Dear Straight Talk: I’m 16, sharing a room with my 13-year-old sister because our single-parent mom can’t afford otherwise. My sister snooped, found my hidden condoms and now she’s blackmailing me. I have to pay her from my part-time job, which barely covers my expenses, make her bed and clean her part of the room. If she tells, I’ll be grounded and probably unable to see my girlfriend anymore. My girlfriend and I both turn 17 this year, have over a B average and have never been in trouble. You might say we shouldn’t be having sex at our age, but it’s not uncommon and I’m writing about the blackmail. — Blackmailed in Sacramento
Brie, 22, San Francisco: Your sister is watching too much “Gossip Girl.” Tell your mom yourself. I was sexually active at 16, as are many others. You’re being safe, you’re earning your own money. Being honest shows additional responsibility. This warrants a sit-down talk, not grounding. Take the high road and don’t tattle on your sister. She sounds stressed, and open communication with your mom will set a good example. I hardly told my mom anything in high school, and I regret that. Parents can be surprisingly understanding.
Taylor, 16, Santa Rosa: I’d be tempted to dig up a secret about her. But, no, don’t add to the game. Chances are she’s bluffing, so just tell her you can’t afford to pay anymore, which is true. If she does tell, big deal. Your mom knows you’re having sex. She probably did, too, at your age. You’re grounded for a while, then it’s over.
Dear Blackmailed: Telling your mom yourself is the unanimous advice from the panel — and they do consider questions independently. I always encourage minors to wait as long as possible before having even safe sex — and if they are sexually active, to tell their parents. Anyone who’s had an accidental pregnancy, debilitating heartache, or a STI understands why I encourage this.
That said, Taylor’s advice to call your sister’s bluff will probably work. Enlighten her that blackmail is a felony and age-of-consent violations such as yours aren’t even charged. If she tells, put your best foot forward and show your maturity. — Lauren
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