Over the last several years I have come across a plethora of women who don’t know things that I think are very important for a woman to know by a certain point in her life. This has led me to several head aches and a plethora of “what the hecks.”
Now, I’m not going to sit here and pretend that I knew everything I needed to know by the time I was 18 (because I 100% did NOT), but that’s kind of the point here. There seems to be WAY too many women approaching adulthood without information that would be so stress-relieving and frankly – life-saving.
This has gotten my significant other and I talking about how we wish young women knew more and were better prepared for adulthood (especially regarding sex and relationships). He literally knew someone growing up that didn’t know what a period was until the (I’m assuming very terrifying) day that she got one. Which, of course, has led to us talking about how we will better talk with our own future daughter about issues surrounding her body, sex, and relationships.
I think a lot of times people don’t want to talk about these things (or maybe they already know so they don’t think about them), and just leave poor young girls to “figure it out.” To be fair, we do figure it out… eventually. But, why must it be so difficult when it could just be talked about and make us feel less awkward and less alone? Why does personal comfort always seem to win over a girl actually being prepared for the challenges she will face in life?
With a lot of these, there’s no easy solution. Everyone is different, and some will find some of these topics easier to broach than others. All women have different experiences when it comes to these issues (which is also very important to talk to our daughters about), but it’s important to bring them up and to get them at least thinking about it.
Here are 5 things I want my daughter to know (or at least to have discussed with me) by the time she is 18:
Literally all her contraception options
Birth control was discussed in my house as soon as my sister and I entered adolescence. We were advised to track our periods, try to learn when we ovulated, and about certain birth control methods. However, it wasn’t until I took health class in high school that I learned ALL my birth control options from a Planned Parenthood representative. Birth control seems to be like this weird thing women are open about, but they really only talk about the methods they use. This is fantastic – birth control should be discussed, but it’s not enough for the girls entering sexual maturity and needing the information. I mean, the reason there are so many different birth control methods is because every woman is different. They need to know all their options and how they work.
Honestly, this one should be done like WAY before 18, but by 18 my daughter should be able to be a rep for Planned Parenthood herself *wink, wink*. By the time my daughter is considering having sex I want her to actually be ready by knowing her options and how they all work. Also, I want to talk to her about possible side effects, the emotional toll that birth control can take, how to talk to her partner about it, and I want her to have thought seriously about her stance on abortion (hey, it’s important to know what you’d do if your birth control fails. Plus, let’s be real, some conservative will eventually equate her method to abortion anyway). It’s also important for young girls to know that ultimately their birth control method is up to them. Your mom can’t pick your method and your partner should have little to no say in what method you choose.
That her body is her own
I want my daughter to know that her body is hers – not mine, not her fathers, not her partners, not societies, not even her children’s. She doesn’t have to have sex if she doesn’t want to, she doesn’t have to have babies if she doesn’t want to, and she can decorate herself however the hell she wants to. I won’t be one of those mothers that tells her daughter how to dress, what to do with her hair and makeup, or what she can get pierced. I want to teach my daughter that her body is her own from the get-go. Sure, I’ll be explaining the cultural implications of certain style choices and that some hair dye is permanent (and I absolutely won’t be paying for her beauty habits – I don’t even buy myself makeup!), but I won’t be one of those mothers that “forbids” harmless self-expression when it really just sends the message “your body is something other people get control over.” I want my daughter to know that her body is her own and her responsibility and not to let anyone dictate what she does with it.
How the vagina works
Here is a short list of things that I didn’t know about vaginas until I was way too old: that “vagina” doesn’t refer to the whole package down there, that oral sex was a thing for women, what the clitoris was for, how to prevent yeast infections, and I’m sure a bunch of other things that I have suppressed because it’s still too embarrassing to admit. Not to mention that I didn’t know what “vaginal tenting” was until I had already had a plethora of frustrating (and some very uncomfortable) sexual experiences and I actually thought that losing my virginity would somehow “teach me” to be able to use a tampon and get a pap smear (yeah, seriously) – maybe it does for some women, but it sure as hell didn’t for me!
Vaginas are confusing, and everyone’s is a little different. Some women start using tampons in middle school, don’t mind getting their annual exams, and know exactly what works for them in the bedroom. But, then there are the rest of us gals that just don’t get it right away (and, I think it’s more of us than we’d like to admit). There’s way more of a learning curve than we want to own up to in this area.
Let’s be real, half of us are STILL learning things about our vaginas as we age and grow sexually. So, why are we assuming that are daughters will just “figure it out” with no difficulty? There’s enough of that to do WITH information! I want my daughter to know as much information as I can give her about how her vagina works and I want her to know that sex can be frustrating until you get it and that’s ok – it doesn’t mean you don’t like sex or even the person you had it with – it’s just awkward sometimes. And I want it to be made clear that sex is a VERY different experience than an inanimate object being in there (seriously if I have to hear one more doctor compare a speculum to a penis I’m going to lose my mind).
That female sexuality is just as important as male sexuality
Being raised in a Christian household mixed with the ridiculous stereotype that women are less sexual than men being too pervasive in our culture meant that it took me YEARS to be comfortable with my sexuality. Now, I feel like I missed so many years of enjoying my sexuality in my youth because I was riddled with discomfort and misunderstanding. There is a lot of crappy information out there on this topic, it’s time to talk real and seriously about it.
For my daughter, I want to be very pro-female sexuality. News flash: women are just as sexual as men. Sexuality is more based on personal aspects than gender. Sure, the hormone fluctuation differences between men and women play a role, but not this horny vs not horny role a lot of society would lead you to believe. On the contrary, women can actually get MORE sexual than men (especially at different points in their menstrual cycle) because of those “fun” hormones.
All teenagers are horny, and girls shouldn’t have to feel guilty or dirty about it based on nothing. Also, I want her to know that her sexual pleasure is just as important as any male partners she may have and that it’s never a good idea stay with someone who doesn’t value your pleasure. I mean, don’t even get me started on the orgasm gap!
The men in her life should be her equals, period
Obviously, I want my daughter to not only be treated equally in the bedroom, but also in every aspect of her life. I wasn’t a feminist until halfway through college – that could have ended devastatingly. Luckily, I ended up with a man who also ended up becoming a feminist, but I’m very aware that my daughter may not be so lucky. I want my daughter to know that what she wants matters, period. She doesn’t have to give anything up that is important to her in order for men to be more comfortable. Whether it’s a job, a fashion statement, or roles in the relationship – she doesn’t HAVE to do anything she doesn’t want to, EVER! I would also like to emphasize that relationships that aren’t equal tend to not work out in the long run.