In many Latinx families, the birds and the bees talk is more of a whisper and less an actual conversation that is as detailed and informative as a good chisme session. Many parents avoid this potentially awkward, but extremely important talk, and because of this, generations of Latinxs feel they didn’t get the information they needed. This obviously isn’t true across the board (ahem – Latinxs are not a monolith), but studies show that while teen pregnancy rates are dropping overall across the US, most Latinx parents don’t have adequate sex talks with their kids. Different cultural norms, language issues, religious beliefs, and other factors can be behind this, but whatever the cause, these talks just aren’t happening in most Latinx families.
Instead, many young Latinxs have turned to the internet to learn what others have learned from their moms and dads. In doing so, they accessed a wider range of opinions and resources, including about subjects – such as queer sex and gender issues – they might not have been able to get from their parents. And while turning to the internet is useful, it doesn’t help to normalize sex.
Curious to learn a little bit more about how “the talk” went down for others, I reached out to a wide range of Latinx millennials to find out what kind of discussion – if any – they had with their parents, and how they filled in the gaps. Some of the answers were funny. Others shared their awkward experiences. And many said it was a little bit uncomfortable. The common thread through their responses, though, was that regardless of how much or how little their parents talked to them about sex, most Latinxs felt they needed more information and searched for answers elsewhere.
Check out their responses below.
“The way my mom approached this was more progressive than how I imagine most mamás do (which can be attributed to the fact that she was a doctor), while still being passive and indirect in a way that left a lot of knowledge gaps. Basically, she always, always answered any sex-related questions I had in a very clinical and straightforward way, no matter how weird.
“However, for whatever reason, she never went out of her way to initiate those kinds of conversations, so I never had a ~talk~. My sex ed as a pre-teen was pieced together from her answers to my more specific questions (‘do orgasms hurt? can you have sex while pregnant?’) with what I could figure out about the basics from this ’70s-tastic book my parents kept in the basement called Understanding Sex by Nicolas Wright.’” -Marisol
“When I was about 11, my mother bought me a beautiful illustrated book titled It’s Perfectly Normal: Changing Bodies, Growing Up, Sex, and Sexual Health. It replaced ‘the talk’ with my parents, and I actually really enjoyed the book and would look through it often. It was also very progressive and LGBTQ inclusive as well. I’m thankful my mom approached sex-ed in this way.” -Rosamalia
“Mine was pretty quick. My dad took me on a walk around our neighborhood and talked about how guys my age liked girls and what that felt like, then he went on a weird rant about how the media made being gay seem cool, but I shouldn’t be gay. Then, U tuned him out for about a half hour.” -Araña
“My mom gave me a pamphlet, said ‘read this,’ and that was it. Lots of googling years later is what really taught me. Now I teach sex-ed!” -Jack
“I talked to my mom about our talks in high school and reminded her she joked that I could always just do anal, so I didn’t have to worry about getting pregnant and how bad it grossed me out at the time. She was like, ‘Omigod, I said that? Your mom is something else. I can’t believe I told you that. I mean, it hurts like hell!’ I tried to talk to my dad, [during] like high school he was like, ‘talk to your mom.’” -El
“My parents gave me a science book.” -Maddi
“My mother (an Argentinian Jew) was very, very sex positive growing up. My first memory of talking about sex with my parents was during the Titanic sex scene when I was 6 – my dad wondered if we should watch it, and my mother INSISTED that we did because sex was ‘natural’ and ‘nothing to hide.’ After that, it was an unrelenting chorus of ‘condoms, condoms, condoms’ and ‘I promise you, losing your virginity will be a disappointment.’ That said, I ended up gay, and it’s pretty much radio silence from her in that (sexual) department.” -Michelle
“I never thought of it as being connected to the fact that my family is Latinx, but now that you mention it, I didn’t receive a ‘birds and the bees talk’ at all. I just sort of went through life slowly accruing knowledge about how sex works over time. I was in college and still didn’t know how gay sex worked. I always assumed my family was prudish and uncomfortable about it so I never asked.” -John Paul
“I guess my mom didn’t talk to me about sex? At all, which proves your point. I remember that when I started puberty, she bought me one of those ‘Your Body, Yourself’ books and that was it. No words, just a book left on my bed.” -Carmen
“My parents were very hush hush religious. I found out about sex through having it. Exploring my body and others bodies. Sex education would have helped me make better choices in my sex life growing up.” -Xemi
“I don’t think my parents gave me much of a talk at all. Nobody really did. I grew up in a house with five other siblings, and I think my parents had their hands full. The first time I heard or knew anything about sex was through watching porn. I think I didn’t realized sex was sex until I was taught about it in school through the reproductive lens? The next time I made a connection was when I was about to do some art class homework and grabbed my brothers color pencil box and emptied [it on] my bed, only to have my sister walk [in] on me and ask why there [were] condoms all over it. I guess that was his hiding spot for them.” -Mika
“My mom (born in Cuba) didn’t give me much info at all, but she did ground me (likely at the insistence of my Georgia-born stepdad) when she somehow figured out I hadn’t been studying after school one day in high school, but instead had visited a local free clinic to stock up on condoms. I wouldn’t count my mom’s parenting as Latinx style per se, though, because she was really pressured to assimilate after arriving in the US around 12 years old and she was intentionally pretty Americanized for a long time (she’s come back to her roots some since).” -Jhoni
“One thing that was covered was an abridged version of consent. I was told a lot to not let anyone touch my body, which is great but certainly didn’t do much beyond the ‘respect your body’ part. Most of my sex education came from the internet for sure, and then eventually from real-life experiences.” -Barbara