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When Your Mom Asks About Your Sex Life

Awkward! Horrifying! Embarrassing!
These are probably the first couple of words that come to mind when considering talking to your Mom about your sex life. But, could sharing your concerns, questions, and fears with your mom, a woman who has obviously “done it,” be beneficial? Or is it best to let her think you’re still her little angel? 

It is easy for us to share the gruesome details about our sex lives with our friends, sometimes calling them immediately after hooking up with a guy. But often, we don’t tell our moms that we’re even on the Pill, or that we’re “talking to someone,” or after we have officially done the deed. As Rachel Maulding, a doctoral student at Widener University for Sexual Education says: “It’s sad that as women we have to feel embarrassed or ashamed for being sexually active. Just because you may not have followed the notion of waiting until marriage to have sex doesn’t mean you should fear feeling sexually empowered.”

Your first impulse.
When your Mom approaches you about this subject, your first reaction may be to lie, but is that the right choice?
A student from James Madison University explains, “I really don't talk to my Mom about any of this, but if she asked me straightforward if ‘I’d done it’ I would flat out lie and tell her, ‘Of course not!’”
But moms may be smarter than we give them credit for, and if she thinks you’re lying, there is the possibility that your relationship with her could suffer, not to mention that your lie could leave you feeling guilty or distant from her. On the other hand, it’s not exactly the kind of info you’re dying to divulge. It’s a tough decision whether to share or not, and one that you should consider carefully.

Opening the lines of communication.
Deciding to share this explicit information with your Mom could be beneficial, but it’s also risky. Here are a couple ideas on how to work the conversation and reduce the tension:

  1. Admit that you are nervous. When our Moms approach us about our sex lives we can start by telling her that this topic is not one that we are completely comfortable discussing. After she knows that you are uncomfortable, but possibly willing to share, a more serious and respectful tone can be set for the rest of the convo.
  2. Pick the right time. Don’t let her start this conversation when you are in the middle of a texting conversation or when there is a chance your dad might walk into the room (and we thought talking to our moms about this was awkward!). Instead, if she brings it up when you are busy, ask her if you could go to Starbucks later or have lunch just the two of you. If you aren’t comfortable being in a public place, then send the rest of the fam for ice cream and have a nice chat with mom then.
  3. Have a game plan. Before your mom even thinks of asking, figure out exactly what details you might share: his name, what your relationship status is with him or how you feel about him currently, approximately when it happened, what kind of protection you used, and if you have consulted with a doctor.

One student from East Carolina University explained: “I told my Mom that I was having ‘sleepovers’ with the guy I was seeing, and I assume she knows that we did more than just sleep. But sharing that detail with her gave me the opportunity to confess my worries about sleeping with him, and I got to gauge her reaction. And it’s funny cause we were just eating breakfast, and she sprung the question on me, but I knew exactly what I was going to tell her.”
Remember whatever information we give our moms is privileged, and don’t be afraid to remind her of that. This is not something you want her running to your Dad with.
But once you divulge even the smallest detail and the lines of communication begin to open, try thinking of your mom as one of your girlfriends. She has had sexual encounters (as gross as that is) and could give you just as good advice as your BFF. It could be nice to have one more person in your corner, especially if things ever go south with that guy you’ve been texting.
How she might react.
Moms are known to overreact, especially about their “little girls” growing up. Hearing that you’ve been intimate with a guy could lead to a number of reactions from joy to tears or even understanding. Remember, however, that she loves you unconditionally and appreciates being tuned in to your life.
A college woman at James Madison University said: “My mom ended up finding out through my medical records. She definitely wasn’t happy, but not angry at me either because she knows how different the world is today when it comes to having a boyfriend, compared to when she was young (plus she’s from Thailand and they have very different moral views anyway). But [the fact] that my doctor spilled this information and seeing my mom’s look of shock was not fun or reassuring.”
Another college woman said: “The way my mom reacted [to finding out I had had sex] made me feel like I was still a little kid, and it honestly makes me not want to tell her other personal things like if I do start dating a boy. I have a good relationship with my mom, too, we have always openly shared things, but her reaction was disappointing, and it hurt my feelings.”
Contrasting these other incidents is a woman from Wheeling Jesuit University: “I have a boyfriend, and my mom blurted out one day, ‘So you’re not relying only on him right?’ I was confused for a second and realized that she was talking about whether I was on birth control. Her little outburst helped us sit down and talk about my relationship. She let me explain myself and my reasons for sleeping with him, and it was nice to see her listening and agreeing with me! It made me feel like more of an adult.”

When that dreaded question comes up, “So have you had sex?” think about how the scenario could play out. Saying “no” would protect you from sharing your dirty secrets, and you can continue your relationship with your mom as it was. And though saying “yes” could lead to both good or bad reactions, try focusing on the positives and on why sharing could be beneficial: your mom may start treating you more like an adult, she could be happy you shared the most sensitive part of your love life with her, and you could now turn to her in a time of crisis (if you’re worried you have a UTI, for example, or your monthly gift doesn’t come).

A student from Kent State University definitely found the benefits of sharing with her mom: “After my mom asked the dreaded question, and I answered “yes,” she wanted details. I wasn’t comfortable sharing too much, but just being honest with her led to my curfew disappearing. She took me shopping at Victoria’s Secret, and she told me she wouldn’t ask questions like that anymore. Can you say score?”
If you know for sure that you would lie to your mom if she asked you about your sex life, but you still want advice, consider talking to a sister, Aunt, or a friend’s Mom who you are close to and could also offer a more mature perspective. And no matter how your mom reacts, as long as you are happy and comfortable with your decisions, then that is what’s most important.
Anonymous college women from across the country. 
Rachel Maulding, Widener University Doctoral Student of Sexual Education

Katie Crandell is a junior at James Madison University pursuing a major in English and a minor in Writing and Rhetoric. She currently serves as a First Year Involvement peer writing tutor and as a student member of the Rhetoric Society of America. At JMU, she contributes to two campus publications: Potty Mouth and The Spotlight. After interning at DigitalMailer, Inc. for the past two summers, Katie has discovered she wants to be a technical writer and editor when she grows up. Before entering the “real world,” however, Katie enjoys spending her time consuming mass amounts of Starbucks, hanging out with her greyhound, and taking yogalates classes.
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