen, what to expect, and what was normal, that they were shocked, hurt and frightened by their own wedding nights. If I have encountered this in the small number of women who would confide in me, I can only imagine this is a much larger problem. So my questions: Does keeping chaste have to mean keeping silent about sex? Is it fair or good mothering to send our daughters (or sons) into something so important and (hopefully) wonderful, completely unprepared?

While I am well aware of the discussion and comments going on at other boards right now, I have decided not to link. If you are interested, have at it, but do so at your own discretion. What I am more interested in is why so many parents are apparently uncomfortable talking with their own children about sex. My only guess (and it is just that- a guess) is that if parents are not comfortable with their own sexuality, it would be darn near impossible for them to teach healthy sexual information to their children. In no way do I mean to suggest a parent should ever share personal stories or other information about their own sexual relationship, but rather I am thinking of teaching our youth facts. Facts about how and why their bodies work the way they do, what actually happens to your body during sex, and what to realistically expect. Both our young women and young men need this kind of information, and I can’t for the life of me figure out why, with wink and a nudge, we are sending our kids to the altar and onto the bedroom.

Talking to your kids about sex is not questionable moral ground- frankly discussing our marvelous bodies in a timely and age-appropriate way is laying the groundwork for healthy individuals later in life. Don’t be squeamish, don’t be embarrassed. If you always are open with your children, give them the proper names for their body parts and functions, and answer their questions honestly (even if you say “I don’t know”), they will likely be comfortable with this conversation as they mature. And for heaven’s sake, don’t save everything up for one “big talk” at some arbitrary date- how awkward and uncomfortable for everyone. Wouldn’t you rather they get good, reliable information from you, rather than half-truths gleaned from whispered locker-room tidbits?

My kids are little still, so we haven’t had to cross very many bridges on this, but I know my mother was honest and frank with me and my siblings, and I always went to her when I heard something unbelievable from a friend or peer. It is my hope I can be the same open door for my children that my mother was for me.

(And hopefully, my daughters and sons-in-law’s will reap the benefits!)

14 thoughts on “The Birds and the Bees

  1. I grew up in the church and felt “prepared” for my wedding night. I think I felt okay because it was never taboo to talk about sex while I was growing up. I brought it up or my mom brought it up enough that I felt comfortable asking questions, but my family’s been pretty open to talking about anything since I was little. Something that I’ve seen though, growing up in Utah, with other women is not the logistics of it, but the emotional aspect. I worry that too many parents either don’t discuss it or scare their children about it. Their children find out enough from other sources to know how it works, but the emotional factor is screwed up. I worry that as a culture the youth often get the impression that sex is a BAD thing. That it’s dirty and sinful for somthing. Then Bam! Someone says a few words and it’s okay, and you’re supposed to do this, and feel good about it. It doesn’t make sense. I appreciate that my parents taught me, but without oversharing, that it was a wonderful, beautiful, natural thing, but it shouldn’t happen until the right conditions (being marriage). Then, when it did happen, I didn’t have this bizarre emotional baggage that I think quite a few women do. I felt like it was special and I was valued, and we could enjoy it and it was okay.

  2. My mom talked to us about it, even went so far as to show us a rubber. (Her word choice, not mine!) I don’t know if that’s why I wasn’t scared on my wedding night, but I wasn’t, and everything turned out fine.

  3. Talking about sex was very taboo when I grew up. My mom doesn’t really talk about anything though. Everything I learned I learned either from overhearing or from actual experience. Even the word “period” was embarrasing for my mom to say. When I first got it, she said, “Great. Now your a woman.” End of conversation. I think it goes back to what you said. I’m not sure her and my dad had a healthy sexual relationship. They are getting a divorce now so that should say a lot. Sex is a normal, healthy part of life and I hope to portray that to my children.

  4. What a great site and a great forum! I was in my early 30s (ancient in Mormonville) so wasn’t as naive as some youngins who get married young. That said, sex was always a taboo topic growing up. Heck, whenever a commercial came on for sanitary supplies, the whole room would freeze.

    I think the best thing a family can do is be open about it…with tact. Still treating it as a sacred thing but also not teaching their kids it’s dirty. A good friend of mine was raised with that mentality and struggles with it now that she’s married.

  5. I had opposite ends of education. My mother was embarrasses to say breast in front of us. It ended up being chicken chests. Yep… laugh all you want we did. Then we had the scientific dad who was going to let us know EVERYTHING. Got the whole run down. I agree as far as we need to let the kids know what will happen.

  6. My mother told me all about sex when I was six. This may seem like a very young age to do it, but she felt I needed to know about it because I was one of two girls growing up in a neighborhood FULL of older boys. Whenever I had a question, she would tell me the answer, and if she didn’t know the exact answer I was looking for, she would get my aunt (she’s an RN) to tell me. I was taught sex was good and that it was supposed to feel good, but it was not something that I was supposed to do until I got married. When I did get married, there were no surprises and it was a wonderful experience. When my children start to ask questions, then I will explain it all to them too. My son (he’s 4 1/2) already knows that boys have tails (his word, not mine) and that babies get their food out of mommies breasts (or buttons as my son calls them). As he gets older and as my daughter gets older, I hope that they will continue to ask me questions.

  7. I think what you have observed is a very accurate representation. But, I think the pendulem is swinging in the other direction. It think the current generation of mother’s are much more aware than their parents were. I think that we as mother’s and women are more aware of our own sexuality, and I think we see the value and importance of teaching our children correct principles about sex.
    Sex is a wonderful thing between a husband and wife. I hope that my children grow up understanding that, that sex is good- and sex is for marriage. As they get older and the need arrises I will certianly tell them what ever it is they need to know.
    A funny story about my own upbrining, when I was in preschool, my favorite book to bring for show and tell was “Where Do Babies Come From?”. My mother let me bring it, but tells me she was slightly embarrassed when the preschool teachers chickled about it.

  8. I’m a newcomer to your blog. (I’ve been able to relate a lot to your more recent experiences as I’m 38 weeks pregnant right now and just went through a week and a half of sickness with my family – I’m feelin’ for ya!!!) I just wanted to comment on this post and say that I completely agree with you. In fact my husband and I were just talking about it the other day. We decided we definitely want to make sure our children are prepared. There’s absolutely no reason why parents shouldn’t be open and honest about sex with their kids. I’d also like to mention a great talk that we plan to share with our children when they become teens: “Of Souls, Symbols and Sacraments” by Jeffery R. Holland.

    It’s not an article about the “facts”, but probably the best article we’ve ever read on the purpose of and truth about intimate relations, and why we keep them sacred.


  9. Also another good book, is “Between Husband and Wife, Gospel Perspectives on Marital Intimacy” by Stephen E. Lamb and Douglas E. Brinley.

  10. funny story: my sister asked dad where babies come from. He was trying to get her to say what the differences between girls and boys are. He said “girls have breast…” trying to lead her and she burst in saying “I know, I know, boys have bad breath.” my dad decided she wasn’t ready yet for any further discussion.

  11. My mom always answered all of my questions about sex. She made sure to clarify that even though it was important to wait, that it’s also important to have the necessary information.
    Now, she grew up in a different time, so it’s even more amazing how open she is. And she was honest enough, when I was mature enough to know about it, to not hide the fact that she came from an abusive home (yes, that kind of abuse,too) and that her first marriage came about due to being taken advantage of (and she, as a good girl — long before she joined the church — thought that to get married was the only way to “make it right.”)
    If she can be so forthcoming about the birds and the bees … AND instill in me the fact that sex isn’t bad or dirty then I think it’s more than possible for others to get over our squeamishness about naming body parts and such.
    Our daughters (and our sons, too) deserve to go into marriage knowing more than just what they’ve heard in locker rooms, slumber parties and sex ed.

  12. Brava, Tracy! The sort of respectful, private, accurate and modest (but not prudish or negative) family-based sex-education you describe is, I think, entirely necessary and appropriate. (I’m not against school-based sex-ed, incidentally, but think family should be primary.)

    Thanks for an enlightening discussion, and an argument with which I wholly concur.

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