Having the birds and the bees conversation with children is an uncomfortable rite of passage for any parent.
But what if you’re asked by someone who isn’t your child—and they want to know specifically about how gay sex works?
Is it out of line to refuse to provide that uncomfortable education?
Redditor the_goblinking1 and his fiancé recently found themselves in that very situation with his 11-year-old niece, so he turned to the subReddit “Am I the A**hole” (AITA) to see if he was in the wrong, asking:
“AITA for refusing to tell my eleven year old niece how gay sex works?”
The original poster (OP) explained how the conversation came about.
“Okay, the title is wild- I apologies for any braincells lost reading this.”
“Me – 24M(ale)”
“My fiancé – 25M”
“My Niece – 11F(emale)”
“My SIL (sister-in-law) – 34F”
“My Brother – 38M”
“My Dad – 60M”
“My dad’s birthday was yesterday so we agreed that since (pandemic) laws in the country allow it we would come together and celebrate because he had been was alone for the majority of (the pandemic).
“My niece has always known I was gay, and she knows how heterosexual sex works because she has had sex ed in school (crappy year six sex-ed but still she has basic knowledge.)”
“She’s friendly with my fiancé and he’s friendly to her but they have the obvious boundaries that you should have with someone who is going to be your uncle.”
“Me and fiancé were eating on the other side of the garden because of a playfight we had with dad and then my niece came over and asked how two men have kids.”
“I told her that we’d just adopt a baby, but that she would definitely get cousins to play with (because I thought the problem was that she thought she’d get no cousins).”
The OP’s answer wasn’t satisfactory to his niece, however. She wanted specifics.
“Then she started pushing that if neither of us was a girl then how do we ‘love’ each other, and my fiancé said that two men ‘do it differently’ but that we still love each other.”
“More pushing, until she literally said to my fiancé, ‘where do you put your willy?'”
“We both started laughing and saying that when she got older she would find out, and that she didn’t need to know right now.”
That reaction, however, caused an immediate backlash from both the OP’s niece and SIL.
“She started to cry and said we were making fun of her, and I tried telling her that it was just a bit uncomfortable for us to tell her about something (sex) that she had only just been given details about.”
“When my SIL heard my niece crying she came over and was less than pleasant about how ‘we made her cry’ we told her what niece had asked about and she said that we should ‘have told her because she’s old enough’.”
“We then told her that we didn’t feel comfortable doing that and that if niece was really itching to know how two men have sex then she and my brother should tell her.”
The OP’s dad only added fuel to the fire with his reaction.
“Then my dad and brother heard the commotion and came over, when my dad realized what was happening he started laughing really hard which just made my niece cry more. It got so bad that my brother, SIL and niece left.”
“I feel like absolute sh*t.”
Redditors weighed in on the situation by declaring:
- NTA – Not The A**hole
- YTA – You’re The A**hole
- NAH – No A**holes Here
- ESH – Everyone Sucks Here
They didn’t blame the OP for not wanting to provide that particular education to his niece.
“NTA. If your SIL thought your niece had a ‘right’ to know, SHE should be one explaining it!”
“Also, an 11-year-old should know better than to ask a question in that manner. I mean, that phrasing…wow.”
“SIL and your bro need to be parents and explain boundaries as well. No one OWES your niece, and it sounds like she freaks out when she doesn’t get her way.”—SolitaryTeaParty
“NTA – this was a good learning moment for her about boundaries in polite conversation. Or could’ve been, if your SIL didn’t push it.”
“Even if your niece technically knows how humans procreate, there’s a lot of nuance she would need for this conversation – maybe chiefly understanding sex for pleasure’s sake differs from procreation.”
“Weird that your SIL wanted you to explain to her niece what makes you hot. I think proposing she explain it was a wonderful suggestion.”—banjoman63
“No, NTA, but probably could have been handled without everyone laughing at her.”
“There’s LGBTQI books for younger teens that as far as I know explain it in the same way that heterosexual sex is explained. Might be worth considering.”
“If a kid’s old enough to ask the question, they’re usually old enough for some sort of age-appropriate explanation.”
“But I entirely appreciate that a couple don’t want to be explaining the ins and outs (ahem) to an 11-yr-old of the other sex.”—InfamousBanana4391
“I would never tell someone else’s child how sex works, gay or not. It’s not my job and it’s too personal. NTA.”—mariam67
But they were a bit more forgiving of the niece’s behavior given her age.
“Per the post she started crying because she thought they were laughing at her. That sort of sensitivity is not exactly abnormal for children, especially ones around that age (i.e. nearing/at puberty & all the hormonal changes that come with).”
“Her crying is one of the less objectionable things in the post imho (in my humble opinion), easily topped by niece being old enough to not ask those sorts of things so bluntly and by SIL getting upset with OP rather than taking her daughter aside.”—Star-Lord-
“Agreed, that’s completely normal in my experience as a previous 11-year-old girl”—heytherekitkat
“Idk about the niece being entitled or anything — thinking back to when I was 10 – 13 I was an embarrassed crier.”
“ESPECIALLY if people were laughing at something I said but weren’t laughing at me but I was too young to understand what I said was funny so I took it as they were laughing at me.”
“It sounds like a normal part of going through puberty as a girl honestly, especially when you’re embarrassed for a reason that *no one will tell you*.”—sarahdiddle
“The only reason why at 11 they are being taught reproductive health is due to the fact that some girls get their periods at this age and they should be prepared.”
“Some kids at 11 aren’t going to grasp the concept of sex for pleasure and love. In fact the niece asking how you’d make babies makes me think that she’s not quite there yet.”—kawaeri
One Redditor offered suggestions of some sexuality books that the OP could suggest for his niece.
“I got my daughter a book series on bodies and what happens as you age. It covers consent, periods, masturbation, hygiene, sexuality (and its fluidity), and safe sex (very broadly).”
“The next book of the series (when she hits like 13/14) will go more into topics like contraceptive types and how they work, safe sex, coercion, being safe on social media and with technology (nudes/revenge porn), and a bunch of stuff on handling bad dates/being uncomfortable with a partner and trusting your gut.”
“She reads the books and highlights anything she has questions about, then I’ll look at what she’s not sure of and take a beat to figure out the best way to frame/discuss the topic in an age appropriate way.. that way I don’t end up saying something stupid/embarrassing her. Which isn’t always easy.”
“Now that I think about it, I need to find one about drugs and alcohol too…”
“Edit: because some people asked I want to include the titles we’ve had the most success with!”
“‘Celebrate Your Body 1 and 2’ by Drs Carrie Leff and Lisa Klein”
“And ‘American Girl’s The Care & Keeping of You 1 & 2′”
“‘Celebrate Your Body #2’ is the one that I’ve loved the most – it touches on consent, hygiene – not needing soap inside your vagina is a big one – and sexual identity.”
“But I’d recommend getting both series because they compliment each other well and cover things in greater depth that the other series may have glossed over!”
“We got the first books when our daughter was about 8/9 and we noticed she was starting puberty and just kept discussing the topics regularly until she was comfortable and understood enough about it to be ready for the next set.”—passivelyrepressed
Even if the OP is uncomfortable suggesting these materials to his brother and SIL, hopefully they can figure something out on their own before their niece decides to get her education from a decidedly less informational resource.