I’ll admit that I don’t really keep up with the Kardashians, mostly because I a.) don’t care, and, I think beyond being a family full of clearly savvy marketers (seriously, those women can turn money into more money quicker than you can offend a lawmaker with the word “vagina“), there isn’t much to praise about them. But last night, in an interview with Oprah, Kim Kardashian noted that, at age 14, she asked her mother for birth control, and her mother obliged–which means I now several kind words to say to Kim and mother Kris Jenner, which are: that’s awesome, and I wish more mother/daughter pairs could address sex so frankly.
Kardashian explained (to Oprah) that she and her boyfriend at the time had been together for a few years, and that she felt “ready” to have sex, or at least move in that direction. But unlike most teenagers, she didn’t consult Cosmopolitan and shoplift a few condoms and then wait until someone’s parents were gone for the weekend–she went to her mom and told her that she’d like to start on birth control.
And, unlike most mothers of teenagers, Jenner did not go batcrackers and burst into tears and send Kardashian to a convent. She didn’t tell her daughter about the glory of abstaining. She didn’t get pious and hope that her daughter would have a change of heart with enough guilt heaped upon her teenage shoulders. She did the responsible thing and took her daughter to see a doctor and have a real chat about birth control. Which is awesome, and a model for how parents and their kids should address the issue of teen sexuality.
Of course, Kardashian was just 14 years old when this exchanged occurred, which is pretty young by most measurements in the U.S.; it’s a lot younger than the average conversation of this sort (on average, teens have their first sexual encounter around age 17). It is probably too young for a lot of people’s (and a lot of parent’s) comfort. But what I like about this story is that Jenner, who could have lectured her daughter about being too young and told her that under no circumstances was she to have sex until she was 30, dealt with the situation pragmatically.
Because here’s the thing about teens–when they’re ready to have sex, they’re going to do it. But, as a parent, you can decide: Are they going to do it safely, with birth control and all the facts from a doctor, or are they going to do it in the back of a car with a hope, a prayer, and the misguided belief that a girl can’t get pregnant on her first try?
Now, I grew up with a pretty pragmatic mom who really, really loves Planned Parenthood and reproductive rights and all of the trappings of being a progressive, responsible uterus-owner. And we were pretty close, so I could probably have, theoretically, asked her to take me to the clinic to chat with a doctor. But I still wouldn’t have had the gall to ask her, in an upfront manner, for birth control.
And while I went to a pretty liberal high school where we learned how to properly put on a condom, I probably would have had a better, safer, more educated first experience if I’d talked to my mom. So this is also a good lesson for teens–if you do feel ready, talk to your parents about it. It may seem scary, and they may freak out (not all parents are going to be like “Yeah, ok, 14 year old child, let’s go to the OB/GYN together like a happy, shiny family unit!”), but at least breaching the subject is a good idea. This is not a situation where asking for forgiveness is better than asking for permission.
This doesn’t make me suddenly a fan of the Kardashians or their many boat-riding, Kanye-dating, reality-TV-starring escapades, but it does make me respect Kris Jenner a little more for her handling of what is often a difficult and sticky situation for parents and teens, and Kim Kardashian for being bold enough to take control of her sexuality, even at a young age.
Image via Kim Kardashian/Instagram 14.06.12; Supplied by WENN.com