Teaching Our Daughters about Sex: Sexual Mothers, Sexual Daughters

By Joyce McFadden

We as mothers are putting our own fears ahead of our daughters’ well-being, and we have to confront this crisis of confidence in order to offer our girls more grounding in sexual vitality than we were given by our own mothers.

In not giving them the sexual information they need, and offering them that life long emotional connection to us, we do them a broader disservice than we imagine.

Recently on Oprah, sex therapist Dr. Laura Berman did an excellent and long overdue episode on helping mothers talk to their daughters about sexuality. Therapists, sex educators and researchers including myself find that, shockingly, our level of anxiety as mothers still keeps us from really educating our daughters about their bodies, desire and relationships. Although we tend to disguise it with rationalizations like “she’s too young” or “it will overwhelm her” the main deterrent to our being there for our girls in this way is often that we’re simply too uncomfortable to do it.

My research has shown me how far we haven’t come. It’s the beginning of the 21st Century and many mothers aren’t even teaching their daughters about menstruation, let alone sexuality. Just like our mothers did, we’re passing off their education to Judy Blume or the school nurse. And now, the internet.

But we, as modern mothers, have the opportunity to truly break through to the dimension of mothering we thought we’d broken through to decades ago — one not permeated with unnecessary shame-driven ignorance.

The easiest way to do this is to appreciate that our daughters’ sexuality exists on the very same continuum as our own. Remember when you were curious about how babies were made, and when you didn’t know where a tampon went? Remember when you felt like an idiot with your friends because everyone else seemed to know what oral sex was and you were afraid to ask? Remember the first time you felt yearning, and the first time you felt so swept away sexually you thought if you were to die right then and there, your life would be complete? Now remember the negative stuff. Did you feel naughty or dirty when you first began your own sexual exploration? Did you feel alone and separate from your mother? Did you worry she’d judge you? Do you even today feel guilty around masturbation? In your life now, do you feel disconnected or unfulfilled when you’re having sex?

Whether we actually have them or not, we as adult women crave full and happy sex lives because we know we feel more alive when we do. So how can we want this vibrancy for ourselves and not for our daughters? If we want our daughters to feel sexually comfortable as women, we need to help them feel comfortable along the entire journey, and our awkward avoidance and judgment won’t get them there.

Women in my study and practice routinely feel let down and abandoned by their mother’s silence or lack of support. It undermines how they feel in their bodies, and not just with regard to sex – it influences what they feel entitled to do, think, say and wear. If we implicitly encourage our daughters to forsake their sexuality that sense of shame infects every other area of their self esteem. And the opposite is also true. If we raise our daughters to feel a healthy entitlement to their sexuality it will enhance their self esteem in every way because they’ll have the freedom to be whole.

The little 10 year old girl on Oprah, who must surely be the most delightful child to ever appear on television, had the most poignant and concise message in the show. She’d been asking her mother twice a week for the past eight months to please teach her about sex, and her wonderful yet anxious mother was scared to death she’d say the wrong thing. In their session with Dr. Berman the girl said (italics her emphasis):
Little girl: “What is sex?”
Dr. Berman: “Do you have any idea what sex is?”
Little girl: “It’s not like I have the confidence to think about that, but I want my mom to have the confidence to talk to me about it.”

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171 comments

Fi T.
Fi T.4 months ago

Preparation for the future

Sandy Erickson
Sandy Erickson4 years ago

FREEKIN" SEX AGAIN! What about a good relationship? Finding the right friends,activities,space,quiteness,personal care,education in all areas,knowing how to spot someone that is just using you BEFORE you enter into a relationship? SEX is NOT the most importent thing in our lives. Let's change our focus already!

colleen p.
colleen p.4 years ago

well they ever make sex toy to cater to 12 year olds?
or a book about paraphalias? a kama sutra jr.?

Mrs Shakespeare
Mrs Shakespeare5 years ago

I never wanted to discuss sex with my mom and I've made that clear long time ago so she left me alone, but I think she would have helped me had I asked for help or showed willingness to listen :/

Ame V.
Ame Vega5 years ago

I believe we all learned things the hard way !
SEX was TABOO and wasnt discussed in my house.

Danielle Herie
Danielle Herie5 years ago

VERY INTERESTING

Inez Deborah Altar

My mother has very different notions on sexuality from me I believe considering her life´s practice, I studied the subject carefully since a child beginning with the notion of sexuality and emotion in the superficial sense without physical details but basic understanding and progressing to the anatomical details and systems in both genders as a teenager and more on practices and all aspects of reproductive health from books and on the internet in my twenties

Robyn B.
Robyn Bashaw5 years ago

Since most of our schools are held back from giving our children proper sex education until college for political reasons, it is more important than ever for parents to talk with their kids!

Martha C.
martha Carlisle5 years ago

I have never had a problem talking to my children about most things...you just make the explanation age-appropriate and go from there. However, one evening at the dinner table was one of the most memorable question-and-answer sessions: I was having a nice dinner with my three children, when my youngest daughter, still in grade school, said "Mom, I have a question". And, as always, I said "Ok, what is it?" And out popped the question "Mom, what's a dildo?" After I stopped choking on my dinner, I found out that she had had a sex-education class that day at school, and it seems they had left a few questions unanswered. All the kids were instantly at alert to see what Mom was going to say about this subject. After that, talking about periods, tampons, and where babies come from (immediately followed by the question "Well, how do they get out?") was pretty easy.

Sohail A.
Sohail A.5 years ago

Trust is the key , not just Parent -child protective trust , but on an equal footing , like a friend , it has been going on since ages, that how the accumulated wisdom of centuries pass down from one generation to another ,some time without one single spoken word....

Trust is the key.