You Don't Need Your Mom's Permission to Have Sex.
Sam W replies:I'm 18 years old and have been with my boyfriend for a little over 4 years. We're best friends and were so in love. The first time we had sex I was 16 and my mom found out and I was grounded and unable to see him for about a month and a half. We're both in college now and still together and he's coming down soon to visit me! We haven't had sex since that one time and since then my mom has made me ask her if I feel like I'm ready but every time I seem to ask her she shuts it down and makes me feel bad for wanting it. I really want to have sex with him when he comes down to see me and I'm scared to ask my mom. But I really want to explore my sexuality more and figure myself out more with him. How should I deal with this?
My answer to your question is at once simple and really, really complicated: don't ask your mom permission. You're an adult, you don't need her permission, or anyone's, to explore sex.
Truthfully, you didn't need her permission when you were sixteen either. Even when you're a kid, what you choose to do with your body, who you choose to share it with, is ultimately up to you. That doesn't mean you don't consider the opinions of your parents when making that choice. Many people do. But a parent does not get to be the decider about whether or not you have sex.
Beyond the fact that she doesn't have some parental "right" to know or vote on what you're doing with your body, she's also proven herself to not be a person you can consult about these choices. Because she's not bargaining in good faith, even when you are. There are children who are able to, and do, ask their parents for advice about sex and relationships. The difference is that both sides engage in those discussions with honesty and openness, and with an awareness from the parents that they can offer advice, but they are not the person who gets a final say.
That doesn't sound like the relationship you and your mom have. If I had to guess, her answer to your request would not change no matter how you asked it. You could have the most eloquent, well-reasoned argument for why you should be allowed to have sex, and she would still say no. Because she's demonstrated that this is less about your well-being than it is her personal views about sex. I say that because when you bring this up with her, she takes the opportunity to make you feel bad for your desires. If she were engaging in those discussions honestly, she might make her worries known, but there would be more of a focus on your thoughts and feelings, with perhaps some discussion of safety (like what kind of protection you planned to use). Because she can't seem to have that kind of honest conversation, she's forfeited her right to be a person you consult about these choices. So you get to bypass her entirely.
Remember how I mentioned that my answer was complicated? I say that because parents are great at installing buttons in us, whether they mean to or not. That can make setting boundaries with them feel incredibly difficult, even if it appears to be a straightforward process. Reading my initial suggestion to simply not ask your mom's permission might have triggered some "but!" feelings in you. That's not your fault if it did. Your mom has trained you to think that asking her permission to have sex is the mark of being a respectful or good child. The first time you don't ask her, it might feel like a major betrayal. In those moments, it might help to remind yourself that the vast majority of people do not ask their parents for permission to have sex, so not doing so does not make you bad.
One objection your brain might be raising right now, because it might be something your mom told you, is some variation of "mother knows best." What are moms for if not knowing what's right for their child? But here's the thing: she can't magically intuit if you're "ready" for sex because she's not you. You have more information about your feelings, your thoughts, your experiences than she does.
Another objection you might have is that you still live with your mom, which could mean that even if you don't tell her she still has a chance of finding out. If that's the case, I don't want to dismiss your worries that she'll find out, because she very well might. Truthfully, even if you aren't living with her, there's no way to guarantee she won't find out (although it does make that outcome less likely). If you still live with her and are not comfortable trying to have sex in your house, one option is to visit your boyfriend instead of having him visit you. A more long term and complex option is to start making plans to move out on your own. That may mean getting a job (if you don't already have one), a bank account of your own, or finding folks to live with and a space to live in. Those steps may sound intimidating, but if you're starting to find that your needs and desires are becoming incompatible with living at home, moving out can give you the space and freedom that might be lacking at home.
I'm not trying to color your mom as unfeeling or awful here, by the way. I suspect she has her reasons for reacting the way she does. For many parents, the idea of the tiny human they raised becoming sexually active is scary, and they want a way to try and control that scariness. But even if their intentions are pure and good, they can still manifest in some not-good ways. Demanding that your (now adult) child ask permission for something that is a really personal choice is not a good boundary. If nothing else, you won't always be there for them to ask, so you want them to start learning sooner rather than later how to make choices without you. Too, as we get older, we need and deserve the space to make our own choices, and when we don't get that space, it can make it hard for us to ever fully transition into adulthood.
In place of involving your mom in this conversation, take some time to have an honest chat with yourself and with your boyfriend about what you want and are comfortable with around sex. I'll give you some tools that can help you do that below. The whats and hows of the sex you two have together are up to you as a couple. Hopefully, those conversations will be more open, frank, and fun than the ones you're used to.