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.
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.