Ask Bish - Your Sex and Relationships Questions Answered

“My Parents Say No Sex Before Marriage”

How would you suggest dealing with the issue of parents saying, “no sex before marriage?”

How honest do you have to be?

It sounds like you and your parents don’t agree on whether you can have sex before marriage. Maybe you want to have an honest chat with your parents about your feelings and thoughts, but whether or not this is a good idea depends on what the benefits for you are and what the risks are.

I don’t have an idea of how urgent this situation is: for instance,  you have already had sex and are worried they’re going to find out? If it isn’t urgent you need to weigh up all the risks of telling them against the rewards. Sometimes the risks are just too great if, like most young people, you are reliant on them for food, money and shelter.

You know your parents better than I do. How you think they might react if you told them you thought differently? Would they kick you out? Would they keep you on lock down? Do you feel safe? Would they make life really difficult for you?

What are the rewards for you? Do you want their blessing? Do you want a partner to meet them? If it’s just so you have be open and honest, great, but many people choose to keep their sexual relationships (or their potential sex and relationships) from their parents anyway.

Just like your parents probably keep their sex lives from you, you don’t have to tell them about your sex life or your planned sex life. Some kids tell their parents everything, some give just the headlines and some give very little detail at all. It depends on the relationship you have and how easy it is to talk about this stuff.  But it also depends on whether you want to tell them and whether they want to hear it.

Like, how much do you think they want to know what’s going on for you? Do they ask you straight out? Are they on your case? Often, when it comes to their kids and sex, parents just want to turn a blind eye and hope for the best. Often parents say to me that they just don’t want their kids to get into trouble (this usually means unplanned pregnancy, STIs, non-consensual sex or an unhealthy relationship – which is a pretty low bar). Other parents have a clearer idea of the kinds of relationships that they want for their kids.

What parents want for their kids can be very different to what their kids want for themselves – particularly as they become teenagers and potentially interested in this sex stuff. Remember that this can be hard for parents. Think back 5 years. Sounds like a long time to you right? To them, it feels much more recent. So it can be difficult for parents to realise that the completely dependent child they had not that long ago is now an increasingly independent (possibly horny) young person.

Values vs the real world

Values are about what we think is right. It’s about our ethics, our code, how we choose to live our life, what kind of person we are, what kind of person we want to be, our politics and our basic philosophy for life. When it comes to sex people have a lot of them – like ‘it’s wrong to have sex before marriage’. When it comes to teaching people about sex the easy thing to do is just to tell people what to think and what they should do. However this isn’t the most effective thing – you need to be able to work this stuff out for yourself because it’s your life, not theirs.

Values change, or alter, as the world changes too. They might have believed in no sex before marriage when they got married (I’m assuming they got married right?) and it might have worked for them at the time, but that was probably at least like 16 years ago and quite possibly longer. We didn’t even have YouTube (or YouPorn) then and we still had Woolworths and Steps. The fact is with different relationships, different things work for different people – just like with sex.

Parents values change when they are faced with a reality of a situation. For example: kids are increasingly coming out about their sexuality, are more aware of gender and the many different ways of doing it. When faced with this kind of stuff their values alter, or shift, or different values become more important – like (e.g.) believing that their kid’s happiness is most important.

If you just focus on this you might think that your values are very different from theirs if you only focus on this but what kind of views do you have on marriage, love, commitment, future anyway? For instance, what do you feel about: sex without romance. What *counts* as sex. Why you want to have sex. How important is sex. Can you have romance without sex. Do you want romance. If you could all find a way to have conversations generally about this stuff you might find that you agree on lots of things and that you aren’t as far away from each other as you might think. This can be comforting to all of you.

How do you talk about this stuff?

I don’t know how you’ve talked about this stuff so far. Often when parents teach their kids about values it’s more of a lecture than a conversation (not the best way to go tbh). So do they listen to what you’ve got to say? Do they even know what you think?

So if you want to bring it up with them directly there are different ways of doing it. You could talk about it without talking about you: e.g. you could talk about a news story, or a plot line in a TV programme. Talking about other people or just talking generally (as if it isn’t actually about you) is a good way to go. Listen out for moments that might be a good time to give your point of view.

Rather than having one big talk about it, try to make it an on-going conversation. Just dropping the odd hint about what you think about this and what you want for your relationships into conversations. You don’t need to have a big long speech ready, just be able to say what you think in a matter of fact way, like ‘I’m not sure the no sex before marriage thing is for me.’ Maybe try just speaking to one parent at a time when you’re doing something else – like when cooking, or washing up, on in the car or on a train or something.

If you wanted to be really radical (I’d love it if everyone could do this) you could do a Talk For  A Minute, where you write a few values statements down (like the ones about sex and romance three paragraphs ago) and each just have one minute to talk about what you think about them. I’ve got an idea about how to do this kind of thing here.

When they hear what you’re saying they may not respond in the way you want them to at first. It can be difficult for parents to respond in this situation so you might want to give them a bit of time to allow what you’ve said to sink in. They might want space to figure this out and to chat about it together.

You might also want to find people that aren’t parents to help you with all this. Speaking to someone else first might give you an opportunity to be clear about what you want to say and how best to say it. Maybe an older sibling, or a cousin, or a friend, or someone you trust to give you great advice (who’s actually there in person).


Read these and become ‘Dr Love’

How to talk to parents about sex type stuff

How parents can talk to kids about sex type stuff

Talk For A Minute about relationships type stuff.

There’s more to sex than ‘sex’ – just putting that out there …

Hope this helps!


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