What I want you to know about being unprepared for sex

What I Want You to Know is a series of reader submissions. It is an attempt to allow people to tell their personal stories, in the hopes of bringing greater compassion to the unique issues each of us face. If you would like to submit a story to this series, click here. Today’s guest posts is by Ariel Price.

Yes, many of us have cast out Victorian bashfulness along with horse-drawn carriages, monocles, and petticoats. But not all of us.

The only thing my parents had ever effectively communicated to me about sex was that they disapproved of it, and disapproved of TV shows, music, and people who discussed it. I knew that I couldn’t ask them questions, even out of curiosity. I would probably get in trouble. I wasn’t allowed to attend sex education classes. So I started asking my friends. The information they gave me was informed by the media, and I was shocked to learn that there was a whole world of expectation out there that I was supposed to live up to.

I remember the first time my boyfriend began sending me sexually explicit text messages. I didn’t know what they meant. I was embarrassed because I didn’t even know the technical terms for some of my own body parts. Labia? Clitoris? These were words I’d never heard. But I was also flattered, because my friends had told me that this was supposed to happen. This is how boys show admiration and respect for my body. Seriously. That is what I was told, being educated about sex by fourteen-year-olds.

Be obedient. Be quiet. Don’t talk back. Those were lessons I learned when I was young, and I learned them well. I had my moments like every other kid, but for the most part I was the model daughter.

Is it really surprising that I didn’t know how to say no to the guys I dated? Was I supposed to grow a backbone in the heat of the moment, when I’d always been taught to bend before? And, yes, some of it I wanted. It felt good. I felt admired. I thought this was how he showed that he loved me. But even when I didn’t want it, I couldn’t say no.

And then I had to deal with the years of guilt. Would God forgive me? Could I still wear white at my wedding? Did this make me a slut? Would any respectable man take me, now that I was damaged goods? Did I even deserve to marry?

And once that guilt was there, the only person I thought could save me was a man. I needed a man to reassure me that I was worth something. I needed a man to prove to me that I was still loveable. So I kept dating guys, looking for the one who would marry me—not out of some romantic notion of love or companionship, but out of desperation.

Thankfully, my story has a happy ending. After years of counseling, I eventually accepted the fact that I am a beautiful, worthwhile woman. I understood that God loves me no matter what. I learned to defend myself and to have self-control. I learned that neither marriage nor a husband could save me. I learned how to talk about sex in a healthy way. And I learned all this before I met the wonderful man who became my husband.

Talking to your kids about sex can be difficult. It can be awkward. “The birds and the bees” are not going to cut it. And your kid might resist, especially if you’ve never tackled the subject before. But staying silent is not an option.

Because if you don’t educate your child about sex, someone else will.

What I want you to know is that neglecting to talk about this natural, beautiful, good, God-given part of life will damage your children.

What I want you to know is that strength, courage, and self-control in the face of opposition cannot be taught all at once.

What I want you to know is that peer pressure is strong, and it almost always wins.

What I want you to know is that your kids want to talk to you.

What I want you to know is that your kids need grace.

They will learn about sex anyway. It’s better that they learn from you.

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