Why you should stop punishing your kids for having sex
Updated: Jul 24, 2018
I’d like to start out by saying that I have never been a mother, so I am not one to speak about what parenting entails. I have been a daughter though, so I can speak to the experiences that come along with that. I’ve also been a friend to many children with parents that treat sex as something forbidden, punishable and wrong.
Time and time again I hear their stories. Silly stories like “We’re not allowed in the basement alone after dark even though we’ve been in the basement alone all afternoon”. But also scarier ones like “If my parents found out they would kill me” and “I can’t get an STD test until I turn 18 because my parents can’t find out”
These stories always strike a chord with me. Maybe it’s because I grew up with a mother who showed me that nothing was off limits with her. I could literally talk to her about anything. No matter what, she would always offer me guidance, comfort and hope that everything really would be okay. It’s not that she loved the idea of her little girl being all grown up and having sex. But she was selfless. My safety and happiness came above her discomfort. I’ve learned that not everyone is lucky enough to have this same experience.
When parents refuse to talk openly with their children about sex - there a few subliminal messages that are relayed.
The very first thing you teach them is that sex is naughty. Sex is something shameful, wrong, and scary. This will obviously come in conflict with the completely natural and healthy libido that develops in adolescence. Some might be left feeling ashamed and dirty, just for becoming a perfectly normal human being.
The second thing you teach them is that when they do start having sex (because they will. Despite your strongest efforts and despite your denial) they can’t come to you with questions or concerns. This means when your daughter needs birth control, or your son needs condoms and neither of them have access to these things - they will either turn to less trustworthy means or none at all. When your daughter is afraid she might be pregnant or have contracted an STD, she will opt to face this alone rather than risk the terrifying reaction from her parents. When they experience pressure to have sex, or pain during sex - these children will not look to you as a means of comfort, or wisdom.
The last thing these children learn, especially daughters, is that these choices do not belong to them. By taking it upon yourself, no matter how good your intentions are, to tell your daughter she is not to be sexually active - you are teaching her that the choices she makes with her body must be determined by a force outside of herself. The decision to have sex or to not have sex becomes dependent on someone else’s opinion, feelings, or suggestion. This could eventually translate into the opposite - that is to say that pressure to abstain from sex is the same as pressure to give in to sex. You become another force in this world that is attempting to take away her sexual autonomy.
By ignoring or punishing your child’s sexuality you are not only harming them - but missing out on a huge part of who they are. You are missing out on playing a vital role in their development and their health.
Because of my mother - I have always felt like I alone held the power to feel and share my pleasure. I have always had healthy sexual relationships. I have always had a safe space to come back to when I needed guidance. I have always felt that the decision to have sex was mine and mine alone.
I'm not claiming to know what it takes to raise a child properly. I'm not claiming to know all the answers to the many questions that come with being a parent. But my hope is that the parents of my friends - the parents who are raising the future generation - will rise above their social conditioning. Rise above fear and teach their kids that they are deserving of sexual pleasure, safety, and happiness. I propose we start giving children the tools they need to make healthy, safe and fulfilling choices.