When My Mother Found My Sex Toys

 

I’ve only ever seen my parents kiss, let alone hug, a handful of times. In a relatively stoical household where vulnerability is discouraged and sensitivity much condescended, it is needless to say that talking about sex wasn’t ever in the picture.

Unfortunately, I didn’t get to experience proper sex-ed at school either. Instead, I have had to learn some lessons the hard way. I felt the privilege of being born in the digital age the first time I got a UTI. Answers to crucial questions — the same ones deemed “taboo” by my family — at my fingertips. Like many kids who were brought up with parents of different cultural backgrounds and/or in difficult homes, I’ve hidden (among other things) my relationships from my family.

Starting on the eve of my high school years, I always went underwear shopping alone. My mom’s skeptical eye watched as thongs and bras began integrating my closet. The first time I ordered a G-string online, the delivery box reached my mother before I got home from school but my nervousness completely dissipated once she’d asked, “How do you put this pollution mask on?”

My mom grew up in 1960s communist China where teenage relationships were unfathomable. And lingerie…? What lingerie?

By the time I turned 16, I was in my first serious relationship. Like my other flings, I didn’t tell my parents about it for almost an entire year. They eventually found out, would confront me about it in waves, and my discomfort with them knowing only grew. I almost felt like I was under a microscope. Rather than fading back into my natural skin tone, any hickeys I acquired turned into opportunities for my parents to condemn my sexual preferences, including my boyfriend. It didn’t matter that the love bites felt good to me, or that I really cared for my boyfriend;  I was heavily scolded and told to have “normal” sex.

Then, the fateful day came where my mom found our BDSM toys.

Having my room snooped through wasn’t anything new, but these findings were. By then, my stance on my parents’ skeptical views of my relationship had become more frustrated than anxious. Predictably, my mom told my boyfriend and me off, and threw the toys along with a dozen of our unrelated belongings in a trash bag. The latter was done out of spite.

I know there was an element of cultural clash in this frustration, but I couldn’t help but notice that a lot of the anger came from my parents’ own controlling tendencies. “There are limits to these things,” they said, as they consistently pressured me to view the relationship from the same negative perspective they did. In their mind, the only ‘solution’ was for the two of us to break up. I’ve tried to be open to their opinions, but without fail, these opinions are narrow-minded and refuse to take my perspective seriously.

My side of the conversation never had the opportunity to get any consideration; if everything I do with my partner is 100 percent consensual and non-invasive of any other party, why are the limits anyone else’s but ours to set? If the way we feel about each other is healthy, why did we need to end things?

It is disheartening that these are the only real conversations about sex and relationships I’ve ever had with my parents, and I strongly believe that these kinds of family dynamics are what often discourage children to speak to their parents about different personal issues. Why would I ever opt to open up to my parents about these things if I knew this is the response I would receive? I wish things could have been different, but without working to normalize a culture of safe and informative sex positivity, too often, the result will be individuals getting shamed for owning their sexualities.

Last month, I packed my suitcases in which I hid the remainder of my toys and lingerie in between my jeans and hoodies. For the first time, I feel the freedom of not being told how to act and what to think. I feel the freedom of exploring sex and relationships on my own terms. And I feel good.