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Sex + Relationships

The Sex Stigma in Hispanic and Latin America

When I say Hispanic or Latin American culture, the first thing that comes to mind is good food, great music, big families and even bigger communities. What people don’t always consider is the divide between men and women. Machismo is a dominant aspect of Latin American and Hispanic cultures as it dictates societal norms —it is present in every Hispanic household, in every piece of Hispanic literature and every portrayal in the media. Women are held at a different standard than men in every aspect, one of which is sex. 

For starters, sex is not talked about at all, especially with girls and women. Although more normalized in today’s society, sex is still very much taboo in hispanic households and sexual education barely covers the biological basics. Having grown up in Chile, a very Catholic and conservative country when it comes to sex and relationships, and attending high school and college in the US, I experienced both conversations about sex: virginity means purity, and sex is normal and natural. 

I asked a handful of fellow hispanic CU students what their own Sex Ed was like, and their answers were what I expected. 

What is Sex? 

A simple question, without a single, simple answer. Sex is the pursuit of pleasure (Sexuality Education Resource Center MB) and sex is about being comfortable with yourself, your sexual orientation, and your gender identity (Planned Parenthood). Sex is a million different things. For some, sex is something we interact on a daily basis since we were teenagers; for me it’s intimacy between a partner.

These are all relatively simple definitions of sex, so why is it so difficult to talk about at home, especially in hispanic homes? 

Simple answer: no one ever talks about it. This goes back to machismo. A woman and her family’s honor lies in her virginity and her purity. Now, this isn’t as strict or as intense as it was fifty years ago, but it is underlying, subconsciously ingrained in every Hispanic woman. When I started dating my boyfriend, one of the first things my grandma told me was that she was going to buy my wedding dress, and my mother warned me that older guys “want other things.” 

The Talk

College Women Talking Sex
Adebusola Abujade / Her Campus Media

Once we reach puberty, there is that one conversation we all dread: The Sex Talk. It is, supposedly, the moment we learn about sex for the first time, and with it, we learn about relationships and consent. However, it isn’t like that for most of us. 

I personally never had a sex talk with my parents, and neither did most of the students I talked to. The standards at home differ between sons and daughters. Sons were given freedom and privacy, while daughters were told “abstinence until marriage” and “no dating.” Both are insufficient and ridiculous in our modern society.

So, like me, most of us learned about sex and relationships through the internet, which does not fully prepares us for the reality of sex and relationships (take a look at Her Campus Welcome To The Wattpad Generation article). 

Expectation vs. Reality

Learning about sex and relationships online creates unrealistic expectations and views on what they actually are. The lack of preparedness leads to blinded views on toxic relationships and a misconception as to what sex actually is. And while reality never amounts to expectations, it is important to know what is real and what is purely fiction. 

For instance, losing one’s virginity isn’t supposed to hurt, and domestic violence is more than physical violence. Things that may seem obvious actually aren’t, and the assumption that they’re common knowledge is just as bad as the lack of knowledge. 

When asked whether or not they felt prepared, most answered that they didn’t, that they had to learn as they aged and that most times, an issue had to arise for them to ask something. 

Ways To Love Your Vagina
Adebusola Abujade / Her Campus Media

So, Is There A Stigma? 

Yes. As long as these conversations are not happening, there is a stigma of sex in Hispanic households. As long as we are uneducated on the basics of sex and healthy relationships, there will continue to be a stigma. As long as boys and girls are taught about sex differently, there is a stigma. 

Every aspect of sex is still very much taboo in hispanic households, which can be very isolating and can lead to a disconnect from reality. Many still feel as though they cannot approach the subject in their homes, and many will avoid the conversation of sex with their families. 

However, the stigma does not have to stay. We can normalize sex by having these conversations, as awkward as they may be. Sex is normal and natural, and there’s no reason to shy away from or be afraid of the conversation. 

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Mariana Bastias

CU Boulder '25

“It takes great courage to see the world in all its tainted glory, and still to love it.” -Oscar Wilde. I’m finding my place in a world that is changing faster than anyone can keep up with. Raised in Santiago, Chile, and settled in Boulder, CO, I’m an aspiring novelist with a passion for words, arts, and life’s idiosyncrasies.
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