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A dad explains: talking about sex with teenagers

Teenagers really need support with talking about sex to avoid getting hurt, hurting others or making mistakes. But these types of delicate conversations can be so difficult for parents or awkward for teenagers. British dad-of-seven children and teens, Shaun Hurr, describes his own experience of having "the talk" which his two teenagers, a boy and a girl to help them navigate sex and intimacy.

Let's talk about sex

You would think it would be one conversation for my son and my daughters but with an elder boy and younger girl I found myself approaching it differently with each of them.

Things are different now

Today is not the same world from which I grew up in and drew my experiences from. When I grew up you might know about your mums and dads dodgy Emanuele tape hidden away, or, you find some older boys dirty magazines in the bomb shelter where you used to mess about in and would all gather round in disgust and awe at them. Each one of us teens saying, "yes I know what they’re doing" and none of us actually having a clue. There certainly wasn’t the sexual content available on TV, in advertising and the internet.

In those days we had no computers and Smartphones. Instead we played kiss chase (did anyone else just give up and get caught?) , arranged meetups behind the village hall and phone booths. I think the "talk" I received came from the elder football players of the men’s team I played for at 15 years old. They took great joy in teasing me over my sexual exploits (or lack of) and their general advice of what I should do in particular situations.

Getting started

So, I've found that the basics are the same for both sexes. Yet the approach and their reactions are completely different.

I did some basic internet searching on ways to approach and which aspects to cover but, to be fair, I just wanted to give them an honest reflection, and try to keep them safe and be truthful in my answers.

It’s great being self-employed as I can take them to work with me which is an excellent way to get that one-to-one conversational time, my daughter just said, "eugh, dad!" but was open to the conversation listening to all that I had to say. With my son, I asked if we needed to have the talk. "I know it already, we learnt it all in school", he replied whilst puffing his chest out. But I put my point across and hopefully we skipped the "how to" and pregnancy as he assured me that he knew all that.

What did I cover in the talk with my son?

So I tried to talk about 'Respect, protection, protection, protection.' Waiting until it’s right for you, don’t be pressured, don’t believe you have to live up to anything, talk it through, it’s ok to be nervous but always consent and have consent. That it’s about pleasure, not just selfish giving and receiving. I talked about alcohol and it’s effects on your own and other people’s ability to make decisions. I said, no matter what their friends are saying, 95% of it isn’t true and it shouldn’t pressure them one way or another. It’s about having that pride in yourself and your status whatever that may be, or whatever sexual orientation. That no matter how embarrassing they may think it is, its not. Try to confide in someone whether it’s us as parents, a sibling, a friend or a family member.

Talking with my daughter about her safety

During the conversation, there was a bit of stereotypical behaviour towards gender creep in. For example, with my daughter, the protective genes kicked in and I must admit I thought I may feel embarrassed or that she would, but we had a clear concise conversation where she listened. I found myself talking more with her about her safety and the right to say no whenever she liked at any time. Not to be afraid to say no. To not fall into the pressure trap of I’ll just go with it because I can’t say no. To not do as others do or say they are doing but stick to what she feels comfortable with.

I speak differently to my son and daughter

It's funny those weren’t worries for me about my son I found that it was the opposite, I was drumming it in that no means no, it has to be consensual not just at the beginning but all the way through. About using protection himself regardless of what he’s been told.

Why should that be the case his safety is my upmost priority at all times. So, why are we drawn into the gender divide when it comes to sex? Predator, victim, male, female, in reality it's not really as black and white as that, is it? Boys can also be victims to engaging in activities that they don't want to do.

It was a little awkward but I know that both children have the values and beliefs to act responsibly, to respect their own bodies and virtues, as well as their partners, but to also realise that it’s about fun, pleasure and connection.

Despite our parental instincts of “not under our roof ” and seeing that they are passing through to adulthood no matter how hard that is for us to perceive and accept, we’ve always believed it’s better for us and them to in fact have their privacy. In any case, if it is under our roof it’s better and safer than hiding away in who knows where.

Final thoughts on talking about sex

We all fumble in the beginning, it’s daunting and it’s comical at times. It can be embarrassing but it’s natural part of growing up, a right of passage into adulthood, to be taken when you are ready. Whether it’s a quick get-it-over-with or something with someone you care about, I just hope it’s something that they can remember for whatever reason (but not until they are at least 30 years old, ha ha!)

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