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Tell me again why teenagers shouldn't be having sex.
July 28, 2014 11:57 AM   Subscribe

My 15-yr old daughter recently told me she has been having sex with her boyfriend of 10 months (also 15 y.o.)

She is a smart girl, well behaved, honor student, never in trouble at school, always been mature for her age. I like the BF. He is outgoing, motivated and very smart.

We have tried to "keep an eye" on them - obviously not too well. I was initially very upset about this news. Yeah, I think 15 is too young. She is still my baby. I think high school in general is too young, but I was in high school when I had sex the first time so ... I told her, while I did not approve, I would put her on birth control. I told my husband she wanted to be on birth control, but not actually that she has already had sex. One step at a time for him.

Her BF decided to tell his mom, WHY I DON'T REALLY KNOW. Now, all hell has broken loose. The mom wants the adults to meet, tell the kids that this is unacceptable, and that from now on, they have to be under our watchful eyes at all times. My husband was upset, but not too shocked. He was initially opposed to putting daughter on birth control, but has come around. He also wants them watched like a hawk, now. He wants the BF to only come to our house, not let her go to his.

I feel that the genie is out of the bottle. I am trying to analyze my feelings about kids that age having sex and find that I am ambivalent, especially now that it has already happened. I know my husband and BF's mom (not sure about B.F's dad yet) would think I am NUTS if I say, maybe we shouldn't worry about it so much, as long as Daughter is on birth control. I think it is just a matter of time before it happens again - they start driving soon. Is the issue that they are not emotionally ready? Yes, they probably aren't. Is it that it is immoral? That is not my issue, but is probably the BF mom's issue. Why is sex such a big FUCKING (ha ha) anyway???? My daughter is upset - this is practically the end of her life. I'm trying to tell her that this will all settle down (without saying, you know, you two are 15 and could break up next month.)

I don't want to have to chaperone them 24/7. But I don't want to abdicate my parental responsibility.

My question is, what would you do in this situation?
posted by cherrybounce to Human Relations (78 answers total) 53 users marked this as a favorite
 
I would make sure my daughter stayed on birth control and also emphasize to her what a healthy, non-manipulative relationship looks like. I'd reserve my judgement about being too young, etc and concentrate on minimizing physical and emotional risks. I'd also insist that daughter get a full panel of STI tests to make sure she hasn't contracted anything as it's unclear whether boyfriend has already had sex with others.

As for the other parents? Maybe consider meeting with them and listening and humoring them a bit. Boyfriend's Mom seems to not understand the realities of teenagers and sex and thinks that she can pressure the kids to stop. I doubt that's possible. But, I'd meet with her anyway and try to minimize how freaked she continues to get. Tell her that you'll chaperone, but I agree, chaperoning 24/7 isn't realistic.

Personal, TMI note: I started being sexually active when I was around her age with my same-age boyfriend. I was also a teen who sounds like your daughter (smart, mature, high-achiever). The relationship was healthy and it was a very positive experience. I've spoken with many friends of both sexes about their firsts and, unfortunately, many had far more traumatic starts to their sexual lives. I feel very lucky that I had such a positive first experience that I can look back on fondly. It was not damaging at all. Quite the opposite.
posted by quince at 12:09 PM on July 28 [84 favorites]


i don't have parental advice, but if you guys start monitoring them 24/7 and "punish" them for telling you the truth, they won't have any incentive to be honest with you next time.

when i was younger, i didn't start lying to my parents until they started accusing me of lying when i was being honest. your daughter was suuuper responsible and must trust you a lot to be open about this with you. it sounds like you are reasonable and know that you can't control their behaviors, so i would make sure whatever actions you do take, it keeps your daughter on your side.
posted by monologish at 12:10 PM on July 28 [138 favorites]


This is an emotional issue, tied to notions of sex as shameful and teenagers as children incapable of loving or making decisions about their bodies. I think you are the rational one in the situation. I don't have children, so I don't feel I can really give you advice. But just know that open dialogues about sex, pleasure, and love with teens are closely correlated with lower rates of pregnancy and abortion.
posted by BusyBusyBusy at 12:11 PM on July 28 [15 favorites]


I think that you have the right of it. They've already had sex--they're not going to stop just because some adults say it's a bad idea. Really, the fact that they willingly told their parents, even though they had to know that not everyone would approve, demonstrates that they're being a lot more mature about it than many people their age are. She's on birth control, and (presumably) you've made it clear that if she has trouble--pregnancy, relationship issues, whatever--she can come talk to you. I think that's a really huge thing.

You could try pointing out to the other parents that there are basically two options, here: you can reward your kids for being honest with you, and say that while you don't agree with their decision, you're glad they told you, and you're not going to try to prevent something that's already happening. Alternatively, you can punish your kids for being honest with you. One of these options leads to a healthier relationship, and one of them teaches the kids that if they tell you too much about their lives, they get in trouble.
posted by MeghanC at 12:11 PM on July 28 [16 favorites]


I would make sure that both kids sat through some good sex ed (I don't know what it's like where you are, but even well-intentioned non-abstinence-only programs can be crap), have access to birth control (his and hers), and are well aware that an accidental pregnancy is a massive game changer, regardless of how it ends.

You can't stop them. You can't even hope to contain them, especially after one or more of them has a driver's license. The best you can do is make sure that they understand the pluses and minuses of sexual activity in our society and let them make their own choices.

And when they break up (because it's 99 percent that they will), you resist the temptation to have him murdered, and you resist the temptation to remind her that you told her this would happen. Let her cry, and let her learn.

The other parents aren't your problem, and you'll never win with them. Tell them you're willing to meet if they are, and tell them what you're going to do, and let them do what they want.
posted by Etrigan at 12:12 PM on July 28 [9 favorites]


Disclaimer: I don't have kids. But I was a kid, so here's my two cents.

Telling the kids "that this is unacceptable, and that from now on, they have to be under our watchful eyes at all times" won't work and has so much potential to backfire. Not only is it impossible--there's cars, friends' houses, and a myriad of other places they could go while being at "the library"--but now they won't just be boyfriend-girlfriend, they'll be in a tragic love story in which there are obstacles and people trying to keep them apart. This could keep them together longer than they would be without this new parent drama and make their behavior riskier.

I agree that the genie is out of the bottle and that you need to tread a fine line here. I don't blame you for being ambivalent about this situation, but it already happened so the main thing you need to be concerned about is no pregnancy/diseases. Get her on birth control stat and make sure she understands that it doesn't immediately work after you take the first pill.
posted by sfkiddo at 12:12 PM on July 28 [27 favorites]


I am like you -- and I'm the dad, with a teen daughter, but apparently I'm the exception to the rule -- and plenty of people start having sex at 15, and if you didn't know about it, it'd still be happening, so don't make it a world-shaking event. Birth control is a good idea - but it's one of many issues from starting sexual activities. Sure, if they're both virgins, STDs are unlikely, but there's also other opportunistic infections that can come from having sex without taking care of 'housekeeping', so to speak. Don't make it a "moral/immoral" thing, because that has already crossed the kids' minds and they've dismissed it, and introducing self-hate in all of this, especially if the daughter is upset over the current proceedings, is going to make things worse.

Point out she's still quite young and should figure out adult relationships more before having sex, and compliment her on safety precautions thus far, and make sure she knows her father doesn't approve of her having sex, because it's the truth and dad's opinions do have a lot of weight for girls, and make sure she keeps condoms around/takes her pill/is aware of date-rape/etc., because things change unexpectedly and she should be prepared, even if she has decided not to have sex anymore. For one thing, even if she decided to not have sex now, that opinion may still change in an instant down the road, and if she feels she's risking things by having condoms in her room or has to sneak around to have sex, it's just putting herself at risk. Focus that the concerns you and her father have are about health and safety -- encourage her to stay healthy and safe on her own, because this monitor-24/7 ain't going to work, and it, too, will just encourage reckless behavior.
posted by AzraelBrown at 12:13 PM on July 28 [2 favorites]


My question is, what would you do in this situation?

You are going to get a range of answers, because as you have surmised, it is something of a minefield.

With my son, he became sexually active at about 15, and... Well, I established some ground rules and expectations and let him manage it. As you say, they are going to do it - what would have stopped you at that age ? I was the same - became sexually active in HS - and despite the efforts of the adults around, still managed to get away with quite a lot.

There are worse things in the world than you daughter having sex with someone she cares about. And emotionally ready is sort of a cop out - I wasn't emotionally ready for my puppy to die, and it happened anyway. I wasn't emotionally ready for my first fiance to dump me for her ex, and it happened anyway. If I waited until I was ready for those things, I may never have learned how to become ready.

Your daughter is turning a corner into adulthood, and your relationship needs to turn that corner with her. If I were in your shoes, I would help her find some birth control that she likes (whatever form that is) and help her make sure she uses it and is smart about it. I would have talks about sexting and photos and the dangers of doing it in the backseat of a car.

But the important thing to remember is that if you want continued honesty from your daughter, you need to make it easy for her to be honest with you.
posted by Pogo_Fuzzybutt at 12:14 PM on July 28 [43 favorites]


"Teenagers" don't have sex. "Teenagers" is word that describes a demographic, some members of which have sex.

We use ages as proxies for more other things that are either harder to figure out more onerous to measure and track. They are generally useless for individuals.

The law uses them ages as proxies (as in the case of the drinking age and age of consent) not because humans suddenly become capable of drinking responsibly at 21, but because trying to apply a more meaningful rule would be expensive (in many different ways).

I guess my point is that whether or not teenagers, generally, are ready for sex has absolutely nothing to do with whether or not your daughter and her boyfriend are. (and that's true wether she's 15 or 25)

+1 to all of the above saying that stopping this is basically a lost cause, so your best bet is to do what you can to support her and make sure she's safe.
posted by toomuchpete at 12:14 PM on July 28 [2 favorites]


Look, I don't want to put you under an undue amount of pressure, but how you handle this is really, really, really important, because it sets the tone for your daughter kind of for the rest of her life. Are you going to be the person she can come to for support and help as she goes through this, or is she going to start hiding it from you? Because she's not going to stop.

There's not a moral issue here. They're both consenting, and they're both of an age where sexual activity is perfectly normal. I would sit my daughter down and say, "I understand you've been having sex, and thank you for being honest with me. I know sex can be scary as well as fun and exciting, and I want to support and protect you any way I can. I know this stuff can be embarrassing, but please come to me if you ever have any issues. I want to remind you that it's okay to say no as well as yes, and that you don't ever owe anyone sex, but that sex is also a thing that it's okay to have, responsibly, when both people want it. You're never less of a wonderful and worthwhile person for having sex, or for not having it. If you want to keep on, I would ask that both of you get STI tested before going on hormonal birth control. If you don't want to do that, I suggest condoms."

I wouldn't necessarily supply your kid with HBC or condoms, but I WOULD help her go through the process of getting them herself-- teach her how to set up a OBGYN appointment and be responsible for her own meds, or encourage her to go to the store for them herself. This is really important stuff, and if she can learn it now, she can avoid a world of pain and shame and worry later in life.

As far as dealing with the other parents, I would just say, "What your son does or does not do with my daughter is between you, as parents, and him. We are happy to have you make whatever decision you feel is necessary as parents." I would try to leave your daughter out of the equation as much as possible; after all, it's not REALLY about her, it's about their son.

I would also have a chat with your daughter about the other parents' reaction-- where it's coming from, what it's about. And maybe make sure she feels like it's not blaming HER for being a "slut" or "the problem". Sometimes parents with very strong conservative morals have trouble accepting their kids' behavior, and will look to externalize the blame. I wouldn't tell her the other parents are being BAD PARENTS or anything, but maybe just clarify that this is an issue between her BF and his parents that's definitely not her fault and sort of not really her fight.

It sounds like you are excellent parents and you have a really wonderful daughter. And really, I don't think anyone could ask for a better first sexual experience than a consensual encounter with a known partner. I don't think you have too much to worry about.
posted by WidgetAlley at 12:15 PM on July 28 [128 favorites]


Kids are too young for sex as teenagers because they aren't really emotionally ready for all that sex brings. Love, sex, hormones and the inability to see around corners at that age makes sex a really detrimental thing. These are the same people who are capable of having a hissy fit over lima beans for dinner.

There's so much growing up that happens over the next few years, and so many different experiences. It's doubtful that the relationship will continue for long, but as long as it does, being open, honest and accepting is the best way to keep them both from making a life changing mistake like an unplanned pregnancy.

You and your husband need to be on the same page on this, to present a united front to the other parents. If you don't want to chaperon the kids then say so. "I'm not really fussed by this. It's not optimal, I'd have preferred that they waited until they were older, but that didn't happen. I like Jason, and I trust that they'll both use the maturity that they have to be safe and to not get pregnant."

After that stick by your guns. This is not the end of the world.
posted by Ruthless Bunny at 12:17 PM on July 28 [2 favorites]


my parents, my siblings, my nieces and nephews, and i all managed to start having sex, with same age partners, between 15-17. it's really a quite normal age and you should be proud of your relationship with your daughter that she trusted you with this.

the harder you fight to keep them apart the more likely they are to push against that and do things in less safe manners (in public, rushed, without protection, etc). you don't have to set up a sex room and let them leave a sock on the door or anything, but i don't think you can make rules and oversight strong enough to keep two teenagers who are already having sex from having more sex. even if they break up, chances are they will have sex with their next partner. most everyone wishes the teens in their lives would wait longer, as teens we all seemingly thought we were ready. this is just one of many things you'll have to hope you taught her well enough and trust her to make the best choices doing the least amount of damage to herself and those around her.

if it helps to reframe it for yourself, maybe consider it like this - you probably taught her that her body is hers, that she gets to decide who touches her, and no one is allowed to force themselves on her - well that applies here, it's her body, she's seemingly being responsible, you don't seem to fear that she's been coerced, it's not up to you, your husband, or her boyfriend's parents to dictate their body autonomy.
posted by nadawi at 12:22 PM on July 28 [10 favorites]


Disclaimer: I am not a parent, and was not sexually active until I was 19 (through chance, not because of parental edict).

WidgetAlley is spot-on. The only other thing I would add is some very broad-strokes about how she has the right to assert herself, and say no to things she doesn't want to do - not that it sounds like there's a need for that, mind you, because it sounds like the boyfriend is a good guy too. But more like "if there's something you don't want to do for whatever reason, even if it's more like a 'not right now but maybe some other time', it's okay to say that." Stress that this kind of assertiveness is something that even adults can have a hard time feeling comfortable doing (do a search in AskMe for people who say that they're trying to be "GGG" but there's this thing their SO is asking them to do and..."), so it can feel momentarily icky to say "no", but saying "no" to something is her absolute right.
posted by EmpressCallipygos at 12:25 PM on July 28 [12 favorites]


Research state/city statutory rape laws if you decide to overlook the sex: your daughter's boyfriend may be considered underage and his family could press charges against your daughter (and possibly you and your husband). Sex-offender status is a potential consequence.
posted by homodachi at 12:26 PM on July 28 [8 favorites]


I don't have kids, but I started having sex at 16. Once I started, I realized I really liked it and was not going to stop. My parents disapproved and we just hid it from them. My bf's parents were waaaaay more conservative and freaked out if I laid down on the couch while watching a movie. But we were still sneaky enough to have sex in their house. There is no way that parental disapproval will stop this.

While you don't like the idea, I think it's good that you are being realistic about it. Helping her get on BC is a great idea, and something that I think is really practical. Making it difficult for her right now is likely to backfire in many ways.

As for the other parents, I would agree with them that this isn't ideal, but really stick to your guns that no amount of watching them is going to stop it. It's just going to alienate them, and your relationship with your daughter is more important than their morals and their issues with sex. If you team up with them now, it will have consequences for you long after he's gone. I suspect they're not really worth that.
posted by ohisee at 12:27 PM on July 28 [4 favorites]


The problem you have is not with your daughter, it seems, but with the other parents. If you do not give in to their demands of 24/7 supervision, I can see them completely losing their shit and telling their son he's not allowed to meet your daughter anymore. And then what?
I have no solution to this except maybe discuss likely scenarios with your daughter and ask her what she would do in your shoes.
posted by Omnomnom at 12:28 PM on July 28 [24 favorites]


My experience was the same as quince's. I have no regrets. And the idea that kids can't handle the emotions... like that improves? Go hang out on reddit's relationship subreddit for an alternate reality. The intensity of young infatuation is a blessing and a curse but I wouldn't take any of it back.

I am very grateful that my mom took me to an ob/gyn friend of hers for birth control and then never mentioned it again. My boyfriend's mom was all in favor of sex. She talked a good game to my dad about how we'd be in separate BUILDINGS (granny unit) but then when I came over she said: "so where do you guys want to sleep?"

My concern would be the same as if my daughter was 19- is the guy an asshole? Does my daughter seem able to draw boundaries with him? (she's not being pushed into it?) Then Go with God.

As for the other parent- I am not sure what to say. I am grateful for my boyfriend's mom's subterfuge but I am not sure I would be able to do it myself, because I'm a super honest person. I would probably tell them I don't have a problem with it, but I am not sure that will be a good idea for reasons I'm not sure about.
posted by small_ruminant at 12:28 PM on July 28 [1 favorite]


it may be the case that your daughter's boyfriend is considered underage and his family could press charges against your daughter

I'm not against researching it, but since they're both 15 I don't see how this would work.
posted by small_ruminant at 12:29 PM on July 28 [3 favorites]


I agree that it's fantastic that she told you straight out. Lucky you!

I also agree with others that watching 24/7 is a bad idea.

Think about it this way - your daughter trusted you to respond reasonably to her being open with you. If you behave unreasonably, your daughter and her boyfriend will find a way to not be seen, because by watching her she will hear "you don't trust me" instead of "I worry about you." (and I think the latter is your motivation).

That tells me that you and your husband should tell her that you do worry about her and that you do trust her. Hopefully she will continue to act trustworthy.

I also think a 4 parent two kids meeting is a seriously bad idea until both sets of parents agree on the message.
posted by plinth at 12:30 PM on July 28 [3 favorites]


Hm, maybe a mom-meet, woman to woman, in which you listen and sympathise a lot might help calm the ruffled nerves? I agree that a meet up of all parents plus kids will only ramp up the drama!
posted by Omnomnom at 12:34 PM on July 28 [7 favorites]


Some good advice in the replies (especially the not-punishing-her-for-telling-you-the-truth issue....punishing someone for telling you the truth is as poor a display of character as not forgiving someone who's apologized sincerely for something).

Let me take a stab at the "What exactly IS wrong?" part. For you, for your daughter, for everyone involved, I think the way to express it is that she's skipped steps.

Puppy love is fun. Stretching it out is fun. Childhood is important, and while a 15-year-old is starting to outgrow it, there are pleasures and lessons to be had in experiencing childhood as something that's slowly fading. She's jumped quickly past all that; past the delicious years of puppy love (and the pleasure and emotional lessons to be learned there), by hitting the "eject" button on her childhood prematurely. She won't experience 15, 16, and 17 as a transition, because she's already jumped to the other side.

This is totally non-moralistic, and it may also strike her as surprising, and make her ponder. She may be unable to backtrack at this point....or she may. But if she continues having an adult relationship at age 15, she will experience these last few childhood years from the perspective of an impatient premature adult, rather than as a child delighting in the feeling of gradually growing more worldly. Worldliness is a good thing to acquire, but she'll have many years to steep in that. Adulthood is long and a bit monotonous, but childhood is short and precious, and there's much to be learned from a child's perspective that adults can't learn as readily.

I think she'll see this and "get" it. Kids that age are hyperaware of the transition-from-childhood issues, and it's bittersweetness. She's hyper accelerating it. She's skipping steps - delicious (and deliciously painful) steps.
posted by Quisp Lover at 12:36 PM on July 28 [5 favorites]


People may disagree, but based on my own experiences as a robust teenager (and those of my friends), there can be a balance between asking children to wait and also not shaming them for wanting to have sex at the same time. There are all kinds of things that are more socially and emotionally appropriate for later stages of life that nevertheless spark interest earlier on. Sometimes good things are worth waiting for. Having children of my own, I can appreciate how difficult it is for you to be navigating the places where this question intersects your values, those of your children, and others in your community who are being affected.

Whatever you decide, I think it's important to know that sex in the teenage years is not inevitable, it is not impossible to turn back the clock a bit once things have already been initiated, and there are things that can get missed in childhood by moving on to adulthood too quickly. People are also not necessarily "wrecked" for having sex early, although there are real potential pitfalls, which I think were mentioned earlier on. Whether either is an appropriate way to approach this is up to you and your husband at the end of the day, but I would simply encourage you to not see this as a binary reality of either encouraging or shaming. There is sometimes a middle way that can be healthy and sometimes difficult, but also something that children won't know they will appreciate until later in their lives.

Again, not everyone will agree with holding the line, or by being overly permissive. But I do think this is big enough that it's important not to view it as a black-or-white, do-or-die situation. I hope that you will have great wisdom to navigate this important issue!
posted by SpacemanStix at 12:39 PM on July 28 [1 favorite]



it may be the case that your daughter's boyfriend is considered underage and his family could press charges against your daughter


Although I have no advice - and there seems like so much good stuff on here - it seems like there will be a ten month stretch (fairly soon) where your daughter is 16 and her boyfriend is 15. When that happens, would her legal status change such that she would no longer be a "minor" while he would? If his parents are vindictive, could they call the cops at that point?
posted by Frowner at 12:39 PM on July 28 [4 favorites]


Please check your MeFi Mail.
posted by beagle at 12:40 PM on July 28


This tickled my neurons, I went back into my blog and found Washington Post: Study Debunks Theory On Teen Sex, Delinquency, I haven't run the original studies to ground, you're welcome to, but:
"It turns out that there was no positive relationship between age of first sex and delinquency," Harden said.

The way to reconcile that with the previous evidence of a link is to conclude that some other factors are promoting both early sex and delinquency, she said. In an e-mail, Haynie agreed. And the Virginia study, to appear in the March 2008 issue of the Journal of Youth and Adolescence, offers some clues.
And, having been on the receiving end of the post-midnight "I need a ride and I can't tell my mom where I am" phone call, I'm with all the "listen to your daughter, support her decisions, make sure she's making informed ones" commenters, along with offering up a link to Scarleteen.
posted by straw at 12:42 PM on July 28 [2 favorites]


the applicable law in her state seems to suggest that there is no illegality as long as the age between partners is less than 2 years.

that does bring up something kids might not really understand even if they know - no matter what the age of consent laws are, the laws about child porn are hard lined and either of them could face seriously outsized penalties for goofing around with a camera. i would impress on her that things like pictures and videos, even done with a trusted partner, is seriously not worth it while they're under 18 (and maybe after, and for reasons that aren't just about the law as well).
posted by nadawi at 12:43 PM on July 28 [5 favorites]


I was editing my reply above when the editing period ended. I'd have liked to add this to my 2nd-to-last paragraph:

"She'll have observed that adults harden a bit. That's not a condition you want to jump toward. Kids soak stuff up way better"
posted by Quisp Lover at 12:44 PM on July 28


I think of "puppy love" as something that happens when you're 11. Fifteen is past "puppy love" stage and I think it's condescending to think of it as something so fickle. If by puppy love you mean infatuation, it's true that for most people that lessens with age and "hardness" but I don't think having a healthy, very consensual, respectful, sexual relationship will add to that hardness in anyway.
posted by small_ruminant at 12:47 PM on July 28 [14 favorites]


Not a parent, but I once was a girl who had sex at 16. While my parents weren't aware when I started, one of the most important thing I learned from them was that while sex was an important step in a relationship, it wasn't the *most* important step.

My dad taught at risk kids and I heard him complain over and over again about the sweet, smart girls who stuck with a loser because they'd had sex. It was hammered into me, unintentionally I think, that picking the wrong guy to have sex with wouldn't "ruin" you, but staying with him would.
posted by teleri025 at 12:48 PM on July 28 [32 favorites]


Teenagers are clever. Nothing you do, short of locking her into her room for the rest of high school will prevent her from having sex with this boyfriend or someone else. And why should you do that anyway? I was sexually active at her age, I am fine and do not regret any of it. Assuming everything is on the up-and-up legally and she's safe with respect to STDs and birth control, it's really none of your business.

In other countries, they take a much more relaxed approach, and I personally think this is better. She's had sex, she will likely continue to do so, regardless of what you say. Given this set of facts, I'd rather have a daughter who felt comfortable coming to me if needed - whether it's for birth control, questions about her body (e.g., normal cervical mucus vs infection), whether it's ok to do certain things or refuse to do certain things, whether a certain dynamic in her relationship is healthy, etc. So many women have bad experiences at this age precisely because they feel they have no one to talk to and no gauge for what is normal. If you are uncomfortable doing this, maybe show her the ScarletTeen forum or some related reddit forums where she can post questions anonymously.

I'd tell the other parents that it is none of their (or your) business what your daughter chooses to do with her body.
posted by melissasaurus at 12:51 PM on July 28 [1 favorite]


My question is, what would you do in this situation?

Thank my daughter for being open with me, encourage her to go on birth control and make sure she understand where and how to get birth control from. Like literally draw her a map to planned parenthood with bus routes if she doesn't have a car. Then encourage her to study her own body, be aware of the clitoris and what it does. After that, a talk about the emotional power of sex and the vulnerability of being hurt, but that's ok. Finally, since the boyfriend seems to be a decent guy, I'd advise her to enjoy herself and this time. You only get one go at your first sexual relationship, so definitely try to enjoy yourself as much as possible, while being responsible. And yes, of course, sex in our house, in her room, would be fine.

I'd tell the boy to stop being so damn honest with his mother, 'cause she clearly can't handle it.

For the spouse, I'd tell them there's nothing to fix or try to control. It's her life and body, she seems to be making good choices, so let her live her life. Ideally, it's best if she does it now, so if she stumbles, we can be here as parents for her. Mostly I'd emphasize she came to one of us and we should encourage the hell out of that, not punish her for a regular and normal activity.
posted by Brandon Blatcher at 12:55 PM on July 28 [10 favorites]


Yeah, i think the major bases to cover would be good realistic sex ed classes (check Planned parenthood they sometimes have teen courses that can be pretty good depending on instructors), good education regarding personal media and sex and how much trouble that can lead to, and... well the person in the equation that worries me the most right now is the other mother. If you meet with her, be prepared for who knows how much garbage to come out, especially if you don't agree with her on all things, specifically she may try and blame/slut shame you and/or your daughter.

I think you generally have a good handle on how to deal with the kids and from the limited amount you wrote they sound at least nominally aware and responsible. At this point you just have to give them more tools towards being even better caretakers of their lives and bodies.

good luck
posted by edgeways at 12:57 PM on July 28 [1 favorite]


If the phrase "puppy love" in my explanation doesn't work for you (though it seems to have worked for an awful lot of people, hence its acceptance in the language), substitute whatever term you'd like. The wording doesn't matter. The point is that there's much to be enjoyed and learned in the affection and romance classically experienced by 15 year olds (and 16 and 17 year olds), and that step has been skipped. It's not just about sex. The waning years of childhood are too beautiful to skip (i.e. to be viewed through adult eyes).

Everything in its time. Rushing out of childhood doesn't make sense, because a lifespan is already vastly over-weighted toward adulthood.
posted by Quisp Lover at 12:57 PM on July 28


Other people have given all the concrete advice I would have, so instead of repeating I'll just note that you sound like an amazing parent and that if you trust your instincts as presented in this question (no big meeting, yes BC, yes communication), things will work out great.
posted by Dip Flash at 1:00 PM on July 28 [2 favorites]


Also, I find it helpful to remember that "she's had sex" in this context means "she's had PIV sex" -- PIV is not the be-all-end-all (cue scene from Chasing Amy discussing the definition of sex). Yes, it is the most likely to result in a pregnancy, so for that reason it is "special" but really, the maturity level need is just as important for other types of sexual contact. Think about how you'd act if this were a lesbian relationship - other than the pregnancy concern, would your reaction be different?

And another note - be mindful (and also inform her) that hormonal birth control might not be right for her, or it might take a while for her to find the right pill/patch/ring/etc. No one should have to suffer through unnecessary side effects when other options exist.
posted by melissasaurus at 1:01 PM on July 28 [3 favorites]


Like other posters here, I too had sex at that age, also with a long-term loving teenage boyfriend. I too was responsible and mature, and am actually very thankful that that was my first sexual experience/relationship, because I was safe and respected and loved. If you think their relationship is a healthy one, just make sure that she has all the information she needs to make the right decisions going forward and that's all you can do. That's the best you can do.
posted by greta simone at 1:05 PM on July 28 [3 favorites]


Quick answer and then I may come back and say more. I work in teen pregnancy prevention/adolescent sexual health. Adults may not realize that certain forms of birth control are WAY more highly effective than others. First line recommendations to prevent pregnancy for teens (and everyone, really) are the IUDs (there are three types) or a contraceptive implant. These eliminate user error.
posted by Stewriffic at 1:06 PM on July 28 [6 favorites]


I have a 21 year old daughter. Here is what I would do (have done) in your situation. First, have a sit down with your daughter and express your appreciation for her being willing to tell you and your support of her. I would also tell her that you are not condoning 15 year old sex and at the same time you are not condemning her. While you are not going to facilitate it, you are not naive to think it will suddenly stop either.

Then I would tell her you have no interest in making joint parenting decisions with some other family. I think that if you are to meet, it should be a discussion with all involved not a read the riot act meeting.

I think the big issue here is your differences on the issue with your husband. You two need to be in agreement before you go to a meeting (if you do) with the other family. As he came around on the BC, I think a few days of cooling down will help him change from the maximum security prison mindset to a minimum security one. But, you know him much much better than I do gleening what I can from one sentence on the internet.
posted by 724A at 1:07 PM on July 28 [4 favorites]


I think you can be honest with your daughter about your dilemma. Tell her that you think she's been responsible, honest, and thoughtful about this, and you admire that in her, and that while it's tough for you because she's your little girl, you admire how well she's handled this. Tell her that you're ambivalent about the other parents' proposal to forbid them from having sex, but that you're in a difficult position as a parent because someone else's child is involved. Tell her you're not willing to lie to the other parents, but nor are you going to morally condemn because ... you don't really think it's immoral. Be upfront that you have some concerns because they are young, but that you don't find it flatly immoral. Be direct about the fact that it sucks that your daughter now has four adults involved in her intimate life, but that part of your responsibility as a parent is to be concerned about these issues. Tell her that this is difficult for you because adults have many different perspectives on teen sex and you want to respect their opinions while also being true to your own, while also being the best parent you can be.

When you talk to the other parents, tell them you're willing to come to an agreement all together and that's fine, but that you're not going to lie to the children, and you're not going to pretend to morally condemn something you don't have a moral problem with.

I don't have a good answer for you about how to handle any "restrictions" on the kids, but your daughter is a smart girl and she deserves to hear your moral calculus out loud and hear you struggling with this situation as a parent and understand what competing demands you're trying to balance. She trusted you with her moral and ethical decision about sex; you should trust her with your moral and ethical decision-making process in this. Let her see your values by talking with her about your ambivalence and how you feel stuck between competing demands and are not sure what to do to be a good parent. She has trusted you with her vulnerability as a young woman; trust her with YOUR vulnerability as a parent trying to figure things out. That's a really powerful statement to your child. And particularly commit to honesty, that you will enforce restrictions if that's what everyone decides is best for the children, but you're not going to lie about your moral beliefs.
posted by Eyebrows McGee at 1:27 PM on July 28 [74 favorites]


You're getting great advice. Keep your daughter close, and your husband too. Let him simmer down and help him see that your priorities are to keep your daughter trusting you, taking your advice, safe from pregnancy, and safe from emotional harm. It sounds to me like there's a bigger risk of emotional harm from BF's anxious mom than from whatever sex she's having with her boyfriend.

I tend to believe the advantage a girl gains by having teenaged sex with a committed, long term, affectionate partner FAR outweighs any disadvantage she might be in from engaging in intimate behavior.
posted by fingersandtoes at 1:29 PM on July 28 [2 favorites]


It's not really something where you can suddenly look around for a reasonable standard; if you wanted things to go differently, it's too late. But if you like the way things are, then just do what seems right to do by your daughter, since you know yourself and her best, and let the other family worry about their son. The other family can't really expect you to call off your daughter just like if they encourage their son to slow down or break off the relationship, you can't do anything about that.

But as far as external standards go, just keep in mind that she's super young and teenagers do appreciate stick-in-the-mud parents when the fun starts not going so well. Recognize that she's an independent adult in some ways, but also be able to be the excuse and pushback she needs sometimes.
posted by michaelh at 1:36 PM on July 28


Wait, whaaaaaaat?

The other mom wants a summit with everyone present, including your teenagers??

OH, NO WAY.

I can not think of anything more stigmatizing or traumatizing for your daughter.

.....

"Margie, I understand that you are upset, my husband and I empathize with your feelings right now.

My husband and I are open to meeting with you and your husband to discuss this issue further.

However

We, as a family, want no part of a situation where 4 adults gang up on 2 teenagers. We can not participate in such a meeting. I'm sorry.

In general, we are glad that our respective children felt their relationships with us are good enough they felt safe coming to us for guidance. Specifically, we personally feel it's important we don't abuse our daughter's trust in us as her parents by punishing her for being honest.

We're definitely open to discussion with you and your husband about how to handle this news in a mature and consistent manner. Thank you for understanding our position. I know this has been difficult for all of us."
posted by jbenben at 1:37 PM on July 28 [67 favorites]


Monitoring them 24/7 is a great idea assuming your ultimate goal is for your daughter to never trust you with the truth again, and to always have deep-seated resentment towards you well into adulthood. Oh, and she'll likely have trust issues in all her future relationships.

Aside from that, you would do well to remind her that pregnancy isn't the only unwanted outcome from sex, and encourage her to use a condom as well as BCP.
posted by elizardbits at 1:38 PM on July 28 [9 favorites]


Teenagers have pretty much always been having sex... This is not a new "problem". (And now we have reliable birth control!)

I think you're getting great advice, and agree that the biggest issue here seems to be the other parents. Your daughter's been honest with you, and I urge you to be honest with her.
posted by jrobin276 at 1:40 PM on July 28 [2 favorites]


One thing I wish the adults in my life would have told me was that it was okay to go back again. Not anything silly like "born again virginity," but that she can stop, and she has agency, and she does not have to have sex with the next guy. At that age I felt like a lot of my life was out of my control once I had crossed certain boundaries, and oddly, that there was a wider chasm between me and the adults in my life, even though I was engaging in more "adult" activities.

I bought this book for my young teen recently. It has some great sections about feelings around sex, pressure, emotional abuse in relationships, reasons to have sex, reasons not to have sex, really frank alternative activities to actual penetrative sex. It's been a great starting point for conversations. Good luck.
posted by Lardmitten at 1:47 PM on July 28 [21 favorites]


As a way to empower your daughter, go ahead at some point when the dust settles and have a conversation with your daughter about societal pressures and how the slut shaming knee jerk reaction of her BF's family is not how mature self-actualized adults who value respect in relationships react.

Maybe have this convo after she and the BF break up, whenever that happens, but do affirm to her that she's awesome, not a threat to societies moral fiber because she is female and sexually active.

Know what mean?
posted by jbenben at 1:49 PM on July 28 [5 favorites]


She is still my baby.
Yeah, but no, obviously.

The best thing you can do for your baby is to tell her how to be safe, to support her in being safe. Information, information, information, so she learns how to make responsible choices.
posted by Namlit at 1:54 PM on July 28 [1 favorite]


The best advice I ever got on sex was from my mother, who told me "Sex can be really, really, REALLY great. Or it can be kind of meh. The shitty part is, bad sex is just as risky as good sex. and the OTHER shitty part is, because of reasons both biological and cultural, you are at a lot more risks than the boy is; pregnancy only happens to you, most STIs are more easily transmitted male --> female than the other way around, our culture has messed up double standards about physical and emotional intimacy. So, you know, be prepared to think about whether the sex is likely to be good enough to justify the risks, and be prepared to do what you can to lower the risks as much as possible. Sucks, but there you go." The other half of that was "I think it's perfectly OK to have sex with someone you don't love, but I think it's a bad idea to have sex with anyone you don't LIKE."

It was a horrifyingly awkward conversation to have, but it really gave me agency and defined me as someone who was capable of deciding to have sex and having that be a good decision. I plan to have similar conversations with my kids when they get old enough. The other thing I hope to figure out how to work in there is that sex is something that two people do together and cooperatively, not something that one person does to another person; that if one person isn't participating in it fully and enthusiastically, then it's not sex, and it's not fun.
posted by KathrynT at 1:56 PM on July 28 [87 favorites]


You've gotten a lot of good feedback but I would just add that hormonal birth control only protects against pregnancy. It does not protect against STDs. They should be using condoms (which will further protect against pregnancy as well).

I have always told my sons that *they* are responsible for their own protection. Doesn't matter if she's on the pill, doesn't matter if she says she can't get pregnant, etc. Their body, their future - their responsibility.

When both parties take responsibility for their own birth/STD control, they stand a much better chance of avoiding pregnancy and STDs.
posted by headnsouth at 2:08 PM on July 28 [2 favorites]


I am thinking a bit about the parental responsibility part here.

Keeping children safe is always our first responsibility. So that comes first - birth control.

We must also encourage our children to have age-appropriate experiences. No one complains "My 10 month old walked too soon!" - we are thrilled to see infants and toddlers experience age appropriate milestones. United States society may not like it, but the human body is ready for sexual activity at 15. It sounds as if she has a very strong, enriching relationship with her boyfriend, and a sexual component is part of that. I think she would tell you her life is richer because her boyfriend and sex are a part of her life right now.

She also has autonomy over her body, and you should respect that. I think it is parental responsibility to protect experiences that make our childrens' lives better. You need to advocate for your daughter. You need to push back on the boyfriends' parents -- they have no business in her sex life. You need to have respect for her relationship and do what you can to protect her relationship.

They can have sex in a safe place, or they can have sex in a public place.

I think the worst case scenario here would be the boyfriend's parents forbid the relationship. They will just hold tighter, meet in public places, maybe dangerous places, and constantly lie about what they are doing and where they are. This is not safe for your daughter.

You have a difficult task - advocate for your daughter to keep her autonomy and control of her sexuality without creating a situation in which the boyfriend's parents forbid them to see each other. Without knowing why the parents are so upset about this relationship (are they religious? control freaks?) it is hard to figure out how to advocate for your daughter in conversations with them. Remember that your loyalty should always, always be with your daughter -- not someone else's idea of a moral code. We can respect that others have different views and choose to live their lives differently, but we all get to decide what is right for our own selves and our families. They do not get to choose for you.

There is some possibility that this other family will paint you as, at best, "permissive" and at worst, "slut mom." You and your daughter may get "a reputation." Know that you are protecting your daughter's rich life, privacy and autonomy. They can say what they want but know you did the right thing for your daughter. What a beautiful future you have with your daughter, she will respect you and appreciate your efforts, your wisdom and strength.
posted by littlewater at 2:32 PM on July 28 [5 favorites]


As a mom of two not-much-younger girls, I'd like to +1,000,000 WidetAlley's comment way up the thread. I'd say the same thing.

I wouldn't do this parent/child group meeting in any form, but I operate from a hands-off other people's parenting.

Far aside from your own relationship with your daughter, which seems excellent, you might not want to be party to someone else's parenting or expose your daughter to their parenting. You can't assume they will be appropriate with your daughter at any such meeting.

(A meeting seeking to shame your kids into submission when you don't really know these parents super well? Oy.)

Not sure what to say to the other parents in terms of explanation, but maybe that you wish to handle this one privately with your daughter?
posted by mamabear at 2:39 PM on July 28 [3 favorites]


One thing they should know about is the legality of it. In my state, the age of consent is 16. In others, 17 or 18. In some states, it is illegal to have sex with anyone under the age of consent, even you are also underage. In others, it's illegal only if there is a difference in age of more than 3, 4, 5 years. Someone should investigate this issue.
posted by yclipse at 2:43 PM on July 28 [1 favorite]


I wouldn't necessarily supply your kid with HBC or condoms, but I WOULD help her go through the process of getting them herself-- teach her how to set up a OBGYN appointment and be responsible for her own meds, or encourage her to go to the store for them herself.

My daughter is only 11 so check with me again in a few years, but contraceptives are part of normal health care for sexually active people so unless you charge her for band-aids I would say you need to facilitate her access.
posted by shothotbot at 2:49 PM on July 28 [24 favorites]


Have either or both of them had the Gardasil vaccine? In addition to birth control, they should be vaccinated against HPV.
posted by mogget at 2:52 PM on July 28 [11 favorites]


I think you have already gotten a lot of good feedback. So I am going to try to address this:

Tell me again why teenagers shouldn't be having sex.

Only, I am going to rephrase it as "Why is this a big damn deal, worthy of this kind of circus happening?"

First, it's a big deal because they are both still financially dependent upon their parents. So if a baby happens, or even an STD, both sets of parents get impacted. This is why both sets of parents have big opinions on the whole thing: Because if you bring a baby into this scenario, it won't be her and her bf providing for them and raising them. It will be the entire extended family. If they can't support themselves, they can't remotely support a baby.

Obviously, birth control is a decent answer here, but not an infallible one. Thus, you can reduce the odds that life altering things will happen which will tie you forever more to these people (the bf's parents) whom you are already not exactly thrilled with/on the same page with. But you cannot 100% eliminate the risk.

My second concern would be to use this sudden circus as a teaching moment for my daughter. As other have talked about, I would be concerned about maintaining her trust in me. But my bigger concern would be that, at age 15, a lot of kids in the U.S. already have problematic ideas about how "it's okay if it is True Love." So one thing you see in the U.S. (that you typically do not see in Europe) is that girls will often forego birth control. Their thinking is "If I use birth control, I planned it and I am, thus, a slut. But if I was just emotionally swept away in the moment, then it is True Love and I am still a Good Girl." And this is one reason you see about the same amount of teenaged sex in Europe as in the U.S. but European teens tend to have dramatically lower pregnancy rates: Because they use birth control because it isn't a big fucking deal.

And I would also be concerned about this American True Love Makes It Okay spin in the face of this circus because sexual appetite is a pretty significant human need. So if they feel compelled to defy all their parents and all that in order to get this need met, that will tend to convince them that it Must Be True Love. People who are put in a position of having to risk big negative consequences to get something they want wind up placing a much higher value on that thing than if they can get it without the drama. So making this forbidden and a big deal makes it much more likely that she will stay with him, even though there is no reason to believe that at age 15 she has really found someone who is a fantastic life-partner, unlikely to be improved upon down the road.

So I would be very concerned about trying to get her to understand that sex is a normal human need and other people turning it into a shitshow (because it can, in fact, significantly impact their lives) is really common. But, please, do not let the bf's parents big reaction manipulate you into feeling like This Must Be True Love and thus that you must stay with him for all eternity to justify your current choices. I would try to convince her that if they do wind up sneaking sex, that's really a pretty normal thing for teens to do and is not evidence that they should stay together for all eternity.

So, basically, I think one reason that teens having sex is a big deal is not so much that they lack the emotional maturity to handle sex per se but because they may lack the emotional maturity and cunning required to navigate the social crap that swirls around it, which other people very often bring to the table, even if things are perfectly okay between the two individuals actually doing the fucking. And that would be one of my big concerns. So I would also talk to her about, you know, in the future, whom she is sleeping with is a private matter and if she is on birth control and all that, then the fewer people who know, the better. It's okay to be open about dating someone. But until you marry and turn up preggers, no one really needs it confirmed that sex is happening. It's not really their business.
posted by Michele in California at 2:58 PM on July 28 [21 favorites]


It's so awesome your daughter trusts you enough to talk about this. If I were you, and this may be controversial, I would be prepared to agree with other parent about the 24/7 rule, then let the kids come over to your house and do whatever the hell they want, whenever the hell they want.

You want them having sex in a safe and comfortable place (your house, your daughter's bed) rather than in public, in the park, in a car lot, around lots of other teens where there may be drinking, drugs, etc etc.

Which is what they'll do, if doing it the right way doesn't work out. No one can get between two horny teenagers.
posted by smoke at 3:07 PM on July 28 [2 favorites]


I reckon that when I'm in that situation in a decade or so we'll have birth control a-ready, discuss autonomy and the importance of not being pressured into stuff, tell them not to do it in my house, and then move on with life.

As for the other parent.....eh, what can you do. Tell em that they can be as hawkeyed as they want but I'm not bothering.
posted by jpe at 3:31 PM on July 28


Tell me again why teenagers shouldn't be having sex
I think this earlier post is kind of useful, because it discusses 12 year olds, and as far as the bf's parents are concerned, that's closer to their attitude in this situation, and they're still in the, this is too early and they're freaking out.
Honestly though, some 12 year olds hit puberty at least a couple years ago, most 15 year olds hit puberty a couple years ago, this is why it's a fuzzy line and a complex issue.

Definitely, definitely go for the implant or iud.
And then tell them it's that AND condoms.
Yes, there's the worry that they'll be more likely to go without condoms if already protected, but condoms and the pill are the WORST for user error, and expecting teenagers not to make those errors is unrealistic. Take BOTH of them for STD checks.
I knew about 5 girls who got preggers at 15. Other than Hep C and AIDs, most of the other infections can be dealt with if you get them in time (and AIDS is such a boogyman that is distant from people's actual experience, that they forget that Hep C is, actually, awful and more common than you'd think).

Also, keep in mind, you know your daughter, but her BF's parents know their son, and they could actually have good reason to be worried about the decisions he's making, and worrying that he's getting into things too early.
posted by Elysum at 3:41 PM on July 28 [1 favorite]


One other thing that should concern you, maybe not so much now but perhaps a little further down the road:

Adults have something of a tendency to follow a pattern where a relatively small number of people are "hubs" who transmit disease by sleeping with lots of people. So, among adults, if you can find the few key people who are sleeping around and spreading a particular infection, you can potentially stop its spread. Before AIDS, if you turned up with an STD, it was standard practice for social workers to get the names of the people you had slept with recently, contact them, let them know they had been exposed to an STD and treat them and this was how a lot of epidemics were stopped. AIDS was political because of it being a gay and IV drug user issue in the U.S., & those populations did not want that approach applied to them (for good reasons) and it, thus, changed how STD's were handled. But, historically, this was an effective method because of the hub-and-spoke pattern of transmission you typically see amongst adults in the U.S.

But, among teens, you have a lot of unstated social rules about whom you can or cannot date (a la "I can't date my best friend's ex boyfriend!" or whatever) and the result is that, in a lot of high schools, if you make a chart of who has slept with whom, it forms a web (as opposed to the hub and spoke formation, above). Thus, amongst teens in the U.S., if they weren't both virgins when the relationship began, the odds get really high, really fast that they have been (or will be) exposed, directly or indirectly, to just about every other sexually active teen in their high school (or social circle, whatever it is) through this social web. And that means you don't have to be promiscuous and you don't have to sleep with someone promiscuous to get an STD. Among adults, the wisdom is generally that it's the "sluts" who get STDs because there is some truth to that: STD's are roughly correlated to either being or sleeping with one of the "hubs." But this is not true for most American teens. Patterns of transmission for STD's are different amongst teens in the U.S. than amongst adults. (At least, this was true the last time I looked at such data.)

So, yeah, STD testing is called for. Doubly so if she breaks up with him and gets a new boyfriend. (My first boyfriend -- aka person I had sex with -- was someone who had not slept with anyone else. I was his first. He was my first. My second boyfriend -- aka person I had sex with -- was someone who, like me, had slept with one other person before this relationship. I was his second. He was my second. I happened to marry him. But if that general pattern tends to be true of teens, then risk should multiply geometrically or something with each successive boyfriend rather than linearly.)
posted by Michele in California at 4:08 PM on July 28 [5 favorites]


I'm not a parent, but I think sex is a big deal when it involves high school kids because kids are idiots and do dumb things, but it also adds an element where kids can feel very hurt, used, etc. Sex just adds drama and complexity to a situation where it would be in the kid's best interest to just make it out of high school with as little drama as possible. Sex can require adult decision-making and kids aren't adults.

But if they are already in a relationship and already have sex, how can you stop them? There's not really any going back here. Just make she understands what a loving/healthy relationship is AND what consensual sex is, and what is sexually appropriate. And absolutely make sure she stays on the pill, is getting tested for anything she needs to be, etc. I don't think a parent meeting to shame the kids or tell them what to do in their own privacy will accomplish much, other than them not wanting to tell you anything anymore. It's good that they told you so you can ensure they are being safe rather than sneaking off and doing it on their own.
posted by AppleTurnover at 4:44 PM on July 28


Show her a video of a live human birth.
Get her enrolled in a child-development class at school.
Take her somewhere she can meet and spend the day with another 15 yo who is a mother.
(My sister had her first baby at age 14. In all honesty my sister was a crazy, wild, witch, and becoming a mother was the best thing for her. Calmed her down fast. Wouldn't recommend for others.)
posted by QueerAngel28 at 5:07 PM on July 28


One thing they should know about is the legality of it. In my state, the age of consent is 16. In others, 17 or 18. In some states, it is illegal to have sex with anyone under the age of consent, even you are also underage. In others, it's illegal only if there is a difference in age of more than 3, 4, 5 years. Someone should investigate this issue.

Definitely this; it's ridiculous and insane, but depending on the law in your jurisdiction they could get in huge life-ruining trouble so work out whether that's the case and give that information to them at least.
posted by Sebmojo at 5:08 PM on July 28 [1 favorite]


Possibly another angle you haven't thought of is sexting. You should make it pretty clear that, while you're okay with her having sex, you are most certainly not okay with either of them sending naked pictures to each other. She will not believe you when you tell her that doing so could end very, very badly, but it needs to be said.
posted by cooker girl at 5:12 PM on July 28 [5 favorites]


Your parental responsibility is to guide her into becoming someone who has healthy, fulfilling, non-shaming sexual relationships. You're already doing a good job because she trusted you enough to open an honest dialogue with you. That's fantastic!

Rather than have a "summit", I'd suggest you speak to the mom one-on-one and listen to her voice her concerns. Explain you'll do your best to chaperone the kids and watch after their health, but and perhaps say you feel imposing 24/7 supervision isn't realistic and it would be more helpful to ensure they understand the risks of sex and are approaching it in a mature manner.

Things to do with your daughter: help her with getting birth control, but make sure she's an active participant in the process, examining different types and considering the tradeoffs of each. Consider getting an IUD or implant, as remembering to take a daily pill at the same time can be beyond even the most responsible of adult women. Talk about the necessity of regular OB-GYN examinations, etc, maybe get her a copy of Our Bodies, Ourselves so she can read about this stuff herself. Also totally get her Gardasil.

Finally, if the shit hits the fan with the boyfriend's mom please steel your daughter against possible accusations of sluttiness and whoring around. A friend's first girlfriend was subjected to this by HIS mom because she saw the girl as defiling her precious baby. He's never really forgiven her for that.
posted by schroedinger at 5:59 PM on July 28 [3 favorites]


The point is that there's much to be enjoyed and learned in the affection and romance classically experienced by 15 year olds (and 16 and 17 year olds), and that step has been skipped. It's not just about sex. The waning years of childhood are too beautiful to skip (i.e. to be viewed through adult eyes).

I feel that the genie is out of the bottle.

I don't have kids, but I remember being a teenager and feeling like sex was this enormous barrier that, once you had crossed it, life could never be the same again. I pulled out these two quotes because they illustrate some of that thinking. I disagree with this view. Your daughter is growing up, but it doesn't have to be linear and she won't automatically view anything from adult eyes.

More concretely, it's important that she knows that, just because she has had sex does not mean that she has to continue to have sex, do any other sexual things that she doesn't want to do, or have sex with other partners (if she and her boyfriend broke up). It is something that she did, and something that has consequences, but not something that changes her as a person or constrains her decisions in the future.

So to answer your question, I would do everything I could to let her know that her body is still entirely her own while making sure that she had a giant dose of sex and fertility education.
posted by oryelle at 6:06 PM on July 28 [10 favorites]


It is your job to parent your child. It may be uncomfortable to talk to her about sex, but it's really important. Talk about your reasons for wishing she had waited. Listen to her reasons for making decision. Educate her about STDs and pregnancy. Ask her what she'd do if she got pregnant, and talk about that. Talk to her about consent, about having great sex, about being sure of what she wants, about not being pressured. Sex is wonderful, fun, and should be healthy. You might be able to reduce their frequency of sexual activity, but they'll figure out how to have sex if they choose to.

It is the parents of her BF's job to parent their son. You don't have to agree to their request. If you meet with them, understand what your goal is. If you have no intention of monitoring them closely at your home, including when you're not home, tell them.

I got condoms when my son was maybe 15 or so. Told him I thought he was too young to have sex, but that not making a pregnancy was a huge priority. I talked to him about consent and respect. He became sexually active by 16, in a relationship, didn't tell me, but didn't really hide it. I'm okay with that. It's not easy to let go, but they are going to make their own decisions.
posted by theora55 at 6:13 PM on July 28 [1 favorite]


Came here to recommend jbenben's post on NOT teaming up against your kids. I also want to share this chart with you of ages of consent state-by-state, and ask that you consider having a talk with them about SEXTING. So, so many kids have gotten into legal trouble thanks to sexting recently — charged with producing/distributing child pornography for taking pictures of THEIR OWN BODIES. Which is fucked, but yeah, a legal possibility.
posted by Brittanie at 6:13 PM on July 28 [8 favorites]


You're actually in a great position right now — you're being the calm, rational adult in this situation, which means you're the one they'll listen to. Your daughter chose to tell you, which is actually a huge sign of trust. You can tell her that you do or don't approve of her choices, but also make it clear that this is her decision and that you want her to be safe first and foremost, no matter what she decides to do. A open, supportive, and exhaustive ongoing conversation with your daughter about consent, safety, and autonomy, framed by you treating her like an adult with autonomy, will do an awful lot for her both now and in the future. There are absolutely ways to express concern that still treat her with respect, and it sounds like you're using them, which is great.

No matter how you and the rest of the parents end up settling on as a consensus (and honestly, I think there's no advantage and a lot of disadvantages to presenting a united front), your priority should absolutely be getting her on birth control IMMEDIATELY. I'd suggest the implant or another long-term form that doesn't require much daily thought, but she should choose it for herself, and make sure she knows that not all HBC works for everyone and sometimes you have to try a few kinds before you settle on one. Also, buy her a lot of condoms. Encourage her to use both forms of protection at all times, both for better pregnancy protection and for STIs. Point out that both she and her boyfriend should be getting used to condoms, because adults use them and future partners will expect it.

If you or the boy's parents decide to draw the hard line, chances really are that the kids won't abide by it, and you must make sure they're safe whatever they're doing and wherever they're doing it.
posted by you're a kitty! at 7:40 PM on July 28


Man, you handled that so well. You must definitely be doing something right if your daughter is comfortable coming to you because she knows you will love and support her, way to go mom! There are a gajillion great answers here so these things have probably been covered elsewhere, but:

1. I wouldn't go along with any sort of 4 parents-confront-2 teenagers-type meeting. I wouldn't outright refuse (for the sake of not appearing completely unyielding) but would offer to meet and talk with just the parents, all together. During this discussion I would respectfully insist that the BFs parents leave the parenting of YOUR daughter to you and if there is a concern you would appreciate them approaching you about it, not confronting your daughter. I would be open to coming up with standards that you all mutually enforce (if I felt they were appropriate aka not 24/7 vigilance) but if the other parents are rash and unreasonable, I would reserve the right to follow my own parenting choices in my own home and not necessarily follow any "rules" the other family wanted to set.
Obviously before all this you need to process and discuss and compromise with your husband to get on the same page. Hopefully he will come around to see that 24/7 vigilance is impossible and unhelpful, and that punishing them that way will more likely drive them to riskier behavior in secret, finding unsafe places to have sex and not coming to you for help when they need it.

Also, if the other mom/parents are being disparaging or negative about your daughter's choices or sex in general, help her not take it to heart. Remind her you love her, trust and think she is a smart and good person and whether she choose to have sex or not doesn't change that.

2. Talk to her and encourage her to inform herself, maybe through books and good websites/resources like scarleteen. It'll be a process. Talk with her about what you feel are the most important things right now, but mostly emphasize that being sexually active means she needs to take responsibility for her choices and her health and that you will be there any time she needs help doing this.

Things I would talk about with my daughter (or direct her to):
--Even though she said yes once, doesn't mean she has to say yes any other time if she doesn't feel like it with this boyfriend or anyone else. Just because she decided to with this partner, doesn't mean she has to with the next one.
--Sex isn't a bad thing, but it comes with responsibilities.
--Health: hygiene "down there", STIs, etc. You don't have to get into gory details with her, but encourage her to come to you if she thinks something is "off". Also, when she goes in for the birth control prescription, she should be tested for STIs. It shouldn't be framed as punishment, but be frank with her that being sexually active means talking about it with her doctor and taking care of herself. Get the HPV vaccine.
--That all forms of birth control have a failure rate, that hormonal birth control doesn't protect against STIs. I would probably buy my kid condoms and encourage them to make sure they know how to use one BEFORE they need to use one.
--Sexting or emailing naked photos to someone else is a dumb thing to do.
posted by dahliachewswell at 8:10 PM on July 28 [5 favorites]


If they see this as "the end of their life" then it's a darn good sign they're nowhere near emotionally mature enough to be in a mature relationship or handle it maturely.

Birth control isn't foolproof. Says the mom of four who has been pregnant SIX times (I miscarried two) while taking birth control like clockwork.

Sex isn't worth it unless you're ready, willing, and financially and emotionally able to raise (totally alone, as it often ends up) any kids you might have.
posted by stormyteal at 9:32 PM on July 28 [1 favorite]


In addition to whatever form of hormonal birth control you suppy your daughter with, please buy a large box of condoms and put it in one of the drawers in your guest bathroom.
posted by bq at 10:27 PM on July 28 [1 favorite]


I read this as you saying they only had sex once. If this is the case, my heart goes out to your daughter. Its bad enough when they are older/more experienced to be shocking their parents and other people (his parents), but for a first time - the poor kids.

In any event, as you say, it is now basically outside your control. Lots of really good suggestions above, except 'fun' doesn't get mentioned much. As a parent, I understand why.

Age aside, this seems to be a healthy relationship. Assuming it survives this crisis, if it were my daughter (or son), I would like to think that I could 'facilitate' their intimacy by subtly creating opportunities for them to be alone. I know, it goes against the grain, but where else are they going to do it? Where better? It may be that he will be so grounded that this will not work, but as others have said, where there is a will there is a way, and as this is their first relationship it is special for them, just as ours was special for us ...

Above all, please reward the trust your daughter has shown to you, with trust in her.
posted by GeeEmm at 1:17 AM on July 29


Help her with the obgyn visit, testing and birth control startup and make sure she has good sex ed. Past that, I doubt they would accept that it is either set of parents choice to make whether or not they are sexually active. The boy's parents might not actually realize this.

What seems really important is to say a lot less about this than the boy's mom wants to and focus more on negotiating the amount of time they're spending with one another relative to their study habits, grades, extracurricular activities and, if applicable, college preparatory activities. Burnishing that high school resume and developing responsible time and resource management is more important to their future than trying to put this genie back in the lamp and it is something you can help with by having rules about studying, keeping up grades and meeting basic extracurricular expectations.

There's nothing to be gained from letting them spend all the time they want together and 'watching them 24/7'--they still need help maturing in all the ways they needed help before you knew they were having sex.

Give your daughter the help she needs to be safe with this new thing, as you would with any other development. Set boundaries and expectations for high school and respect your daughter and her boyfriend. It's important that they trust you so you can keep communicating and helping them develop the skills they need over the next few years.

I think you are an awesome mom.
posted by Anitanola at 2:48 AM on July 29 [2 favorites]


Chaperoning them is pointless. Unless all adults involved work in shifts, they will find time and space to share their physical affection with each other. And if they have to sneak around to do it, that's more likely to lead to risky behaviour. So, seriously, all adults involved need to accept this ASAP. Plus, which would both sets of parents rather have: soon-to-be adults who feel safe and comfortable discussing important and intimate parts of their lives, or people who have been taught that doing so invites stupid and pointless repercussions?

I agree that an adult conversation, with the kids involved, about risks and consequences is probably a good idea.

Putting your daughter on BC is a good idea. Make sure there are always condoms available too; barrier + hormonal contraception is the safest way to go. Plus, you never know if this could be an issue, obviously hormonal BC doesn't do anything about STIs.
posted by feckless fecal fear mongering at 7:42 AM on July 29 [1 favorite]


I was also a well-behaved, high-achieving teen. I too had a good relationship with my parents. I too had a same-aged teenage boyfriend.

My parents let us have our space. They let us shut the door. They let us take long "walks" out into the fields. They let us drive places by ourselves once we could drive. His parents, too.

There were no forced discussions. Nobody "confronted" us publicly about our relationship. We were never chaperoned or watched in any kind of punitive way. Not even as 14-year-olds.

Instead, there were carefully placed books about sexual health and mild chatty questions from the parents now and then. There were regular doctors visits. There were non-accusatory discussions about birth control and its use.

We took it slow, we were careful, we were respectful. We had a good time. On the one occasion that something happened that was a little beyond our ability to make a good decision, I did indeed talk to my mother.

Now that I'm a parent of an infant and know basically one thing about parenting (which is that you never REALLY know what you're doing), I feel pretty certain that like all parenting decisions, you won't get to know ahead of time whether you've made the right choice. And you won't be able to protect your daughter from all risks. You'll be uncertain and there will be risks.

HOWEVER, given what you've said about your daughter, I think the bigger risk is damaging your relationship with her (which is to say, her trust in her parents), during a time when you're fortunate that the relationship is still intact. Yes, there's a risk she'll get an STD or get pregnant, but those are risks you can address with education and good medical care, and you should. Since she's responsible, those risks are relatively small. Protect your relationship with her, protect her dignity, protect her autonomy, and protect her willingness to come to you when she's out of her depth.

When I think back to myself as a 15-year-old, it was way more valuable to have my parents respecting me than physically protecting me.

And hey, the teenage guy and I never broke up and now we're married and we've got that cute little infant, so the whole thing turned out pretty awesome.
posted by Cygnet at 9:46 AM on July 29 [23 favorites]


If they see this as "the end of their life" then it's a darn good sign they're nowhere near emotionally mature enough to be in a mature relationship or handle it maturely.

I know what you mean, but honestly, I'm 28 and if anybody wanted to have an open, punitive discussion about my sexual transgressions and love life, it would pretty much feel like the end of my life too. Can you imagine? The fact that they are 15 years old doesn't mean they have any less of a sense of privacy about their bodies and feelings and it's terribly invasive to discuss such things as if they should EVER be controlled by somebody else.
posted by Cygnet at 9:56 AM on July 29 [23 favorites]


(tl;dr previous comments)
I'm actually married to someone I started dating when she was 15 and I was 21. We didn't have sex at the time (I waited), but obviously the age gap drove her dad nuts. But her mom told him he'd better contain it than take the risk of having her going behind his back. It worked extremely well for all parties involved. So in one word, CONTAIN. Better in than out.
posted by cardamon at 7:18 PM on July 30


First, no form of bc is totally fallible.
Second, the other parents have a right to parent as they see fit.
Thirdly, sex is something that can cause them to stay together longer than they maybe should, relationshipwise, because, hey, sex.

I almost MARRIED someone totally unsuitable, too young, because of teen sex.

I think at the very least, you need to respect the position of the other parents.
posted by St. Alia of the Bunnies at 5:19 AM on July 31


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