In a previous post on cervical cancer awareness I touched on the topic of Latinas and sexuality.
My experience is that it is often a taboo subject, one that is not discussed between Latina mothers and daughters.
In the late 60’s, early 70’s, the topics of sexuality or sexual health for twelve year olds usually came in the form of “The Non-Talk.”
“The Talk” can range from the first talk (menstruation) to sexual intercourse to the last talk (pregnancy).
In my case, and for those Latinas of my generation, “The Non-Talk” was usually along these lines:
“The Kotex are in that purple box…Keep your legs closed…Don’t come home pregnant…Wait til your married, only putas have sex before that…”
or no conversation at all.
This was the case in my pre-teen and teen age years. My mother didn’t discuss menstruation, instead my friends had “The Talk” with me on the playground of my Catholic grammar school when I was in seventh grade. I was the oddball who hadn’t started my period and I was 12 1/2 years old. “Oh my god, it’s kinda of gross, but kind of cool too, ‘cuz you become a woman,” was the gist of the conversation.
When I asked my friends who told them about their periods, all of them said their older sisters. Well, I was on my own. I was the oldest in my family and my school didn’t have sex education classes.
This ‘period’ thing sounded intriguing and yukky at the same time but I had to find out what I was in for so I steeled myself and right before bedtime I asked my mother (in a whisper because my younger sister shared the bed) what ‘periods’ were and when would I get mine. She screwed up her face, shot me a disapproving look and turned off my light.
One morning, about three days later, I woke up and found a pamphlet under my pillow. Yes, it was the Menstruation Fairy. The booklet described, in cartoon fashion, the wonder of menstruation. I couldn’t make heads or tails of the drawing of the female reproductive system, it looked like a fancy Y to me.
That evening my mom whispered. “The box you’ll need is in the bathroom closet, in the back, the purple box.” Figuring out how to use these oversized overstuffed pads is another story. Can I get a witness?
As I thought of this subject I speculated that perhaps my opinion was based on my age and generation.
Maybe the topic isn’t as taboo as it was in the 70’s.
Maybe parents having discussions with their sons and daughters about sexuality and sexual health improved in the last 40 years.
Alas, this is not the case even after thirty plus years of sex education in schools:
- A 2011 Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) survey indicates that more than 47 percent of all high school students say they have had sex. Among students who had sex in the three months prior to the survey, 60 percent reported condom use and 23 percent reported birth control pill use during their last sexual encounter.
- While teen pregnancy rates have dropped across all ethnic groups over the past decade, the decline has been smallest among Latinas
- The percentage of female teens using any method of contraception at first sexual intercourse was lowest for Latinas (57 percent), compared to non-Hispanic whites (81 percent), Asian Americans and Native Americans (77 percent each), or African Americans (68 percent)
- Among teens, Latinas had the highest birth rate in 2000 (94 per 1,000 women ages 15 to 19). By comparison, the teen birth rate among African Americans was 79 per 1,000; among Native Americans, 68; among non-Hispanic whites, 33; and among Asian Americans, 22 (all studies cited in advocatesforyouth.org)