Every day after school, it was a tradition for me and my sister to go home and watch soap operas with my mom.
These soaps definitely weren’t meant for the elementary school demographic. Once in a while, there were scenes that alluded to a heterosexual couple having sex: a couple stripping and making their way into the bedroom, or under the sheets.
Obviously, this sparked my curiosity.
My mom always raced to cover our eyes during these scenes or changed the channel at roadrunner speed. But like any kids our age, my sister and I were curious as hell. Although we hadn’t had a formal conversation about sex yet, we would naively try to unpack what we thought was happening during these scenes and how they made us feel.
One day my sister and I marched toward my mom to find answers. My sister framed it innocently as I stood shyly behind her: “When a lady is in bed with her husband, what do they do?”
Thankfully it didn’t take my mom long to know exactly what we were implying, but we had certainly opened Pandora’s box.
One of the things I love most about my mom is how she’s an unapologetic open book. She had no problem sitting me and my sister down when we were respectively 7 and 8 for a three-hour conversation about sex. She didn’t shame us for asking questions, which was good because we certainly had a lot of them.
My mom didn’t shy away from using actual anatomical terms when describing sex between a woman and man. She never used euphemisms like “the birds and the bees.” With the exception of using the baseball metaphors to describe physical intimacy, she didn’t beat around the bush. My mom spoke unabashedly about the female and male anatomy, and what heterosexual men and women can do when they get intimate with each other.
We also added an addendum to the conversation: “What does a lady do when she’s alone?”
Cue the masturbation conversation.
I knew about masturbation before really even knowing what masturbation was and that it had a name. But I always perceived it as “bad.” Even though I knew it felt nice, I felt a degree of shame to touching myself because of its mystery. When my mom talked about self-pleasure like it was completely normal and not otherworldly, I slowly started feeling less guilty about it.
My mom stripped away the veil of shame that is so often draped over women’s sexual pleasure. She never described it as a negative experience. In fact, she was pretty candid about how positive of an experience it is, but she made it clear that the experience should be reserved for when one is older, mature, and emotionally ready for it.
My mom wanted to me learn this so I could have autonomy over my own sexuality and never let anyone take advantage of me.
Some may argue that having “the talk” at such a young age stripped me of my innocence, but looking at my attitude about sex and sexuality today, that perception couldn’t be more wrong. I actually found that the more I knew and the more positively I perceived sex, the more empowered I felt.
I inevitably carried these positive attitudes with me into my teens and adulthood. When I eventually had a semblance of public school sex education, I was surprisingly ahead of a lot of my peers. I didn’t perceive the lessons as scandalous as a lot of my peers did. For me, it was merely a fact of life.
My mom also never explicitly asserted “you’re not allowed to have sex.” Obviously, I didn’t get right on it after our conversation. I chose not to have sex until I was in my early twenties, and as someone who was raised to be keenly aware of their sexuality, this was perfectly okay.
When I did have sex for the first time, my mom was one of the first people to know. She asked me the rundown: “Are you using protection? Are you on birth control?” Soon after the serious stuff we immediately began to talk about the experience itself.
Conversations about sex don’t have to be dreadful, and we don’t necessarily have to name it “the talk,” which implies it’s a one-time occurrence. Exploring sexual pleasure can be empowering and affirming, and having consistent conversations about that is crucial.
My mom opened up a sex-positive line of dialogue between the two of us early in my life that persists today. I appreciate this because not only do I appreciate her wisdom, but I also trust that her curiosity comes from a place of love and non-judgment. Sexuality is simply not shameful, and I’m grateful that my mom raised me to wholeheartedly embrace that.