Thursday, November 12, 2009

Beyond vibes

Dear Space Cadet!
I've been a fan of your "From My Orbit" columns. You have so much wisdom, and I'm confident you can help me:
I have a 16 year old daughter who dates 15 year old boy. My daugter & I have a pretty good relationship, she share things with me (something I've never done with my mom).
Well, she wrote me a note the other day telling me that she wants to have sex with this boy. Just to let you know, we've talked about sex before, I mentioned that I expect her not to have sex until she's 18 (& moves out). I presented all obvious reasons to wait - physical & emotional. This boy she's dating is very decent and intelligent, but he already had sex with his ex-girlfriend & of course, he wants more (and she wants it too now).
Please help me to present more arguments on the emotional side, why at this age they are not ready for sex.
In the meantime, I mentioned that if she wants me to schedule a visit to ob/gyn to talk about birth control options, I'll help with that. I'd rather prefer her having safe sex than me being oblivious to reality. But the truth is I want her to postpone it, she's only 16!
One more thing: I wouldn't want her to be on a pill, because we have very strong breast cancer history in our family, but you know how are teenagers and condoms...
Your advise will be very much appreciated!
 Oh, don't start in too early with the appreciation! Because I'm going to tell you something: Your wishes for your daughter, while they are noble, are not going to be able to dictate what she ultimately does. As soon as you present an "argument," you have essentially set yourself up against her.

And that's not what you want to do. You need to be on her side. See, boyfriends come and go, but moms are forever. You want to be in a place where, even if she does something that she knows you aren't for, she can still come to you.

You already are in a good place: You want the best for your child — safe sex over unsafe sex, if sex is what it comes down to. You're willing to make an appointment for her to talk about birth control options with a doctor, and you're willing to get her The Pill (they're a lot better these days with the low-dose hormones than they used to be when it comes to cancer — smoking is the big no-no). You are in a place where you are facing reality. That is very good. (If you think about it, if you wait until she's 18 and moves out, she will have to go through all this on her own with the Pill and the doctor appointments. I know, I know, the chorus of "she's an adult then!" will ring up, but hey, how mature are 18-y-os in general?)

I get the feeling that you have laid out for her your expectations/wishes. Have you talked, really talked with her about the emotional side? I don't think I have any more wisdom there than you do. I think we're both aware of how much more intimate a relationship gets when sex (or even nudity) comes in. I think we've both had experiences sleeping with people that maybe weren't worthy of it, and not necessarily knowing that at the time. I think we've both dealt with what it means to be a sexual woman for ourselves in an age when women are supposed to be sexual for everyone else and vice versa.
In sum, there is a lot of noise out there about sex, and your job as a parent is to get your daughter to tune into the signal her own body and brain are sending her.

Instead of telling her the circumstances under which her virginity may leave, ask her about what *she* wants, and what she thinks having sex will do for her. It's so uncomfortable, but she may talk herself into that signal, and realize she may be feeling like she should do it because all her friends are and she doesn't want to be left out. She may really be in love with this 15-y-o boy, and she may really feel ready, too. She may realize she's just ready for a vibrator, which, as I've pointed out before, is a lot more trustworthy than any boy.

The thing is, having sex won't automatically change her or her character. But it does put her at quite a few physical risks and in a place where she is very vulnerable to this boy. She can't just weigh the odds (teens, it has been shown in surveys, will say it is rational to play Russian Roulette for something like $2 million, even though there is no rational reason on this Earth to play it — they don't understand odds) and game theory this out. She has to know that the boy who she is going to sleep with is doing it with her for the right reasons. So you may want to ask about this ex of his and what happened with her, and where she sees herself with him.

You can also tell her that if she's not ready to buy condoms, she's probably not ready to have sex, either. It's pat, but it's true.
The other thing I'll say is that in this day and age, virginity is looked on as something like a stigma. There is a lot of condescension to virgins. It may be that in this day and age, there is something to be said to losing your virginity to a boyfriend you really care about rather than waiting for an arbitrary age, or worse, feeling like you have to get it over with by a certain point. Once it's gone, the pressure is off for pretty much ever after.

My next piece of advice to you is when your daughter indicates that she's sexual, you let her have that space in her life to herself. It's not an area that you're responsible for. You love her, and want the best for her, you can help her cultivate an understanding of "the sexual life" but not necessarily her sexual life. As long as the rest of her is thriving — good grades, happy, active in her school/community — there's not really a reason to freak out about that part of her life.

Good luck! And big hugs!


  1. I'd like to throw out to the readers: Have any of you ever been successfully stopped from losing your virginity or having sex with a particular person? What caused the deflorinatus interruptus?

  2. Well... kinda. My mom always used to tell me, "Mermaid, the minute you have sex, I WILL KNOW IT. A mother just knows these things."

    I can't say that her statement was at the root of what stopped me (that was ME knowing that I didn't want to lose it to just any horny doofus I knew) but I did have a mental image at times when things were getting hot and heavy of my mother sitting up in bed from a dead sleep and shrieking NOOOOOOOOOOOO!! A true mood-killer, that. :)

    About the teenage girl ~ I hope she's not doing this just to compete with boyfriend's ex. Know what I mean, jellybean?

  3. Good common sense advice! Now if you could only get those silly earthlings to listen to it...

  4. I realize that you many not have wanted submariner-ly advice mom, but, here's hoping you read this: she's already had sex. Coming to you is a way to get BC. She can't get reliable BC on her own (condoms just aren't reliable like the pill, or the patch, or the shot--and lots of families have a history of breast cancer, with or without the pill--which is worse, taking the modern version of BC or getting pregnant?). Sponges and spermicides are pretty effective regarding pregnancy, but, STDs are a concern, too, and, fact is, this girl needs to know ALL of that and have someone non-judgmental, as you point out Spacey, to help guide her. She needs both BC and barrier protection.

    Because, regardless, she'll have the sex. It's been going on since the beginning of time and it will continue, lectures or no. And trying to keep it bottled up only causes kids to engage in riskier behavior because they won't have access to the kind of BC and protection that they can get with parental help/approval/knowledge.

    Trying to stop her now, mom, putting up road blocks because you're projecting you own feelings about sex aren't going to slow down your daughter in the sex department. Not at 16. It's just going to cause her to engage in riskier sex than she has to. Which would be a shame. It's already risky enough at that age, because, as Spacey points out, teenagers are ignorant. They can't help it! So, at least get them as armed as they can be when they're honest enough to come to you and basically say, "Mom, I'm having sex and would like for your help in protecting myself."

  5. That's all true, Smag, but it's not true that teenagers can't get reliable birth control on their own. LISTEN UP ALL YOU TEENAGERS READING THIS!! They can get spermicides (including the sponge) and condoms on their own, without a prescription, which are very effective when used in conjunction, every time.

    Spermicide alone has a 71% effectiveness rate and coupled with a condom it goes up to 92%, which is only 3-5% lower than the pill.

    It's great if kids come to their parents, but teens need to know there IS effective birth control available to them, over the counter, without parental involvement. There's no excuse for unplanned pregnancies, kids!!

  6. Well, MM, I agree that they can do those things, and I certainly DO want to encourage it, but, just for the sake of discussion, BC is 99.999% effective if taken properly. I know they say 98-99%, but that's bull. If modern BC is taken correctly, following all of the rules, pregnancy will not occur. Period. The 99% thing is some sort of legal wrangling (I mean, hell, they say vasectomies and female sterilization are only 99% effective, too), and, too, BC isn't the only concern, as you point out. Condoms are a must as well because of STDs. Regardless of whether young Casanova says he's sleeping only with the 16 year old heroine of this letter. The point is, the more help she can get, the better. And mom needs to realize this!

    But, yes, absolutely, in the end, there is no excuse for unplanned pregnancies, kids! There's even the "morning after" pill if you get really, really stupid. Which I do not suggest, but, it IS there. Don't be a statistic.

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  8. I had to delete that post. It was nothin' but cussing you out for your man-ignorance!! ;)

    Studies have also shown that when a young girl is on some form of hormonal birth control, the likelihood of her using a condom is decreased. Mostly all teenagers care about is preventing pregnancy, and if they think they are using a "foolproof" method, they are less likely to use a condom in addition. Just saying.

    I do acknowledge that you mentioned spermicides and the sponge, but you glossed over the fact that, if used in conjunction with a condom, the effectiveness rate is nearly that of the pill, and neither require parental involvement to obtain.

    No one is arguing the fact that hormonal birth control methods have a more effective rate than other methods. My point is, it's dangerous to tell young women and men that there isn't effective means of birth control available to them without parental intervention. That's simply not correct. There are other methods available (that they do not tell girls about in school) in that deep chasm you have set up between just condoms and having to go to mom and dad for help.

    This is wrong: "She can't get reliable BC on her own"

    This is better: "they won't have access to the kind of BC and protection that they can get with parental help/approval/knowledge."

    Saying they won't have access to the same type is good. Saying they can't get reliable BC on their own is bad. Us having this conversation ~ priceless. ;)

    btw, We both know the "foolproof" methods you mention are only as "foolproof" as the teenager who remembers to take the pill, or put on that patch, same as remembering to insert the spermicide or roll on that condom.

  9. My man ignorance, eh? ;-) Well, as it turns out, we agree on everything you've said, so, I can't be too ignorant. I never meant she can't get reliable BC on her own. That was my bad. I should have said that she can't get the "most reliable" BC on her own. Remember, though, that I was addressing my comments to mom, NOT the daughter. I was trying to point out that the best/most complete protection at that age can only be had through parental help (as far as I know). I wanted mom to think long and hard about that because, as I said, her kid is having the sex already.

    As for everything else you've said? I agree completely. As always. :-)

  10. Well now, sweetie, that's where I had it wrong. While you were addressing mom (and rightfully so), I was addressing the millions of teenage fans that read Spacey's column each week!

    Having the sex already ~ definitely right on that one, Smag. It does no good to shut the barn door after the horse has already gotten out. ;)

  11. Millions of teenage fans ROTFLMAO, Mermie!

  12. I just want to add that in most states (possibly all of them, but I'm not TOTALLY sure about that so I'm hedging my bets), teens can get birth control pills from Planned Parenthood without parental permission. I drove many, many friends to Planned Parenthood in our teenage years, having been the kind of person who, when someone told me they'd lost their virginity, my first question was "did you use protection?"

  13. I'm going to go out on a limb here. I'm going to go with Mom and assume daughter has NOT had sex yet, even though I highly doubt it.

    What about talking to her about all of the other asspects of sex...just not penetration? There are lots and lots and lots of things to do besides actual penetration.

    Get to know each others bodies before "actual" sex.

    Too much??