Thursday, February 13, 2014

Talking about desire with my teens

If I was single and straight, and I was eating at a casual restaurant with my 20 year old son, and I saw a VERY attractive woman walk by, would it be appropriate for me to say to my son, "That is one hot woman!"?

What if I said something like, "Check out those legs!" or "Look at that sweet ass!" or "Nice rack!"?

How about if I said something crude, like, "I've got a big hard-on from staring at those tits," or, "I really want to fuck that girl"?

Another question.  What if my son was to say any of those things to me, how enthusiastically should I respond?  Would, "Yeah, I really want to fuck her too!" be OK?

I never had those kinds of conversations with my father.  I never wanted to.  As far as I was concerned, the more emotional distance between us, the better.

I don't know what a typical father/teenage son relationship is like these days when it comes to openly talking about desire.  What if my son was 17?  Or 15?  Or 13?  How much should his age affect my openness?

Once, a year ago, when my son was 19, he said to me, "Dad!  Check out that girl!"

I didn't know how to respond, for a few reasons.  First, I was driving and literally didn't see the girl.  Second, it often feels weird to me to ogle women, especially very young women.  And third, I was uncomfortable with my son's openness.  I felt like he was still at an age where he needed a father, not a buddy.

He knows I'm not straight and he claims to be bisexual (although I've never seen any indication that he's attracted to men, ever, in any way), so theoretically we could talk about both men and women....but I don't know...being that open, even about women, feels highly inappropriate.

I've also recently had a few awkward conversations with my 14 year old daughter about desire.

She's not one of those screechy early teen girls who "LOVES!!!!" Justin Bieber or Harry Styles.  She's actually a little dark and sarcastic.  One subject she talks about endlessly is the TV show "The Originals" which is a (horrible) spin-off of the (equally horrible) show "The Vampire Dairies."  Interestingly, what she likes to talk about the most is how badly the 1,000 year-old vampire brothers and sisters treat each other.
Daniel Gillies

Her favorite actor is Daniel Gillies.  A few weeks ago, as she was talking about him, she showed me his picture and asked if I thought he was good-looking.  The question caught me off-guard.  She'd never asked me anything like that before.  Mostly she prattles on (and on....and on...) about the characters on the show, not how they look.  I tried not to pause or flinch or blush or do anything that wasn't father-like.  Instead I gave her a very matter-of-fact, "Yes, he's good-looking."

Then she showed me a picture of a woman from the show that I know she despises, Phoebe Tonkin.

Phoebe Tonkin
The photo made Phoebe look slutty and strung out on meth, but even so, there's no denying that she's a beautiful woman.

I answered my daughter, "Yes, she's very good looking."

I wanted to be equally matter-of-fact about her as I was about Daniel.  That's how dad's are supposed to be, right?  Balanced and diplomatic.

Fortunately, my daughter's game of "Is this person good-looking?" ended there, which was a huge relief.  It would have been torture to dead-pan/be matter-of-fact about 10 or 20 different people.

Another awkward conversation happened just the other day.  With Valentine's Day coming up, my daughter decided to give me a lecture about how empty and pathetic my life is.  I've heard her lecture several times before, I know the drill.  Or so I thought.

This time, she really shocked me when she asked, quite energetically,  

"When's the last time you got laid, Dad?"

What the...??????  Did my daughter really just ask me that question??

That time I flinched...and paused...and blushed.

What kind of 14 year old girl would ask her father that question??!

The one I'm raising, apparently.

Needless to say, dear old dad wasn't about to go down that path.  Once I recovered from the shock, I gave her a disapproving look and said nothing.

The kid is a relentless broken record, however.  I just know it's only going to be matter of time before she asks me again.

Ah, the endless joy of being a single parent...


I'm curious about what others' experiences have been when it comes to talking about desire with close family members, especially between parents and their teenagers.  Please share your thoughts or experiences below:


  1. I don't think there's necessarily anything wrong with teens and parents talking about sex. However, if it's uncomfortable for a parent to discuss their sex life with their kids, they have every right to say so/not discuss it. Just like it's okay for teens to not want to discuss their personal sex lives with their parents - that's fine, too. As long as the message is about privacy and not sex-negative, it's okay.

    Right now, you're in an especially tough position personally and emotionally. For a variety of reasons, it's perfectly understandable that you wouldn't be comfortable talking about most of it with your kids. I'd say, though, that you should probably be open to being a little uncomfortable and talking about *generic* things related to sex, even your sex life. While specific whens, whos, and whats should probably be off-limits, I don't think you want to shut down all conversation on the topic of sex - and that involves a little bit of give from you.

    But then, I've never been a parent and likely won't ever be one.

  2. One summer I was dating a guy and sometimes spent the night a his place. I came home before 10am and my late teenage kids were not up yet. I made coffee and turned on the Sunday new shows....pretending I just woke up. A few months later we were discussing something else, but my son asked "why didn't you come home those Saturday nights?" I didn't think they noticed. I just didn't respond. What could I say? I got lucky those nights?

    Kid are concerned about their parents. If they think you're lonely and depressed then they feel bad about that. Your daughter wants to help. But she's a kid. She doesn't really know how to help you. Nor is it really her responsibility. I think she just needs to be reassured that you have your life under control and you're not unhappy. The thing is that you may in fact be unhappy and depressed -- and it shows.

    No easy answer on what do do here.

  3. To a point made by one of the previous posters: The idea that a 14 year old child should have privacy in their sex life is just plain stupid. Teens still have developing brains. Specifically the portions of their brains that govern impulse control are still developing. Children do not need privacy they need guidance from a parent who loves them enough to do everything they can to educate and provide a voice of reason and restraint so that they have that built into their thinking when they are older and don't have a parent on site to act as the voice of reason any longer.

    Here is what I experienced as important form my mom, who was aware that the sharpening of my sexual desires began when I was molested at age 5.

    It is important to discuss the fact that thoughts and desires are natural, normal and nothing to be ashamed of or embarrassed about. Stress that from both a cultural and biological perspective there is a natural curiosity that can and should border on obsession at this age.

    After validating the desire, talk about the fact that sex doesn't exist in an isolated context. Pop culture and porn make is seem like sex exists as a stand alone action that happens between genitals. In reality there are people attached to those genitals. There are feelings and emotional needs, cycles of abuse and all kinds of factors that come into play when translating pure desire that exists in the mind into real sexual activity with another person. Talk about how to go about translating the desire into the actions in ways that respect the whole person and the whole context.

    In particular with your daughter, there is great data available about the length of time between when a woman firsts starts having sex and when a woman first starts having orgasms during sex with a partner. The lag used to be a decade but I have not looked it up lately. That information can really encourage a young woman to delay sex for a few years.

    If you are sexually active or not, it is important to share with your kids is the idea that sex is part of a much larger world of adult human relationships for you two. Yes I have met men who I really wanted to have sex with, but they did not fit into the overall picture of my life and my responsibilities. Trust me, they will have plenty of other voices encouraging them to throw caution to the wind. You need to be the one telling them to step back from the urgency of the urge long enough to see the bigger picture.

    There are crazy people out there, diseases, pregnancy and on and on. Encourage thoughtful discussion about placing sex in its proper context and why that is important for long term success in life.

    By the way I think there is something great about parents letting children know that hey two have sex drives and urges. Let your kids know that you experience real an compelling attractions and use that as a way to inform them of the reasons why you may or may not act on those attractions in a given circumstance.

    Coming from me this will not be a shock. Talk to your kids, the girl in particular about masturbation! Talk to them about how this can be a key way to learn about themselves and cultivate good physiological habits. If a boy, before becoming sexually active learns to sustain arousal without porn and does stop start techniques he has a head start at being a capable lover for a woman. A woman needs on average 14 minutes of vaginal sex to reach orgasm tha average for a man is two minutes. For a teen boy it is way less than that. However if he starts training his body now, it can be a great gift for him and his future partners.

    Women who know their own bodies before they jump in to sex with a partner have much higher levels of sexual satisfaction. To that end, make scads of good literature available to your kids The Joy of Sex, Mars and Venus in the bedroom, the Kinsey institute website has lots of great data, Everything you ever wanted to know about sex but were afraid to ask, Males Sexuality these are all great books to have and leave around your house!

  4. hahahah!!!! good post man!

    i can tell you one thing. back when my sister was 15, she asked my mom how long has she not done 'it' because her friends said that their parents still do it until now, and when my mom was like, huh why are you asking me this??? my sister replied, OK WAIT actually i really do not want to know eeewwww

    i think mostly these are harmless questions, and you can just ask it back to them. like a 'do you really want to know?' 'what if i said it was last night?'

    there was once when i went through SHIRTLESS pictures of colton haynes (some dude that i think is way hot) with my mom, she said 'yes he has a nice body, but please do not get any bigger than that, i see some gay men who become too big and ugh, don't become like that' hahaha. so it was actually pretty chill the way she handled it.

    my point is, as long as you add something "parenty" at the end of it, like how my mom did the whole "don't become too big" thing, i think it's fine.

  5. As a dad that came out gay and have 3 kids of my own and 3 step kids, I generally find that when one of the kids brings up a sensitive or provocative topic they often project the question onto the parent as a way to hide their true concerns. I sometimes fall for this deflection, but I keep trying to remember to turn it back get to the root of their question. It could be they are just testing the waters to see if it is OK to talk to you about their sexuality and concerns with it.