Advice: Parent-Teen Sex Talk

Accusatory, Alienating Sex Talk: Ur Doin' it Rite (Image via

Yesterday a parent contacted me online about finding a condom in his daughter’s bag. (I wish I’d asked what he was doing in her bag in the first place.) His reaction was pretty standard fare: anxiety, fear, urge to intervene.

What really got me was his gendered reaction. His *daughter*, little girl, a female had condoms. She wants sex and is preparing for the encounter. Teen girls feel the sting of regulation far more than teen boys. Maybe because we imagine females as delicate creatures we exert more control over their lives as they develop into adults. Protect them from the evils of the world, namely the uncontrollable sex drives of young males.

Here’s the deal: teens don’t need protection. They need advice. They need support while they navigate their way into adulthood. Sex can really confusing for teens in a world that silences advice and offers sex-saturated images around every corner for consumer titillation.

Do you have a kid? Please talk to them about sex. You don’t have to launch into lectures about safety or ask probing questions about their sex lives. Just talk about sex calmly when it comes up. Our culture is obsessed with sex. media sex scandals or new research will give you plenty of opportunities. Otherwise, you will wait and avoid these talks until you find a condom in your kid’s bag and have no idea what to do.

The Dad who contacted me felt this dread anxiety of talking to a teen about sex. A transcript of the conversation and my advice for him after the jump.


i just found a condom in my 14 year old daughters school bag


Condom does not immediately equal someone having sex. Sometimes carrying a condom is a way for teenagers to explore their own sexuality. If she is having sex, be glad the condom is there.


i know as a guy… that seems normal, but not for a girl


Why not? That’s a pretty sexist assumption.


as a father.. i was taken back by it. haven’t talked to her about it, because i wanted to get the shock of finding it out of my system, before i confronted this to her


“before i confronted this to her” Confront her? Not a very solid approach to talking to her about sex. She’ll get defensive and not listen to you.


what i mean by confronting… is questioning her about it


Also, don’t question her. Try having a conversation where you respect her autonomy and decision making.


so don’t even bring up the fact that I found the condom?


Bring it up, but in a roundabout way. Be relaxed. If you get nervous, she’ll get nervous and it will be awkward. Condoms are not a big deal. Figure out what you want to say before you have the discussion.

Read that guide. Understand your own biases and come from a place of support, not judgment or control. Tell her honestly: “I’m your Dad and it’s hard for me to think of you needing a condom. I’m not sure what to say but I want to bring it up.”


i’ll try… thanks for this

4 thoughts on “Advice: Parent-Teen Sex Talk”

  1. I have a 9 yr old daughter. I’m a sex blogger. I have lots of sex toys. I am open and honest with her about sex. I don’t masturbate around her or anything, but one time she asked for a tour of my toy box and I explained what things were. She was so delighted! She said, “THANK YOU Mommy for being so honest with me!” The whole conversation is here:

    More recently she asked where my partner is (we don’t live together) I told her, “He’s out of town this week.” She said, “Oh, you can’t play sex with him? That’s too bad!”

    She is SO glad to know that grown ups get to have toys and play!

  2. I think the go-to attitudes of parents who discover their kids are having sex – as you said, anxiety, urge to intervene – is understandable, but pretty nuts.

    The only reason my parents don’t know I’m sleeping with my boyfriend is because they would flip, and would not be able to get over it. While my parents are thinking “how could she be doing such an awful thing?”, in their position I’d be thinking “hey, cool, my kids are being safe”. When you approach these issues in a sex-negative attitude, all you will get is disaster. Sexually active teenagers don’t need sex-negative attitudes – they need parents who can be glad they’re being safe, and offer support if they need it, even if it makes the parents uncomfortable. I’d love my parents to do that; however, they’re pretty sex-negative and that wouldn’t happen, so it’s easier for me if they don’t know. Better no support than angry parents, which I think is a very sad way of looking at things.

    The bottom line: Teenagers will have sex – I’m 17, I see it all first hand. Why freak out and try to change it, doing damage as you go, when you could build a supportive relationship with your children, and gain their deep respect and trust?

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