It all started with
Julia Sweeney's sex ed monologue. Sweeney riffs on a conversation she had with her eight-year-old daughter about the mating practices of frogs…and humans. Sweeney’s daughter’s reaction to the straightforward description of how a woman’s egg gets fertilized – “Well…the sperm comes out of [the man's] penis” – was dead on. “Her face twisted up with a look of disgust.”
I think disgust followed jaw-dropping disbelief in my own case. If my mother had not backed up her story with a book by an actual doctor that included a series of remarkably convincing line drawings accompanied by descriptive text, I’m sure I would have walked away from our talk with my stork-filled sky variant on the facts of life well intact.
current advice, my mother did not expound on the reasons anyone would want to do “it” – other than to make a baby, of course. “The talk” was heavy on anatomy and reproduction, including the basics of sexual intercourse and it’s primary purpose: pregnancy. It notably did not cover sexuality or sexual behavior more broadly defined, birth control, sexually transmitted diseases, or sexual decision making in the context of teens’ social lives. I credit my initial reaction to the idea of sex, underscored by more exposure to childbirth and more childcare experience before my first date than some people enjoy in a lifetime (my younger siblings numbered seven, with two still in diapers, on my 16th birthday), for effectively preventing teen sex and unintended pregnancy in my own case.
It worked so well that when my eldest daughter, Reiley, blurted, “That’s gotta hurt” upon learing that babies emerge naked from “a special opening between the mommy’s legs,” I went with it. “Yes, it does!” I agreed. And I confirmed her corresponding reluctance to welcome any intrusions into her “girl parts,” and prepubescent commitment to delay dating until she is 30. I could have seized the moment to discourse on the potential physiological, emotional, and social ills associated with sex, or to assure her that she would change her mind when the right “one” comes along. But I didn’t.
Rather, I chose to honor my daughter’s gut response to sex – empower her to say, “No” – not because I want Reiley to think sex is” sinful,” or so earthshaking that it requires waiting, but simply because she doesn’t want any part of it yet. Despite the likelihood that there is some super mature 14 year old out there who enjoys sex and is physically ready and protected as well as emotionally prepared for a sexual relationship, I think Reiley’s current ban on boys is both appropriate and healthy at her age.
This was the gist of my contribution to the shocking discussion during Jeanna’s Cinco de Drinko party Saturday – a truthful chat about the damage our parents’ efforts to instill their values about sex can do to us, about social pressure to form relationships and solidify them with sex, about how difficult it can be to make the “right” decision, about male prerogatives, about the embarrassment and stickiness of the physical act itself, and, yes, about the babies.
Susan Maushartargues that women need to drop the giddy “mask” of motherhood. I think sex deserves the same treatment. It’s time to talk about it.