For many people, there are few things in the world more awkward than the thought of having a sex conversation with their parents. There is just something deeply and profoundly uncomfortable about it. But embarrassment aside, should you do it? Should you cross that final conversational frontier and talk to your parents about intercourse?
If your answer is yes, and talking to your parents feels like something you want to do, here are a few relatively pain-free ways to jump into the conversation — no matter what stage of life you’re in.
Having sex for the first time
If you have never been sexually active, talking to your parents about sex can feel totally daunting — but the truth is their advice might actually be invaluable. If you think specifically about what you want to get out of the conversation, it can make having it that much easier. Maybe you want to see a gynecologist, or you want to go on birth control and need their help, or you’re thinking about losing your virginity and want their advice. Spend some time really thinking about what you want to say, and the conversation will be that much easier and more productive.
The other piece of advice? “Cut your parents some slack,” says Dr. Holly Richmond a Somatic Psychologist and Certified Sex Therapist. “One of my favorite sayings, at least with my kids, is ‘what’s my job?’ And they say, ‘To keep me safe.’” Her point? No matter your age, your parents just want to keep you safe, so if they seem overbearing or protective just remember their top priority is your health and safety. And if you want a little cheatsheet on where to begin this conversation, LOLA’s sexual wellness kit is a great anatomy and sexual health resource.
Having sex for pleasure
Talking to your parents about sex for pleasure can be awkward territory, but the reality is, sex for pleasure can be a big part of life. Dr. Richmond warns, this conversation might be hard to broach. “I’m a sex therapist and it’s still difficult,” she says of her experience with her own parents. “But it’s a practice. The first time probably won’t go well, but keep trying, keep practicing, and also know yourself and how comfortable your parents will be. If you were raised super religious and they are still religious, talking about sex will never be easy.” Dr. Richmond also encourages parents who are talking to their kids about sex to talk about pleasure as much as pregnancy. “It’s silly to try and talk to kids like all sex is about is making babies,” she says. “Because [for me] that’s not true.”
Trying to get pregnant
If you’re at a point in your life when you’re trying to get pregnant, talking to your parents about sex and their own fertility experience can be very educational. “Fertility is more comfortable for people to discuss with their parents because they are now both adults and they are not directly speaking about sex,” says Omaha-based sex therapist Kristen Lilla. “Fertility is a sensitive subject for many, particularly infertility. I think the best advice for having these conversations is to be open and honest, non-judgmental, and to allow yourself to be vulnerable.”
Dr. Richmond reiterates Lilla’s point, adding that information about your parents fertility and birthing experience can be key to understanding your own. “Find out about your birth story, find out if your parents had a hard time conceiving, were you with your mom immediately on her chest after you were born or were you rushed to the NICU? Were why were those decisions made?” Dr. Richmond says. The answers can help you to map out your own birthing plan or navigate fertility issues.
Bottom line, no matter what stage of life you’re at, talking to your parents about sex might come with uncomfortable pauses, but lots of benefits too. Sex can be an amazing part of life and shouldn’t be taboo, so talk to your parents about it. Who knows, the conversation could be way helpful than you think.