How To Deal When You Realise Your Younger Sibling Has Probably Had Sex
The Debrief: 'EUGHHHHHH EUGHHHHHH! I CAN’T even LOOK at you RIGHT NOW’
I don’t think my little sister will ever forgive me for losing my virginity. I told her the day after it happened, in the park, by the swings. ‘These swings mark my transition between girlhood and womanhood,’ I told her, sombrely. ‘I am a woman now.’
‘EUGHHHHHHHHH! EUGHHHHHHHHH EUGHHHHHHH EUGHHHHHHH! With JAMES? You had SEX with JAMES HALL? Your DISGUSTING BOYFRIEND? EUGHHHHHHH EUGHHHHHH EUGHHHHHH EUGHHHHHH EUGHHHHHH! I CAN’T even LOOK at you RIGHT NOW.’
Well, over a decade later, I am writing this on the kitchen table in her flat, which she shares with her boyfriend. They sleep in the same bedroom, like it’s the most normal thing in the world. And when I’m confronted with that fact, I feel exactly like she did all those years ago. Eughhhhhh! Eughhhh Eughhhh Eughhhhhh!
When you have five little sisters, you cannot expect them all to take holy orders, or even to say, ‘Sex just doesn’t sound like my thing, not now they’ve invented Candy Crush.’ We were all raised as Roman Catholics – the kind who go to Mass every single Sunday, and are on first name terms with the nuns, so we all felt the presence of sex by its ordered absence. It loomed large over us all, like a thrilling, threatening ghost.
And I longed to be the sort of big sister who could tell my girls not to worry, that I would be there for them always, with none of the judgement and all of the condoms. But even now that my sisters are all in their twenties, with four out of five ‘going steady’, I can’t quite bring myself to sit down cheerfully and say, ‘So, you and sex, eh? Woo! Anything you’d like to talk about? Erotic escapades you’d care to share?’
Counsellor Anna James, who specialises in family relationships, explains: ‘The way you talk to your siblings about sex – or don’t – depends very much on the way you were brought up. If your family has always been open and honest about sex, the conversation will flow naturally, but then, if you’ve always been able to come to your parents with questions you might not need help or advice from your siblings.
‘If you can speak to your siblings about sex, go for it, but if you can’t – and most of us can’t – it’s nothing to worry about, as long as you have someone to get advice, support and information from. And if your siblings come to you with a sex question, take a deep breath and try to take an open mind. It’s all about advising them as you would your very best friend, and being helpful and supportive. It might all feel too close to home, but ultimately it isn’t about you.’
When I asked my sister how she felt about our teen sex chats now, she said, ‘Obviously at the time I was horrified. And part of me felt that as my big sister, you were supposed to be setting an example, and I wasn’t sure what kind of an example that was. But I look back now and think that maybe I overreacted a bit. It was just sex.’
She also reminded me that as teens, we used to go to the same place for a bikini wax, and the beauty technician would comment on the similarities and differences between our pubes, so if she were to imagine me having sex, the mental horror show was all too easy to conjure up.
Ultimately, I’m glad – I think – that my sisters have all grown into well-adjusted, sexually active adults, and that I think they’ve worked out what, and who, makes them happy. I’m enormously protective of them. I only want them to have good, happy experiences with kind people, but I know from my own twenties that sex is always going to involve a fair amount of trial and error.
At its best, it will be magical and special, but at its worst it’s going to be in a bush behind a bowling alley while your lift has an argument with someone at the front desk about the shoe deposit.
I wish I could have protected my sisters from every single bad lad and sad shag, but it wouldn’t have done them any favours. We figure out how to take care of ourselves by getting hurt and learning to recognise pain. I can’t feel for my sisters, no matter how similar our genetic make up – or pubic hair – might be.
That said, I might text them all now and tell them that they are always welcome if they want an awkward sex chat. I’ll listen, I won’t judge, and if I must say anything off-putting, I’ll say it in my head. Eughhhhhh! Eughhhh Eughhhh Eughhhhhh!
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Picture: Eylul Aslan
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