My mother’s talk about sex was nonexistent, like in many fundamental Christian homes. Her only words were, “Don’t do it. Why buy the cow when you can get the milk for free?”
So I was naïve and thought I should follow the church rules and wait until marriage to “serve” my man. It was about what I “gave up.”
I want my daughters to know that not all boys are threatening louts (although some may be selfish lovers). Sex is not awful, and women are not property, plastic dolls whose destiny is controlled by our parents and then husband.
Now, I love sex. It’s fun. And because I love you, my daughter, I want you to have the same delights in life that I do.
You are a beautiful and self-sufficient woman, and I want you to use your smarts to make sound decisions about your body and your sexuality. I wish I had the same conversation with my mother about sexuality, but times were different back then. But you should never be afraid to speak your mind, at least not to me.
Please take these words to heart:
1. There is power in your choice. You should have confidence in sex because you are choosing to partake, so it’s empowering, not shameful. If we consciously admit we’re going to have sex, we are more likely to take responsibility for this freedom by using birth control. By denying our sexuality, like I did, you may still end up in bed, but without protection. Today the spread of AIDS and STDs, let alone the consequences of pregnancy when you’re not ready to be a mother, is devastating. So carry a condom. Don’t depend on the man to have one. Enjoy your sexual freedom, but take responsibility for it. I never want you to have to choose between having an abortion, giving up a child for adoption, or quitting your college or career to raise an unplanned-for child.
2. Be willing to take risks and chances in many areas of your life, including sex. Go out and play, because consensual sex isn’t something that men take from you. It’s about the give and take. It doesn’t lessen you to give pleasure, or degrade you to have pleasure of your own. Any man who says differently thinks very poorly of women and is a selfish lover. Never compromise yourself, your vision of yourself, or your better judgment to make a man happy -- in or out of the bedroom.
3. We have the good fortune to have a sense of who we are. We are not one-dimensional. You are a unique, strong, sexy, independent woman. You’re not me, nor are you an extension of my will. So you will make your own damned mistakes. I’ll help pick you up when you are lost. There’s strength that comes from fumbling our way out of the darkness and finding our authentic self. You are your own person. Become a strong woman who knows what her bliss is and knows just what to do to get it.
4. Sex is a natural part of the human experience. Fantasy and imagination are great, but the real thing is better. Yes, it’s safer to live in a glass cage, but taking risks and living out our adventures sexually as well as in our travels and careers makes for a full life. Yes, you will get rejected by men and by jobs and experience pain in life. But to me the peaks are worth taking the risk to live out our potential. There are worse things to “give up” to a man, such as your financial independence, your equality in the home, and your career. You need to know if you will be treated as an equal on every level before going into a legal partnership such as marriage.
5. Women have as much right to be sexual in all their colors as much as men. The Masters and Johnson studies show that women actually have more “buttons” for sexuality. We can have multiple orgasms in multiple places. The cultural brainwashing denying women the right to explore their sexuality was created by a patriarchal society that wants to keep women down.
6. Yes, if men really admitted that we women are sexual, they would have performance anxiety issues, as we women are more sexual on every level than men. Never settle for the one-minute ride!
7. If a man says he wants to take care of you, move on. You are not a child or a fragile doll to be cared fo, and neither is he. Loving couples take care of each other because they are partners in life.
8. Don’t let loneliness or insecurity dictate who you love. That won’t be real or satisfying -- it will be fulfilling a deficit in your life. Find a man from a place of security and confidence so you don’t feel that you need him to complete you, but rather you want him to be the person you love and who loves you back.
9. Don’t spend time with a man that you want to change as soon as you can. If you can’t live with his bad habits or qualities now, then you shouldn’t be with him in the future. He will only change if he wants to change. We can only change ourselves, not others.
10. RUN if he doesn’t ask questions about your life. Self-centeredness is truly one of the worst qualities you can find in a potential mate. If you’ve gone on a couple of dates with him and he hasn’t asked you about yourself, run as if an axe murderer is chasing you. He will be self-centered in the bedroom, too!
11. A man who is completely focused on your appearance might be enticing at first, but don’t do it. Of course you want him to be attracted to you and you to him, but if he’s only about your breasts and your ass, he’s unlikely to value how brilliant, clever, and funny you are. Do you want a man to support more than your breasts? Then move on!
With all my love,
Barbara McNally is the author of "Unbridled: A Memoir."