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We Don't Need to Have the 'Sex Talk'

Photograph by Twenty20

When I was in middle school, a friend told me that she had convinced her 9-year old brother that a boy gets a girl pregnant by grabbing hold of her knee, shaking it vigorously and making a noise that sounded like a dog growling. He believed her of course, since in those innocent pre-Internet days he probably hadn't discussed sex yet with his friends and had no way of verifying his sister's story. I imagined him being deathly afraid of touching a girl's knee and being alarmed when he heard a dog growling for years until he found out the truth.

Now of course, any 9-year-old probably already knows all about how babies are made either from schoolyard conversations or from some covert Google searches while hanging out at a friend's house. So is it really necessary to have "The Talk" anymore?

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It probably wasn't a good idea to have the conversation in the middle of a ramen restaurant in L.A.

Ten years ago, when my daughter was 9, I attempted to be a responsible parent by taking her out to lunch and starting the conversation about the birds and the bees and all the changes to her body that were about to occur. In hindsight, it probably wasn't a good idea to have the conversation in the middle of a ramen restaurant in L.A. I think she'll forever associate a bowl of Japanese noodles with that horrendously uncomfortable 45 minutes back in 2006.

It turns out it was probably unnecessary anyway; she already knew pretty much all there was to know, and while it was good to let her know that I was available to talk about these topics in the future she certainly didn't need me spelling out how babies were made. Which meant those charts and that slide presentation I had brought along went completely to waste.

With sex ed being taught in schools and all of the resources available on the Internet, kids have a pretty good idea of what all the parts are, what they're for, how they work and where they go. Maybe we can breathe a sigh of relief and for once be happy that they might be getting some factually accurate information from their friends and online? Sites like ScarletTeen and Sex Etc. offer sound advice and valuable resources while still being current and designed to be tween- and teen-friendly. They are popular for answering questions about everything from condom use to sexual identity.

But this doesn't mean we shouldn't talk with our kids about sex—it's quite the opposite. Having an open dialogue with your kids about relationships, sexual behavior, birth control and how to protect themselves against STDs and other communicable diseases is vital, and letting them know that you're available to talk can go a long way in keeping them informed. According to Planned Parenthood, "teens often name their parents as the biggest influence in their decisions about sex. And teens who report having good conversations with their parents about sex are more likely to delay sexual activity, have fewer partners and use condoms and other contraceptives when they do have sex."

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The bottom line is, even though your kids probably know a lot more than you did at their age, let them know that you're there to talk, fill in the gaps and answer all of their questions. But I don't think it's necessary anymore to drag your kid to a ramen shop to give them your own personal TED Talk on the human reproductive system. I'm guessing there aren't any 9-year-olds around that think you can get pregnant by having your knee jiggled.

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