Lately, the talk is very specific and very graphic, indeed. Just the other day, Lena told me that her boyfriend “went down on her,” then delicately inquired as to whether I knew what that meant.
Now, I am 99% certain Lena is a virgin, at least in the arena of actual vaginal penetration. She has told me that her friends at school have nicknamed her the Virgin Sex Goddess, and I find this incredibly sweet. First of all, it is further evidence of what I am virtually, even smugly certain–that my daughter is still a virgin while a number of the kids who are kept so busy that their parents never get a chance to speak with them about sex are not. (There is a delicious irony not only to the situation but to the smugness that I feel: does it not show that I am still shedding my investment in this kind of thinking? And that I still have some growing up to do? I have to laugh at myself sometimes.) I also enjoy the moniker because I have enjoyed relationships with some of these kids since they were little, and I have been observing and appreciating their creative output for a long time now. I now find it easy to appreciate the innocent, creative, unjaded way they talk about sexual matters, both as Lena describes it and as I have heard from my figurative position of fly on the wall when they visit. (Though I might be nearby, they either forget this or don’t see any reason to care.)
So, willfully, I cast away another chunk of shame—the little sliver that this latest exchange has just exposed. I assure Lena that I know, as surprising as that may seem, what is meant by “going down on.” As I continue to pour a not inconsequential amount of energy into remaining unruffled, we actually have a talk about pleasure—nothing verbose or cloyingly heavy, just enough for now. I get to make the not-inconsequential point that she deserves to experience it. I work in a short sentence or two about how to foster it and about the importance of kind communication. To my delight, Lena shows every sign of listening!–and the part of me that thinks that parents can’t have any credibility with their kids when it comes to sex is so surprised.
At every turn, I question whether I am being a responsible mother when I acknowledge her sexuality without qualifying my statements with such patriarchal remnants as “but you should wait for a committed relationship” or “you want to be careful that people don’t see you as a slut” or even “don’t be a slut.” My healthy sexuality came at the price of a lot of questioning, and I now question these slogans of a mindset I perhaps shouldn’t assume.