Series disclaimer: HA’s “Let’s Talk About Sex (Ed)” series contains frank, honest, and uncensored conversations about sexuality and sex education. It is intended for mature audiences.
Pseudonym note: The author’s name has been changed to ensure anonymity. “St. George” is a pseudonym.
My youth pastor once told me the story of how his parents gave him “The Talk”. You know the one I mean. Apparently, his mother walked into the room and said, out of the blue and with no prologue, “Gary, soon you’re going to have certain feelings about girls. Just make sure you don’t get it in her.” She then exited the room, leaving Gary hopelessly confused.
Sometimes, I envy him. He received better instruction than I did.
You see, my parents didn’t talk to me about sex at all. I mean I suppose it was a more open subject in our family than in some. But I never received anything even remotely resembling “The Talk”.
Instead, we got the internet. I don’t know if the two were related in my parents’ minds or not. Probably not.
So there I was. Little guy, totally lost in the woods of human sexuality, not a clue how the trees grow in that forest, but absolutely sure that there must be an explanation.
For a long time, I thought that the phrase “sleeping together” was to be taken literally. I had cunningly deduced that pregnancy occurred when a man and a woman slept in the same bed at the same time. This explained why those people on TV always seemed to be acting so enthusiastic and yet secretive about what I assumed were romantic activities — after all, it must be difficult to find time to fall asleep together for several hours and not get woken up.
I remember a family vacation from around that time in my life. The entire family was sharing one hotel room to save money, and it was determined that I would share a bed with my two sisters. I was terrified, and after I was sure my parents were asleep, I slipped out of bed and slept on the floor that night. I couldn’t imagine what kind of sick bastards my parents must be for thinking I was ready to be a father, and with my own sisters no less.
Eventually, as no further sign of my parents’ mental illness emerged, I reasoned that I must not have figured out all the details on this “sex” thing everyone seemed so keen on.
The game was afoot once more.
By this time, my powers of deduction had begun to emerge. I had heard it rumored that men and women were “different”. This much seemed obvious; obviously, women had longer hair. As I thought more about this, however, I realized that my aunt had very short hair. There must be more, I thought.
If I hadn’t noticed any other significant difference, then the difference must be on a part of the body that was hidden. From there, I made the necessary deductions rather quickly. It’s all a matter of engineering, and I’d played that peg game at Cracker Barrel before. Of course, now I understand that these deductions were guided by instinct as well, but it certainly felt as though I were performing some sort of arcane conjecture, a modern alchemist speculating on the very meaning and nature of life itself.
But how to confirm my theories? This was what troubled me. Then, I remembered: the internet. That tool for finding animated Pokemon cursors, for downloading favorite sound clips from Star Wars and M*A*S*H? Perhaps it could help me in this matter.
And that is how I came to Ask Jeeves: “sex?”
It wasn’t a real question, but it was enough to point Jeeves in the right direction. As he retrieved resources to educate me, my heart started to beat faster. I hadn’t really thought about it before, but suddenly I realized that I was probably doing something that would displease my parents.
Ever have quests for knowledge been so opposed by those in authority. Like any true scientist, I remained resolute in curiosity and jumpy in disposition, listening for the sound of my mother returning from…actually, I have no idea where she was.
But she stayed there, as Jeeves began to educate me. It wasn’t enough, he was using big words. I needed something more instructive. Like a video.
Jeeves! “sex video?”
Now, Jeeves was asking me lots of strange questions. “Asians”? Why, does it work different in Asia? I want to know how it works in America first, we can start cross-cultural studies later, Jeeves. Something about pictures of money. I wasn’t interested in that; I knew what money looked like. “Amateurs”? No, I wanted an expert to teach me about this stuff.
Eventually, God only knows how, I actually got to a video. On a dial-up connection. Yeah. You can be impressed at my tenacity now. I’ll wait.
I honestly don’t remember what sort of video it was. With what I know now, it’s a miracle I didn’t pick up some very strange ideas about sexuality that day.
Regardless, my suspicions were confirmed. I knew How It Worked now. My afternoon then proceeded much as usual, with Pokemon and the Legend of Zelda. Somehow, I had the presence of mind and tech savvy to clear the browsing history. As far as I know, my parents never discovered what had happened. They certainly never mentioned it to me. It certainly no longer mattered to me — the mystery had been solved, it was time to move on.
Unfortunately, I developed into a very insecure person, for reasons that had nothing to do with sexuality and everything to do with…well, with me. I’m just that way.
The point is that even today, because I was never “formally educated” in matters of sexuality, there persists a lingering doubt in the back of my mind. That is, I doubt my knowledge of sexuality and sexual behavior. Like, what if there are dragons involved? There could be dragons involved.
I don’t think there are dragons involved.
But then again, nobody experienced in such things has ever explicitly told me that there are never any dragons involved. What if I’m, like, with my wife someday and we’re all like happy times but then a dragon bursts through the wall all like RAWR!!! and my wife is all kill it using the ancient secret method and I’m like fuck fuck fuck what the fuck is the ancient secret method how do I even?
(These aren’t rational fears. I get that.)
When I’m able to take a step back from my anxieties, to examine my thoughts rationally, I’m actually not worried about dragons or anything so fanciful. But I don’t like to approach anything serious without what I feel is an adequate explanation of what to expect. I get the same sort of fears about paying my taxes, or taking a required drug test, or applying for a job.
My point is, talk to your kids about sex. Also, talk to your kids about dragons. But mainly the sex thing.
Growing up is a process fraught with insecurities and fears already, without worrying about things like whether it’s possible to accidentally commit incest.
Maybe you can’t talk to your kids about sex. Maybe you just don’t know how to have that conversation, or perhaps (like me!) you’re too insecure in your own perception of sexuality and sexual issues to address your child’s questions in a helpful and reassuring way. In that case, consider trusting someone else with the responsibility – a family member, perhaps. Someone trustworthy.
Just get it done.
That way, when your kid grows up and hears he needs to “bring protection”, he’ll grab some condoms instead of a sword and shield.