Letter to My Almost-Teenage Son About Girls and Sex

Dear Son,

You’ve heard everything in this letter before, and so I can already see in your eyes the dull look and hear your steady voice, “I know, Mom. You said that already.” Because you’re almost a teenager and it’s practically your job to know everything already.

I am going to say it again anyway, because it’s practically my job to be repetitive and annoying. And more importantly, I’ve realized, again, just how many messages you will hear, how many you DO hear, every day, that contradict what we want you to know. So many of these messages come from well-meaning adults who are trying to do the best they can. Unfortunately, in some ways, that makes the messages more damaging because they are so sincere.

So I am going to put what I want you to know, about sex and girls, all in one place, for you to refer to when you get confused. Here it is.

1. You are responsible for you.

2. Girls are people. No matter what.

3. Your body is a sacred temple.

4. So is hers. And his. And hers. And everyone else’s, too.

5. You own your body. It belongs to you. And hers belongs to her. And his belongs to him.

6. You are responsible for you.

Let’s break that down a bit.

1. You are responsible for you. Nobody can make you say or do anything, and nobody has the right to force you to say or do anything. No matter how annoying your 5-year-old brother is, no matter how persuasive your 14-year-old friend is, no matter how much older or wiser your teacher is, not one of them has the right or the ability to MAKE you: Yell, ride your bike recklessly, believe in the Flying Spaghetti Monster. Nobody has the right or the ability to make you disrespect somebody else, forget your manners, or your wallet. Apparently, nobody has the right or the ability to make you put your toothbrush away or take a bath once in a while, but that’s another matter for another post.

File under "things you don't have to believe in" along with everything else

Touched by His Noodly Appendage, a parody of The Creation of Adam by Michelangelo, is an iconic image of the Flying Spaghetti Monster by Arne Niklas Jansson.

2. Girls are people. No matter what. You’re going to see a lot of things in your life. Some of them I’m going to wish you could unsee, but you can’t. And that’s okay. Some of those non-unseeable pictures are going to have girls or women in them, and some of those girls and women are going to be striking poses that stir a sensation in your body that is hard to describe and maybe a little embarrassing to talk about. So I’m going to tell you what it’s about: Those are sex hormones. And they’re normal. And: You are responsible for you. When you see those girls posing in “sexy” ways, you have a choice. And you are going to choose to remember that they are people. No matter what. And people are worthy of: Respect, love, cherishing. Even the ones who are maybe not behaving particularly well right this minute or in that particular picture. Behind those eyes is a mind worth knowing. Inside that body is a spirit worth respecting. Which leads us to the next point.

3. Your body is the sacred temple of your soul. What happens to your body affects your soul. Remember that your body is sacred. Treat it with respect. Approach sex as the holy, intimate, life-changing act that it is.

Human Body

4. So is hers. And his. And hers. And everyone’s. Remember the soul inside that body. When those stirrings happen, remember.

5. You own your own body. And she owns hers. We’ve talked about consent. This is where that comes in. Nobody has the right to do anything ANYTHING to your body without your consent. This becomes really important when you get close to someone and start thinking sex-related thoughts. She does not have the right to touch you without your consent–and you don’t have the right to touch her without hers. And by the way, “no” means “no,” obviously. But it’s not enough. Know this: ANYTHING OTHER THAN YES means “no.” Anything other than “YES” means “NO.” ANYTHING other than yes means NO. Anything other than YES, offered willingly, with knowledge and understanding, and in her right mind, with full power to say “no,” means NO.

6. You are responsible for you. Yes, it comes back to this, doesn’t it. Because you are going to see, hear, and be exposed to lots of things that your doting mother has absolutely no control over. And that’s okay, because YOU have control over YOU. When you see those sexy pictures of girls and women online, you get to choose. You can skim past them and ignore them. You can drool over them. You can call them ugly names or judge them for being promiscuous. You can look at them and see a human being. You can skim past them and think to yourself, “I wonder what that girl is like really, under all the fake poses?” You choose. Choose wisely.

Dear son. You have made so many, many wise choices in your life. You genuinely care about other people, and that is the proudest thing I can think to say about you. It is the most important thing you can do.

And you have also made a few unwise choices. We all do. That’s why I also want you to know:

7. YOU GET FOREVER CHANCES. And so does everyone else. Don’t ever think that just because a girl, or a guy, or anyone, has done dumb things–posted sexy pictures online, gotten drunk, or any other thoughtless or irresponsible thing–that they are any less loved by God or any less worthy of YOUR love because of their choices. You don’t have to be friends with people who are making bad choices–in fact, often the best thing is to distance yourself until they make better choices. But don’t forget that they are still worthy of love and respect. And someday, when they get their act together again and start making better choices, you can help them remember that they are worthy, by showing them how much you love and respect them.

Listen. I love you. Forever. No matter what. I hope you’ll remember everything in this letter. Put it into practice. I’m going to be pretty upset with you if you do something really dumb, like ignoring these principles. And I also want you to know that whatever happens, whatever you do, I will always always love you. Even when I’m mad at you. You get forever chances too, honey.

Love,

Mom

P.S. If I had teenage girls who were starting to like boys “that way,” I would write them this exact same letter. Only it would say, “Letter to My Teenage Daughter About Boys and Sex,” and I might replace the pronouns. Maybe. The pronouns don’t really matter, do they?

P.P.S. This letter is sort of a response to this post, which I only read because of this excellent response to it, and so I’m really responding to the response.

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6 responses to “Letter to My Almost-Teenage Son About Girls and Sex

    • Thanks, Sarah! That means a lot. Feel free to cut and paste (and replace pronouns as necessary) when your littles get to this age, though I’m sure you can think of equally eloquent things to say for yourself. 🙂

  1. Very nicely written… but I think the male of the species (like me) sometimes need more “direct” talk? We are such visual “creatures” that what we see bypasses our normal thought processes. No, not making an excuse but something that cannot be stressed enough. And I was wondering if your seven thoughts capture the dangers/horrors of internet predators. Sadly, one business person in our hot rod circles used his business to gain access to underage children seeking someone other than their parent for comfort… Enough said on that!

    • Thanks, Mustang. Nice to “see” you over here. 🙂

      I absolutely agree it’s important to prepare children against predators. We’ve been having talks, and reading books (“A Very Touching Book” is a great place to start with little ones) on this topic since before any of them could read.

      #5, You own your own body, is targeted at this point. Though, of course, it does not address those times when the child thinks it is “mutual” because he/she also enjoys the contact. That point is somewhat buried in “with knowledge and understanding… with full power to say no” which no child has and is the reason it’s never ever okay for an adult or much-older child to have sexual contact with a child. We cover this periodically with our children… does it feel like it belongs in this blog entry? It felt deeper than I needed to go here.

      As for the male of the species needing more “direct” talk, can you expand on that thought? I think #s 2 and 5 are pretty direct. She’s a human being, no matter what. And she owns her own body, no matter what. What did I leave out of there that a reasonably intelligent young man won’t understand, in conjunction with an upbringing that constantly supports those principles?

      I’m sorry to hear about the incident with the person in your “hot rod” circles. It’s a sadly common occurrence. My dad is a psychologist/counselor who works with sexual predators (and my mom often works with victims in her role as a family counselor), and the numbers are staggering. I hope that the girl(s) and (boys?) involved receive good counseling and protection to get them through–that is the main determining factor as to whether they will suffer long-term psychological damage.

      Thanks again for stopping by & leaving your thoughts. Have a great weekend!

  2. I like your response to all of this. I also have an almost-teenage-son, and a daughter, so I try to look at things from both sides. 🙂
    It appears that the original post by Mrs. Hall has been recently updated (photos and some subtle verbiage edits). I admire how well she responded to the huge – and sometimes unkind – response to what I know came from a decent place and had a valuable message. I think sometimes we all need to look for the spirit of the words before we attack the letters. A good discussion.

    • Hi there! Yes, I agree–Mrs. Hall has responded admirably to what must have been a big surprise. Apparently, she was not expecting to go viral (who does), and therefore to face the comments of the world versus the more intimate response of a few friends. It sounds as though she approaches all of this with a spirit of thoughtfulness and compassion, which is all any of us can do–none of us has all the answers.

      I thought about saying something to that effect in the body of my letter, and decided that it would be off topic–I’m trying to stay more focused in my entries! 🙂

      Thanks for stopping by and joining the conversation. I appreciate your input!

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