The DO’s and DON’T’s of the sex talk

Consent

DO: Explain that enthusiastic consent has to be given from both parties: them and their partner.

DON’T: Forget to talk about the other important aspect of consent: how to give and respectfully receive a ‘no’.

Birth control

DO: Explain the different options of hormonal and non-hormonal birth control options to children of all genders, not just girls.

DON’T: Presume that because your child is asking about going on hormonal contraception that they’re having or are about to have sex. Hormonal birth control can also be used to help with severe periods and acne, among other things.

Condoms:

DO: Explain that it’s always important to use condoms even if your child or their sexual partner is on hormonal contraception, as they will protect them from STIs.

DON’T: Forget to mention that condoms expire! They always need to check the label.

Dating

DO: Start talking about sex, consent, pleasure and safety from about 13 even if your child isn’t dating or showing an interest in dating anyone (that you know of!).

DON’T: Always use your child and their boyfriend/girlfriend/romantic interest as the example when chatting about these topics. Talking about peers, friends and other people more abstractly can take the pressure off.

Desire & pleasure

DO: Talk about how sex should be fun and pleasurable. If it isn’t, or especially if it hurts – that’s a sign that the timing/situation/person they’re with may not be right for them right now, or that they need to communicate better and take things slower.

DON’T: Presume your child will or won’t want to be having sex because of their gender. Some girls will really want to, and some boys won’t at all.

First times

DO: Talk about how sex is more than just penis-in-vagina intercourse, and so there are all kinds of ‘first times’ to be had (and can we all agree to scrap terms like ‘virginity’, ‘sexual debut’, ‘taking your flower’ and ‘popping the cherry’?).  

DON’T: Put pressure on their first time(s) by saying it has to be special and with the perfect person. For many people this won’t be the case, and that’s okay.

The risks

DO: Talk about how sex comes with responsibility because of the risks involved, and they need to feel emotionally mature enough to handle those responsibilities. 

DON’T: Try to use fear tactics to stop them from having sex. Definitely explain all the risks, but don’t deliberately try and scare them.

Sexting

DO: Explain the risks that are involved with sexting, both socially and legally, but also that they can always talk to you and you’ll always support them if something happens.

DON’T: Take their phone away from them as punishment if you do find evidence or suspect that they’ve been sexting.

Abstinence

DO: Talk about how there can be a lot of pressure from peers and the media to be sexually active, but they should only ever do so if they want to – without coercion or external pressure. And that it’s okay to never want to have sex.

DON’T: We say don’t tell them that they shouldn’t or are banned from having sex until they’re a certain age (or married). At the end of the day, it should be their decision. However, we appreciate sometimes religion and culture can impact expectations with this.

‘Other’ sex acts

DO: Talk about how sex isn’t just penis-in-vagina intercourse (this is particularly important to make your child feel seen if they’re queer) and talk about ‘sex-lite’ options such as kissing or touching that they can do if they don’t feel ready for bigger acts.

DON’T: List all the other kinds of sexual acts they can do. They don’t need this information at a young age. That being said, you might want to talk about the rising pressures today to engage in things like oral and anal sex.