How to talk to your children about sex: ages 15 onwards

In the last in our series of guides about how to talk to your children about sex (catch up here on the early years, 6-10 years, 11-14 years), we turn our attention to how to talk to your children about sex when they are 15 years and older. We’re once again delighted to invite back Erika Lust, founder of The Porn Conversation, to help you to talk to your children about sex and its consequences at this crucial stage.

Why talk about it?

This is the age category in which most young people start to have their first sexual experiences. I’m sure we can all remember what a confusing time this was! And now with social media, being a teen is even harder. That’s why, when my children reach this age, I plan to do my best to be supportive of their sexual decisions, respect their sexual choices (so long as they are not harming anyone) and offer accurate advice when they need it.

At this age your child is approaching adulthood, meaning that they are well able to conceptualise and discuss some of the more challenging concepts mentioned earlier such as consent and gender identity. Who knows your might even learn something!

I have made this category open-ended because discussions about sex and sexuality should never stop. Sex education is never really over as we continue to discover more about our own sexuality as we get older.

Furthermore, changes in life stages also bring with them changes to the way we view sex and our experience of it. I hope that my daughters are able to come to me for help in trying to understand these changes irrespective of their age. 

What to talk about and how to talk about it? 

As neither of my children have yet reached this age group my experience with talking to teenagers about sex is limited. However, It seems to me to be common sense that as this is the age that most teenagers actually start having sex. With that said, they should be aware of all the potential risks that sex can involve, and how to avoid these negative outcomes.

This means having a good knowledge of all the methods of contraception as well as how to access them. Some friends that have teenage children have told me that they leave contraceptive devices such as condoms, femidoms and dental dams in the bathroom cupboard so that their children have access to them should they need it.

Providing contraception for your children is also a subtle way of letting them know that you accept the fact that they might be starting to have sex without having to have a sit-down discussion with them about it.

If you don’t feel comfortable with doing this then at least make sure they know where they can get condoms –  for instance, many sexual health clinics will give them to you for free.

And whilst we are on the topic of sexual health clinics I think that it’s crucial to encourage teenagers to get tested every time they have sex with a new partner. Studies suggest that over half of new STD cases occur among 15 to 24 year olds, meaning that it’s never been more important to get over our discomfort and start educating our kids on the importance of getting regular tests. 

As your children start to become more emotionally and intellectually mature it might also be time to start having some more complex conversations about topics like consent, gender and pornography.

Inspiration for these conversations can also be easily drawn from current affairs or newspaper articles. For instance the #MeToo movement, and stories relating to it, have been consistently in the news for the past few years. Stories such as this provide a grounding for conversations around consent and sexual assault.

By actively engaging in discussions like this with your adult or teenage children you are encouraging them to think critically about the issues pertinent to sex and sexuality, a trait that is invaluable in traversing some of life’s more complicated sexual moments. 

And finally, I would also encourage you to expand on conversations about pornography with your child when they reach this age. Pornography is such a vast topic and there are so many interesting things to discuss. I also find that as pornography is often so exaggerated, it provides a good starting point for exploring other issues.

For instance, racism is abundant in porn, often more so than it is in other industries. As the porn industry comes under less scrutiny than more mainstream industries, porn producers often get away with categorising performers in terms of race and sometimes even paying performers on the basis of race.

If your child is watching pornography (which is statistically likely for this age group) then they are probably being exposed to lots of racist language and stereotyping. Start an open conversation with your child about why they think this kind of racial stereotyping is wrong and how they think it shapes their perception of certain races.

The idea of the sexually aggressive black man or the submissive east Asian women are just two examples of this kind of stereotyping that can be discussed. It’s important that as parents we ensure that our child knows that this is a harmful fiction and should in no way be mirrored in the way they view, speak about or interact with people of other races. 

Do you have 15 year old + children? What are your thoughts on the above? Do share in a comment below.

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ABOUT ERIKA LUST

Erika Lust (erikalust.com) is an award-winning indie adult filmmaker, mother of two daughters and founder of the non profit The Porn Conversation, a project she set up with her husband to help parents broach the topic of pornography with their children.


9 comments

  1. My children are all a lot younger than 15 years old, but this is something I have thought about because although it can be a challenging subject to talk openly about it is really important!

  2. I have three older kids and three young ones and it is important to brooch the subject as early as you feel comfortable. There is such a good sex education program in schools nowadays that it is much easier than it used to be

  3. I think this is all great advice – it’s so important to show our kids respect as individuals by letting it be a two-way conversation about sex (and everything around it). It’s hard to let go of that urge to shield them from difficult choices or situations, but actually that only makes them more vulnerable.

    While ours are a good few years away from teenage, we are starting that conversation now by talking about things like consent and control of their bodies, different sexual orientations and identities, and also real biology. Hopefully by being open to questions now, they’ll still be asking us them as they get older and the questions get more complicated!

  4. A really useful post. My eldest is only 9, but I’m sure time will fly by and before I know it we’ll be having these conversations.

  5. Such an informative and useful post! Thanks for sharing. I think it’s crucial to have an open conversation with your children

  6. Hi ! I´m Matías, I´m from Chile and I have 26 years old. In this moment I´m teenage teacher in a public school in Santiago. I would like send to you a mail with one of the most excited and interested expierence with my students about how we see the porn inside our day to day, like relationships and our shape to understand the female body, pleasure and kind of sexual agressions. This was through one of yours interviews with only womens students (woah!); and writing to you would be a good way to coninue openinig spaces which I am. I send a hug to you and sorry by my English, but I don´t want miss this opportunity. So if you can leave me a mail for write you, my email will be in the description.

    Gracias de antemano, querida !

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