Talking to kids about sex: Okay, how did I learn?

I've joked about learning about sex from friends, porn or the graffiti on the walls of toilet stalls. While amusing, it begs the question how any of us learn about one of the most fundamental functions of the human body. Is sex competing with politics to be the topic with the most misinformation floating around about it? If I can paraphrase Winston Churchill by saying that never have so many said so much while knowing so little.

A mommy blogger recently wrote about how her 13 year old son was somehow changing, getting more distant, a little quieter, and sometimes argumentative. She brought up about him becoming interested in sex and her fear that he would learn about sex from porn. She wrote that the thought of him thinking [sex] is like it is in porn makes me want to set my own hair on fire. While I chuckled at the hyperbole (I hope she was kidding), I began to wonder how any parent is going to broach a topic which is so personal, so embarrassing yet so natural, and so fraught with dangerous misinformation.

So I thought the best place to start was to tell my story. After all, I don't think I turned out to be a degenerate. [pregnant pause] Okay, some may disagree with that statement but I like to think I bring a certain panache to my degeneracy.

My parents, specifically my Dad, talked to me about sex once, just once. I was sixteen and a half years old and well – sorry Mom and Dad – it was too late. I had been sexually active for five years having discovered spanking the monkey at the tender age of eleven. I don't really remember how I discovered this. When the hormones kick in, do all children "feel" something different and start exploring their own bodies? "Johnny, quit touching your penis!" At the time of Dad's talk, I had gone a full year without my cherry. According to the Kinsey Institute (stats on United States), 20% of boys under 15 have had sex so while I wasn't a trailblazer, I guess was towards the front of the pack. NBC News in reporting on stats from Kinsey, wrote that the average male loses his virginity at age 16.9.

I grew up in the 1960s. No Internet. No DVDs, CDs, or VHS tapes. In fact, there would have been something of a dearth of magazines wink wink nudge nudge. But that didn't mean there wasn't pornography. Nope, being the horny little f**ker I was I did find materials but I have now come to understand my childhood was slightly different (quite different) from today.

I read the James Bond book Dr. No when I was eleven years old. Oooo, I loved spy stuff and James Bond was my hero. Not only did Bond do spy stuff, he got the girl. I wasn't sure once he got the girl what he did with her but whatever it was, it had to have been good so I wanted some.

Now in Ian Fleming's literature, the so-called sex scenes were nothing more than Bond kisses girl, they go into the bedroom and shut the door. End of chapter. Start of next chapter, new scene. There wasn't really anything explicit described; everything was left up to the reader's imagination. However, there was another type of spy novel capitalizing on the success of James Bond which was graphic, very graphic as in pornographic, that I discovered and devoured with relish. With relish? Is there some sort of a joke in there about condiments because a young boy couldn't afford a proper lubricant? American Pie indeed.

I was an avid reader when I was a teenager. Between the ages of 13 and 16, I read a thousand books. That is no exaggeration as I had the books stacked up on shelves in my bedroom and had counted them. Yes I read porn, but I also read science, religion (I read the Bible!), philosophy, science fiction, some of the classics of literature, fiction including detective, murder mystery, and all of James Bond of course, and scads and scads of other things including the texts popular at that time like Readers' Digest Guide to the Family and Dr. Spock (not the Vulcan, but the pediatrician, author of Baby and Child Care) but even more notable feminist works like The Female Eunuch by Germaine Greer. My father was a medical professional and I also studied his books on anatomy.

Everybody knows "Grey's Anatomy", the television medical drama but how many know "Gray's Anatomy", the human anatomy textbook originally written by Henry Gray? The textbook has both black and white and colour drawings of the body labelling everything with proper terms and including descriptions. This is essential material for anyone who wants to become a medical doctor or an expert in finding his way around the female form. By the time I was 14, I could rattle off such terms as fraenulum, perineum, and refractory period. As I said, I was a horny little f**ker but I was also a studious little f**ker.

One of the neighbourhood kids went to a private boarding school. I don't know if members of boarding schools have access to things us normal public school kids didn't, but he lent me a paperback collection of the Marquis de Sade. I read 120 Days of Sodom and Justine and can say that guy had some pretty weird ideas. As an aside, the collection also had the work "Dialogue Between a Priest and a Dying Man" which by the way, has absolutely nothing to do with sex. Wanting to push the envelope, I selected this for my book report in grade 10 in high school. I was the only one out of the entire class who had to hand in a written copy of his report to the teacher before I was allowed to give his oral presentation before the class. Ha ha, I think my teacher saw the name of the author and wanted to make sure I wasn't going to incite the entire class to rip off their clothes and start fornicating on the floor.

I lost my virginity when I was 15 years old. She was nineteen, the older woman. What was the attraction? I was fifteen. Hell I didn't even had a driver's licence never mind having no money other than my allowance from cutting the lawn and other chores. We met on the phone and had some dirty chats. An older friend who was already driving gave me a lift to meet this woman, ah, girl. She took me upstairs and within 5 minutes it was over. Wham, bam, thank you, Ma'am. So that's sex, eh? But that wasn't the end of it, that was the beginning.

Thursday nights in my home town were sort of special because all the stores stayed opened later, usually until 9 o'clock. Everybody including all the kids would go downtown to shop and hang out. I was like everybody else but I wasn't like everybody else. Every Thursday, I would get on the bus and go downtown and sit on the bus as it went by all of the students making the scene. I would stay on the bus and go to the other side of the town where my older woman and I would spend two hours together having sex. What was the attraction in me? She was nineteen. She had a baby. She lived on her own and I have no idea how she made ends meet. I think she was lonely but I also think she was just horny. I was an amusing diversion. No strings, no attachment, no complications, just sex. But not "just sex". Maybe this was the woman to whom I had given up my virginity but I had spent a number of years reading the instruction manual in order to "bone" up for my eventual practical examination. I knew exactly what the labia minora were and where they were; I just had never seen them in real life. Twice she asked me, "Are you sure you haven't had sex before?" I had a partner willing to experiment and I wasn't going to pass up the opportunity of having a live subject with whom I could try out every little fanciful sex idea I had ever had. If I caress you here, what does it feel like? It tickles. What about there? It feels nice. Okay, I will not caress you here but will continue to caress you there.

I would phone every Thursday to verify our weekly tryst was still on as scheduled and still chuckle at this telephone conversation we had once.

Her: Would you buy me a pack of cigarettes?

Me: Ah man, you're not going to make me stop at the store. Why do you smoke?

Her: I'll give you a blowjob.

Me: What brand of cigarettes do you want?

While amusing, it isn't indicative of our sessions. Yes, I discovered oral sex but I mean that I discovered giving oral sex. Acts 20:35 in the Bible gave us the proverb "It's better to give than to receive" and it has been a guiding principal for my entire sexual life. I have no idea how the rest of this woman's life turned out but with me, she had a student who was willing to practise over and over and over and over in order to reach a level of perfection that didn't just get an A plus, but merited a gold star to boot. Is it here I can joke about not knowing how I did on the written exam but my oral presentation was well received?

We eventually went our separate ways and I started dating in a more normal fashion but in retrospect, normal doesn't necessarily translate into good. We all come to the table with our own expectations and our own preconceptions. Where do those ideas come from? Society? Traditions? Family?

High School
Wow, high school, the testing ground for not just social interaction but for social interaction after puberty. Guys want to score and gals want to hold out or at least hold out for the right guy who will keep his big fat mouth shut afterwards. I grew up in a double standard world and we still live in one. Still? When Rush Limbaugh called Sandra Fluke a slut on national radio, it was pretty apparent that if not the collective we, at least some of us had a bit of improving to do. (my blog: Rush Limbaugh: That's spelled with one F and one U)

In looking back at those days, I can't think of a better example of how we are all not on the same wavelength. A guy goes out on a date with so many hormones in his system, it is a wonder he doesn't self-combust. A girl goes out hoping for what? To be liked? I give you love to get sex. You give sex hoping to get love. What a nightmare of miscommunication and bad intentions.

I believe it was during the 3rd year that I began to realize something while examining not only myself, but the behaviour of my friends and acquaintances. We seemed to be spending an inordinate amount of time, energy and money attempting to… well, for lack of a better word, get laid. Hormones gone wild seemed to be the order of the day.

In mulling this over, I began to realize that our behaviour was very much governed by our sex drive. I started asking myself about what would we all do, what would all boys do if we took away the sexual urge? Would we still chase that girl? Would we still ask the girl out? Would we still spend our money to take her to dinner?

I'm going to say something I know will be considered just a tad bizarre, but here goes anyway. At the time, in talking this over with some friends, I wondered out loud what we all would do if we all masturbated before we went out chasing girls. The idea was to remove the sexual urge from the equation and make our relationships or our search for relationships about the person, not just us trying to score. I return to those previous questions. Would we still chase that girl? Would we still ask the girl out? Would we still spend our money to take her to dinner?

At the time, it struck me as an interesting idea but also as a more practical idea. In the long run we would be spending a lot less time, effort and money on things… well, girls who really didn't fit into our long term plans. We guys would save our money and those girls would be spared having to put up with us trying vainly to get into their pants… er, panties. Seemed like a win-win, no? 🙂

I had a great chuckle years later when I saw the movie There's Something About Mary and one guy explains to another the benefits of masturbating before going out on a date.

Dom: You choke the chicken before any big date, don't you? Tell me you spank the monkey before any big date. Oh my God, he doesn't flog the dolphin before a big date. Are you crazy? That's like going out there with a loaded gun! Of course that's why you're nervous. Oh my dear friend, please sit, please. Look, um, after you've had sex with a girl, and you're lying in bed with her, are you nervous? No, you're not, why?

Ted: Cause I'm tired…

Dom: Wrong! It's 'cause you ain't got the baby batter on the brain anymore! Jesus, that stuff will f*** you're head up! Look, the most honest moment in a man's life are the few minutes after he's blown his load – now that is a medical fact. And the reason for it is that you're no longer trying to get laid, you're actually… you're thinking like a girl, and girls love that.
 

Sex vs Love, well at least Like
I confess that I have had a couple of one-night stands. After the sex is out of the way, then what? I'm not saying you have to love the person, but liking them and respecting them is important. As amusing as the quote from the movie is above, I would say it is very true. Post-sex can be a wonderful time of communication and closeness. Sex is off the table (for the moment) and you can concentrate on other things: talking, the sensual, eating, talking, drinking, and of course talking.

Sex without respect and at least like (as opposed to love)? Guys get horny and chase a girl, even a girl they wouldn't normally look twice at never mind being caught dead with. If they catch her, as soon as the sex is done with they will want to get out of there as fast as possible. It is a horrible thing to say but it's true.

I have never forgotten the 1977 film "Looking For Mr. Goodbar" in which a young female teacher looking for love or some emotional connection has an affair with her older, married university professor. They have sex at one point and she wants to cuddle afterwards. He pushes her away saying, "I can't stand the company of the woman I just f**ked."

I was horrified but as a man I understood the feelings. As a man, as a representative of my own sex, I am mortified at such shameful behaviour but I have to come back to the ideas presented above. I'm not saying you have to love the other person (get married, stay together forever), but if you don't like them, if you don't respect them, you have no business having sex with them. You might just as well be home jacking off.

The Hite Reports
In 1974, Shere Hite shocked the world with her revelations in her book The Hite Report on Female Sexuality: 70% of women do not have orgasms through in-out, thrusting intercourse but are able to achieve orgasm easily by masturbation or other direct clitoral stimulation. (Wait. That was a revelation? Hel-lo!) In 1981, she shocked the world again with The Hite Report on Male Sexuality offering up the responses of 7,239 men, 13 to 97 years old:

What they think of women–as wives, lovers, and friends; why a majority of men like marriage but are not faithful; what they think about love–and why they often distrust it; how they feel about giving women clitoral stimulation; why they often masturbate even with a regular sex life…and more. (Amazon)

The most startling revelation I remember from the report on Male Sexuality was the common theme the author discovered in the majority of men: men think women don't like sex. Yep, all us guys think you gals really don't like doing the horizontal mambo. And when I think about it, there are both genetic and cultural influences at play here which bring this situation all about. Guys are oriented towards spreading their seed. Gals are oriented towards creating a safe and stable environment for raising children. Guys sleep around and are considered, well, guys. Gals sleep around and are considered… Where's Rush when you need him? The double standard is alive and well.

How interesting in my life, at the age of 15 and again at the age of 30, to have had an affair with an older woman. There was a different level of openness and honesty. Surprise, surprise, women do like sex but I can see there is an unbelievably confusing mishmash of signals being passed round which would perplex even a genius never mind some poor teenager trying to come into his or her own. Just imagine the pro-life, abstinence only organisation American Life League is trying to shut down Planned Parenthood claiming the service is addicting children to sex. What!?! (my blog: Planned Parenthood: addicting children to sex!!!) Did you know that states which push abstinence only sex education have higher rates of unwanted pregnancies? (my blog: Rick Perry and Sex Education: Abstinence works!)

Final Word
I started off wondering how any parent is going to talk to their kids about sex. I mentioned one mommy blogger worried about her son learning about sex from porn. I know of another mommy blogger who wrote that she wanted her sons to grow up respecting women. Something has to be done but what exactly?

It all comes back to the parents. Sex is going to happen whether anybody likes it or not. Puberty comes and brings with it a veritable tsunami of raging hormones which are going to confuse a teenager and drive him or her partially insane. I'm not advocating your kid go through my teenage years (you may have already run from the room screaming) but I recognize that I came from a household where parents did not speak to their kids about sex. At all. I suppose I didn't turn out too badly but admittedly I'm not perfect. While how any one particular person does on the "playing field" is determined by their own skill, let's not forget that sex (and love and [fill in your own situation]) is a team sport. United we stand, divided we're just spanking the monkey. Yes, our success or failure is dependent on our own skill set, attitude, etc. but it is also in part dependent on the skill set and attitude of our partner.

Despite the old saying, sometimes ignorance is not bliss. From my posting What the @#$%^* do I know about sex?:

Kids are learning about sex from porn. I don't condemn the porn, I ask what happened to the parents or the school system. Do people learn to drive by watching the movie series Fast and Furious showing all sorts of crazy driving? Do people learn about human relationships by watching a Sylvester Stallone movie like Rambo where the taciturn hero kills scores of people?

A female blogger commented:

It is rather shocking how many women don't even know they have three openings on the bottom of their bodies. I think what passes for sex education in our culture is pretty piss-poor, and is causing lots of damage to boot. I'm not against porn per se, but it is not a good educational tool for kids.

Someday your kids are going to take a drink. You should talk with them about alcohol now. Someday your kids are going to be offered drugs. You should talk with them about this now. Someday your kids are going to go out on a date, have a relationship (and gasp sex), and at some moment possibly watch some porn. You should talk with kids about sex, love, and relationships now. Life is not a movie. I think Michael Castleman, a sex educator, summed it all up quite nicely: Pornography is like the chase scenes in action movies—exciting and fun to watch, but definitely not the way to drive. Heck, did I love the opening car chase in the James Bond film Quantum of Solace? (YouTube video) Maybe once in a while I gun my car a bit, but I recognise I am not James Bond and I certainly am not Daniel Craig. Yes I enjoyed the movie but I drive home following the speed limit. (But in saying that life is not a movie, I would also add that life doesn't have to be dull.)

 
Click HERE to read more from William Belle

References

I have written a number of articles on sex, pornography, women's issues, and politics. Consult the Site Map link to browse my literary meanderings.

Wikipedia: American Pie (film)
The lead character is caught masturbating with a pie after being told that third base feels like "warm apple pie".

Wikipedia: Shere Hite
Shere Hite (born November 2, 1942) is an American-born German sex educator and feminist. Her sexological work has focused primarily on female sexuality. Hite builds upon biological studies of sex by Masters and Johnson and by Alfred Kinsey. She also references theoretical, political and psychological works associated with the feminist movement of the 1970s, such as Anne Koedt's The Myth of the Vaginal Orgasm.

my blog: Pornography: An investigation
10 articles; 1 set of conclusions; 58 pages; 22,000 words; 4 weeks of research.
* Porn causes evil? Legitimate studies have found that as the availability of porn in society goes up, the rate of sex related crimes comes down.
* Who buys the most porn? Conservatives.
* People tell personal stories “I know a guy…”, “I heard of a family…” and pass it off as scientific evidence. The plural of anecdote is not data.
* What’s the real problem? We are all so hung up about sex, we can’t talk about it. Because we can’t talk about, we don’t deal with it and hide it. A sad state of affairs. The real problem isn’t so much pornography, it is our own sexuality.

my blog: In Praise of Older Women
I was 30. She was nearly 43. … Why would a woman who is financially independent, who is up the social ladder, want anything to do with a university student who didn't have two pennies to rub together? I asked her. She explained that men her own age were traditionalists. They were pompous, controlling, and sometimes unkind. They had an agenda and they were ofttimes on a power trip. Younger men were different.

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