The two of us accidentally bred on the same schedule, which means we both have six-year-old daughters. We have long joked about the hazards of being both sex writers and parents (and in a small town, too, no less): What will they say at the P.T.A.? What if our daughters stumble across one of our books? What if one of their friends does during a playdate, and then tells her parents? (And what if it’s the unnecessarily detailed chapter on fisting in our first book, when we were still trying to prove how brave and unshockable we were?!)
But writing about sex for the past fifteen years has also given us plenty of time to think about how we’d like to raise our daughters, and how we will talk to them (and in some cases, are talking to them) about sex. Here are the top ten things we want them — eventually — to know and understand:
1. Your virginity is not a “gift” to bestow on someone.
Your virginity is not even a thing to be objectified or glorified. In fact, penile intercourse, whenever you do it (if ever you do it), should not be put on a pedestal while handjobs and oral sex are demoted to meaningless freebies. All sexual acts are intimate and meaningful, and should be approached with thoughtfulness, deliberateness and respect. And when you have any kind of sexual relation for the first time, it should be because you want to — not because you like someone sooooo much you just want to do something nice for them, not because everyone else is doing it, and not because someone is pressuring you to.
2. Your body is beautiful and it belongs to you.
You will probably hear dumb guys talking about “meat curtains” or “fish tacos” or “gaping axe wounds.” These guys have no idea what they’re talking about, and are merely covering for the fact that they don’t know their way around a woman’s body. Your vagina does not smell like tuna fish, it smells like a vagina, and as long as you eat well and shower regularly with soap (no douching!), any guy who likes you will like the way it smells. And your labia do not look like roast beef slices. They look like labia, and they come in all shapes and sizes (sometimes even different shapes and sizes on the same woman), with different hairstyles — don’t believe the myth of sexual “norms” perpetuated by porn! (And stay away from anyone who does.) Oh, and you do not have a hoo-ha or a coochie or a vajayjay. You have a vulva. You have a vagina. You have a clitoris. (Okay, you can give your genitalia cutesy nicknames, but only if you can first name all your genital parts correctly and without shame.)
3. Masturbation is a great way to love and learn about your body.
Before you get intimate with someone, you should get intimate with yourself. You should learn what you like when you’re on your own, because once you’re with another person, it will be really easy to just focus on what they like and what works for them (especially if that person has a penis, which, generally speaking, is a much simpler machine to operate). Try lube, try a little vibrator, try closing your eyes and listening to music. And don’t worry if you can’t bring yourself to orgasm at first — these things take time.
4. If you have to get drunk to have sex, then you’re not ready to have sex.
When you get drunk you might not have safer sex. You might get talked into doing things you’re not comfortable with. You might sleep with someone you don’t even like. You might get date-raped (which wouldn’t be your fault, but drunkenness certainly increases the risk of it happening). Have all your wits about you when it comes to sexual situations so you can make smart, informed decisions and can give consent.
5. If you’re not comfortable enough with someone to talk about safer sex, then you’re not ready to have sex with them.
Talk about your partner’s sexual history — and yours. Ask them if they always use barrier protection (condoms, oral sex dams) — and if they don’t, then don’t go there. If a guy tells you that sex with a condom feels awful, he’s lying. Sure, it feels better for him without a condom, but it’s still sex, and it’s the only kind he’s getting. You can tell him that sex with a condom feels better than sex with his own right hand. But please know that condoms will not protect you from every S.T.I. — some infections exist on the surrounding skin, and sometimes condoms break. This, however, is no excuse to forgo barrier protection all together — they’re like seatbelts: they don’t prevent every accident, but they make driving a hell of lot safer (so make sure you always use both seatbelts and barrier protection!). It’s also a great idea to use a back-up form of birth-control, like the Pill (but the Pill et al does not mean you can forgo the condoms!). Have we used enough exclamation points to make ourselves clear?!?!??! P.S. The HPV vaccine is not about sex, it’s about protecting your body. It’s about saving your life. You will get it.
6. It’s not “bossy” to ask for what you want in bed.
Someone might think they know how to please you in bed, but they don’t. Every woman is different, and even the same woman is different on different days. Maybe your partner has hooked up a hundred times and this is your first time — you are still the expert on your own body. (Especially if you masturbate!) Show and tell them. Guide them with your hands. Encourage them when they get something right. If it doesn’t feel good to you, switch things up. Now, you know what is bossy? When someone pushes your head towards their crotch. Your ears are not a steering wheel! And oral sex is sex. It’s a big deal, and you should only go there when you’re ready. (In fact, if you’re not comfortable letting someone go down on you, then why would you feel okay going down on them?)
7. Maybe you’re gay. Maybe you’re bisexual. Maybe you don’t know yet.
And it’s all good. Be yourself. And don’t worry too much about labels.
8. You never “owe” a person sex.
It doesn’t matter how long you’ve been dating, or how long you’ve been naked together, or how blue their balls/labia are. It doesn’t matter if you two have had sex before. It doesn’t matter if they just treated you to dinner (or to oral sex). It doesn’t even matter if you’re half-way through some sexual act, including intercourse, and suddenly change your mind. You can stop at any time. You don’t even have to start.
9. Sex is not just intercourse.
We’ve said it before, we’ll say it again. Oral sex is sex. So is manual sex. So is using a toy together. So is frottage! And given how far your clitoris is from the vaginal opening, intercourse alone will probably not lead to an orgasm for you. In fact, the majority of women need clitoral stimulation in order to climax, and a penis simply can’t reach that far. But you know what can? Your partner’s hand. Your hand. A small vibrator. Even then, your orgasm is not guaranteed — that will take time, and practice. If your partner doesn’t care about your orgasm, or gets impatient with your orgasm, you need to dump them immediately. (Then tell your mom and we’ll go out for ice cream…or a stiff drink.)
10. Sex is awesome!
When you do it with the right person, at the right time, sex can be amazing. It can feel, like, really good. It can be fun and exciting, it can bring you closer to your partner, it can reduce stress, it can make you love a person more than you thought possible (though to be sure, love is not a requirement for sex — mutual respect, however, is). But sex isn’t usually awesome at first. Even when you’re head over heels in love and one hundred percent ready to do the deed, sex exists on a learning curve. That said, the better you know someone before you have sex, the more comfortable you will probably be asking for what you want. Good sex requires practice. It requires knowledge about your body (we happen to have a few books you might want to read…). It requires experimentation, and play. And it requires a sense of humor so you can both laugh it off when someone farts or queefs or gets an elbow in the face. Remember, there is no such thing as “normal” in bed — there is only what you like, and what you’re comfortable with.
Have fun, be safe, and remember: You can tell your mom anything. We’re, well, unshockable.
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