Tuesday, February 26, 2013

Sex Ed with Friends

Mosaic Mural in Christopher Street Subway station
Today's prompt asks if I think sex education should come from the parents, the school, or a mix of both? But the answer I want to give is that none of this matters because kids learn everything about sex from their friends. Or at least I did, friends, peer pressure, and pop culture. When I was in the first grade I sneaked behind the couch while my parents were watching Beverly Hills Cop II and I caught the scene where Eddie Murphy is holding a turtle and asks, "Do turtles have dicks?" as he looks underneath it. For whatever reason, I got what he meant and the next day at school I pointed at my friend Matthew's pants and informed him and the entire first grade that he had a dick.

In third grade, my mom sat me down and gave the sex talk but all I remember is her pointing her finger through an "O" she made with her other hand. As a kid, sex made no more sense to me than nose piercings or clowns. Why would someone do that? 

In the middle of 5th grade, I was taken out of my private Christian school in sleepy Canoga Park and put into a public school butted up against the LA River in North Hollywood. It was at this school where my sex education flew to new heights. Girls in the 6th grade were supposedly having sex and one of my friends was dating a much older guy who wrote her love letters describing his hard-ons. I became terrified of sex, of boys, of maturing. The following year, when it was past the time when I needed to start wearing a training bra, I can remember being sent home for not wearing one and only wearing a threadbare white tee-shirt, unaware of its revealing nature. For the rest of the year I wore a hoodie, even into the 90 degrees days of June.

In 6th grade, I think my aunt Gail gave me the period talk and my aunt Rose gave me a book called Women's Bodies  or something like that but she ripped out most of the pictures which she felt were too graphic. At eleven years old, I probably did not need to see pictures of a herpes breakout, however, to the curious mind, this censorship was beyond frustrating and left literal holes in my sex education. In the end, none of it really mattered because I got my period two years after the fact just before a volleyball game and I remember it being the most anti-climactic experience of my life. I remember thinking, THIS is what it means to be a woman?! followed up by my next thought which was How long do I have to have a period for? When does it end?! To this day, I can tell you nothing about how ovaries and Fallopian tubes and uteri all work. I was, however, the first one of my friends to use a tampon because I could not stand having a period.  I think I used them within months of having my first period. I can remember reading the directions in the box, following the diagrams. And a friend recently remind me that I actually coached her behind a bathroom door how to do it and what it should feel or rather NOT feel like.

In the 7th or 8th grade I remember girls talking about blow jobs which I pictured as the literal interpretation. I think you get my point. When I learned what it actually was, I vowed I would never do something like that. Oh, but high school, you were waiting just around the corner to scare the shit out of all of us.

You might ask, what about school? Having gone to Catholic school in 7th and 8th grade and a Catholic high school, I didn't get sex ed until freshman year of high school where our PE teacher passed around a diaphragm that was rumored to be hers. In hindsight, I am sure it was not. But, all I took away from that class was the incredible amount of discomfort I had with the subject and the shame I felt it knowing so much less than everyone around me. So....I faked it. Whenever, girls brought up conversations about sex, I just stayed quiet or laughed at their jokes and that's pretty much how I learned everything, for better or worse.

While I would say my experience is unique because my mom was not around during those pubescent years, I have learned that many of my girlfriends who grew up with moms and sisters had experiences not that far off.  When the time comes for me to be on the teaching end of that topic, I hope to be able to create the space for my kid to feel maybe not necessarily comfortable but safe enough to ask me any question in the world. I think it is up to the parents to do the best they can, because I'm not sure how much kids absorb in formal class setting teaching about sex ed and the rest, well, the rest is just hearsay.


SteveB said...

Hah! As a 12y Catholic school survivor, I can tell you that I learned everything on the schoolyard and that of course 80% of it was misinformation!

For the record, clowns still don't make any sense.

Lindsey Anthony-Bacchione said...

So much misinformation!!

Lindsey Anthony-Bacchione said...

I should add that I have also come to appreciate/envy nose piercings and respect clowning as performance art! (For all my friends who have/do either of these!)

daleboca said...

we had great sex ed during mini term (2 weeks per year) that was age appropriate from 4th -8th grade. hear i learned what menstruation was (sounded like a disease), blow jobs (no breath needed) and butt fucking (why would boys like to rub butts) were. our progressive and crunchy school actually did a great job answering questions and de-sensationalizing the myriad of weird and enigmatic terms that were out there.

Unknown said...

this is hilarious. and so true. what is it about the 6th grade that brings on all the bj & sex talk? I started St. Charles in the 6th grade and immediately found out which girls in my class were going down in the basement giving out BJs to the boys and having sex un the stage in the auditorium. Of course I'm pretty sure it was all BS but we all called her a slut anyway... which she must have enjoyed being called because she was the one telling all of us what she was doing down there, lol.

Lindsey Anthony-Bacchione said...

Oh, Middle School! So many hormones, so many rumors. I definitely remember hearing some auditorium rumors at St. Charles.