First World Problems: Inevitable Embarrassment Over Talking About Sex with Our Families

Recently a friend of mine told me how she dealt with her employee, a production assistant, who needed to improve.

“I brought her in to my office and said, ‘I need to talk to you and this is going to be uncomfortable for both of us. But we’ll get through it and eventually our working relationship is going to be much stronger. Plus, you’ll be a better PA.'”

While that management style might repel some people — I think it’s a great approach.

I love being reminded that discomfort can be endured and overcome with results far more positive than if it were avoided.

That said, I’m super glad I’m so far into adulthood that I don’t need to discuss my last blog post with my parents.

Several times this weekend, I reread it attempting to imagine how my mother or my (shuddering to think) father might have felt when (or if) they read it. I wasn’t thrilled with the idea of my brother (or cousins or aunt or uncle) skimming it over either.

Family, this is not an invitation for you to reach out to me about the post.

Am I being a hypocrite? I don’t think so. This stuff — (say it Ruth, Ms. Open Minded) sex (sex!) — it’s kind of uncomfortable to talk about.

I guess we all have different thresholds.

I’m comfortable talking about sex with my lovers, but (now I’m imagining my parents grimacing over the plurality of that) I would rather not — and see no reason to — involve my family. I mean, Andy is family, so I should say, “my non-partner family members”. Sheesh, this is hard–difficult. Annoying.

“Except you blogged about it, Ruth.”

I did. Didn’t I? Three days of the highest blog traffic I’ve had since this site started in 2007.

Luckily, my family is bright enough to see that I was using personal experience to talk about a current event and what it might say about our culture.

Oh and, they’re smart enough to know that all healthy people have libidos. And besides, aren’t I attempting to rid myself of this type of embarrassment because sex is nothing to be ashamed of?

Even as I half-jokingly wonder about my own self-consciousness, I can’t stop thinking about people in developing countries.

Here in the U.S., we just witnessed a huge outpouring of support for women’s health, which was wonderful. But in the continuum of human rights, even with all of our struggles, we live in paradise.

I saw Nicholas Kristof give a talk last fall, and here’s one of the more memorable things he mentioned:

When a family can only afford to give some of their children education, medical care or food, those resources almost always go to the boys. Feeding centers around the world are filled with starving girls, many of whom have healthy brothers.

If you’re interested in the statistics, here’s a place to start surfing.  Or check out Sheryl WuDunn’s Ted talk. Even if you only listen to the first five minutes of it, it’s shocking. She says,

“In the last half century, more girls were discriminated to death than all the people killed on all the battlefields in the 20th Century.”

God, so what do we do?

I’m going to learn more, for starters.  And I’m going to keep writing and having uncomfortable conversations.

And I’m going to continue being grateful, grateful that I was raised with equal care as my brother, grateful that I have the luxury of being embarrassed over my sex life, grateful that I’ve been kept safe enough to cultivate a sex life.

That’s me. How about you, do you have any ideas?


2 thoughts on “First World Problems: Inevitable Embarrassment Over Talking About Sex with Our Families

  1. I studied Gender Studies at University, yet was recently reminded that I haven’t continued to be as proactive about promoting equality as I would like to be. I do believe that it is very important to live ones life according to one’s values, in as many ways as we find possible, because to do otherwise is soul-destroying, and I have done so in my personal life; but what about changing the world beyond that which we directly influence? I certainly aim to do that once more in my work when I return to South Africa later this year, and I am certain I will feel more fulfilled when I do so. But I’m completely with you – learning, writing, talking; not always sitting within comfort zones. And gratitude; acknowledgement of privilege, in a world where I feel more and more that people compare themselves (and thus encourage us to follow suit) to those who have more, ignoring those who have less.

    “I love being reminded that discomfort can be endured and overcome with results far more positive than if it were avoided.” This is a lesson I keep trying to remind myself of, and it is such an important one. I think I need to write it on a post-it note on the fridge, to be read daily.

    I laughed at the extra traffic your site raised with your last post; it reminded me that my most-read post of all times was entitled ‘Boobs and Burlesque’ (, though most readers must have been hugely disappointed in the content :-) What I chose not to tackle in that most was my mixed feelings towards burlesque, though it was my first encounter with it and I came away from the show surprised at how much is celebrated feminine power (these articles seemed to capture it well – and

    Brave words you write; brave woman you are.

    Thanks so much, Laurel. I always learn from your insights….a new friend in another land – yay! p.s. I’m looking forward to checking out the links. xo R

  2. Ok so I cannot say “been there done that” when it comes to the topic of sex.
    But…I totally don’t get it why people just won’t talk about it. And I am going to say yes, it is worse here. Much, much worse than in America. We are opening up more…but it is still a long way to go.
    The only reason I could attend a sex education class when I was younger was because for one (horrible) year I studied in an all-girls school. Other than that I have been to co-eds and never have I heard the mention of sex education classes. Maybe it is because I live in a smallish town? But that shouldn’t matter right?
    And the one I did attend was, in retrospect, unhelpful. They told us about STDs(mostly about these) and accidental teenage pregnancies but when it came to prevention, all they talked about was abstinence. I was too young to understand anything but I remember some senior asked about what to do if someone gets raped. There was a silence…then someone said something which didn’t even begin to address the topic and then of course there was dismissal.
    Granted,this was a long time back thing. But no one takes up the pre-marital sex topic seriously. Everyone talks about it in the general, offhand “oh he had sex with so and so” way. But when it comes to actually opening the door for someone to come in and really *talk about it*, everybody shuts up.

    Antara, your point of view is so interesting. Thanks for sharing it with us. ~R

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