Considering we are well into the the 21st century, I think it’s time we consciously adopt a set of new guidelines regarding girls’ sexual health. There have always been some sort of “rules” concerning girls and their sexuality, but most are implicit, sex negative (this means believing sex is not the wonderful, positive part of life that it is) and sexist. These 15 new “rules” for girls’ sexual health may make you twitch, but you will come away with a new perspective on talking to your girl about sexuality. You can watch my webinar on this here.
As a parent, it is your responsibility help your daughter grow up to be a whole and healthy adult who really understands sexuality and how to confidently and comfortably embrace this part of herself and life. When a girl is well informed about sex, sexuality and relationships she has a much higher likelihood of avoiding unplanned pregnancy and basically fucking up her dreams and ambitions.
Generally speaking, regular communication and education about sex, love and relationships is not optional – it’s required – and you are the person for the job. Teens say their parents are their main influence when it comes to sexual decision making and you can use these “rules” should support and supplement your conversations.
Here you go — my new rules:
She is the boss of her body. Girls need to hear they are the “boss of their bodies” from an early age because it keeps them safer from sexual abuse. They need to know it is just fine for them to say “no” to any kind of touch that feels uncomfortable to them. This means you need to request permission before touching them (even hugging), teaching them to wipe their own damn butts by the time they are 4 and making sure they know their privates are not for sharing with anyone, even someone they know, love and trust.
Vulva not vagina. Seriously. You cannot see a vagina! Yes, she’s got one, and should know it, but what she can see is her vulva — the outside of the vaginal area. Vulva means “covering” in Latin and is the equivalent to penis. It is more accurate than calling everything down there “vagina.” Vulva power!
The puberty and period talk needs to happen by age 8. Girls are starting puberty at younger ages and so their periods are making the scene earlier too. She needs to know what is going to happen to her body BEFORE it happens so she’s as comfortable and confident as possible. Get her a book – I love The Care And Keeping of You for girls 7 – 10 and The Girls Body Book – Everything You Need To Know for Growing Up YOU for 10 – 13 year olds.
Daddy’s quality time and attention is required. If your baby daddy is in the picture, healthy and sane, it is imperative he spend quality time with your girl. It’s a double bonus if he talks with her about sex and relationships. We have enough data now to know that daddies have a strong influence over their girls’ overall sexual health outcomes. The physically (like living in the same home) and emotionally closer he is helps her to have sex later, fewer partners and be overall more satisfied with her sex life. Go Daddies!
Prepare her for judgement about clothing. It doesn’t matter if the skirt is long or short; the straps are thin or wide, she will be judged based on her clothing. If it’s too mature, she’s “distracting”. If it’s masculine or sloppy, she’s “unattractive.” She can’t win. She can, however, be very conscious of her outfit choices, and be prepared to handle the potential impact, reactions and suggestions she wear something more “appropriate.” And BTW, if you are buying her clothes and you think they are too mature for her age, there is a very simple solution. I’ll leave you to figure it out.
It’s totally typical to be sexually attracted to another girl. Girls develop close relationships with each other that sometimes include a sexual charge or even fooling around. When this happens it doesn’t mean she’s a lesbian, necessarily, or even bisexual. It just means she’s normal. Sexual attraction is fluid and rarely is someone 100% straight or gay, or 100% masculine or feminine. Your job is to get a grip on this and respond appropriately, meaning calmly and kindly if you find out she’s been playing “games” with a same sex pal.
First PAP smear and pelvic exam are at age 21. There is no need for a pelvic exam to get most birth control or STD testing and unless she’s getting an IUD or there is a specific problem, she can be speculum and PAP free for many years. Also, make sure she’s comfortable with and likes her current medical care provider. If she doesn’t, find her a new one. It’s important to establish a good relationship with her medical folks early, so she will be more likely to ask for whatever kind of help she needs with her body.
She buys the condoms and carries them with her. Girls are much more susceptible to STD’s so they need to make sure condoms are readily available. Use of condoms with her partner is non-negotiable. Any excuses her partner many have like reduction in feeling, too small, too big, don’t have one, etc. are all total bullshit. The only way to ensure regular condom use is for her to be in charge of the condoms. Check out Sustain condoms. They are marketed to women and are super pretty! And vegan, and fair trade, too, for whatever that’s worth.
Birth control is required before she has sex for the first time. It should be firmly implanted in her brain that unplanned pregnancy is a preventable problem. She is 100% responsible for doing everything she can to avoid an unplanned pregnancy, which means getting and using a highly effective birth control method, preferably something long acting and reversible. It’s best if she is using a method before she does the deed so she knows how her body reacts, and so she’s prepared if she wants to be spontaneous. Of course, not having sex is the best way to avoid a pregnancy, but the failure rate of this method, without back up, is outrageously high — 85 out of 100 women get pregnant.
Girls should start LARC in the 10th grade whether or not they are sexually active. LARC – Long Acting Reversible Contraception – are the most effective birth control methods and include the hormonal IUD and implants. Most girls’ periods stop when they use these methods which is one of the best side effects in the history of womankind. Of course, these methods are not for everyone, which is why you daughter will talk to her healthcare provider about what method is best for her.
Allow me to address some of your possible objections to the above:
Won’t they think I’m giving them permission to have sex? No. Girls do not see being on birth control as permission to have sex. If you have done your job right, they won’t have sex until they are ready. And most people have sex for the first time around age 17, so it’s safer to be prepared!
Adding hormones in my girl’s body? Isn’t this harmful? No. Adding a very low dose of well researched hormones to their bodies will not harm them in any major way. Having a baby will probably harm them in many major ways. And remember, she needs to make this decision with her healthcare provider, not you, or me, since we are not medical experts (no matter how much one of us wishes she was).
What? No period? This must be harmful! Nope! Women in agrarian cultures have 150 periods in their lifetime. How many periods do we have in a lifetime? 450. It is fine not to have a period every month. The body absorbs the uterine lining and life goes on. This is a major selling point for LARC, but not everyone has this awesome side effect, so again, medical people need to be involved.
Encourage her to masturbate. If she knows her own body and what feels good, it’ll make her overall sex life 100 times better. Also, she’ll be able to let loose some of her pent up desires and be less likely to think her boyfriend made her feel so good. Of course this means she needs to know about the almighty clitoris. Seriously — ALMIGHTY! Learn more here.
Boys want what girls want – love, connection and the status that comes with having a partner. Boys are not uncontrollable beasts who only want one thing. They really want what most girls want — to love and be loved. If sex is on the menu, great, but given a choice boys say they’d rather have the status of a girlfriend than sex.
Porn is not the Kama Sutra. Boys and girls use porn as “sex ed” and believe what they see is real, live, actual-factual sex. When, in fact it’s real, live actual-factual acting. She should know porn starts in the middle of a sexual encounter and it’s usually a man’s fantasy of what sex should be like. Sure, the various parts are getting stuck in a variety of holes, and women really do have sex with other women and men and another man, and then one more woman, but this is fairly rare and not for beginners. Also, let’s not forget that in porn, everyone, always, has lots, and lots of really hot anal. Real sex involves communication, clear consent, give-and-take, and, especially in the early days of learning how to have sex, mainly oral and vaginal sex. Mamas, just imagine if the first time you had sex it was with a guy who thought he knew how to have sex because he’d watched tons of porn. My hoo-ha (not to mention my bum) is cringing, and I hope yours is too.
Consent means saying YES wholeheartedly. “No means no” is officially dead. “Yes means yes” is the new and improved model for consent. Your girl needs to know it’s very important she is clear about her desires when she’s getting busy. “Yes” is clear consent and she and her partner should openly discuss this. If alcohol or drugs are involved, consent cannot be given. See rule number one. This excellent little video does a great job of explaining consent. Feel free to watch it with your girl it’s great and funny.
Girls are as interested in sex as boys. We have all been sold truckload of crap regarding female sexuality and in his book, What Do Women Want? Adventures in the Science of Female Sexual Desire, Dan Bergner shines a new and much needed light on what’s really going on for women in the sex department. Your girl needs to know it’s perfectly normal for girls to have sexual feelings and to want to have sex — a lot! Their bodies are wired up for reproducing and often scream “GET ME LAID” at them, so they listen.
A sexual health educator for over 20 years, Amy Lang, MA teaches parents of all beliefs how to talk to kids of any age about the birds and the bees. She is the author of the award winning book Birds + Bees + YOUR Kids – A Guide to Sharing Your Beliefs About Sexuality, Love, and Relationships and Dating Smarts: What Every Teen Needs to Date, Relate or Wait. She created the lively and engaging video Birds + Bees + Kids – The Basics so parents can learn how to talk to their kids about sex and values without leaving the couch! Amy is still married to her first husband and they are getting the hang of parenting their teenage son. She lives in Seattle, WA. Learn more at BirdsAndBeesAndKids.com