My New Sex Ed Teacher: Mom

A contributor friend of ours, who wishes to remain anonymous, has a confession to make:

Until about a year ago, my mother was always very close-minded about sex. I never had “the talk” with either of my parents, and I learned about intercourse and other modes of love making via fellow classmates, porn, and the public school curriculum. Though I would have liked to have more direct communication with my mom about the birds and the bees, I did pick up a few messages about sex through my parents’ everyday reactions to the stories I shared with them from school. For example, during my sophomore year in high school, when I told my mom how a fellow classmate skipped lab to go visit a certain “male friend” in New York to have sex with him, my mother shook her head, spat in the air, and said, “Whore! That girl’s got no future.”

As you can imagine, as a child and teenager, I had mixed feelings about sex. The second time I got my period, I hid my bloody underwear for two days in a file cabinet before my father discovered them (he shrieked with horror). Over time, however, I improved and managed to come to my own conclusions about sex, which, surprisingly, turned out to be healthier than one might expect. Without any formal guidance, I had avoided becoming another Bristol Palin, and my parents never had to endure any Juno moment, where, rubbing my stomach, I told them that I was pregnant.

But now, out of the blue, my mother has adopted a whole new attitude on sex and communicating with one’s children about intercourse, contraception, and pregnancy. During one of our midnight snacking sessions, she suddenly said, “I know you’re not sexually active. But do you think about it?” I was in the middle of biting into a piece of toast. Instead, I bit my tongue and started yelling in pain. I felt embarrassed about being asked such a question, especially from my self-professed anti-sex mother. I couldn’t tell at the time whether her question was an attempt at open-mindedness or a trap to entangle me in some family scandal. At any rate, I told her in my matter-of-fact voice that yes, I do in fact think about sex but I never feel compelled to act on anything. She shrugged and left the conversation at that.

A few weeks ago, my mother again began a conversation about sex. She was lying on her bed, her head propped up by several pillows. She said to me, “Sex isn’t always comfortable or even thrilling. Especially if the man doesn’t know what he’s doing. Or is soft and short. Sometimes, I think that length doesn’t matter as much as the hardness. Maybe I’m wrong, though.” And then she went on to do the unthinkable: talk about the details of her and my father’s sex life, mentioning porn, satisfaction, and who knows what else, because I stopped listening. Sitting on the edge of the mattress, I reacted in the way I thought most appropriate — by screaming, “Mom! I don’t want to know about these things!” Her reaction was a mixture of hurt and frustration, as if she was just trying to get a message through to my thick skull but was failing miserably. She flipped over on her side, crossed her arms, and replied in a nonchalant voice, “Fine. Have it your way. I’m just telling you the facts now, so you’ll be prepared later.”

I can only interpret my mother’s sudden interest in conversing about sex as a feeble attempt to make up for past mistakes, which, however inconsequential they were (in my opinion), left her feeling guilty for what she believes is my general inability to harbor romantic feelings for others. And so the topic of sex is continuing to make surprise appearances in our daily conversations. Sometimes, I address them directly (“Yes, I occasionally subdue my sexual urges by masturbating”). At other times, I dismiss them quickly (“I’m not going to talk about this anymore, Mom, since discussions of anal sex don’t apply to me right now”).

Even though I have not made any irrational decisions about sex (remaining a virgin for my own personal reasons), I really would have liked my mother to have played a more active role in my sex education during my childhood and adolescent years. But I appreciate the fact that she is going out of her way to finally address an issue we have both submerged for too long. So now I’m torn between feeling like it’s “too little, too late” and “better late than never.”


  1. she probably came from the era that NO ONE ever dared talk about sex. Then she had to morph her way through the fears of STDs, AIDS and the horrible things that happen in the sexual world today. I don’t fault her for trying but she does need to step back and look at how she is talking with her daughter. Open communication should have started years ago. Maybe only in recent years has she learned to feel comfortable with her own sexuality. It being something she can express freely is natural. She is trying to help. I think it is great she shares, however I do agree she should not use her personal experience as a point of reference.

    Women need only the tools to learn themselves sexually, how to be safe sexually and to understand that there is a vast difference at various stages in life as to how men and women relate to one another sexually. It constantly changes. THAT is where the breakdown happens with in communication and the knowledge of sex. No one prepares women OR men for how sex evolves through life. Be open minded and free to express as long as it does not hurt anyone.

  2. *
    It is a shame U have such a cold and distant relationship with your mother. There should be few boundaries between mother and daughter, only love and acceptance, attention and affection. You have a hard lesson to learn about being loving, open hearted and open minded and need to let go of all the judgemental nonsense you are clinging to.

  3. Your mother loves you. The last thing a mother wants to picture is her beloved daughter having sex with someone who she is not sure is the one to love her and take care of her after sex. As mothers we love to see our daughters have fun and the best and most beautiful things in life. As a mother it is the most painful and scarriest to see or even think our daughters are in danger, risk, or getting hurt. Your mother loves you and every act was an act of love. just like you, she is doing her best to show you the best of life. So that you have a rich and full life with as little pain, risk, or danger as possible. I am sorry to see others don’t see the courage and love your mother has to be your best friend as she sees you growing and in need of answeres. Your mother loves you, you are very lucky to have a mother that cares and more than anything a mother that is wild and couragous to share what she feels would help keep you close and safe. Now it is your turn to be open minded but most of all open hearted.

  4. Your mom is just looking for someone to listen to her, or maybe she’s just trying to build your relationship. /kanye shrug. Whatever it is, don’t shut her down. You may not want to hear it, but it’s gonna make her happy, so just endure the pain.

  5. I can’t imagine my mom doing that. Like the poster, my mom never really talked to me about sex. Everything I knew was from school, friends, and once I got internet access, sites like this one. Thankfully, I developed somewhat of a healthy attitude toward sex.

    My mom never said word one about it, other than it’s “forbidden” until I was married (though she was seven months pregnant at her own). My dad talked to me a little about it, but I think it was a little awkward for him. I remember one day, I had to drop him off at work and as he was driving, he asked, “So, how far have you and (ex’s name) gone?” I was appalled! It was just out of the blue! No, I didn’t tell him because he has a habit of swearing up and down he won’t tell my extremely conservative mother and then he does anyway.

    He became more open and less awkward once I moved in with my fiance and he put two and two together, figuring I was no longer a virgin. He talked about pregnancy and birth control…though he did use him and my mom as examples. Yes, I know they had sex…and they did it often. However, I don’t want to hear about them doing it. My mom still not saying a peep, but that’s fine.

    Basically, I kinda get why her mom is sharing her stuff. She might not know any other way, as inappropriate as it may be.

  6. I agree that it sounds like the mum is wanting to “share” the way she would with her girlfriends, but I also agree that it’s completely inappropriate for her to be discussing stuff with her daughter that makes her uncomfortable. No matter how close you are to your children, you have to be really careful not to cross their “ick” boundaries: you can give them the sex talk, but way TMI if you talk about how you and dad do it, ditto for marital difficulties, whatever. For the mum to not be aware of these boundaries suggests she’s got some issues, that, as M.L. says, would be better discussed with a therapist than this woman’s daughter.

  7. Honey, your mom has serious boundary issues. What with the refusal to talk about sex at all, calling girls “Whores” simply because they are sexually active and then going beyond YOUR comfort range by prying into your sex life and telling you things NO mother should confide in a child, she needs help. And, as the Power Dynamic between mother and daughter is not even, the help cannot come from you.

    My guess is she may be sexually unsatisfied and very immature, sexually and otherwise. Maybe she has recently got herself a lover and realizes, late in life, that sex CAN be good, (with the crack which was obviously about her husband and some men “not knowing what they are doing.”) Either way, she should be confiding in a friend her own age OR a therapist. Not her own child.

    I’d stick with your answer, ““I’m not going to talk about this anymore, Mom, since discussions of sex don’t apply to me right now OR I simply don’t want to discuss the subject.” Even when you DO start having sex.

    She doesn’t know or care where your boundaries are, and if you DO confide in her, it may be told to everyone she feels she wants to tell quickly. My mother has a similar problem, and I cut her off short talking about sex (first with the “disgust” with any questions I asked as a child, and then inappropriately explicit talk and probing questions, as well as rummaging through my belongings when I was in my teens) and then I refused to EVER discuss the issue of sex with her in any form. She eventually got the message (although she tried to give me “man pleasing advice” when I got married….I knew a heck of a lot more about sex than she did at that point. And, it was awful advice…)

    People who don’t have boundaries can’t be trusted with YOUR private thoughts or actions, whether she is your mother or not. Shutting down the conversations, before she has a chance to use your own words against you (which is what people with boundary issues do) is your best bet.

    Just because somebody gives birth doesn’t mean they automatically know how to raise a child and keep that child comfortable and safe and properly informed about what they need to know about life.

    I don’t believe in “The” Talk. Sex education for children should be an ongoing dialogue, sparked by the child’s curiosity and the parent’s ability to read the child when she needs some info. I have 4 kids, from their early 20s down to grammar school age. I don’t use my own sex life as reference point, but we educated our kids on everything from menstruation, to masturbation to sex acts to birth control by NOT using either their father and I as analogies or using my children’s own life experiences as a reference. (“I would never discuss their father’s performance with them. Tres creepy, IMO.) My older daughter and I have discussed things casually (almost as a joke) but actual personal sex acts, (what either one of us do) are simply not discussed. There is a boundary there, between mother and child, and we all respect it.

    My kids’ questions were answered as they came up during childhood and their teen years, from discussions of birth control triggered by an episode of Seinfeld (“Mama, what’s a diaphragm?”) to telling our then 2 year old boy, “Honey, you may play with your penis in your room or in the potty, but please could you leave it alone, when you are in the kitchen or living room when we have company? Some people are uncomfortable with that, and your penis is YOURS, not be shared until you are older.”

    You may need to use the “Broken record” technique. Just keep deflecting her and letting her know you simply will NOT discuss your sex life, and that you have NO interest in discussing hers. Eventually, she may get the message.

    Good luck, I am sorry you are having to go through this. I can relate

  8. I’m with meeglet. Your mom is looking to you to help her discover her own sexuality.

    It’s hard to think about your parents as sexual beings, but after all, if they weren’t where would you be? Try to get past the squick factor and see if you two can help each other.

    And then, you know, post a follow up…

  9. i don’t know. as it reads now, it sounds more like your mother is looking for a confidant to share her own issues with and not seeking to amend her past behavior. i’d dig a little deeper; maybe even just ask, “mom, why are you suddenly asking me all of the questions? are you trying to make up for lost time with me, or is this about you and your own sex life?”

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