In spite of what we might think, according to this study, 45% of teenagers consider their parents to be their sexuality role models. Only 32% looked to their friends and just 15% took inspiration from celebrities.
So what does that mean for us as parents? It’s our job to portray healthy sexuality if we want to make sure our children don’t grow up with the hang-ups and hold-backs that many of us did. So many of us seem to think that sex is something we just shouldn’t discuss with our children outside of “the talk.” We fear that we’re going to embarrass them or ourselves, stimulate them to be hypersexual if we talk about it too much, give them a complex, and land them in therapy.
But the truth is that, unless we model healthy sexuality for our children, we’re going to land them in therapy one way or another. Or put them at risk for problems later on, which can lead to divorce, depression, the inability to orgasm, decreased libido, unsafe sexual behaviors, and other outcomes we surely want to help our children avoid.
My Role Models
My parents modeled a strange hybrid sort of sexuality. I was raised in a very religious home, so it was made very clear to me early on that sex was reserved for marriage, and until then, it was a sin to even think about it. (In fact, I was taught that thinking about it was just as bad as having it, so I figured, what the hell? Might as well go all the way…) So on one level, I grew up very repressed. I remember the first time a boy touched my boob, and it felt so good, but I also felt so guilty and shamed, and I definitely could never tell my mother. And the first time I had sex? Forget it. We weren’t married, so I had to hide it and felt guilty for years, even though I was in college and definitely old enough to make my own choices by then.
On another level, my parents were great role models for healthy sexuality within the confines of marriage. They were virgins when they got married, but after that, they apparently went at it like bunnies and weren’t shy about letting us know this fact. They made out in the kitchen, we found their sexy hiding spot for fun accoutrements, and I’ll spare you the details of how my brother and I would know when they had had sex- but we did. And we kept track. Thinking back, it was impressive.
So I grew up with a mixed bag. Have great sex and have it often because married people are supposed to be sexual, but don’t even think about it until then. Personally, I found it hard to flip the switch.