Straight Talk Advice

Mar 17, 2010

Sex talk easier with older sibling than with Mom

DEAR STRAIGHT TALK: I’m 14. I have a 17-year-old sister who I confide in about everything — and I mean, everything. All I’ve learned about female sexuality I’ve learned from her. The problem is our mom. She’s upset that I rely on my sister for this since it’s supposed to be a “mother-daughter” thing. However, I’m just not comfortable discussing sexual topics with her because she acts uncomfortable. Her face turned red as a tomato the few times we tried. She also doesn’t understand why I’ve started locking our door when I’m undressing even though I’m totally comfortable with my sister there. Again, it’s because she always seems uncomfortable when she sees me naked — which then makes me uncomfortable. How do I make my Mom understand that it’s nothing personal and to respect that? — Rocklin, Calif.

Scot 22, San Luis Obispo, Calif. Ask me a question

My dad never gave me the sex talk. That duty fell to my mom. It was pretty awkward because it was broached too late and we weren’t open about those things to begin with. This line of communication stayed fairly closed until I grew up. Now I can talk with her about pretty much anything. It sounds like you haven’t been very open or talkative on this subject either, so tell her you are being safe, that you will always talk with your sister before making any decisions, and that you promise to come to her if something is serious.

Katrina 17, Sand Spring, Okla. Ask me a question

As long as your older sister is properly informed and can relay the right messages, what’s the problem? My dad and stepmom had the talk with me and my sisters, and our household is pretty open around talking about sex, but when there is discomfort, my younger sisters turn to my older sister.

Akasha 16, Sacramento, Calif. Ask me a question

My mom and I talk about everything. But I don’t dress in front of her. That would really bother me.

Kira 17, Santa Cruz, Calif. Ask me a question

I have a 14-year-old sister and we both felt it was more comfortable and natural to talk to each other rather than our mom. That’s because you feel like your parents will judge you when you ask a question. Now I’m living elsewhere and my absence has really enhanced the relationship between my sister and mom because my sister can’t just rely on me. The sex talk came for me when I asked my mom if this guy I liked could stay overnight. When she was silent, I said, “I’m not ready to have sex if that’s what you’re worried about.” That broke the ice. From that point, we were able to communicate more freely about sexual topics. Maybe you could be the one to get things started with your mom. Regarding undressing, if my mom needs to talk to me about something, she waits outside until I get dressed. It seems natural to both of us that I would desire privacy.

DEAR ROCKLIN: Lots of parents are embarrassed about the sex talk, so don’t be so hard on her. Help break the ice by going to her, together with your sister, and ask her a question. She’ll be honored and it will begin to bond you as women. Regarding nudity, you are no different than most developing teens. You deserve privacy. But could your mom be worried you are hiding something? Next time she knocks, holler through the door (with some humor in your voice), “Mom, everything is symmetrical and developing naturally — and in case you’re worried, no, I’m not cutting and nobody is bruising me.” Then open the door in your bra and underwear, so she can see (at least most of you). Of course, if there is an issue, please show her — or your doctor.

Editor’s Web Note: The “sex talk” is one of the most nerve-wracking things a parent faces. It’s best when it’s less a single “talk” than an ongoing open, safe dialogue. One of today’s panelists told me about when she and her sister hit puberty. Her dad was very gruff, protective, and black-and-white about the whole thing — to the point that they shared nothing with him. After one of his daughters was raped, and he only chanced to learn about later (due to her fear of telling him), he realized how counter-productive this parenting style was. Now he communicates all the time how he is there for them and that it is safe to share anything with him. How’s that for a father who ‘gets’ it? For your teen to come to you in times of trouble or confusion, you need to become part parent, part friend. — Lauren Forcella

  1. By Maggie , age , from Fair Oaks, CA on 03/17/2010

    I feel the same way and have always gone to my older sister for information and advice on sexually related matters, because I can talk to her freely and without her being uncomfortable or embarrassed.  However, our mom is different and is happy to let this be my sister’s “job.”  We therefore discuss these things quietly in our room with the door closed, and our mom stays out of it. When I started to have to use sanitary napkins, it was my sister who helped show me how to do it.  I would never be comfortable doing something so private in front of our mom, but it was no problem with my sister since she made me feel totally at ease.  She was also the one who took me shopping for my first bra and helped me try them on and get one that fit right.  We don’t have a problem with our mom wanting to come in our room when we’re undressed even though we wouldn’t really care that much. She always knocks and makes sure we have something on since she knows that we’re sometimes casual about nudity in our room when its just the two of us. 

    Maggie

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  2. By G.S., age , from Carmichael, CA on 03/20/2010

    Even though I am not a teenager, as the single mother of 2 teenaged daughters, I really like Straight Talk as it gives me great insight in dealing with my teenagers. My daughters are very much like Rocklin and Maggie, so it is good to hear that this is not uncommon. They are not comfortable talking to me about sexual matters or their maturing bodies even though I have tried my best to be open to them about this.  However, they are very close and can talk to each other about anything. They share a room and aren’t the least bit shy about undressing in front of each other, but heaven forbid it their own mother wants to come in the room when they’re undressed.  When my older daughter was beginning to undergo puberty, I made what I thought was a totally innocent comment about the fact that she was developing pubic hair when I happened to see her nude.  She got extremely embarrassed and has not permitted me to see her undressed ever since even though she had never been shy about nudity in front of me before. Her sister who follows everything her older sister does began acting the same way. They are even comfortable sharing the bathroom when using the shower and even the toilet, but again I’m not permitted in there even if I’m in a hurry and need something and promise not to look. The fact that they can share the bathroom this way makes things much easier during the “morning rush” so it’s actually a good thing.  While I’ve come to accept the fact that they do not feel comfortable with me in this way, it is still good to hear that other teenage girls are the same way and that this is not unusual.

    G.S.

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  3. By Vickie , age , from Henderson, NV on 03/21/2010

    I would like to have “equal time” and let people know that this isn’t true of all teenage girls and their moms. I don’t have an older sister to talk to about sex and the female body.  I’m 16 and just have a 12 year old sister, and we live with our mom who is a single parent.  We have always been able to discuss sexuality openly. My sister is just beginning puberty and all 3 of us are now able to have “girl talk” about these things.

    It also really surprises me to hear that many girls seem to have a problem with their moms seeing them nude, and Lauren’s comment that “most developing teens” feel this way.  It has never been a problem for me or my sister, and I assumed that it was this way with most mothers and daughters as well as sisters. Since we have an all female household, my sister and I don’t even go out of our way to close the door to our room when we’re undressed or even put on a bathrobe when we go to take a shower.  I’m equally comfortable with my mom and my sister seeing me nude and am more comfortable with them in this regard than anyone else, even my closest friends.  I find it hard to understand how a girl could have a problem with her own mom seeing her nude.

    Vickie

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