I don’t have all the answers, but I see that us moms clearly need to address the topic of sexuality with our daughters.
Having six 12-year-old girls in my home for my daughter’s birthday slumber party was a rude awakening. Rude with a capital “R.” Where did these girls learn what they know about sex and why must they speak of it so loudly? They were obsessed with repeatedly screaming vulgarities and describing sexual acts with many partners and things in detail.
It wasn’t the words vagina, ass, fuc*, vibrator, etc. or the sex talk that bothered me. What disturbed me was the clear lack of understanding of the sanctitude of the female body or the act of sex.
Within a couple hours after the party started, I felt it was out of control. I asked them to “tone it down” and speak respectfully in my home. Feeling slightly flooded with the “oh my God, what do I do?” thought that moms have often, I felt a responsibility to act. I sat down, breathed a bit, my heart softened and my mind cleared. I realized this couldn’t be handled with anger and punishment. No, this is a job for Compassion. Compassion with a capital “C.”
Many of us in our 40s had parents who broached the sex topic with a “don’t talk about it, don’t do it” mentality. Often they looked the other way. They didn’t know what to do. This old paradigm is not going to work with our girls. Let’s face it—it didn’t work with us either.
Our girls have a powerful force of information we didn’t have—the Internet. But we can’t place all the blame on technology. Sex is no longer taboo—our culture loves sex. We have Magic Mike and Shades of Grey. We have women that our daughters idolize, plumping their rear ends and lips. We recognize the need to talk more openly about sex with our kids, but much of the information we give them is purely factual. These girls understand the penis can go in the vagina, anus, and mouth. They know people have sex in twos, threes and more. They certainly know how babies are made. It’s what they don’t know that scares me.
What they don’t seem to understand is that their body is a temple. It is sacred ground and no one should come upon that territory without their explicit consent. Nor should they accept when boys or girls make lewd references to their bodies, even jokingly. They lack a certain reverence.
If all girls saw their bodies as beautiful, whole, amazing, important—as a magnificent treasure— would they not want to guard that treasure? If they don’t, they will be pirated. If they present themselves to their peers with confidence and boldly protect the right to own their bodies, boys will catch onto the fact that girls deserve to be approached with respect and honor. It is time for our girls to take the lead, or else they’ll fumble in the dark and the results will bring them and us to tears.
How do we go about teaching this to our girls? I think we need to start with ourselves. I know how wonderfully made and whole I am and treat my body with respect. I am my daughter’s role model. If I don’t take care of myself—physically, mentally and emotionally—she will notice and not take me seriously when I tell her she needs to take care of herself. Not only that, if I don’t practice self-care, I’m cranky and unable to parent well.
We also have to talk about the different kinds of sex—there’s committal and non-committal. There’s playful and holy, and often times both. Sometimes it involves love, sometimes not—but the act should never override our love of self. It should never overstep our boundaries of self-worth. Our daughters need to understand boundaries and when it’s okay to allow someone to cross them, as little as we’d like to admit that it will happen.
Lastly, I believe we need to work on our relationship with our daughters. I want my daughter to model me, not her peers. I know if I allow her to place more importance on what her friends think than what I think, I will lose her.
To strengthen our bond (okay, more so to form a bond, because I was feeling like we were always butting heads and we were living in constant frustration with each other) my daughter and I recently attended a retreat at the Omega Institute in Rhinebeck, NY on Mothering and Daughtering, led by Sil and Eliza Reynolds. I highly recommend attending one of their workshops or reading their book. The workshop profoundly changed the way we relate to each other.
Want proof? Throughout the slumber party she would come sit on my lap or let me sit with her, and tell me she loves me in front of her friends. This would have never happened before the workshop.
I realized that my frustration with my daughter was driving her farther and farther away. Now, when I feel like pulling my hair out and screaming, I’ll call or text a friend—another mom that will understand what I’m going through. That will enable me to meet my daughter with a soft heart and open arms. To be her friend and mother. To let her know I have her back. With this sort of relationship, I can nurture her into becoming the strong, confident woman that she will need to be to embrace her sexuality in a healthy, uncompromising way.
Moms, please don’t get angry with your daughters for knowing what they know at this age. Have compassion for them. It’s a different world and we need to continue to mother them through these pre-teen and teen years.
Remember to check-in with yourself and your thoughts and beliefs on sexuality to determine how you want to convey those to your daughter. Take care of yourself so you can take care of her. Be her role model and her ally, and hold her close. Don’t let her get away.
Author: Celeste Shea
Editor: Alli Sarazen
Photo: Susana Fernandez/Flickr