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My mom and I have the kind of relationship where we can talk about almost anything. Through some telenovela-like incidents, this began to include sex at the age of eighteen. While my parents had given me the sex talk when I was nine, it came from a medical perspective: the purpose of the period and its role in reproduction. It also came with a very obvious undertone: sex was only meant to be done between a married man and woman; a tone which my dad echoed. We never talked about sexual urges being natural; they were little devils meant to be ignored until marriage. As a nine-year-old raised in a Catholic household, this made sense. As a teenager, the logic only proved to be confusing.
I didn’t know how to talk about my body. As I learned about and acted upon masturbation (ironically on my Confirmation retreat), guilt swept over me. It felt as though I wasn’t “strong” enough to resist temptation. Yet, my curiosity could not be stopped. So I took to the internet—primarily, fanfiction. It wasn’t the most accurate (or healthy) portrayal of sex, but it was the closest I was going to get.
Yet, even when my mom and I finally started talking about sex beyond the biological stuff, we failed to see eye-to-eye. After revealing my long curiosity and research, she admitted curiosity was natural, but that didn’t mean I should act on it. Needless to say, I saw her view as outdated and conservative. We’d always end up in very heated arguments.
Until one fateful day…
My college friends introduced me to Jane the Virgin. They raved about the twists and turns; whether they were #TeamMichael or #TeamRafael. But most importantly, they introduced me to a show that talked about sex amongst Latina women. The closest I’ve ever gotten to watching women either be comfortable or talk about sex on TV was Sex and the City, one of my favorite shows during my adolescence; however, it only portrayed the issues of privileged white women.
Jane, on the other hand, I related to. A young Latina dedicated to her education, she made a promise to her Abuela she’d stay a virgin until marriage. While I may have broken that vow, Jane’s struggle to maintain her vow was one I knew all too well.
Not too long after starting the show, I introduced my mom to it. She fell in love with it instantly; not just with the telenovela drama, but the wide range of characters. Together, we watched the spectrum of sexuality amongst the three leading ladies. While I worried at first the storyline and content might put her off (she had a thing against me watching anything mentioning sex), she turned to me and we began talking about sex without fighting.
When serious issues came up, we would begin discussing the topic both in relation to our own lives and how it plays out in society’s views of women with their sexuality. I was able to finally confess how she unintentionally made me feel like a slut for being comfortable with my sexuality; just like Alba made Xiomara feel, despite the fact she was just a “regular woman who enjoys having sex.” I confessed that despite her desire for me to share the happenings of sex life, I never could because of the judgement she would unintentionally sneak in. It led to a reconciliation between us, thus strengthening our relationship.
But it wasn’t just an opportunity to share my feelings and experiences; my mom began sharing her experiences and the reasoning behind her views. When Jane felt guilt for losing her virginity despite being married, my mom had her own revelation of her own guilt. Even though she didn’t completely believe the religious view of sex she grew up with, it did play a role in the way she interacted with it. She had a hard time seeing sex as anything more than an act between a married couple in love. Even when she found it, the guilt still found her as a result of all the years of religious repetition.
Jane the Virgin has allowed me to see my mom in a new light: not just a woman set in her ways, but a woman made of all the intersecting complexities that make us human.
Have any shows allowed you to connect with someone on a deeper level? Let us know in the comments below!