Sex Education in the South

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Here in the Lone Star State, the only accepted way of talking to your kids about sex is to say "Just say no" and pretend that's all they need to know. But kids have a way of finding out just the same.

I grew up on a farm in the South. People didn't talk about sex to or in front of kids. People mostly just tried to pretend there's no such thing as sex, when kids are nearby. It's a funny thing, that approach hasn't changed much, despite of the fact that Sex, that huge white elephant in the corner, is on every billboard, every television show, every movie, every song on the radio and every fashion trend our kids come in contact with.

I had to really stretch my memory to come up with my own sex education experiences. Of course I learned the mechanics of reproduction in one of those awkward gender-segregated sex-ed classes in the fifth grade. Weird looking diagrams of internal organs colored blue and red, coupled with strange words that meant nothing. It would be many years before I put together the "Sex" in Sex Education with the physical act I later came to know as "sex." Even after I knew what fucking was, I had no idea it was actually related to those esoteric descriptions the school nurse talked about with her weird diagrams and big words.

I recall hanging out with some teen-aged boys one summer night when I was about eleven or twelve. They were bragging about having "gotten laid."

"Oh, me too," I said. "I did that."

They laughed at me. "You don't even know what that means!"

Of course they were right, but I bluffed myself into an embarrassing reputation.

Sometime later I heard someone mention "screwing" and I asked what does that mean? "It means the same as 'fucking'" was the answer. Now there was an interesting development. I thought fuck was just a curse word, I had no idea it was a verb.

So I pressed my friend for more details and finally learned, to my awe and wonder, what an amazing trick can be performed with nothing more than two sets of genitals, one male and one female.

And of course, living on a farm, I realized that "fucking" was that thing the animals sometimes did when one got on top of the other and thrashed about, when the dogs sometimes got stuck together backward. So proud was I of this amazing knowledge that I began teaching it to my younger cousins. "You know what fucking is?" I'd ask them. Until one of them went off to tell my mother and I developed another embarrassing reputation.

To complete the sex education experience, my girl cousin introduced me to orgasm when I was about twelve. She liked to play naughty games when we were in bed together and she had a curious habit of grabbing my leg and wedging it up between her legs and then squeezing it...humping it like a dog humps your leg, only harder, more direct. And she would begin to breathe heavily and moan, then gasp and shiver, and then let go. If I tried to pull my leg away before she got to the gasp and shiver part, she would complain and beg me to leave it there just a little longer.

Well eventually I had to try that for myself and that's how I found out about orgasm. Once again, it would be years before I would connect that to the "fucking" thing I knew so much about or to the "menstruation and reproduction" thing I had learned in school.

Next came my introduction to contraceptives. My best friend showed up at school one day with an odd little slick packet she said was a "rubber." For preventing pregnancy, she said. It was her dad's. We unwrapped it and played with it most of the day. After school, we hung out at my house and played with it some more. We marveled at the size of it, giggled at the shape. When we were tired of it, we put the unraveled condom in my aunt's purse while she was sleeping on the sofa, then went off laughing to play at the park. Later, I remember hearing my aunt shrieking at my older brothers and my uncles, demanding to know which one of them put a used rubber in her purse. As far as I know, nobody ever suspected me.

How nice it might have been to have all of that knowledge tied together and explained in relation to everything else. Surprisingly enough, the most helpful and accurate information came to me from other adolescents and not from the school nurse or any other adults. I remember learning about venereal diseases in school and being horrified--totally convinced after kissing a boy for the first time, when I discovered a mosquito bite on my inner thigh, that it was a venereal disease from kissing and I was about to die or become horribly disfigured or insane. From kissing a boy. This is what sex ed in the conservative South is teaching our kids, that they might get VD from kissing. I spent one long sleepless night totally spastic with anxiety over this, let me tell you, it would have been nice to have had realistic information to go on.

That is what I hope to give my kids. Unflinching details about several aspects of sex, not just the mechanics and not just the scary stuff about disease and pregnancy. I will not mislead them into thinking that they might get AIDS if they have sex. The truth is, they are more likely to die in a car crash if they get their drivers license than they are to die of AIDS if they have sex at sixteen. Yet we don't scare the bejesus out of them and make them not want to get their license, do we? Then it is simply unfair and wrong to do that with sex.

Whether or not to have sex is a personal choice, I will tell them, and one that should involve some thought, not just impulse. Contraception is a necessary responsibility if they choose to have sex, just like following traffic safety laws is a necessary responsibility if they choose to drive a car. As for disease, well they aren't likely to die of AIDS, but catching one of the other ones would be no picnic either and they should be aware of how easy it is to avoid.

Call me an egomaniac, but I don't want my kids learning about sex from animals in the barnyard or from their buddies or from the clueless school nurse who probably hasn't been laid in fifteen years. I'd like to think they can get most of the information they want and need from their mom and neither of us has to be embarrassed about it.

I also hope that they never try to sneak a rubber into my purse.


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Tess's Room

A lovely tempest, not easily understood, but worth the effort. Sort of like dark bitter chocolate surrounding the sweetest cherry...

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