Straight Talk Advice

Apr 23, 2013

Brother blackmailed over condoms

Dear Straight Talk: I'm 16, sharing a room with my 13-year-old sister because our single-parent mom can’t afford otherwise. My sister snooped, found my hidden condoms and now she's blackmailing me. I have to pay her from my part-time job, which barely covers my expenses, make her bed and clean her part of the room. If she tells, I'll be grounded and probably unable to see my girlfriend anymore. My girlfriend and I both turn 17 this year, have over a B average and have never been in trouble. You might say we shouldn't be having sex at our age, but it’s not uncommon and I’m writing about the blackmail. — Blackmailed in Sacramento

Brie 22, San Francisco Ask me a question

Your sister is watching too much “Gossip Girl.” Tell your mom yourself. I was sexually active at 16, as are many others. You’re being safe, you’re earning your own money. Being honest shows additional responsibility. This warrants a sit-down talk, not grounding. Take the high road and don't tattle on your sister. She sounds stressed and open communication with your mom will set a good example. I hardly told my mom anything in high school and I regret that. Parents can be surprisingly understanding.

Nicole 23, Santa Rosa, Calif. Ask me a question

Sounds like the perfect opportunity to start an honest, adult relationship with your mom. I believe she should respect your relationship. If you do get grounded at least you were doing the right thing [by telling]. Regarding the condoms, just buy more.

Taylor 16, Santa Rosa, Calif. Ask me a question

I’d be tempted to dig up a secret about her, LOL. But, no, don’t add to the game. Chances are she’s bluffing, so just tell her you can’t afford to pay anymore, which is true. If she does tell, big deal. Your mom knows you’re having sex. She probably did, too, at your age. You’re grounded for a while, then it's over.

Katelyn 19, Azusa, Calif. Ask me a question

Your sister isn’t after getting you into trouble or she would've tattled already. And if she does tell, the blackmail gives you something to tell, too. Don't let her boss you around any longer. Getting grounded is no worse than being blackmailed. Yes, your mom will know about your sexual relations, but there was always that chance.

Gregg 22, Los Angeles Ask me a question

Haha! Your sister is torching you! I’d probably just tell my mom about it, including my feelings for my girlfriend. It’s that or keep paying Sis.

Savannah 19, Boston, Mass. Ask me a question

Why would your mom be so angry? Is she extremely religious? It’s the 21st century, and if sex is committed and consensual and you're not too young, there shouldn't be a problem. Tell her yourself. I wouldn't be surprised if she understands and your sister is in more trouble than you.

Ochatre 23, Kampala, Uganda Ask me a question

Man-up and share your story with your mom. She will either appreciate or scorn you, but it will be better than blackmail.

Dear Blackmailed: Telling your mom yourself is the unanimous advice from the panel — and they do consider questions independently. I always encourage minors to wait as long as possible before having even safe sex — and if they are sexually active, to tell parents. Anyone who's had an accidental pregnancy, debilitating heartache, or a STI understands why I encourage this. That said, Taylor’s advice to call your sister's bluff will probably work. Enlighten her that blackmail is a felony and age-of-consent violations such as yours aren’t even charged. If she tells, put your best foot forward and show your maturity.

Editor's Note: I refer to “minors” in my answer above because “Blackmailed” was writing from California where age of consent is 18, one of the highest in the world. Only six other U.S. states have an age of consent this high, as well as a small number of countries worldwide (some with ages higher than 18). In the U.S., 31 states use an age of consent of 16 — including Hawaii which upped theirs from age 14 just a few years ago — and the remaining 13 states use age 17. Many states have “close-in-age” exemptions (sometimes called "Romeo and Juliet” laws) where partners close in age, or who are both under the age of consent, can engage in consensual sex without fear of prosecution.

Around the world, most countries allow heterosexual consensual sexual relations to legally begin between ages 14 and 16, including most of Europe. Examples of large countries with a heterosexual age of consent of 14 are China and Brazil. Russia’s is age 15, and much of the rest of the world is age 16, including Canada, who upped their age of consent from 14 to 16 in 2008 to discourage internet predators. Interestingly, except for the U.S. and a few other countries, age of consent for homosexuals is generally a higher age, if not illegal.

Personally, I think age 16 or 17 is a realistic legal age of consent for teens in the United States. And regardless of where you live, anything under age 14 (and there are a few countries like this), makes women less free by encouraging child-brides and less education and opportunity for women.

To those with younger siblings, your behavior has a huge influence on them. Most of you care about each other (or will down the road). Set a good example, or at least be discreet, so they don’t start things earlier than you did — which is what usually happens. Even without pregnancy, heartache, or STIs, sex too young can be destabilizing. If you are sexually active and your younger sibling finds out, open communication with parents sets a great example of the responsible thing to do. —Lauren

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  1. By Matt, age , from Citrus Heights, CA on 04/23/2013

    I also have to share a room with my little sister which is a real drag since I’m a guy and she’s a real pest besides.  Our room doesn’t have a lock and one time when I didn’t think she was home she walked in on me doing my “thing” if you know what I mean.  First she screamed, then she decided to demand money or she’d tell our mom.  This isn’t something you talk to your mom about, but I figured she must know that all guys do this and really didn’t think I’d get in trouble for it, so I refused to give in and told my sister to go ahead and tell.  However, she didn’t tell, so I’m glad I called her bluff.  Since we have always had to share a room, I’m used to my sister seeing “it” and it doesn’t really bother me and she’s seen it enough times that she has no interest in looking at it, but I don’t want her seeing me doing this, so I don’t take any chances any more and only do it in the bathroom with the door locked.

    Matt

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  2. By Christie, age , from Petaluma, CA on 04/23/2013

    I had a similar situation.  I have to share my room with my stepsister when she stays with us and we don’t get along.  She snooped in my dresser and found my birth control pills and tried to blackmail me.  My mom knew all about them.  We have a very open relationship and when I told her I was sexually active, she told me that I needed to be on the pill and arranged the appointment with our doctor to get them.  Therefore, I refused to give in to the blackmail.  My stepsister went ahead and told, but it made her look like a fool since my mom already knew and approved, and my stepsister got in lots of trouble for snooping in my dresser and trying to blackmail me.  My advice is don’t give in to blackmail as it usually will make you worse off.

    Christie

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  3. By Jessica, age , from Westminster, CA on 04/24/2013

    I found out that my sister was taking Adderall that she was getting on the black market.  We were fighting and arguing alot, mostly revolving around having to share a small room and because our mom made us share the bathroom in the morning so she could have enough of her own private time in there but she didn’t think we needed privacy “since your sisters.”  Anyway, since we share a room and the bathroom, we see each other nude and I could see what it was doing to her body, but our mom didn’t have a clue.

    My first thought was to blackmail her.  However, I realized that even though we weren’t getting along she was still my sister and I loved her and knew she needed help, so I told our mom who made her undress down to her thong and could see what bad shape she was in and made her get help.  At first my sister was mad and we had even more conflict, but when she started getting better she thanked me and we now have become closer than we ever were.  Sharing a small room is still difficult, but we are able to handle and rarely fight any more and while we would rather use the bathroom in private, even that isn’t really a big deal anymore even when we’re “on the facility.”

    I’m really glad that I didn’t blackmail her and did the right thing instead as it has made things much better for both of us.

    Jessica

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  4. By M.L., age , from Woodland, CA on 04/25/2013

    I caught my sister naked and giving her boyfriend a blowjob in our room on a Saturday when our parents were gone and I came home early from a babysitting job.  He pulled his “you know what” out of her mouth when I came in and I could see that he was wearing a condom, so at least it was safe sex. We hadn’t been getting along and my first thought was blackmailing her.  However, I realized that someday I might be in a similar position or do something else that could get me in big trouble that she could find out about, so instead we made a deal that I wouldn’t tell on her and she wouldn’t tell on me if there ever was a time she could get me in trouble.  We agreed to the deal and now never tell on each other or try to blackmail each other.  Even though we still don’t get along too great much of the time and have lots of conflicts over sharing a room, we have kept our agreement and I am glad I made it.

    One solution for Blackmailed in Sacramento could be to try to make a similar deal with his sister.  Unless she’s perfect and it sure doesn’t sound like she is, someday she’s going to do something that could get her in trouble that she’ll want her brother to keep quiet about. 

    M.L.

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  5. By Jill, age , from Roseville, CA, U.S. on 04/27/2013

    My mom forbids me from wearing thong underwear if you can believe that because she says it’s “indecent” and “unhealthy”.  I wear it anyway behind her back.  It’s what just about all the girls wear and I don’t want to look different than everybody else in the locker room and at sleepovers and slumber parties.  I share my room with my stepsister when she stays with us.  I don’t worry about undressing in front of her since we’re both girls so she sees that I wear it and she wears it too, but her mom doesn’t have a problem with it.  We got into an argument and she said that either I gave her her way or she’d tell my mom.  I got really mad and refused because I knew that if I gave in once, I’d be screwed forever.  She backed down, so I’m glad I didn’t give in, so my advice is not to give in or there will be no end to it. 

    Jill

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  6. By Lauren Forcella, age , from Sebastopol, CA, USA on 04/29/2013

    That everyone who wrote either refrained from using blackmail, or called the bluff on someone who was, is very heartening. Thanks to all for writing with your experiences! “Blackmailed in Sacramento” reported back that he called his sister’s bluff and so far she hasn’t told. His situation sounded pretty responsible — and while I always wish teens would wait longer before having sex or oral sex (it really is more emotionally and physically serious than you think) and start an honest dialogue with your parents if you are sexually active (like Christie… yay!), I know that many teens won’t ever follow this advice. (If that’s you, I urge you to reconsider!)

    I was also really glad to get your post, Jessica. It demonstrates the type of situation that does, WITHOUT A DOUBT, need parental help. Certainly blackmail is never appropriate, but neither is loyalty toward “not getting each other in trouble.”

    Many situations, especially involving drugs, alcohol, eating disorders, bullying, crying oneself to sleep, choking (or other dangerous) games, rape, extreme sexual acting out, cutting, or other self-harm and suicidal behaviors, are NOT cases to adopt loyalty over. You will sleep better and everyone will be happier if you tell a caring adult who can get the person the help he or she needs. In these situations, telling someone is the TRUE loyalty to that person. —Lauren

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