I remember the exact moment I was asked about the advice that my mother figure gave me about sex that stuck with me and I staggered to give a response. The truth was, between being told repeatedly not to get pregnant (while not being remotely sexually active), then getting in trouble after bringing home a condom from sex-ed, to being told that having too many male friends made me "loose"...chile. I'm tired from just writing that sentence.
Real Housewives of Atlanta star Cynthia Bailey shares that in her childhood, her mother could never quite find the verbiage, and perhaps the nerve, to talk to her young daughter about sex. However, her mom did something very radical: gave her resources so that she could enjoy sex when she well and ready without having the risk of bringing a child into the world unintentionally. What she did instead was put her on birth control as soon as her period started. Cynthia shares:
"[I] grew up in the South, my mom didn't really talk to us a lot about sex. We didn't have the bird and the bees talk. Literally, once we were old enough to start our menstrual cycle, she put us on the pill... It was like no real explanation. It was like 'Oh you can have a baby now, so you take this every day.'"
This approach is liberating yet a bit sad, depending on the way you look at it. On one end of the spectrum, it can be seen as a mother protecting her daughter from unwanted responsibility and restriction of being a teen mom. On the other end, you can see the missed opportunity for a young woman to be educated about things like consent, pleasure, and unwanted sexual advances. One thing is for certain: sometimes it is impossible for someone to teach you what they themselves don't know how to confront and that doesn't make them inadequate, just perhaps ill-equipped. Cynthia shares:
"I think it was her way of saying 'I don't want you guys to get pregnant.' Had we not gotten on the pill, because we didn't have a lot of information, I probably would have three or four kids now and my life would have been very different."
In the end, I think her transparency really draws to attention how important it is to be intentional about the messages we give the little girls in our lives about sex. Whether we are a young woman's mother, sister, auntie, big cousin, or mentor, we have to remember that not talking about sex in a culture saturated by sex does a disservice to her development. It is just as much about what you don't say, as it is about giving negative information. The message given can either be empowering and informative or something she will have to spend years unlearning and healing from.
As for Cynthia, she is incredibly happy that she was given the tools to silently explore her sexuality:
"I'm just trying to live my best life and making up for the things my mom was not allowed to do. So, I kind of feel like I'm living a double life. I'm living for me, I'm living for her and in a lot of ways she's living through me."
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