Talking to Your Mother About Sexuality and Life in A Woman's Body
Dear Rosebud Woman Community,
Earlier this year, we asked you a wide range of questions about your bodies, your sexuality, and your relationships.
One of our questions was, “On a scale of 1 (very difficult) to 5 (very easy), how easy or hard is it for you to talk about your intimate health or sexual life with (your partner, your friends, your mother, your children, your healthcare provider)?”
Here’s what you answered: “The overall ease of talking about intimate wellness is a 2.7.” That is to say, difficult.
But do you know what was most shocking? Across all generations, the hardest person overall to talk with was “mother” — ranked a 1.9! While speaking of intimate matters with our mothers has gotten easier (though the post-war generation and the boomers named it “very difficult,” it’s gotten a tiny bit better with each successive generation), it’s still difficult. Then we got curious: Why is talking to our mothers about this topic challenging? Where else will the information about being a woman come from? How else will it get transmitted?
After all, it’s women who enroll the next generation of women in the culture of womanhood, or “womanshould”— i.e., what should be expected as we enter our reproductive lives. We need to be talking to each other, across the generations— but if our mothers aren’t initiating the dialogue with us, we can begin it. And when we share our experiences, we might bring our mothers some softening and freedom around subjects that were taboo to them.. It is hugely important that we continue normalizing transgenerational conversations about sex and anatomy and life in a female body.
The overall message between family members—especially parent and child—needs to be, “I am a nonjudgmental, safe person to be with, and you can come to me about anything.” If you don’t know where to start with your mother, here are some ideas. Ask yourself: Do you know these things about the woman closest to you in your life? Would you be willing to invite a dialogue about them? It’s not difficult. Just begin by saying, “Mom, I wonder if you would tell me about…”
Your periods: What are they like for you? How is the intensity or pain? How are your emotions over your cycle? What was your first period experience like? Do you have any tricks and tips for managing or taking care of yourself through your cycle? How has this changed over your life?
Did you have any pregnancy scares, abortions, or miscarriages? What was that experience like for you?
Let’s talk about birth control: What have you tried, and what worked?
Tell me about your pregnancies, and births, What was nursing like for you, and the whole postpartum time? And did you ever have doubts about wanting kids?
Would you be willing to talk with me about your unique sexual design: your appetites, desires, favorite things, least favorite things, level of satisfaction, best memories, trauma or abuse in or out of family, anything that is blocked up or secrets in this area?
Do you like being a woman? Why, or why not?
Do you like your body?
What are your thoughts on the role of being outwardly beautiful or visually appealing?
What are your thoughts on and experiences of aging?
Tell me all about your experience with romance and eros! I want to know everything: marriage, swinging, affairs, dating….
What are your attitudes and beliefs about men, women, marriage, gender…. What do you believe to be true about men? How do you know it’s true? If it weren’t true, how would life be different? How does the current movement toward broader acceptance of sexual identities feel to you?
One request I have, if you’re interested in supporting part of our mission, is that you start using the right language for the female intimate anatomy, explicit and detailed—the vulva, the labia, the introitus, the vagina, etc.—instead of saying “lady bits” or some other vague term. This way humans can come to understand how each of these parts plays a different role in our bodies.
Whether you’re a teenager or a matriarch, you have a role to play in changing personal and cultural stories.
One day, all of these subjects will be easy to discuss—but only if we take the initiative to talk honestly to one another about our direct experiences.
May you be free and happy and whole and complete in your body, and turned on, your whole life long.
Christine Marie Mason
Founder, Rosebud Woman