Minus the City: Talking Sex with the ’Rents

Ah, yes, holiday season is in full swing. Many of us have attended one family or friend gathering and are preparing for many more. Who doesn’t love the classic distant relative prodding into our career plans or, better yet, our love lives? For first-years, returning home from college is a new experience. Older students are more experienced in navigating the transition from Colgate life to home life.

College is a time of many firsts, many experimentations, many failures and triumphs. It may be one’s first time away from home, and heartache ensues as one longs for pets, parents or a long-distance significant other. College may be the first time someone drinks alcohol and experiences the skull-shattering ache of a hangover the morning after. College may be a time where individuals experiment with, discover or accept their sexuality (honestly, who hasn’t included having sex in an academic building on their bucket list?). In any case, whatever the situation may be, one common struggle is divulging this information to our parents.

I imagine the levels of comfort or discomfort disclosing personal information depend on a variety of factors. One is the closeness of your relationship with your parents. The type of activity or situation can also affect how willing we are to share. I feel incredibly grateful to have such a close relationship with my family. I feel safe, un-judged, accepted and loved telling my parents about most of what I do, think and say. But there is a topic that I, and I believe many of my peers, cannot seem to open the door to: sex.

Sex is a natural part of human life and relationships. Sex is the reason that you read this article and I can write it. Sex is, or should be, a positive experience. It can promote emotional closeness, help with sleeplessness and relieve stress. So why do we feel uncomfortable talking about it?

By opening up to our parents about our intimate experiences, we open a whole new world that previously remained closed. Bringing up sexual activity may be seen as a re- minder to our parents that we are not the same “innocent” children they raised. I imagine many parents do not want to think of their children as sexual beings or as adults. How taboo sex remains is easily conveyed in the notion that somehow, by engaging in sexual activity, one loses their innocence. This reinforces the harmful idea that sex is dirty or shameful. Additionally, just because you have chosen to engage in sexual intercourse with someone doesn’t mean you are a different person. Sex doesn’t mean you love your parents less, that your music interests have changed or that you will suddenly want to move to Paris and live as an au pair.

There are also the worries that being sexually active may lead to pregnancy or infections. Rather than keep the sex talks under wraps, though, the potential negative consequences should promote open communication about sex, if for no other reason than to promote safe practices. I’d rather my child tell me they’re sexually active so I can ensure they have condoms, rather than they do it behind my back, unprotected, because they are afraid of being “caught.”

Hopefully, time and maturity will ease nerves or tensions, and as our relationships evolve, we will become more comfortable discussing sex with our family members. Or maybe an extra glass of eggnog will have us feeling a bit more bold and brave. Either way, happy holidays, everyone, and happy cuffing season!

Contact Kira Palmer at [email protected].