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Let's Talk About Sex

My parents never had sex. Ever. In fact, I'm fairly certain the three of us Miller siblings were dropped off by the stork. Screw the fact we all share the exact same features as our parents. Genetics is a faulty science, dammit.

My parents never had sex. I told myself that growing up, and I will hug that sentence to my bosom and cherish it's false truth till the day I'm too old to remember what my name is let alone wonder if my dad ever danced in his underwear in an effort to woo my mother.

Not only did my parents not have sex (which I know without a doubt, as an absolute truth not just because the idea continues to squick me out but also because my bedroom was directly below theirs and I could hear my father's ankles crack when he got out of bed every morning and never not once did I hear any bed spring action and ohmybabyjeebus I need to stop thinking about this before I poke any holes into my firmly held belief that my parents are and will remain the most asexual creatures to roam the planet) but they never talked about sex.

At least, they never talked about sex with me. Probably because every time they tried to talk to me about sex my eyes would glaze over and I'd run from the room in prudish horror.  I was just never comfortable enough in my own skin to talk about something so natural with the people who poked each other into creating me.

Go figure.

Then I had kids. Presumably, because I had sex. Because I never talked about having sex with my parents and didn't know it could make babies. Which means I can blame my stretch marks and long boobs on my parents. DAMN THEM!!!  *shakes fist at the heavens*

(I'm totally kidding, Mom.)

I mean, once I had kids I realized there were topics of conversation I was going to have to discuss with my children regardless of my comfort level. I realized it was time to grow up.

And thus began the long maturation of Tanis and her carefully honed skills of avoiding embarrassing subject matter with the use of humour as a tool of distraction. Or so sayeth the psychologist report shoved in the back of my filing cabinet.

With Fric and Frac firmly entrenched in the early years of teenagedom, it seems there hasn't been a conversation about sex we haven't broached at one point.

There has been the birds and the bees talk.

The premarital sex is evil and will make your genitals fall off talk.

The please don't touch yourself there in public talk.

The no, your father and I weren't having sex on the other side of that closed door, we were praying, talk.

The list could go on. It's inexhaustable really. Mostly, because once I decided to talk about sex the flood gates opened and the repressed person trapped inside me refused to be stuffed back in.

It turns out, as a parent I am completely opposite as how I was as a child: relaxed and uninhibited. Which is why I have no problems walking around half naked most of the time and encouraging my children to skinny dip when ever possible. (Bonus: skinny dipping means less laundry to wash. Laziness disguised by calling it ecologically friendly is always a win.)

So it is no surprise that in the era of first kisses, my children pounced on my openness the other day and asked about my sex life.

This is what happens when one dusts the house while bellowing along to Madonna's Poppa Don't Preach.

"Mom, how old were you when you lost your virginity?" she asked, while her brother looked up from his book, curious to hear my response.

It was in that moment, I cursed myself for being so damn open with them about everything else. It never occurred to me it would come back and bite me on the arse.

I was at a parental crossroad and I knew it. I could ignore the photographic evidence laying about the house proving my children were born out of wedlock and pray their public school education would fail them in basic math skills and flat out lie, or I could be honest.

But, as the wheels spun at Nascar-like speed in my brain, I thought, why do I need to be honest? What do they gain from this conversation? Will I be giving them permission in my honest answer to morph into adolescent whores? Will I betray their trust in me if I tell them the truth? Worse yet, what if I tell them the truth and they finally realize all the street cred I have worked so hard over the years to cultivate with them is destroyed in the seconds to it takes for them to process my response?

I was at a loss and my mouth, I'm sure, was gaping wide open. One moment I'm dusting, the next moment I'm seconds away from admitting to my children I am both cheap and easy. Win!

"What do you mean how old was I when I lost my virginity?" I stammered. My daughter just looked at me and rolled her eyes the way she is so often apt to do at this age and repeated the question, slowly, once more.

"I mean, at what age were you physically when you first had sex with a boy?" Like, duh.

"Well, why do you want to know Fric? Is there something you want to talk about?" Aha! Turn the tables on her! Parenting at it's finest! Oh crap! What if she's actually thinking of having sex?? Who gave me permission to parent these children alone??

"No Mom. I was just wondering. Sheesh. I mean, I know you had sex out of wedlock. You keep singing about it." (Meatloaf for the win!!) "I'm just curious." Then she added something about how she just wants to get to know me better because clearly my daughter pays attention in Manipulation 101.

Luckily for me, it was at that exact moment the phone rang. Her father's Spidey senses must have been tingling. I never did answer my child's question, in part because her father lost his freaking mind when I casually dropped that bomb into his lap and in part because I'm not sure she's old enough to hear the answer.

It's not like I was a two bit tramp, polishing the poles of any high school boys who looked my way. In fact, I've got left over fingers on one hand (even if you don't count the thumb as an actual finger) when it comes to the amount of partners I may or may not have had.

I was the girl who wasn't comfortable in her own skin through adolescence; the last thing I wanted to do was show off all that skin to some boy. I was the very definition of late bloomer.

I'm not ashamed of my past, what it included and how it happened, nor am I ashamed of the boy(s?) who helped shaped me into the woman I am today. Quite the opposite.

But the thought of sharing this information with my child who is stockpiling it inside her mind to help shape the person she will become frightens me more than the mental image of my dad getting naked and asking my mom if she wants to play with his trouser snake.

I want my children to remain children, sexless, innocent children, for as long as possible. Or until I grow so old I forget my own name and they lock me up in an old folk's home. Either way works for me really.

Obviously I have yet to grow up enough to be able to cope with the idea of my children as being healthy sexual beings.

Thankfully, my children have the attention spans of, well, children and quickly forgot that I hadn't answered the big V question. But I know it's there, biding it's time until it rears it's ugly head once more and it's time to face the proverbial music.

The question is, how do I answer it? Do I or don't I? Is it any of their business?

In the mean time, there is one thing I'm sure of. I'm erasing Madonna from my iPod.

She's nothing but trouble.
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Reader Comments (93)

My philosophy on this one is, even though I am really open with my kids about everything else, I am not going to be open about my past. There is no upside to the kids knowing what went on before their dad came into the picture.

March 8, 2010 | Unregistered CommenterNina

I haven't even made it that far. I'm still waiting in abject terror for them to ask me whether I inhaled.

So now I have something else to be afraid of. WAY TO GO, TANIS!!!11!!!

March 8, 2010 | Unregistered CommenterPoppy Buxom

My wife views this topic as a source of unending fun. Every time my 13 year-old son (her step-son) takes an excessively long shower she never fails to look at me and say, "So...what do you think he's doing in there?"

March 8, 2010 | Unregistered CommenterRich G.

OMG. I am dreading the day I get asked that. In all seriousness, how did you broach the subject of sex, in general, with your kids? My daughters are 8 and 4 and my 8 year old would rather be stabbed in the eye than talk to me about anything remotely uncomfortable, but I have to do it. Did you use a book, stick figure diagrams, what? (my 4 year old, on the other hand, has asked a million uncomfortable questions already, like "Do you get a baby if you don't want one?" and I need some guidance on how to answer those as well)

March 8, 2010 | Unregistered Commentermaggie

Wow, Tanis.. that was hilarious. And I have no idea in the world what you should say to her when (if) it comes up again.

I have a similar problem, except I was totally stupid and idiotic and all that and got married at 16. Fortunately I came back to reality when he went to prison ten months later and divorced him. But I've always wondered what I should tell my daughter (who's 3 1/2 now--so I still have time) when she gets old enough to understand. I have no clue what to say. Or when to say it. But it will come up--I have family members who'll probably bring it up in jest one holiday and the question will either be popped or she'll find out from someone else.

I just don't know what you do.

March 8, 2010 | Unregistered CommenterKari Wolfe

OMG - I laughed to hard at this post! I remember asking my Mom the same question, and her deftly stepping around it. :)

March 8, 2010 | Unregistered CommenterJosey

15, right? 17? 13?

Tell me and I'll tell them.

March 8, 2010 | Unregistered CommenterAvitable

I have no wise words since my kids are 5 & 3 so I have NO plans to discuss sex with them anytime soon. I am however, very much interested in the other comments/advice and plan on putting it my ever growing journal title 'How not to screw up your kids' (in the chapter 'how and when to talk to your kids about sex')as told by people who may or may not have all ready screwed up their kids.

March 8, 2010 | Unregistered CommenterJamie

Classical music night and day no suggestive lyrics no bright ideas. I must have come from a similar cabbage patch as I am QUITE sure my folks were never playing trouser snake in the room that was right beside mine (LALALA happy thought)

March 8, 2010 | Unregistered Commenterhabanerogal

I have a 3.5 year old and the question hasn't really come up with him yet. However, the 13 year old has had extensive sex ed between myself and his father/stepmother. We're not afraid to tell him whatever he needs to know, fully volunteering (at the bare minimum) the basic information, so that at least one person in his gaggle of hormone charged teen boy friends will have accurate information. I won't say it's not uncomfortable at times, but we do it!

As an aside, we use the information we have as a deterrent as well. At one point, his propensity to mumble *everything* made us crazy. So, we told him that every time he mumbled from then on out, we'd disclose one fact about our current respective sex lives to him. He immediately quit. LOL!

Go Tanis, Go! Don't be afraid to tell your daughter, better to be honest with her since she'll find out eventually anyway.

March 8, 2010 | Unregistered CommenterAmy Bliss

I love reading your blog - it's like a manual for what's coming in this household. Minus the girl, of course. But still. Let me know when you figure this one out because your present is my future & I have NO IDEA how I would handle that question.

March 8, 2010 | Unregistered CommenterKaren Sugarpants

I never got the talk either. My mom never even talked to me about getting my period either. i swear I was raised by bears sometimes. It's amazing that I only have one kid. I'm petrified about having the talk with the Angry Kid. I think you just need to turn on that show 16 and Pregnant. Then say, this is why you don't have sex early, or maybe even Jersey Shore...LOL

March 8, 2010 | Unregistered CommenterJulie

I have come to realize that, for the most part, when my kids ask a question they are ready to have some sort of age appropriate answer. I've been single for the majority of my children's lives and I know they know it and that I have dated a few different people. They also have their Dad who has been married since about the moment our divorce was final to the same woman. I think I'd be willing to share the age I lost my virginity since I was a late bloomer, but also I know I can't stop them from aging. I'd rather prepare them to do the right thing when the time comes.

On the other hand, my first grader just dumped her first "boyfriend" because he didn't like Michael Jackson and because she is a werewolf. I may have bigger problems on my hands.

March 8, 2010 | Unregistered CommenterCourtney

Yikes. Scary. I'm glad my daughter can't talk yet.

March 8, 2010 | Unregistered CommenterNatalie

Another hilarious post, Tanis.

As for what to tell them--ugh, that's a tough one. I've had some "interesting" questions on sex from my girls, but nothing this personal as of yet (but I so know it's coming!). I agree that they really don't need to know the exact age you were.

I don't think there's any rule that says we have to tell our kids EVERYTHING. You don't need to lie, but telling them you're not comfortable sharing that kind of info at this time might not be bad.

That's the kind of info you share over many drinks about 20 years from now. Heh.

March 8, 2010 | Unregistered CommenterSurviving Lotus Land

Good question. And most likely no single right answer. Statisical analysis ( from a pediatrician friend) suggests that most kids will have had sex for first time around 15 or 16 and only rarely will finish high school virginal.The more information kids have the more informed decisions they can make - even with hormones driving the areas in question the brain still has some control.

My thought is if you are going to answer the question be honest. One can argue it is none of their business and I suspect that is literally true. But in todays world sex will kill you; in the days of your youth herpes HIV had not penetrated to far into the heterosexual world. Now it has.

Speaking of HIV several years ago heard lecture by the AIDS doctor for central Georgia. At that time the homosexual community was doing pretty good job in GA. Biggest growth demographic in central Georgia was caucasian middle to upper class high school girls who intneded to be virgin and marriage so thye embraced anal intercourse - the highest risk sex around.

Answere honest if you answer the age question. But spend a lot of time and honesty on relative risk sex ( oral<<vaginal<< anal. Condoms. And the whys of first time sex.

From here your kids have been exposed to a loving opne and honest family. ?Thye will make good choices given honest factual information.

March 8, 2010 | Unregistered CommenterCharles

My daughter (turning 9 on the weekend coming up) is a precocious little bugger...

She was harassing hubs this weekend- so he told her "oh yeah, well I have sex with your mom!!!"

Her response "Yeah- so?"

Being open definitely has it's ups and downs... I still remember the revisions I was forced to make to the "no sex before marriage or your genitals will fall off speech"... the predicament of "but you didn't wait" smacked me straight in the face when she outright asked about the "donor's" and my wedding... eeep! :S

March 8, 2010 | Unregistered CommenterPotty Mouth Mommy

My general policy is to be honest (because then I don't have to remember what lies I told and to whom).

And so, in the spirit of honesty, I'm going to tell you that I think Boo is really hot.

March 8, 2010 | Unregistered CommenterJulie @ The Mom Slant

@Julie @ The Mom Slant, I'm sure Boo will be thrilled to read that. *ego poufs right up*

March 8, 2010 | Unregistered CommenterRedneck Mommy

@Charles, ANAL SEX?!

*faints dead away*

March 8, 2010 | Unregistered CommenterRedneck Mommy

Wow, so glad my daughter is only 2 and I'm a long way from that conversation. I'd say continue to avoid answering the question for now and when you think they are ready, tell the truth. Like Julie@ The Mom Slant said you don't want to have to try to remember the lie age :)

March 8, 2010 | Unregistered CommenterLisa

Tell them That Hurt Locker won Best Picture. Or just show them this...


Seems to explain everything.

March 8, 2010 | Unregistered CommenterOut-Numbered

if they are old enough to ask, they are old enough to hear the honest answer. my parents never talked about sex with me, except that my mom would make perverted jokes because her inner child was a horny 13 year old boy. i also had the bedroom under my parents' room and no matter how many pillows i stacked on my head, i could still hear their headboard hammering into the wall. every thursday. 10:00pm. every. thursday. night.

but hey, i'm totally well adjusted these days Ahah-hah-hah-hah.

seriously, though, don't be a wuss. tell your kids the truth and tell them how freakin hard it was to be a mother so young. tell them everything you had to give up, and how extra hard you had to work to get and keep the things you needed. tell them that you were and still definitely are the exception to the rule; the dad stuck around. it's hard enough being a single parent as an adult; it would be almost impossible as a teen.

March 8, 2010 | Unregistered CommenterStone Fox

"...to talk about something so natural with the people who poked each other into creating me."

*gasping for breath b/c I'm laughing so hard!*

March 8, 2010 | Unregistered CommenterTrenches of Mommyhood

It's good to be open and honest about sex and what you think of it, but I don't think *anyone* has a "right" to know about our sexual past just because they ask. If you're comfortable talking about it then fine, but it's not really anyone's business, even if they are family.

March 8, 2010 | Unregistered CommenterRenee

Be honest and open with her about sex. It's up to you what you wish to disclose about your own experiences, if you feel comfortable doing it (no pun intended!)
when I was 10 I was given a book about puberty and sex, it had sections in it where I could write about my feelings, thoughts and do exercises on stuff I learnt. I still have it 16 years later and looking back it is hilarious. In the front cover I wrote my full name, address and phone number and then "I'd found please return to the above person" every once and a while I read it and laugh. When I have a daughter I am going to give it to her when she is 10.

March 8, 2010 | Unregistered CommenterBecca

At first I thought this post was really funny. But then realized that my oldest daughter is 12. We have had a lot of talks on sex and how she had better never come home pregnant or I will kill her, but thankfully she has never asked for my history. I don't have nearly enough digits to demonstrate my wild youth. Do as I say, not as I do, right??

March 8, 2010 | Unregistered CommenterCarol

I would tell her it's none of her business and it isn't. I have kids from 23 to 8 years old and believe me, we are open. My 21 yo daughter was complaining yesterday about her long dry spell but the thought of a one nighter isn't a good one for her and she's seeing someone and happy to take it slow. I told her go buy a vibrator and then we talked price, etc. O.P.E.N. But some things just need to remain confidential, IMO.

March 8, 2010 | Unregistered CommenterTina

ROFL. I asked my mother if she was a virgin when she got married. (She was such a prude... hated talking about sex.) She responded with "i wore a white dress."

My father was out of sight in the kitchen for her, but I could see the grin forming on her face. We both knew she was uncomfortable with the conversation I just started. Those were fun times with mom.

"That's not what I asked you," I said. "Were you a virgin when you married dad?"

Again, she stated plainly that she wore a white dress.

I turned to my father and said, "Dad, were you a virgin before you got married," To which he replied, with a HUGE laugh while my mother turned beet red...

"Would you buy a car without test driving it first?"

I'm pretty sure my mother wanted to die.

But while dad did tell me that alluding to the fact that it was okay to have pre-marital sex, he also told me that if I wanted to have sex to just come to him and he would get me birth control.

Uh, yeah. Right.

That's one way to die, but not the way I wanted to choose.

Hahaha this made me laugh. This is my house. All the questions a 14yr old boy and a 13 year old girl want to know about me is frightening. I be as honest as I can with them, to a limit, there are still some thing they will never know!!
My parents never talked about sex seriously, it was always in a jokey fashion, which I don't want to do with my kids.

March 8, 2010 | Unregistered CommenterJ from Ireland

@Redneck Mommy,
Hard to believe they chose anal over vaginal but anything to be a "virgin" on wedding night coupled with lack of knowledge of safer......

Had someone been open and honest these young women could have been spared....

March 8, 2010 | Unregistered CommenterCharles

Ugh, it's not a topic I look forward to. And I pride myself on my openness for goodness sake.

My biggest unknown is do I tell my son, when he's older (as he's only three), that my first sex was being raped at 17? That just opens a whole giant can of psychological worms I'm sure.

Can it hurt to say I waited till I met his dad? Or is that just perpetuating the madonna/whore thing?

I can haz crystal ball plz?

March 8, 2010 | Unregistered CommenterAngela

@Heather {Desperately Seeking},

When most favorite oldest daughter was 15 we had long talk about her and boys and their desire to get into her panties and vice versa. Told her was not going to do the do not do it talk but stressed condoms and BCPs. Told her to get on pills before sex. bout a year later she told me she had to be put on The Pill for cysts. Know what she meant. Asked if she needed anythning.

March 8, 2010 | Unregistered CommenterCharles

Ok, as the mother of a 17YO son and a 14YO daughter, I'm more comfortable talking to them and answering any questions about my drug use as a wild and crazy teen than I am about my premarital sex life. Go figure. But I've drilled it into my son's head that "use a condom and you will learn, no deposit means no return." At which point he tells me I'm totally creeping him out.

March 8, 2010 | Unregistered CommenterAnother Kelly

Sounds like a "Do as I say, not as I do"! Good luck with that!

March 8, 2010 | Unregistered CommenterMary

I have some very open conversations with my mom. She wasn't afraid to tell me she was a virgin when she married my dad but she also go married at 17 so it could be true.

I've had very open conversations with my mom but my dad refuses to talk to me about it. He just makes jokes.

I hope you are open and honest but I agree with some of the other commenters that said your personal history is no one else's business. Be honest about the facts but that type of stuff can only lead down a road you don't want traveled.

March 8, 2010 | Unregistered CommenterForgotten

My parents have never had sex. I'm certain of it. Never mind the family resemblance from not one but TWO sides of the family, I AM SURE THEY DON'T.

They don't talk about it, I've never heard it, walked in on it, nothing. Negative. They allow me to pretend it doesn't exist.

In return, I (as the unmarried only daughter to their Catholic parent selves) allow them the same courtesy: as far as they know, I'm pure white as fresh snow.

Its best that way, I think.

March 8, 2010 | Unregistered CommenterThe Grown Up Teenager

@Angela, I'm sure you know this without my saying so, but rape isn't sex - it is an act of violence and domination (and I am sorry that it is one you had to endure). If/when your son asks you about your first time AND you are willing to tell him, then tell him when you had consensual intercourse for the first time. He doesn't need to know about the attack on you. As others above have alluded, you don't necessarily have to share all of your personal experiences with your children.

March 8, 2010 | Unregistered CommenterBob

@Charles, I teach juniors and seniors in high school and they firmly believed until "that bitch Mrs. Me" told them in no uncertain terms that oral and anal sex do indeed count as sex....just because you can't get pregnant and your hymen is still attached doesn't mean you're not having sex. IT'S IN THE TERM AND THEY'RE NOT BILL CLINTON!

March 8, 2010 | Unregistered CommenterJennifer

I say answer it honestly. My Mom did.

March 8, 2010 | Unregistered CommenterHeather M

@Stone Fox, Tell them how hard it was for Boo too. Often the hardship for men gets left out, because mostly fathers don't stick around.

March 8, 2010 | Unregistered CommenterHelen


Jennifer; I agree completely. There is so much misinformation our kids are exposed to that can have deadly results. Have a good friend ( college grad, 2 masters degrees and now a PhD) who believed that oral sex did not count. Only vaginal counted. She swore she had only had sex wiht 3 guys ( she was aound 28 at the time) but had given at least 50 guys blow jobs.

If highly intelligent people hold such views we have to really be sure our kids are told the truth at home.

March 8, 2010 | Unregistered CommenterCharles

I rarely if ever comment... but had to on this one. My son is 15 - the same age I was when I had him, out of wedlock (obviously). When he was 8ish, I made it known that I had him younger than "most" parents. When he hit 12, we talked a little more about 'wow, baby TOOOOO soon'. Now, the fact that he's known all along makes it a non issue. Couldn't lie, because I knew damn well he'd be able to do the math eventually. As for the virginity issue... well, OF COURSE I GOT PREGNANT THE FIRST TIME I HAD SEX. I'll stick with that, he doesn't need (or want, really) the info on my early sexcapades. Now, he loves the fact that he's the kid with the young, cool mom that all his friends don't mind having around. Cuz, ya know, I'm not OLD like their parents.

March 8, 2010 | Unregistered CommenterKelly

Children tend to ask "silly" questions that once they are old enough to understand they will realize they don't want to know the answers to! You did your kids a favor by not answering that - imagine if your mom had told you and you'd have to live with that knowledge! Now, while my mom never gave specifics of her sex-life before she had me out of wedlock we were always made well aware that sex before marriage means you better be ready to have a baby and give up a world full of freedom and choices. It might not have convinced us all to abstain but it did at least make it clear that while sex is normal (and you aren't a terrible person for having teenage desires), birth control and safe sex is important.

March 8, 2010 | Unregistered CommenterJessica

My parents' sex talk basically went: "If you have premarital sex, you're going to Hell!" As I recall, our response was probably something like: "What's sex?"

And then we went to public school and the kids filled us in.

March 8, 2010 | Unregistered CommenterStacey

I have to go change my pants now...everytime I read your blog, I pee!

Ah, Redneck Mommy, you bring out the best in Redneck Latte!


March 8, 2010 | Unregistered CommenterUP


Now the problem is sexually transmitted disease to the mouth... from oral sex, ask any dentist or peridontist...some are actually screening for this in the lower 48, it might even reach epidemic proportions in the next 10 yrs.

March 8, 2010 | Unregistered CommenterTammy

Haha this post was hilarious! I don't have the answers though, please let me know when/if you find out so I am prepared :)

March 8, 2010 | Unregistered CommenterSarcastica

I think I'm going to plead the 5th on many counts and questions. I also like the "do as I say, not as I DID."

March 8, 2010 | Unregistered CommenterPeaches

I love this... all the things I'll need to worry about in oh-say 4 or 5 years when my munchkin enters the 'tween-hood'.

Of course it brings back memories of when I was in Jr. High school and there was a dog running around the school with something on its back. All the kids congregated around it and started saying it was 'cum'. Being the innocent one, I didn't dare ask anyone, and it took me another year or so to find out.

Yeah... I get the innocence!

March 8, 2010 | Unregistered Commenterjill

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