Ask Professor Foxy: Do I Need My Mother’s Permission to Have Sex With My Boyfriend?

This weekly Saturday column “Ask Professor Foxy” will regularly contain sexually explicit material. This material is likely not safe for work viewing. The title of the column will include the major topic of the post, so please read the topic when deciding whether or not to read the entire column.

Dear Professor Foxy,
Me and my boyfriend have been in a long-distance relationship for 7 months now. In February, he will be flying and staying here for a week, where we will meet in person for the first time. We care deeply about each other, and are both very excited to be able to spend some time together in real life. We also really want to be able to have sex; I am 18 and he is 20, so I know that we’re legally able to; I love him very much and want to just as much as he does, so I know we’re mentally ready for it; and we’ve discussed using protection and being safe, so I know we’re physically ready.
However, my mother is strongly opposed to the idea, and she’s told me flatly that “No, it’s not happening,” and once said, “If you have sex with him when he visits, you’ll be a slut and a whore,” as she is under the impression that because our relationship is long-distance, it won’t be “real” until we meet, and I would be sleeping with him after only “truly being” with him for a week. She is afraid of me becoming pregnant, and even when I told her I would use protection she kept freaking out about the idea of me having sex. I can understand her fears and worries, as she had two children she didn’t exactly plan for, and my boyfriend will be the first one I’ve had.
I don’t know whether or not I should talk to my mom about it again. She tells me that as long as I am living in the house where she pays the bills, I don’t actually have any of the rights that being 18 entitles me too, which includes having sex. I’d like for her to be okay with it, but every time I’ve brought it up she starts freaking out and telling me she’s not going to allow it.
Me and my boyfriend can’t wait to be intimate and close in both sexual and non-sexual ways, and I don’t feel that she has any right to tell me I can’t have sex with someone I care so much about. Should I try discussing it with her again? If she still disapproves, would I be terribly in the wrong if I went behind her back and did it anyway? Should I maybe discuss it with my aunt? She lives across the state so she couldn’t back me up in person, and doesn’t want to go behind my mom’s back in any way, but is a feminist and much more understanding about my relationship then my mother.

Hi Thanks –
I am glad that you are and your boyfriend have had so many prep conversations. You are clearly close and the ability to discuss having safe sex is incredibly important. I cannot make your decision for you, but let’s talk some of the issues.
First, keep your options open. You may meet him in person and realize that you don’t connect in person. You may also feel like you don’t want to have sex, but do want to engage in other sexual activities. You may also want to spend the entire time having sex.
You are 18, which means you can legally have sex (as you can in many jurisdictions at younger ages). However, you still live at home, which gives her power over you. What does it mean if your mom finds out that you have had sex? Will she kick you out?
However, my mother is strongly opposed to the idea, and she’s told me flatly that “No, it’s not happening,” and once said, “If you have sex with him when he visits, you’ll be a slut and a whore,” as she is under the impression that because our relationship is long-distance, it won’t be “real” until we meet, and I would be sleeping with him after only “truly being” with him for a week. She is afraid of me becoming pregnant, and even when I told her I would use protection she kept freaking out about the idea of me having sex. I can understand her fears and worries, as she had two children she didn’t exactly plan for, and my boyfriend will be the first one I’ve had.
I understand her fears, but they are hers and not yours. You have taken important steps to keep yourself safe. How close are the two of you? Do you usually ask her for permission and/or advice about major issues? Your aunt sounds like a good sounding board and I would turn to her for more advice.
Your body is yours and you get to control what you do with it. It is not “going behind her back.” It is making a decision for yourself. The decision may have positive or negative consequences, but it is yours to make.
Professor Foxy
If you have a question for Professor Foxy, send it to ProfessorFoxyATfeministingDOTcom.

Join the Conversation

  • femteacher

    At the end of the day, the only person who can make this decision is you. As an adult, you must be ready to accept the consequences of your actions. I think Foxy’s advice is good: how will you deal with your mother’s reactions if she found out? How will you deal with keeping a secret from her? My own mom didn’t accept all of my decisions regarding my sex life when I was younger, but I was truthful with her anyway because I love and respect her. (and I knew she wouldn’t kick me out!) If a friend of mine were in the same situation as you, I would tell her to be careful having sex with someone you just met. This, to me, is a bigger issue than your mom’s concern. I don’t know how you and this man met, but if you have never seen him before in person, I don’t think you can be totally sure you want to have sex with him. How can you trust this guy? It’s easy to put up a front if your relationship is based on phone/email. I am not trying to throw doubt into your relationship, but I just think you should be careful and make sure that the relationship is real before taking it to a physical level. Good luck!

  • margosita

    As usual, Professor Foxy, good advice.
    I would add that “Thanks” should consider how her decision will affect her relationship with her mother, long-term. “Thanks”, I wouldn’t suggest letting your mother draw all your lines and boundaries for you, but it’s important to be considerate of what she asks of you, especially while living in her home. Technically you are an adult, but that doesn’t mean your mom can see that. Instead of saying “This is what I want to do/am going to do” have you asked her why she feels that way? It seems like an assumption when you note she is freaking out because she had unplanned pregnancy. It sounds like she is more scared that you don’t actually know him. I think it might go a long way to sit down with her and explain why you feel so confident with your boyfriend and how well you know him. Your kind of relationship wouldn’t have been possible for her when she was your age, after all.
    I think if you make every effort of being open, honest and explaining the situation to your mom as possible (with help from your aunt!), than you should feel free to make the best decision for YOU.

  • Emily

    This is a hard one. I had a similar experience in that an authority figure I loved and respected felt strongly that I shouldn’t have sex until I was married. I have always been extremely open and honest and it killed me that I felt pressured and judged to do something (or rather not do it) that I felt was a completely non-moral and personal issue. Anyway, I ended up deciding against waiting for a variety of reasons, one being that I planned on never getting married. She still loves and supports me but I always feel judged and less-then compared to my more overtly chaste sisters, (i found out too late that it was more the appearance of chastity that she really wanted), even though I doubt she even thinks about it anymore. I guess my advise is find out if she is more worried about your reputation or your well being and if it’s the former, do what you want but make it appear otherwise. I know this doesn’t help break our slut-shaming culture but it makes life easier at home. I’m still open in public but I’ve become increasingly withdrawn when it comes to personal things with my family.

  • allegra

    Ah, parents hanging the finances over your head to guilt and manipulate you into doing what they want. You have no “rights” simply because someone else is temporarily paying the bills. Excellent logic. My parents did it the entire four years I was in college – and made me miserable and depressed. Having sex is not, as you say, some unreasonable, terrible thing. It is a wonderful thing and can be done responsibly.
    I don’t really know why parents have to do this crap. It’s extremely thoughtless and shitty, in my opinion.
    I would say … to do what you want with regard to this. It was unfortunate, but growing up with a mother like mine, I learned to be deceptive and to lie pretty effectively at a young age in order to function. My mom is controlling, high anxiety, and verbally abusive. She regularly blamed me for things that I wasn’t responsible for, like getting sick, or being side-swiped by a truck one day driving home from dance class through no fault of my own. When I did something she deemed “wrong,” she railed on it for literally weeks and found every possible way to make me feel like shit for it over and over again, in spite of the fact that I was like a model child: didn’t drink until I was legal, was valedictoran of my class, responsible, did chores, never got in trouble at school. She’s one of the main causes of my diagnosed depression and anxiety today. It’s a sad thing, but parents can fuck you up if you don’t learn how to disentangle and separate yourself from them on some issues.

  • allegra

    P.S. I would also tell her it’s pretty sad that she would call her own daughter a whore – such an ugly, hateful name – simply for having sex with a guy she feels she loves and has been talking with for seven months. :/ I NEVER took that “whore” shit from my mom, as many times as she tried to lay it on me.


    Professor Foxy did a great job with this question.
    With that said, I think I can add a little bit more – I would suggest, if you decide you want to have sex with this guy after you meet him face to face, and you’ve made sure that you and he have protection (and both of you know how to use it correctly), you can always rent a motel room somewhere to actually have sex with him.
    It’s perfectly legal, there are motels that are both inexpensive and clean and they won’t tell anybody about what you and your boyfriend choose to do behind closed doors.
    If your boyfriend has the resources to fly cross country to see you, I’m sure he can come up with an extra $ 150 to pay for a motel room to consummate your relationship.
    Telling your mom about it afterwards will be the hard part – if you decide to tell her at all.

  • 5thcellar

    Not to be a prude, but I think the first meeting isn’t the best time to have sex. I’ve had online relationships that fizzled after the first meeting because there wasn’t any chemistry outside of the keyboard. I also know someone who had a long time, long-distance relationship with a soldier stationed out here in a town a couple hours drive away, and they rushed into bed at the first opportunity. Unfortunately, in the heat of the moment they weren’t always as careful as they’d planned to be, and there were pregnancy scares for two months in a row. After the second, he showed his true colors and tried to bully her into an abortion because, in his opinion, our little carpet-mill town was full of welfare-drawing trailer trash and no child of his would be raised that way.
    Now, I know our experiences aren’t universal and that the OP and her boyfriend could meet and have sparks fly that result in the best sex ever with no worries, but, as femteacher said, be careful there.

  • kisekileia

    It’s none of your mother’s damn business what you do with your body. You don’t even have to answer her questions about what you’re doing. It’s not wrong whatsoever to disobey you in this–she has no legitimate authority over you except to the extent that she’s making rules as the homeowner for ALL people in the house. Just live your life and insist that she accept that you’re an adult.
    However, ultimately, I think you need to move out of her home ASAP. She’s not going to recognize you as an adult until you do.

  • paperispatient

    I was thinking about suggesting a motel room as well.
    I was never sexually active until college, and I lived in the dorms all four years (residential campus), so my mom was never confronted with the fact that I was having sex until my senior year when I started seeing my partner, who is from my home town. She’d have preferred that I wait until I was married and let me know that in no uncertain terms.
    We’ve had multiple conversations and are in a much better place than we were when she first found out that not only was I having sex with my partner but I had – gasp! – done it with other guys too. She got pretty freaked out when I told her that I wanted to have STI testing done because my partner and I had decided to both get tested and stop using condoms (I knew it would show up on the insurance bill and figured I’d let her hear it from me rather than the bill). I think part of it is a generational thing; she’s only ever been with my dad, and she thought of STI testing as something you only did if you thought you had an STI and sex as something that is always very serious and should only be done in the context of serious committment. (And of course it can be, there’s nothing wrong with that – but there’s nothing wrong with it not being that way either.)
    Because I live in an apartment now and am only home during breaks, I decided to respect her request (well, more like a command) that I not have sex in our house. I can understand it, kind of – if I had a kid who was doing something I disagreed with, I wouldn’t want them doing it in what I thought of as my personal space. That, of course, has resulted in numerous trysts in my parked car and in his living room; I feel like that’s a bit ridiculous, but since I’m home so rarely now, it’s a concession that I’m willing to make to try to respect her feelings since she has gotten far less judgemental about my sex life; she’s really come around considering where we started from, and I know she’s really happy that I’ve finally found a great partner that makes me really happy.

  • Kathleen Hagerty

    You need to weigh your options carefully, with regards to your mother. She doesn’t treat you like the adult you are, and continuing to live with her will damage your ego, no doubt about it. You have to start taking your own chances and making your own mistakes. However, I don’t know what she’s providing you with. Are you still in high school? Is she paying for your education? How much are you getting out of living with her? If it’s really just a roof over your head, please consider moving out. If it’s more than that, your college tuition for example, maybe you do want to defer to her a little.
    But when you meet this guy (I’m assuming you’ve never seen each other in person,) be careful and don’t assume that you “know” him. You don’t. Arrange to meet in a very public area, and honestly, just be really careful. If you decide that you want to pursue a sexual relationship with him, in order for it to be healthy and to keep it from being sabotaged by your unhealthy relationship with your mother, you need to move out.

  • earthling

    I have some similar experience so will share, if I may…
    When I was 16 I got a boyfriend and this too was a long distance relationship (although we had met and got together face to face). The first time he came to visit me, there was nowhere for him to stay other than at my parents’ house with me. Long, heated arguments followed between me and my parents, about sleeping arrangements. Eventually my mother agreed to us sleeping in the same room in separate beds, with no ‘funny business’ to occur while my parents were also in the house.
    During these rows, it was obvious that my mother was very upset by the thought of her little girl having sex, and I wonder whether the OP’s mother is feeling the same. Perhaps the angry outbursts containing horrible words like ‘whore’ are merely a vent for her mother’s distress at her child growing up and becoming sexual. I remember my mother – who is a feminist, and engaged in activism against domestic violence throughout my childhood – telling me that if I got pregnant it would be my own fault and I would deserve it. I couldn’t believe my ears! She didn’t mean it, of course – she was just angry because I was growing up, and so she lashed out.
    I’m wondering whether the OP’s mother’s comments and attitude are just another version of this same story… some parents really cannot handle the idea of their little ones becoming sexually active adults. It plays into fears of children leaving the ‘nest’ and the feelings of rejection and loneliness that can come afterwards. (Also, parents don’t like to think of their children having sex in the same way that we don’t like to think of our parents having sex.) They may also be frightened that their children will make mistakes and get hurt. Our parents are not perfect people, they are just human beings, and they have fears and emotions and make mistakes and say the wrong thing sometimes.
    In the face of such fears, parents often play the only trump card they have to ‘protect’ themselves – i.e. the ‘as long as you live under my roof and I pay the bills’ type attitude. It’s a control mechanism and most parents cannot see that in most situations, its use is unreasonable. Such tactics often spring from emotional states and are uncontaminated by reasonable thought!
    This is not to say that it is okay to call your daughter a whore – it isn’t. I’d like to bet the OP’s mother will regret saying this sooner or later, as she realises that her daughter is a sexual being who *will have sex sooner or later* whether she allows it to happen in her house or not.
    As for whether the OP should have sex with her boyfriend – only she can answer that question. There are places one can go (hotels etc) where the couple could have some privacy, if they both decide this is what they want. I would be slightly wary though, given that this is the first face-to-face meeting. No matter how much you feel for someone you have been chatting to online or on the phone, only a physical meet-up can determine whether you really have chemistry together! My advice is (like the others on this thread): be careful, and don’t be afraid of changing your mind.
    As an aside: have you ever seen the UK sitcom ‘Gavin & Stacey’? It is about just this kind of relationship (although the couple are older).

  • Phenicks

    I totally agree with this. The only thing her mother has real control over is WHO and WHAT goes down in her home. It sucks not to do what you want and as an adult have a right to do but no one, absolutely no one has a right to do something in someone else’s home without that person’s permission. I would suggest not bringing him to the home at all, because its well within her mom’s legal rights to tell him to leave and he’d HAVE to leave.
    I really think she should talk to her mother about calling her names. She shouldn’t be doing that.

  • Anony-mouse

    It’s your body, you get to do with it what you will. Use condoms. Buy one of these, just in case. Lube makes everything better. Have fun.

  • FGJ

    OP, as everyone else has said, as an adult, you get to make your own decision, and the responsibility of the decision is yours.
    Your mother’s attempt to shame you suggest she’s not taking the most balanced and rational view of things, but as you recognize, she may also have valid concerns.
    In the somewhat gray area of being legally and adult but still somewhat dependent on your parents, I would think about the situation as follows: you should weight your mother’s opinions by the potential of your decision to have an effect on her. For instance, in the unlikely case that something goes wrong and you get pregnant, what level of support would you need from your mother? Would you be comfortable deciding what to do yourself? Would you have the resources to go through the pregnancy or have an abortion, or would you need to get her help?
    Privileges and responsibilities should be taken in equal shares, and it’s also up to you to decide how much of both you are ready to take.

  • ladylicious

    It’s your body and your choice and you are 18. Your mom is probably concerned about you getting in over your head, but don’t let her shame you for wanting to do what is perfectly normal. Name calling is unacceptable. You’re not a whore or a slut for wanting to have sex with your boyfriend who you’ve been talking to for 7 mos. Even if it was a one night stand, you’re still not a slut or a whore. You’re just a healthy, normal woman who wants to be in control of her own sexuality. There’s nothing wrong with that. Also, if you wait for mom’s permission, you will be waiting to have sex until you are in your 90’s. Moms and Dads sometimes have problems letting go. Your sex life is not any of her business at 18. You are legally an adult and you are going to have to use your best judgment, which it sounds like you’re doing.
    That said, be extra careful about getting involved long distance. You might not know him as well as you think you do and you have to think about the possible consequences, both negative and positive. You don’t know for sure if he has other online girlfriends or if he is sleeping around. The same may be true for someone you would date locally, but at least with a local person you can date them and get a feel for who they are before you take it to the next level. It’s much harder to vet people online, because you don’t get to date in person, meet friends, family and coworkers, etc.
    Good luck :))

  • Tehanu

    All of the above advice is great, including maybe not making an actual final decision about having sex until meeting in person (sometimes online chemistry just doesn’t translate into physical desire!).
    One further possibility would be to suggest to your mother that after he arrives, and if the chemistry is there and you still really want to pursue things, the three of you have dinner somewhere so she can get to know him as well. Some of her discomfort/anger might be because she is genuinely worried about you meeting up with a “stranger,” and not everyone gets how close people can become online. This suggestion is not in terms of her vetting your boyfriend, but more to alleviate some of her tension and worry.
    This guy clearly appears to be respecting boundaries in advance, which is great, and so maybe his caring and genuineness would translate to having a pleasant encounter with your mother?
    That may not be feasible if there’s too much anger already (and some of her language is really nasty) but it’s always a possibility, and could lead to a better long-term understanding that a) you’re an adult who can make decisions about your own sexuality and b) you want to build a strong relationship with both your mother and your boyfriend.

  • Tabitha

    There seems to be a lot of “mom-bashing.” Keep in mind, this 18 year old more or less asked for her mom’s permission. Frankly, if she was a mature adult, she wouldn’t ask for her mother’s permission.
    I also suspect that she wanted her mother to say no. She’s known her mother for 18 years and had to know what to expect.
    Yes, one is an adult–in certain ways–at eighteen. But this girl seems to be an immature 18 year old. She’s fallen in love with someone she’s never laid eyes on, she expects her mom to be okay with this, and her overall writing style indicates some immaturity.
    Also, I’m surprised at how naive some of the responses are. No one has asked whether this young woman is still in high school. An unintended preganacy could really derail her academic path.
    And an even bigger concern is that no one has asked how she met this man or the very real fact that he might not be who he says he is. My hunch is that this guy is older than 20 years old.
    I’m hoping that this young woman approaches this far more safely that any of you have suggested. How about a group date first? How about meeting him for that group date rather than immediately letting him know where she lives? How about running a background check?
    Call me cynical but these are precautions that are wise for women of any age to take. There are some crazy people out there and young women are more often the victims of sexual crimes than any other portion of the population!!!

  • marissafromboston

    tabitha, you took the words right out of my mouth, er, keyboard. the very idea that a young woman would need to ask her mother’s permission to have sex is ludicrous. i cannot think of a single situation in which that would be appropriate.
    and just for emphasis, i second the idea of a first group date.

  • Femgineer

    When I was 18, I dated a guy on the east coast (I’m in California). We met randomly over AIM, then had hundreds of fantastic conversations over IM and the phone. I’d seen a ton of pictures, and he had a web cam, which he used a couple of times.
    We talked about getting married and him moving out west while I got my degree. We were deeply in love. About 9 months into the relationship, he flew across the country to meet me in person. Before he flew out, I told him that we would probably not be having sex. We made out, but not much else happened. During the entire week of his stay, I felt strange… I later relized that I loved this person, but I felt no chemistry. Needless to say, I ended that relationship and am really happy I didn’t have sex with him.
    As a side note, I was a very mature 18 year old who happened to fall in love with someone I’d never laid eyes on. Falling in love does not an immature person make. Making stupid decisions because one is in love, does.
    To Thanks,
    Maybe for this visit, you don’t have sex with him. If you stay in the relationship, you can have all kinds of sex later. For your first week of physically being around eachother, you may just want to get to know eachother on a non-sexual level. But, if you do choose to have sex, getting a motel room seems like a good idea.

  • Josh Jasper

    This is coming in late, and I’m sorry for that, but one thing that’s not being addressed in responses about your mother is, how would the boyfriend in question feel if you thought you might be ready for sex, and then asked him to stop? I’m not just talking about not stopping, I’m talking about potentially making you feel guilty or getting upset at you.
    That’s something you be sure of before having sex. I wish it wasn’t something people had to assume, but it is, and talking about it can help clear up mistaken assumptions he might have.