Q: What is the best way to talk about sex and boys to your ninth-grade daughter who is a mega-hottie and a really great kid? I mean the real stuff. The high school boys are already sniffing around our house, the bastards. I can only base it on my experiences: In ninth grade there was boobie touching and French kissing; in 10th there was heavy petting and awesome makeout sessions; in 11th there was nude swimming at Cedar Lake, oral sex and mutually agreed-upon humping; in 12th there was just more of it plus a touch of light S&M. It was pre-HIV/AIDS. Everyone had fun. Do I just tell it to her like it was for me? When it happens for her I want it to be tender, respectful, fun and safe.

A: I can't determine your gender due to the anonymity of your e-mail, but your reference to "the bastards" and use of the words "boobie" and "humping" lead me to believe you're a well-intentioned man. This matters because the sex talk generally goes over better with the same-sex parent. If the mother is around and has a healthy relationship with your kid, then it might be a good idea for her to take a crack at it first. Had my dad walked through my bedroom door when I was 14 and informed me we were about to talk about sex, I would have first jumped out the window and then promptly died of embarrassment. If you're the sole, male parent, it might be a little tougher to get your kid to open up, but here are a few suggestions.

First, don't corner her. If there's a home-improvement project she can help with or a long drive you can take together, use that opportunity to have the talk. My mother went about the sex talk all wrong by sitting me down in the dining room. I clammed up, with no intention of divulging the details of my weekend makeout sessions. A small distraction is to your advantage -- she can feign interest in passing cars, but you can be sure she's listening.

There's no need to disclose every single sex act you engaged in at her age, but at least give her the idea that what she's doing (or wants to do) is normal. You can tell her about skinny-dipping with your high school crush as long as you don't mortify her with the details. She wants to know them about as much as you want to know how many boys have felt her up. It's more important to let her know that you went through all that stuff, too. Even if she's not feeling talkative, she'll still listen as long as you're not preaching. Communication has to go both ways, so take long pauses and ask if she has questions. Be honest, using plain language and avoiding cutesy words that give the sense that sex isn't serious. Yes, it's fun at that age, but the risks are greater for her now. If you need to get informed first, the CDC website is my favorite place for information on STDs.

"Dirty," "wrong" and "bad" are shame words you should absolutely not use. We ladies have a hard enough time grappling with cultural beauty standards like fake eyelashes and airbrushed thighs; don't give your daughter a lifelong complex about her sexuality. She needs to know that her curiosity and her hormone-driven impulses are natural, and that her body is to be respected by her and by others. I attacked my high school boyfriend when I thought we were both ready, but I have plenty of girlfriends who were pressured into their first time. Tell her how stupid boys are at her age and that they don't think about things like pregnancy, STDs or even consent.

It's very important to let her know she can call you at any hour if she's ever uncomfortable in any situation. Her safety is your No. 1 concern, so be sure that resonates. Knowing how much her dad cares for her has much more impact than knowing he was getting hummers in high school (ew).

  • Alexis McKinnis is taking your questions about sex, dating and relationships. Send them to advice@vita.mn or submit anonymously at www.vita.mn/alexis. Don't leave out the juicy details!