Rachel (name changed) is a public health worker based in Canada.
We were three sisters and we didn’t have any formal sex talks in our family. I grew up around Canadian children and when I entered teenage, everyone was going out on dates and talking openly about sex, but I couldn’t do that. My friends who also had Indian roots just lied to their parents and hid information from them.
But I didn’t want to lie to my parents to be able to date. So I confronted them. When a guy asked me out on a date, I walked up to my dad and asked him if I could go to a matinee movie show with the boy. I thought it was safe because it was a day date. I couldn’t have planned it wrong.
I wasn’t right. My dad declined point blank. He said, “You are too young to judge boys. I remember being that young and having all these hormones. It’s uncontrollable. Holding hands leads to kissing leads to pregnancy.”
I was furious. Here I was trying to play the responsible child – seeking permission to go out on a date as a 16-year-old. And my dad was non-negotiable. I didn’t want to have sex or get pregnant. I just wanted to go out with a guy.
My dad was coming up with this terrible narrative about sex. It didn’t make any sense. What he said was just not true. He was a well-educated man who knew about sex but just didn’t have the skills to translate them to his teenage daughter. That’s when I realised that talking about sex isn’t easy after all.
Nothing can prepare parents for having sex talks with their children. Especially when there’s a whole lot of cultural pressure. Indian parents just don’t talk about sex with their children. Throughout my adolescence, I faced this hurdle. I couldn’t talk to my parents about my relationships, because relationships often lead to sex and my family didn’t want to accept that.
If I were to turn back time and change something, I’d like my parents to stop giving me useless information. I’d like them to be more truthful and not tell me that holding hands can lead to kissing and kissing can lead to pregnancy!
In the end, I did go out on that date and found the guy unattractive. Never held hands, never kissed, never got pregnant. But that’s not the point! Instead of having been scared of sex, I’d have liked to know that it could also be a nice thing.
This story was first published on November 5, 2012.
How should you talk to teenagers about sex? Leave a comment here or join the discussion on Facebook.