As a teenager, Mami never spoke to me about sex. In fact, the only time she mentioned the word “vagina” was when I got my first period. And that was only because she wanted to know how my vagina felt after I stuck on an enormous maxi pad to my underwear.
Sex was simply a taboo topic that was to be shushed. However, one thing was instilled—I was to remain a virgin for a long while, if not forever. I learned that lesson at 16, after a boy called to speak with me on the phone. With just one look, Mami scared me into abstinence.
That was then. It was the 90s and while kids may have thought their parents were out of touch, they still mostly obeyed them. There were no celebrity sex tapes. Twitter and texting didn’t exist, which meant no tweeting photos of body parts or sexting. Typing “ILY” into pagers may have been all the rage, but it was impossible to send someone a picture of your sexy undies.
Read Related: Sex Talk: When & How to Educate Your Kids
So, what can parents do to teach their daughters to abstain from sex? Here are some tips on how to convince your daughter not to have sex until she’s mature enough to handle it:
THE POWER OF THE VAGINA
Oftentimes, young women don’t realize how powerful they are due to their impending womanhood. In fact, teenage girls often have sex because they feel it’s the only way to be loved by a partner and gain respect from their peers. This is why we must teach them about their body parts. Show them the beauty and power of the vagina. Teach them that it’s a life force that must be respected. After all, men fight wars over it! (Helen of Troy, anyone?)
SEX ISN’T LOVE
When girls have sex, it’s often to connect with a boy. When boys have sex, it’s often to, well, have sex. Our daughters must learn the difference. We need to teach them that sex isn’t love and that there are other ways to express love, like holding hands, kissing, and acts of kindness. In that moment of temptation, they may feel wanted and desired but it doesn’t always translate to a loving, lasting and healthy relationship.
SHARE YOUR EXPERIENCE
It may sound icky to talk about your sexual past with your daughter, but it’s a way to relate. She will still see you as “Mom,” but sharing mistakes, or a great experience if you did wait, will show her you know what you speak of.
GET REAL WITH THE FACTS
Scaring teenagers into abstinence is rarely effective, but having a serious discussion regarding STDs will open their eyes to the risks. Tell them how most men with HPV never develop symptoms, and that herpes can lie dormant without visible symptoms for years. Tell them STDs can spread not only during unprotected sex but also during oral sex, as research shows more than 16 million Americans diagnosed with oral HPV. It is all about education.
Having an open dialogue with your teenage daughter instead of shushing the topic of sex will help her make better decisions. It may not be the decision you desire (she may not end up a nun or remain a virgin until marriage). But at least she’s informed, respects herself and her body, and knows her power. It begins and ends with communication, ‘cause the side eye just won’t work. Trust me.