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17 Pieces Of Advice Our Mothers Gave Us About Sex That Stuck With Us

What we learned about sex from our mothers.

Sex

I received a million lessons about sex when I was growing up and all 999,999 were about being safe to prevent sexually transmitted infections and pregnancy. Being a 17-year-old mother, my mom had been practicing that spiel since before I came out the womb. She had it on lock.

Then there was that one time my father sat a 12-year-old me down over a delightful iHOP meal to tell me that should I let a man f*ck, consequently I could not be upset when he no longer wants anything to do with me. Or at least that's what it translates to in the language of "real ones", but for those of you whose fathers don't sound like a BET: Uncut video, that simply meant don't be upset when you give the milk up for free and men don't want to buy the whole damn cow. One, that's a lie, and two, it's a shame if you have to scheme me out of my cookie at this age.

What's most disappointing was that in all those lessons that I received about sex, not one of them warned me that the dick could have you sprung. That sex could be amazing, orgasmic, and intimate — with or without a ring on it (it being your finger, of course). Even me being grown-grown, my mom is not really one for the sex talk. Glimpses of her being about that life here and there but nothing that has stuck with me.

But as someone who received so many messages about safe sex and still engaged in unprotected sex, I can attest to the the fact that scare tactics under the guise of a helpful lesson won't discourage but encourage curiosity. Still, holding onto hope after one of xoNecole's editors put us up on game based on advice her own mother had given her, we asked our friends, our readers, and our staff to tell us what messages they received about sex and here's what they said:

​1. "Turn your eyes instead of confronting your husband about cheating. This was paralleled by my mother teaching me to demand money for attention and for my body."

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Wise words from: Grandmother

How did it shape your attitude towards sex? How did it affect your sex life in adulthood?

"These ideals affected my attitude towards sex because it turned into an exchange of goods instead of an exchange of energy and aligned goals. Today, I had to commit to multiple years of celibacy and self-love to peel back the layers of misguided learnings to design the experience in life and love I desire. Yes, a man should be a provider, but that holds no bearings on him deserving my body just because. Yes, I can forgive indiscretions, but I'm allowed to have boundaries, standards... Anyone not honoring them are telling me how they feel about me." – A.Comeaux

2. "Men who like you shaved down there are pedophiles." – Kyla

3. "Your cat is all you have to give and once you give it away, it's over for you." – xoFollower

4. "The willingness to eat you out was a requirement."

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Wise words from: Mom and/or grandma

How did it shape your attitude towards sex? How did it affect your sex life in adulthood?

"They instilled in me the expectation that sex is pleasurable to me, period. I remember telling them when I lost my virginity, being afraid if they would be ashamed of me or something, my grandmother's first response was literally, 'Was it good?' They regularly taught me that as a woman sex is to be a delightful experience, and any man who makes you feel otherwise isn't a man I should share myself with. It helped me feel confident in my sexual experiences — I've never cared about 'body count', how many people I was seeing in a given period time or any of that stuff. It unleashed the inner 'hoe' that's probably in every woman. I've never felt the need to debate, justify, or explain the female position in casual sex. Likewise, I'm in a perfectly healthy monogamous relationship right now. They helped shape the way I think about myself, and helped me disregard the pressures our society has around women and their sexuality. I didn't live my life trying to be wifey material, whatever the f*ck that is." – Carla

5. "If you have sex you will contract HIV or become a single mother and die alone." – xoFollower

6. "You'll go to hell." – xoFollower

"They regularly taught me that as a woman sex is to be a delightful experience, and any man who makes you feel otherwise isn't a man I should share myself with."

7. "Never let a man get on top of you and hump you like a rabbit. It's not a race."

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Wise words from: Auntie

How did it shape your attitude towards sex? How did it affect your sex life in adulthood?

"I took it to heart. I actually tell [partners] that just so they know to come correct. I told the guy I'm currently talking to that and he spent 30 minutes going down. I make sure I get mine. It has made me more upfront and confident in what I want sexually, it's made me comfortable vocalizing it. If they can't respect that, then they're not the right one." – Kamilah

8. "Boys are nasty. Don't let them touch you." – xoFollower

9. "Every partner you have will take a little piece of you and you'll feel less like yourself each time."

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Wise words from: Auntie

How did it shape your attitude towards sex? How did it affect your sex life in adulthood?

"I love sex and although it's only been in recent years that I made a conscious effort to remain celibate, these words have been taking root in me for years, from the first time I began crying mid-sex to the next two times. I tried to fight it as much as possible since I love sex and all...But the older I got, the more I grew tired of ignoring the burnout that came with meaningless sex for me. I truly felt my partners depleting me of my energy. Some people are built for casual sex, emotionally. I've finally realized that I'm not one of them. I try to be on an annual basis, like literally I try having sex again once a year and it ends in tears. This has made my sex life nearly nonexistent as far as including other partners goes, but I hope that it will give me a more fruitful sex life when I find the right person to have sex with." – Tracey*

10. "If he's horny and you're not, you better give it or he'll find it somewhere else."

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Wise words from: Nana

How did it shape your attitude towards sex? How did it affect your sex life in adulthood?

"It made me feel like sex is something I have with a man to show him I care about him, and in a way, value him more. It's [sex] for consumption and if I don't give it to him, that's grounds for him to be unsatisfied/not love me. So I used sex as a way to get a guy to really be interested in me — a bargaining tool if you will, and a major component of my value as a woman and partner." – Zaniah

11. "Don't let them boys dig in you." – xoFollower

12. "Sometimes you have to set your alarm so you can get it in the morning because men are always ready in the morning."

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Wise words from: Mom

How did it shape your attitude towards sex? How did it affect your sex life in adulthood?

"Although we're a religious family, my parents have always talked about how once married, sex should be pleasurable and it is an act created by God to be enjoyed — not to be ashamed of. I've carried that into my marriage and have a very healthy sex life with my husband. I've always been open to try new things but the comfort and pleasure that comes with sex in marriage when you've been raised to understand that sex is natural, pleasurable, and Christian is maximized." – Mya

13. "A wet ass and an empty purse don't go together." – Rebecca

14. "I'll tell you how to keep em! You gotta put that voodoo p*ssy on them." – Jamillah

15. "Men are dogs and sex is bad." – xoFollower

"I've always been open to try new things but the comfort and pleasure that comes with sex in marriage when you've been raised to understand that sex is natural, pleasurable, and Christian is maximized."

16. "Try it before you buy it."

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Wise words from:Mom

How did it shape your attitude towards sex? How did it affect your sex life in adulthood?

"It gave me the confidence to go out into the world and be as sexual as I desired, regardless of what anyone else thinks. I don't feel disappointed in myself or the experience, I just look at the glass half full and am always grateful that I found out sooner than later." – Sam

17. "Cop a feel. Make sure it's real." – Shellie

After speaking to so many different women about the different things they've learned from women before them about sex, I am fully aware that some of these messages have gray areas. I also recognize the danger of pushing an abstinence-only agenda. Depending on how you flex your sexuality, the placement of some of these will resonate with you more than others. Really, it's simple: We must be sure to educate our daughters on the pleasure principles while simultaneously stressing the difficulties of teenage pregnancy and the potential dangers that arise with sexually transmitted infections.

There's a way to go about it and some of the stuff I read above — that ain't it. So, lets vow to do better. Let's cancel this rhetoric of sex being "unlady-like" in adolescents because, for some of us, it's making good sex hard to come by in adulthood. Now, I'd like to hear from you. What have the women before you taught you about sex? How has it shaped your sexuality or your sex life today?

All images by Getty Images.

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When I was ten, my Sunday school teacher put on a brief performance in class that included some of the boys standing in front of the classroom while she stood in front of them holding a heart shaped box of chocolate. One by one, she tells each boy to come and bite a piece of candy and then place the remainder back into the box. After the last boy, she gave the box of now mangled chocolate over to the other Sunday school teacher — who happened to be her real husband — who made a comically puzzled face. She told us that the lesson to be gleaned from this was that if you give your heart away to too many people, once you find “the one,” that your heart would be too damaged. The lesson wasn’t explicitly about sex but the implication was clearly present.

That memory came back to me after a flier went viral last week, advertising an abstinence event titled The Close Your Legs Tour with the specific target demo of teen girls came across my Twitter timeline. The event was met with derision online. Writer, artist, and professor Ashon Crawley said: “We have to refuse shame. it is not yours to hold. legs open or not.” Writer and theologian Candice Marie Benbow said on her Twitter: “Any event where 12-17-year-old girls are being told to ‘keep their legs closed’ is a space where purity culture is being reinforced.”

“Purity culture,” as Benbow referenced, is a culture that teaches primarily girls and women that their value is to be found in their ability to stay chaste and “pure”–as in, non-sexual–for both God and their future husbands.

I grew up in an explicitly evangelical house and church, where I was taught virginity was the best gift a girl can hold on to until she got married. I fortunately never wore a purity ring or had a ceremony where I promised my father I wouldn’t have pre-marital sex. I certainly never even thought of having my hymen examined and the certificate handed over to my father on my wedding day as “proof” that I kept my promise. But the culture was always present. A few years after that chocolate-flavored indoctrination, I was introduced to the fabled car anecdote. “Boys don’t like girls who have been test-driven,” as it goes.

And I believed it for a long time. That to be loved and to be desired by men, it was only right for me to deny myself my own basic human desires, in the hopes of one day meeting a man that would fill all of my fantasies — romantically and sexually. Even if it meant denying my queerness, or even if it meant ignoring how being the only Black and fat girl in a predominantly white Christian space often had me watch all the white girls have their first boyfriends while I didn’t. Something they don’t tell you about purity culture – and that it took me years to learn and unlearn myself – is that there are bodies that are deemed inherently sinful and vulgar. That purity is about the desire to see girls and women shrink themselves, make themselves meek for men.

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It took me a while —after leaving the church and unlearning the toxic ideals around purity culture rooted in anti-Blackness, fatphobia, heteropatriarchy, and queerphobia — to embrace my body, my sexuality, and my queerness as something that was not only not sinful or dirty, but actually in line with the vision God has over my life. Our bodies don't stop being our temples depending on who we do or who we don’t let in, and our worth isn’t dependent on the width of our legs at any given point.

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