How to Teach Our Girls About Sex Without Shame or Fear
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As a couples counselor, I regularly work with Christian women who are trying to serve God but are struggling in their marriages. Of course, there are many reasons that people come to see me and every situation is unique. It is quite common though, even among religious couples, for them to tell me that one of the biggest obstacles in their relationship is sex. Many of these struggling wives tell me how they struggle to be intimate with their husbands because of the messages they heard from their parents, communities, and churches about sex. It seems to me that In an effort to pass down values, the purity culture has become so driven by shame and fear that it is driving teens from the church and harming the very marriages it was meant to protect.
Talking to tweens about puberty, sex and development can make lots of parents squeamish. Christian parents often tell me that they feel stuck when it comes to having “the talk.” We’ve been told that our only choices are shame and chastity belts or handing our daughters the keys to a hotel room. That’s a false dichotomy. The truth is that we can raise our girls to follow the plans that God has for them while helping them grow up, rooted in the truth that their bodies were designed by God and He calls them good. Make no mistake though, this way is harder.
One of the biggest mistakes parents and educators can make when teaching young people about sex is to lie or exaggerate. There may be times when you tell your child that you don’t know an answer or are uncomfortable sharing certain information, but everything you tell them needs to be truth. Otherwise, they will struggle to believe you. If you tell your tween that sex is miserable, they will compare that to the constant messages they get from the world about sex and assume you are either not experiencing it as God intended or you are lying in an attempt to keep them from experimenting. If you tell them that every person who has sex gets AIDs or pregnant, they will look around at their friends and discount all the other truths that you have told them. We want to be a reliable and accurate source of information while our kids learn about sex. That means we tell the truth even when it is uncomfortable and we learn when we aren’t sure.
Start With Creation
As girls journey through adolescence, they often struggle with body image. Eating disorders, self-harm, and depression are becoming more common among teens, even those in the church. As parents, we need to purposefully take every opportunity to remind our daughter that they were created in the image of God. He made her and He called His creation good. As you teach her about her body remember that every part was made by Him for a reason. He made her sparkly eyes, curly hair and pointy elbows. He also made her vagina. Every cell of her body was designed for a purpose and there is no shame it how He made her.
None of the changes to your daughter’s developing body are sinful. When you talk with her about puberty and she struggles with her changing body, remind her that she is created in the image of God. When you are teaching your daughter about periods, talk about hygiene and reproduction and how every part of her body was designed by God. You can teach her about boundaries, health, and dressing appropriately but we have to take care that we are not doing in shame.
Work on Your Own Hang-ups
Many parents struggle to talk with their tweens and teens because they still struggle with sex themselves. If you have had trauma, misunderstandings or challenges in your own life, you may need to find some space to work through those to make sure you don’t continue that legacy with your child. I’ve spoken with lots of moms who want to teach their daughters about healthy sexuality but don’t know much themselves. I recommend the book A Good Girl’s Guide to Sex as a great place to start by educating yourself.
Go Beyond a Fear of Pregnancy
Teaching our daughters about sex in the way God intended means eliminating shame and fear from our language. For many years, the threat of pregnancies or bad reputations has been used to scare girls into promising to wait until marriage. In reality, this approach has resulted in many Christian young people who are “technical virgins,” believing that anything that cannot produce a pregnancy is fair game. So, we see STIs running rampant through our youth groups and a generation questioning the hypocrisy.
It is important that our daughters understand the physical aspects of reproduction and the impact that an unplanned pregnancy could have on their lives. We need to have those discussions. We can’t stop there though. When you talk to your daughter about sex, you need to talk to her about all types of sex and sexual activities. We need to be clear what boundaries are important and why. This is where you will really have to dig into the scripture and your own beliefs. Your child needs a clear answer about what things are appropriate in what context and why you believe that.
Remember That Your Daughter’s Value is Not Tied to Virginity
In many parts of the purity culture, the sister of fear is shame. Girls are told that having sex, whether it is consensual or not, makes them as worthless as a piece of chewed up bubble gum. They hear words like nasty, or slut to describe sexual acts and the girls that perform them. At home, the messages may not be as explicit but our daughters pick up on the gossip about certain women, the responses that we give their outfits and the topics we avoid in discomfort. By the time young wives find their way to my couch, they are often either so engulfed in shame over not meeting the standards that they cannot be free in their marriages, or they are struggling to embrace the wonderful physical relationships that they were designed to have with their husbands.
We should teach our kids the standards that we believe in but also walk in grace.
The Bible is clear that fear and shame do not have a place in the education of our daughters. Perfect love casts out fear and there is no condemnation for those who are in Christ. (Condemnation is the Biblical term for shame.) The hard part is that teaching our girls about sex, reproduction, and boundaries is harder without shaming and scaring them into line. Instead of using broad euphemisms or saying that certain actions or attitudes are bad, nasty or “un-Christian,” we have to be able to explain what we believe and why. That means that we as parents, need to work through our own hang-ups and dig into scripture for guidance. If you are looking for one scripture to use as a starting point when you teach your daughter about sex and her body, my suggestions would be Ephesians 4:15, speak the truth in love.
ARE YOU A BOY MOM?
Have you ever asked yourself the question…”God, couldn’t you have given me easier boys?” If the answer is yes, or if you’ve questioned His love for you because of your “hard thing”, you may need to hear this.
Join Brooke McGlothlin, Co-Founder of The MOB Society in “When You’re Mad at God for Giving You Hard-to-Handle Boys”
∞ ABOUT THE AUTHOR ∞
Le Shepard is a mama by birth and adoption to kids with superpowers and special needs. She lives outside a one-stoplight town in Texas with her husband, three kids, four dogs, a lizard, and some cows. Le writes about epilepsy, orphan care, faith, and pure exhaustion at Mom* and would be pleased as punch if you followed her on Facebook or Instagram.