I am an older sister as well as a confidant to close friends; many of us women are used to confiding and being confided in, yet this advice giving takes on greater weight when your sister or friend is asking for information about sex, what to do with a significant other, or why, what, and how a body is doing what it does.
First, as a sister, I have the chance and privilege to address my sister’s insecurities and worries to a greater extent than my mother or her friends, especially given a close relationship and closeness in years. However, this puts a certain degree of pressure on me not to lead her in a certain direction given my own experiences and preferences.
Second, as a friend, it isn’t always my place to bestow advice or to ask for more detail. The best I can do is relate and see if my past experiences help her to figure out what she needs. Similarly, I am privy to more information than she may share with her family.
How, then, to talk about sex when someone is asking you for information as an older, more experienced role model?
For anyone in your life–younger cousins, family friends, the girl you babysit–the best thing to do is to listen to what she has to say. Your (and my) first impression might be unhelpful, or you might have focused on the wrong information. Sometimes the ability to share intimate details with a trustworthy superior will be enough for the younger person coming to you.
2. Don’t Make It About You
While your experiences are why she has come to you either to share her own worries or to ask for advice, this conversation is not about what you did or how it went.
Personal experiences help to illustrate the thoughts she is having are not irregular – air suction noises, awkward attempts to switch position, not feeling much of, anything – and she is not alone.
3. Don’t Pry
The difficulty here is that you might want to know about a specific thing happening. Many young girls exploring sex and sexuality for the first time are unlikely to want to give information you yourself are already comfortable with. She will share what and if she needs to.
4. Don’t Assume
Prying ties in for potentially risky or abusive–topic sensitivity is essential to remaining trustworthy. If you think something bad, unhealthy, or abusive is going on, try to get information in a circuitous manner, not directly. She is not at fault, and telling her what to do is not going to help if you are the first person she approaches.
There are some things any older (and hopefully wiser) woman can do for the younger or less experienced person in her life requesting sex advice. Make sure to emphasize agency and the absolute necessity for her to vocalize what she wants and needs. If you have resources you used in the past, feel free to recommend them. This is so she can figure out what she likes or wants on her own without worrying about what you think.
Finally, do not judge. Never judge. Think about yourself at that age and exercise empathy.
Cover image courtesy of Shutterstock.