Dangerous silence: Why you need to talk to your kids about sex

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  • Linguist Silver Spring, MD
    June 3, 2012 2:30 p.m.

    With respect, as a gay person, I read this article and am left wondering.

    I had two magnificent parents, but as products of their time, when they talked to me about the birds and the bees, the assumption was that I would be heterosexual.

    When I went to "Health Class" in school and they talked about sex, disease and intimacy, the assumption was that everyone was heterosexual.

    When I watched TV (back in the old black and white stone age), read books or went to the movies, I saw lots about sex, love and intimacy-- all heterosexual.

    The trouble was, I knew, with increasing certainty, that I was not heterosexual. Not a word was uttered about it.

    Even today, those who believe we need to be "honest" with our kids, seem to be arguing for partial honesty: either pretend everyone is heterosexual or, if you mention gay people, do not include a healthy, moral and positive model for gay couples that can receive the support and even the praise of our society.

    Sorry to dwell on what is obviously not relevant to everyone, but it sure was relevant in my life-- and in the life of others as well.

  • Shelama SALT LAKE CITY, UT
    June 3, 2012 1:59 p.m.

    Concerning sex discussion in the home, parents need to be aware that even a 12-y.o., in spite of parental controls and filters, can easily find access to free, gynecologically explicit, HD porn videos on the internet. Anatomy and mechanics is not nearly the issue it used to be: the kids at a young age are going to know as much about that as the parents. There's no changing that now.

    Concerning morality and religion, the only things needed to develop a system of morality are empathy, altruism, a sense of fairness and patterns of cooperative social living. Traits well represented in the world of social mammals of which Homo sapiens is a part. It's true they compete with others: aggression, dominance, selfishness, etc. But there's no need for a God delivering commands from heaven, prophets, a Bible, or religion for humans to have, appreciate, foster and acculturate a sense of right and wrong. Systems and a sense of morality exist quite simply because we can't help it. Not necessarily pure and undefiled in everyone equally, and not without other, darker tendencies or capacities. Many atheists are as moral as any religionist.

  • LDS Liberal Farmington, UT
    May 30, 2012 11:21 a.m.

    These same prude-ish people talk about OTHER people's abnormal sex all the time.

    But NEVER discuss normal sex with their own kids.

    They're gonna learn it from someone, somewhere.

    If you want to have the 1st impression, you better be the 1st one to say something to them.

  • Lasvegaspam Henderson, NV
    May 30, 2012 10:37 a.m.

    Bryan is 100% correct. Also, when a questionable scene comes on t.v., you as a parent MUST bring it up, so that your children can learn what is objectionable and why. This is the same reason why when a sweet, touching scene comes on the t.v., you also comment on it – how it made you feel, why that is so good and appealing. When you see a movie together as a family, and certain concepts are shown, it is your OPPORTUNITY as a parent to openly discuss these things with your children, so they learn to understand what it is they are seeing, and what’s good or bad about it. Parent = teacher. And we do this so naturally; as we’re leaving the theatre, getting in the car, going out for an ice-cream, we are discussing the movie, what we liked, what we didn’t. The key to a successful family life, and to maximum influence on EVERY topic, is spending time where it matters – with your kids.

  • terra nova Park City, UT
    May 30, 2012 8:28 a.m.

    Every kid is different. Teaching moments need to be different too. Parents are, in most instances, a good resource. But they need not be the only resource.

  • Bryan Wilde Bountiful, UT
    May 29, 2012 9:22 p.m.

    The media isn't shy about putting sex in our children's faces. We have to be as bold, but in a healthy, non-shaming and age appropriate way. If children sense our embarrassment or discomfort, they will determine that this is not a subject they can comfortably discuss with us. We have to normalize the topic of sex. We can initiate discussions with our kids and encourage them to ask questions. There's plenty to talk about in this over-sexualized world. If we watch a movie with our kids, we can take the opportunity to talk about the mature themes they observed and provide context for what they saw in terms of reality and Hollywood.

  • Bill in Nebraska Maryville, MO
    May 28, 2012 10:07 p.m.

    Joggle I have thought about and I live in the real world. However, what you pledge is for someone else to teach your children which is wrong. You are a fool to think schools and teachers are professionals. Many teach their own philosphy of life, not what is true and factual. Parents are the key and that is the problem today with both parents working allowing day cares and schools to raise their children, taking that responsibility and duty away. Check and see and you will find where teenage pregnancy is the highest is in the poor and the affluent areas. Why, because in the least affluent areas there is too many single parents and in the affluent they buy the love of the children.

    The scientist is also wrong in his so called analysis. I've seen where Bishop's children are the best behaved and least rebellious. I've also seen the other side but it isn't because of the teachings of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints. It is because of the peer pressure and the fact many children feel unloved because their parents just don't get it.

  • Joggle Clearfield, UT
    May 28, 2012 4:47 p.m.


    Many NON-LDS parents also believe they have a responsibility to teach their children from an early age the concepts of morality, free agency, and the law of consequences....so what is your point? Morality is subjective. One person's morality may not be another persons. One religion does not get to decide what is moral or not in society. No one religion gets to decide what is moral for us all. That's just the way it is. And....how do you really know that all LDS parents are perfect masters of this subject? You don't! You can not make someone do something that they do not want to, even if it is a good idea or it is what you taught them. Give children as much knowledge as possible from all good sources including parents and hope they learn and live wisely. Nobody wants to take away or diminish the parental role in sex education....but there is much more to sex education than the teaching of morality, values, free agency, and the law of consequences...and there are many other valuable resources to educate children as well.

  • Joggle Clearfield, UT
    May 28, 2012 4:19 p.m.

    @Bill in Nebraska

    Scoff or laugh? No! It's a serious subject that doesn't just have one solution like you would prefer. I agree parents should teach their children about sex, but in the REAL world that doesn't always happen, does it? Your reality is different than that of the real world! If in the real world all parents took this responsibility seriously upon themselves to do properly...then we wouldn't need any other sources to educate children about it, but Bill...that's not how it works in the real world. Do we just leave these children whose parents are unwilling, unable, or uneducated as far as teaching them about sex in the dark about sex or would it be better to educate them through other good sources? If a child is left in the dark with no factual knowledge and guidance....then that will certainly lead to trouble What are you going to do, Bill....force everybody to believe as you do and do as you want them to in the name of your God? Isn't self-righteousness judgement a sin in your world, Bill? Knowledge is a good thing! Think about it!

  • Rifleman Salt Lake City, Utah
    May 28, 2012 3:13 p.m.

    Re: Joggle Clearfield, UT
    "Your job as a parent is to guide your child toward finding a true sense of self."

    LDS parents believe they have a responsibility to teach their children from an early age the concepts of morality, free agency, and the law of consequences. Wise is the child who listens to his parents and learns from the mistakes of others.

    Feelings of self worth trump "true sense of self" , what ever that is, every time.

  • Bill in Nebraska Maryville, MO
    May 28, 2012 2:18 p.m.

    Schools are not the place to learn about sex. It is the total responsibility of the parents to teach their children "to love and serve one another, to observe the commandments of God and to be law-abiding citizens wherever they live. Husbands and wives, mothers and fathers - will be held accountable before God for the discharge of these obligations.

    No parent should leave it up to the schools or professionals to learn about sex. This should be and needs to be done in the home. Sex is only dirty if it is done outside of the realms of marriage. It is time for those of you who laugh or scoff of this like Joggle, thinkman and others to bow your knees and ask the Lord if what was just stated is true. Sex should only be enjoyed between a man and a woman who are legally and lawfully wedded. Anything else is selfishness plain and simple.

  • Joggle Clearfield, UT
    May 28, 2012 1:55 p.m.


    There is mistaken perception among religious theists that irreligious non-believers have no good reason to be moral and cannot be as moral as religious theists. The foundation for this myth is the common assumption that morality is inseparable from theism. Non-believers can illustrate through word and deed, that they are a very ethical person with strong values and principles. The truth is that neither religions nor gods are necessary for morality, ethics, or values. They can exist in a godless, secular context just fine, as demonstrated by all the godless atheists, agnostics etc. who lead moral lives every day. It is wrong to assume morality is something that can be separated from human society and independently grounded, justified, or explained totally through religious belief. It's like removing a person's liver and demanding an explanation for why it — and it alone — exists while ignoring the body that is left bleeding. Since I lack space to address this thoroughly....the simplest explanation for morality in human society is the fact that human social groups need predictable rules and behavior to function and get along. There is a universal morality most of us can recognize.

  • Janca salt lake city, utah
    May 28, 2012 12:41 p.m.

    @JOGGLE, you have hit the nail RIGHT on the head. perfectly stated and exactly right!

    With regards to Other comments, I had to laugh when I read a "bishop" gave good advice to kids about sex; another full-bellied laugh at "moral tyranny" [sounds like someone is talking about Utah and the Utah Legislature in general there!]; and finally, the idea that the schools are going to somehow teach kids that sex outside marriage is ok or other things a parent doesn't agree with?--->and of course not saying in so many words, but actually stating -- the teachers will be listened to MORE than ME the parent?? Yes, that is saying "my kids will listen to the teachers and over me!" Sounds to me like the parent needs some help in other areas as well if this is the case.

    I think it is important for parents to teach their children about sex. I also think is important for kids to have other "knowledgeable" and "educational" discussions about sex - ie. sex education. Ditto everything Joggle.

  • jrgl CEDAR CITY, UT
    May 27, 2012 9:33 p.m.

    my two cents:
    Since you live in Taylorsville, UT your children won't be handed out condem at school, nor will they even hear the word "condom" in the public schools as the legislature nixed that word from schools & your local biology or health teacher could be fired for even saying it.
    Students in Utah must have a signed parental permission ship to participate in the Sex Ed.
    You forget we are an abstinence only state. Even the 5th grade maturation program requires a signed note.
    The problem arises when parents shirk their job and fail to teach basic information to their children. This article is really well written and the bullet points at the end offer real ideas that would work. I would have liked to read an LDS example instead of the "Christian church" examples from other states. What is working & not working here for Utah parents?

  • A Scientist Provo, UT
    May 27, 2012 9:01 p.m.

    So much handwringing and fear mongering by the believers, who think individual sexual behavior is the biggest problem on the planet, and who assume, and treat their kids as if they haven't got a brain in their heads.

    Kids are smarter than you think, and when you presume to play moral policemen for them, you undermine their innate moral sensibilities. You also provoke them so that they have to rebel and experiment to discover their own moral conscience. This is why the Bishops' and Stake Presidents' kids are often the wildest!

  • A voice of Reason Salt Lake City, UT
    May 27, 2012 7:47 p.m.


    "One of the things we are entrusted to teach our children is the difference between right and wrong which can be done with or without religion."

    If there is a God who is indeed a morally perfect being, as so many theistic religions claim- then there is a problem with that statement. If the LDS Church is true, then what is moral cannot be obtained but by revelations from God.

    Philosophers have debated this point for thousands of years. You can easily argue that 'if God is real, then...' but the alternative argument- 'without God I can know what is moral' cannot be justified. Unless you are omniscient and know everything, then nothing you know is absolute and definitively known. So without God, you can't know right from wrong unless you were God yourself. With God you can know. To me, this inherently proves that God is required for morality and justice to even exist.

    This point is highly off-topic, but as you mention a 'no need for religion to know morality', I couldn't help but reply.

  • Joggle Clearfield, UT
    May 27, 2012 4:55 p.m.

    Your job as a parent is to guide your child toward finding a true sense of self. You create a secure sense of structure for your child by educating him or her about your own beliefs and values, but it is a wise parent who also teaches children to think on their own. This has to be done in age appropriate stages, of course. One of the things we are entrusted to teach our children is the difference between right and wrong which can be done with or without religion.

    No realistic parent believes he or she can be the only source of sexual information to a child. The media, the peer group, and the school will all play large, small, and often mixed roles. Parents with the right message and the right timing can preempt negative and harmful information. They can also create a positive frame of reference and an effective filter through which kids can interpret and internalize what is useful and helpful to them, and screen out or set aside what is harmful or dangerous.

    While parents SHOULD take responsibility in this area...they often don't....so an comprehensive optional sex education program must be available.

  • thelogicalone salt lake city, UT
    May 27, 2012 4:48 p.m.

    We could probably ask any group of teenagers or adults whose parents had "the talk"with them, and then ask their parents if they had "the talk" with their children and get different answers. I think parents explain the emotional and maturity aspects while throwing in a little biology while the kids want graphics and pictures. The kids get what they want anywhere in the world, in the school, on the internet. They can't get what their parents can teach anywhere else.

  • SportsFann Bountiful, UT
    May 27, 2012 4:24 p.m.

    Talking about sex with my kids has never been an issue. I think that is because I grew up in a home where sex was not considered taboo. I remember my father saying once, "Sex is great. It's worth waiting for so you and the person you love can really enjoy it." That stuck with me as a teenager. I have always shared that concept with my children. I believe sex should be talked about because if it is talked about children can learn about appropriate boundaries and what true love is about. I am amazed how many people have gotten married with no discussion of sexuality until the day of their wedding. Just my 2 cents.

  • A voice of Reason Salt Lake City, UT
    May 27, 2012 1:13 p.m.


    An even better point to make is that parents teaching their children something with moral consequences cannot be universally taught, unless the person teaching is a perfect moral being. If God taught the class, I'd accept sex-ed in schools. Religion aside, the thought experiment still adequately describes the moral problem with sex-ed.

    I believe that sex before marriage is wrong. You don't. How do we reconcile these beliefs in a maturation program? Even if reconciled, teachers may not honor agreements. I had a bishop that taught me one thing, and in sex-ed in school my teacher taught me something contrary to that (contrary to school policy).

    The state doesn't run our lives, we do.

    I often say with same-sex marriage arguments, that the state doesn't 'give is' rights, but we authorize the state to protect rights we already had. How can a state teach us what's moral? It can't. It is our responsibility to define our state, define our morals, teach our children, etc. Freedom requires that we govern ourselves, not that 'the system' tells us how life works, what's moral, etc. That would be moral tyranny.

  • Lasvegaspam Henderson, NV
    May 27, 2012 12:56 p.m.

    Concerning the teaching of the mechanics of sex, may I add that the mystery of actual intercourse is part of the joy and beauty of the wedding experience for our young adult children. They look forward (just as you and I did) to exploring this new aspect of life with their husband/wife. For thousands of years the barnyard has been enough to instruct in the mechanics of sex. Can I ask you, Sergio and other who think like you, did someone have to instruct you on the intercourse part of intimacy, or did you and your wife learn together?

    “Intimacy Instruction” is learned in the home, and always has been. “Sex” is learned through experience of the couple having it.

  • A voice of Reason Salt Lake City, UT
    May 27, 2012 12:50 p.m.


    My experience has been that caring parents and bishops have given wise counsel, and teachers teaching sex-ed aren't.

    Just because someone gets a degree that says "I'm competent" doesn't actually make them competent. Who qualifies a therapist? Socrates put it best when he said "know thyself" because self-reflection is essential to progress. A lot of counselors or mental health experts simply help people examine their own mental process. The majority of teachers I interacted with weren't qualified in such a way as to be considered any more qualified than parents and bishops.

    Moreover, a parent can provide a one-on-one 'session' and address individual needs. Those sessions can be every day, not just once a week. Therapy isn't available to every student. School maturation programs are more like mass-produced chicken factory. There is a very real difference.

    When a parent has the desire and will to care for their children, they have the potential of understanding their children's psychological needs more than anyone else.

    Parents know more than animals and the mechanics involved. They know their children. They know their experiences. Nothing surpasses the qualifications of caring parents.

  • Thinkman Provo, UT
    May 27, 2012 12:37 p.m.

    Christians and many of those from other faiths often are taught that sex is dirty and inherently evil. They are often taught also that the human body should be covered up because it is shameful to show bare shoulders or too much leg.

    Teens, being naturally curious as they are then often go to the extreme and experiment and seek out porn or promiscuous relationships and then get into trouble.

    Open honest and direct communication on sex with our pre-teens will help curb their natural curiosity of things that are taught as taboo.

  • My2Cents Taylorsville, UT
    May 27, 2012 6:42 a.m.

    Schools? Teachers? Professional? And Planned parent hood, a 3rd party private and activist vendors of lies and deceptions so they can program and promote sexual promiscuity with lies about choices after they have sex. Formal medical education may be tolerable, but 3rd party advocate ringers invading our schools are not to teach our children their polices and plans.

    The real problem I had encountered with my children is that schools, education, and planned parenthood was undermining the authority of parents telling children not to trust or beleive our views and expectations on their behaviors. This undermining of our rights as parents make it difficult to get our children to have a meaningful discussion, we have already been defeated in our authority and children walk away from our discussions. Once schools and planned parenthood indoctrination policy is out of the way, parents can regain authority.

    No, schools and professionals should not undermine parents. If we want to teach our children to abstain that is our choice and the schools have no right to hand out condoms condoning and undermining the authority of parental choices not to experiment with condoms in their pockets.

  • skeptic Phoenix, AZ
    May 26, 2012 10:15 p.m.

    RE: Voice of Reason,
    You state: The fact that parents created their children qualifies them, the problem is when parents do not desire to make it constructive and for the benefit and protection of their children.

    If only it were that simple, but having sex or experiencing sex is not a qualfication for understanding or teaching sex education. Even dogs and cats have sex and many human parent understand about as much about it as animals do, and that is the problem that is being addressed in families, schools and communities today. Of course, many parents are great at helping the children understand the subject; but too many are not and they are the ones that need support and help. But at the same time it does not hurt those who know all there is to know about the subject to receive a refresher course; they too just might learn something new.

  • gauchograndy Centerton, AR
    May 26, 2012 8:58 p.m.

    Two great resources for talking to your kids about sex are:

    "Where Do Babies Come From?" by Brad Wilcox and "Growing Up: Gospel Answers About Maturation and Sex" also by Brad Wilcox.

    The first is appropriate for even young young children, while the second is a good resource for those 10 years and older.

    We've found both books helpful in our family.

  • kargirl Sacramento, CA
    May 26, 2012 4:51 p.m.

    I have to agree with Demo Dave. Unfortunately, like the driver who should know the rules of the road but fails to pull over for an emergency vehicle and causes a major accident, many parents--too many--are parents who are not able to pass on the rules of the sexual road to their offspring. It might be lack of knowledge, especially if they weren't taught, or embarassment, or fear; the outcome at best is that they will all be lucky and nothing bad will happen. But don't bet on it. The schools may not teach, they cannot, certainly teach, the sacredness of sex, or the wonder of that gift as a marriage present to one's beloved. The school cannot let the child know how he/she will feel if the gift to one's current "special" someone is thrown back at them the next day, versus the great warmth of two hearts and minds being one in a total, sharing relationship as grown people in a union meant to last a lifetime. This is parent work, and getting over the nervousness would be worth it, would it not?

  • A voice of Reason Salt Lake City, UT
    May 26, 2012 2:01 p.m.


    The fact that parents created their children qualifies them, the problem is when parents do not desire to make it constructive and for the benefit and protection of their children..


    All parents must answer this obligation or they will be held accountable or answer for its consequences. Every parent is morally obligated to teach their children. Mechanics aside, there are moral lessons needed for responsible decision making. It's simple cause and effect. An understanding of 'creating life' doesn't translate to understanding how to parent, rear, provide, and take on life-changing responsibilities- let alone other moral implications that can result from such actions. Teaching a guy how to operate a gun says nothing abort morality. Teaching them when to use or not use it is just as requisite to teaching responsibly.

    "Parents have a sacred duty to rear their children in love and righteousness, to provide for their physical and spiritual needs, and to teach them to love and serve one another, observe the commandments of God, and be law-abiding citizens wherever they live. Husbands and wives—mothers and fathers—will be held accountable before God for the discharge of these obligations."

  • Lasvegaspam Henderson, NV
    May 26, 2012 1:50 p.m.

    Sergio, I completely disagree. What makes the topic of sex ANY different than money, politics or religion? And these topics are continually taught within the family. It is not only the right and duty of the parents to convey information about sex and intimacy to their children, it is their privilege.

    My grown children also could not point to a single “talk”, because it fails as the best way to teach. The teaching of intimacy or sexual behavior, and doesn’t this just mean “behavior of the sexes – male and female”, is taught continually within the family. It’s gleaned by your kids as they watch your behavior with your spouse – good and bad. And actions speak louder than words. When a husband lovingly puts his arms around his wife and kisses her, the message is being broadcast (in living color) to the children. When a wife says cute and loving things to her husband in front of the children, guess who is learning how husbands and wives gain happiness from intimacy, and what intimacy actually is? The culture created within the family teaches this.

  • Demo Dave Holladay, UT
    May 26, 2012 1:19 p.m.

    Great artcle! It would be nice if every parent would read this and heed its advice, but that's not possible. Besides, no one can teach what they don't know, and too many parents are ignorant about the topic of sex, other than perhaps the basic mechanics of it. Many of them don't even know the correct terminology for body parts and functions, and even if they do, they often use substitute words instead. This robs a child of the chance to know essential information about his or her body, and can result in a lifetime of shame and confusion. If parents aren't up to the task, we should allow the schools to do it.

  • Furry1993 Clearfield, UT
    May 26, 2012 12:51 p.m.

    We never had a "birds and bees" discussion with our sons. We didn't have to. They received their sex education, in age-appropriate bits and pieces, throughout their lives. We never worried about their having sex education in school because they had already learned more in the way of accurate facts than were presented in the class. I really feel sorry for the teenagers who don't get the facts that way and, sadly, they're the ones who need the classes the most but whose parents keep them out.

  • sergio Phoenix, AZ
    May 26, 2012 12:15 p.m.

    A big part of the problem is that too many parents are not well enough informed or qualified to talk constructively about sex with thier children. That is why much of the teaching in the area of sex education is left up to the teachers and professional in the schools. But then there are too many parents who will not support the schools in sex education, or they out right oppose it. And that is why most of the sex education students receive is from peers who may not be that good of a source. It seems the schools may be the best answer to sex education, at least they are some what accountable.

  • Jeanie b. Orem, UT
    May 26, 2012 11:35 a.m.

    This article is right on.

    We often tell our kids that there is nothing they can say or ask us that will shock or disturb us - there's nothing we haven't heard. (Now, in reality we may be a little shocked but that is where the parental "poker face" comes in handy.)

    Gratefully, they have come with questions and topics on their minds. Even my teenage boys will talk to me (about stuff I just rather not hear, but I have to because I am the parent). Some things have not been easy to deal with, but we try to make it as natural to talk about sex as the weather.