My Latina Mom Talked About Sex Candidly And Shame-Free — And I’m Better Because Of It

credit: Courtesy of Betsy Aimee

The #MeToo movement has brought up many conversations about how to teach kids about sex and consent. As adults, we often lack the language to discuss these topics with each other, so it’s no surprise that it’s difficult to discuss with kids. Even more for Latina moms, who often deal with internalized shame and, sometimes, language and cultural barriers as well.

This, however, wasn’t the case for my mother, a pro-hoe feminist — before is was “cool.”

Let me explain.

When I was five years old, a little boy with brown hair and smeared overalls told me that girls were dirty because they bled from their butts once a month. I was sure this was a lie. I came home and demanded that my mother provide an explanation. She sat me down and told me that menstruation was part of how some cis women are able to have babies and that one day I would get my period, too.

And then she shared something that always stayed with me: women’s bodies are not dirty; they’re powerful.

Most Latina mothers have a reputation of being tight-lipped about sex, but my mom talked about it with with honesty. She wasn’t encouraging me to have sex, but she did want me to be informed.

(Courtesy of Betsy Aimee)

I didn’t realize that her candidness around sexuality was revolutionary until I was much older.

In fact, although not often discussed, many of our immigrant Latina mothers were quiet social rioters, defying conventions while raising daughters in a world very different from the one they knew.

According to Alejandra Cortes, a 25-year-old social worker living in Los Angeles, her mother, an immigrant from Mexico, didn’t feel equipped to give her “the talk” but found someone else to help her. When Cortes was 11 years old, her mom took her to a Planned Parenthood class, where she could receive an inclusive, evidence-based sexual education.

“I’m not sure if I can teach you correctly, but I want you to have the right information so we are going to take a class,” Cortes remembers her mother telling her.

As for my mom, she continued engaging in conversations around sex with me for the years to come.

When I was 14, she told me something that I have thought a lot about since #MeToo brought the issue of consent to the forefront. She said, “tu decides con quien, y tu decides cuando” (“You decide who you have sex with and when you are going to have sex”).

“If a person buys you dinner or a car, you don’t owe them sex. If you were wearing tight jeans or a mini-skirt, you don’t owe them sex and it doesn’t make you a slut,” I remember her telling me. “Even if it’s your partner, you don’t owe them sex if you don’t want to.”

She was also the first person to tell me that anyone who judged me for having sex, or having had multiple sexual partners, wasn’t worth my time.

It was a gift to hear that from my own mother at a young age. It informed a lot of my own thoughts about how often we victim-blame women who report sexual assault. She encouraged me to be unapologetic about my body and what I did with it.

(Photo Credit: Gabriela Gandara)

She would also remind me that there were responsibilities that came with being a sexually empowered woman, like taking contraception and using condoms. When I was in college, I told her that one of my friends was embarrassed to pay for condoms. She told me,“well, if you are too embarrassed to buy condoms at the store, maybe that’s a sign you aren’t ready to have sex.”

Sex-positive moms can make you laugh, and sometimes cringe, but there is truth to what they say.

When Melissa Jill, a 36-year-old social service worker from Los Angeles, asked her mother if she should wait until marriage to have sex, her mom replied, “You have to test drive the car before you buy it.”

“At the moment I couldn’t believe my mom would say such a thing, but now that I look back, I’m glad my mom gave me an open perspective about not feeling ashamed of needing or wanting sex,” Melissa said. “She made feel that sex was something natural that my body was going to want.”

In an era where our bodies are still being regulated, and when our leaders would like to eliminate access to comprehensive sexual education and birth control, it’s important to talk to youth about sex with candidness.

My mom’s talks helped me be open and frank about sex with my partners, and I was never too shy to buy tampons or condoms for me or my friends. My mom’s honesty about sex made me an advocate for people to have access to safe and legal abortions, birth control and sex education and to be unapologetic about their desires. Now that I have my own child, I don’t shy away from using anatomically correct words to describe body parts, and I’m not nervous about discussing these topics with him.

Being open about sex ultimately made me feel like I could be open in every part of my life and helped me question gender roles that so often limit women from achieving our full potential. Through my mom’s own example, I learned that women and mothers don’t fit neatly into boxes, as saints or sinners, but that we are instead simply human.

Read: Trump Wants To Put Millions Of Dollars Into Abstinence-Only Education And These Latinx Sex Educators Aren’t Having It

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