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Dating, Love, and Sex – A Triple Threat For Most Parents

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Dating, Love, and Sex – A Triple Threat For Most Parents

Marcia, who is now in fourth grade, has a crush on a kid in her class!  And so it begins…

If you are a parent, I’m sure you get more than a little nervous thinking about your children growing up and starting to date and falling in love.  If you are like me, you probably also get nervous thinking about these kids one day having sex.  I know this is inevitable.  I cannot stop my children from doing or experiencing anything.  And, really, neither can you.  What you and I CAN do is inform ourselves; educate ourselves so we don’t deprive our children of information they need to make critical decisions of their own.

There are plenty of varying attitudes on this topic.  Plenty of people, some dads I know too, voice the “Not on MY watch” mindset.  Others share a “Be good.  If you can’t be good, be careful.  If you can’t be careful, don’t name it after me.” philosophy.  Yet most people, upon deeper discussion, recognize both of these attitudes are not helpful to their child.  Children need to hear real information: aka The Truth.  I also think it is critical to share your own values around dating, sex, and love.  For example, Let’s say you are the mother of a daughter and you think girls should not call boys.  This could be a source for future conflict if you take a hard line.  Perhaps she needs to call a boy classmate to get clarity on a class assignment.  How will you react?  Would that be okay?  Will it cause a fight?  Perhaps you could agree that this would be ok but that you would prefer to leave it up to the boy to ask her out.  Make sure you tell her that some people might do things differently but this is what you value.  The other approach doesn’t make it wrong, just different.

Most parents, not surprisingly, wish to protect their children from the potential pain, shame, hurt, embarrassment, etc, etc of dating and love.  We all know the depiction of an over protective father holding a shotgun, threatening any date who dares to try the sexual things he himself did when he was younger.  Let’s think about this model:  Is this the right message?  How will our daughters perceive it?  Will our daughters be humiliated with embarrassment?  Angered by the lack of trust?  Would it send fear into the boy so he keeps his hands to himself or would it inspire the daughter to be rebellious?  Perhaps we experienced these things as young people — think back to when you and your peers were young: Chances are you or some of your classmates were already doing sexual things at a young age; would you would freak out if your kids were doing those same things?  Have you started hyperventilating yet?

As an educator, I want to make sure I give my kids information about sexually transmitted Infections (STIs) and pregnancy prevention but I also want to be Sex Positive.  Let me back up and offer a definition.  For those of you who do not know what Sex Positive is, it’s “an attitude towards human sexuality that regards all consensual sexual activities as fundamentally healthy and pleasurable, and encourages sexual pleasure and experimentation”.  The first part of this is what I wish to address now.  The second part is what we will address later – over time naturally as they get older and as the topic comes up and as the teens age.  There is already enough out there that is sex negative and scary.  I don’t want sex to be scary to my children because I know it can be enjoyable. Most sex education programs teach simply reproductive biology, and STI/Pregnancy prevention.  I also want to make sure my kids learn stuff related to sex and sexuality that is NOT taught in a traditional Abstinence Only Before Marriage Sex Education program.  If these are not taught in schools, then where do our kids learn these important things?

In Europe, they tie sex to love and statistics show it is a WHOLE lot more effective than the abstinence only before marriage sex education programs here in America. Recently, published a slide show with some interesting data:

The first time they had sex, 64 percent of Dutch teens used birth control, compared with only 26 percent of American teens. Most of the time, the Dutch teens used pills.  Think about it for a minute: The majority of Dutch teens are making an appointment, going to a clinic, getting a prescription filled and starting birth control before they have sex.  Meanwhile, in the United States, the average time between first having sex and first making a family-planning visit is almost two years.  Here, 70 percent of school-based health clinics are forbidden from providing condoms or other birth control, even as 80 percent of them are busy diagnosing STDs and pregnancy.

In addition, almost half of the Dutch kids used both condoms for STD protection and the pill or another like method for birth control. This even has a nickname: “Double Dutch!” Only 17 percent of American kids protected themselves this way.

As a parent, I want to tie sex and pleasure together.  I’ve recently blogged about sex and love and how that is a bit of a set up for girls to “give it up” when they think they are in love or that their partner is in love with them.  Either way, there has to be talk about pleasure and love.  If you keep it clinical and don’t acknowledge the nuances, you are missing an incredible opportunity to connect with your child.  They need to know your honest experiences so they can understand where you are coming from.  And so they can avoid your mistakes as well.  It’s a way of imparting knowledge, which, combined with their own experiences, will help them gain wisdom.

I’ve also blogged about dating as a single mother.  I am hoping my experiences are helping my daughters develop healthy views on dating and love.  I am hoping to model positive behavior to them, including learning from when and if I stumble.  If that happens and I can make it age appropriate, I will sit down with them to go through a post-mortem of sorts.  I’ve been doing this and as a result of this open dialogue, we are strengthening the protective feelings for one another. Once not too long ago, Marcia said to me, “Mom, if he doesn’t see that you are a good person, then he doesn’t deserve to be with you.” Aaaaand she’s 9 years old.  I was absolutely blown away by that statement and have tried to encourage her to remember that for when she gets older. I think we all have a unique perspective to offer to our children.  For those of you who are married (or in a steady, committed relationship) you have a wonderful opportunity to model loving, affectionate, caring, communicative relationships.  I believe very strongly that children learn what they live.  Let’s help them live in happiness and love.

We are all trying to protect our children; That is our job as parents.  Your approach may be entirely different and that’s ok.  But ultimately this is about communication and providing our children with as much truthful information about dating, love, and sex as possible.  For you parents of older kids, would you be willing to share any successes and failures you and your kids experienced?

Copyright © 2011 The MamaSutra

Lanae St.John

Lanae St.John is a San Francisco Bay Area based Sexy Mamas Blogger, BoardCertified Sexologist, and Sex Educator. Her work with clients normalizes conversations about sexuality between parents and children, while helping adults to discover a more sexually positive outlook. By teaching parents to nurture the budding sexuality of their children in ways that foster self-respect and acceptance for the totality of their personhood, she helps them raise children who become empowered, beautiful, strong, sexually healthy adults. Lanae also coaches couples and individuals on their sexual questions and concerns, helping them to optimize their sexual experiences and achieve healthy adult sexuality via a sex-positive approach to sexual education. Lanae received her Bachelor of Science in Psychology and a certificate in Women’s Studies from the University of Wisconsin- Madison in 1991. She completed the Associate in Sex Education and Clinical Sexology before going on to receive her Masters in Human Sexuality in 2011 from the Institute for Advanced Study of Human Sexuality. Currently, she is a Ph.D. candidate studying Human Sexuality. Ms St.John is a contributing sexpert on the sex education site What They Are She is also co-founder for the site, a site that seeks to empower women to discover and enjoy their own sexuality. She is a Sex & Relationship Panelist for the popular site and is also an expert on, a website combining sex educators and medical professionals together to talk about the female orgasm. Her blog, “The MamaSutra®” on Good Vibrations’ website, was voted into the Top 25 SF Bay Area Mom Blogs in 2011 and she was listed #1 in the 30 Must-”Like” Sex-Positive Facebook Pages. Lanae also co-hosted Season 1 of a show called Sexxx Talk Radio on the Progressive Radio Network – the podcast can be found on iTunes. As The MamaSutra®, Lanae has been featured as a sex-positive parenting expert in SSEX BBOX – a web series documentary featuring people and experts from four cities around the world. Lanae is also featured in the not-yet released feature length documentary “Revolutionary Sex” (working title) by NuReality Productions. In March 2013, Lanae was part of a contingent of Sexologists to travel to China. She lectured on Childhood Sexuality: Fostering Growth Into Sexually Healthy Adults to the Chinese Sexology Association and was asked to submit her paper to The Chinese Journal of Human Sexuality. Coming soon, Ms. St.John can also be found as one of the Expert Faculty of Sex Coach U and as one of Dr. Ava Cadell’s “Love Coach All Stars”. A Board Certified Sexologist (American College of Sexologists, A.C.S.), Lanae is also a member of the Society for the Scientific Study of Sexuality (S.S.S.S), The American Association of Sex Educators, Counselors, and Therapists (A.A.S.E.C.T.) and the International Society for the Study of Women’s Sexual Health (I.S.S.W.S.H.) Lanae is the proud mother of two daughters with whom she actively embodies her message of empowerment, freedom of expression, and a sex- and body-positive mentality.

Get in touch with Lanae via email at


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