I’m sure you have heard the statistics. Blacks have the highest rate of teenage pregnancy. Teenage mothers are almost guaranteed a life of poverty. Even if they avoid poverty, their chances of achieving a higher socio-economic level are slim. Blacks also tend to have a greater chance of getting an sexually transmitted disease (STD). Yes, all that may be true. However, there are reasons behind the statistics.
As an African American female, I have noticed a trend. Our mothers are not talking to their daughters about sex, their bodies, or how to deal with their natural emotions. Sure, a few African American women may be, but the majority is not. I am not counting the threats to kill them if they have sex or get pregnant. I am referring to actual talking.
Growing up, I can remember my mother, grandmother, and aunts warning me about “being with a boy”. They said that this would lead to “Nelly’s room”. At the time, I really didn’t understand what “Nelly’s room” was. I later learned it meant getting pregnant. They were always telling me to stay away from “mannish boys”, but they never took the time to really explain “the birds and the bees”. I was never told anything about how reproduction worked. I was literally walking in the dark.
Thankfully, I was an inquisitive child, and I liked to read. I read about sex and reproduction. I learned from books what I should have been told by my mother. Let me make one thing clear. I am not blaming my mother. She was just doing the same thing that her mother had done.
When I began to experience my own little sexual awakening at about thirteen, I decided that I need to be on birth control. I had the school nurse take me to the local health department so that I could get some type of birth control.
Thirteen, you say? Yes, thirteen. At thirteen, I realized that I liked boys and no threats of “Nelly’s room” were enough to keep me from kissing one.
So often, African American women refuse to take their daughters to get birth control because they want to believe that they are not having sex. They try to push scriptures on them or threaten to kill them if they get pregnant thinking this will prevent them from having sex. Get real. The reality is that they may not be having sex now, but eventually they will. Threats only work for a little while. And, scriptures are great, but they can pale in comparison to those natural and basic sexual urges.
As a mother, why take that a chance? Why not ensure that your daughter don’t become a statistic?
Think I’m crazy or that this is just my story? Well, I was curious. I decided to conduct a little survey. I did a sexual awareness survey that included me and several of my friends and co-workers. I also did one on a few pregnant black teenage girls that I knew. The survey asked simple questions about the women’s relationship with their mother and the teachings that she gave them about sex.
What did I find out? I discovered that very few black women were actually talking to their girls about sex. They would explain menstruation to them and warn them not to have sex, but that was about the extent of it. They did not go into details about how reproduction works or the basic anatomy of the female body. My study also revealed that black mothers were not explaining to their daughters that having sexual feelings was normal. They were continuing the old tradition of threatening “to put the girls out if they got pregnant” and my favorite, “I’m going to kill you if you get pregnant”.
The younger black mothers were doing a little better at explaining things to their daughters. However, they were still not encouraging the use of birth control or explaining that it was natural to want to have sex.
I understand that talking to ones daughter about sex, birth control, and STDS can be a little embarrassing and uncomfortable, but it is something that we must do. Our daughters deserve a fighting chance. If we teach them about sex and explain the consequences of being a teenage mom, maybe we can help change the numbers. Maybe, we can help stop the spread of STDs among our teenagers.
As black women, we owe it to our daughters to teach them. We must teach them about sex. We must teach them about sexually transmitted diseases and their prevention. We must teach them how to handle those sexual urges. These are conversations we must have with our girls.