When I look back on my life and try to figure out the exact moment when I realized what sex was, I find it a bit of a letdown that I can’t come up with one. There were always moments that I can say contributed to my not-insubstantial wealth of knowledge on the subject, but no specific one. My mom primarily raised me, and didn’t teach me about sex so much as she didn’t keep me from researching it - the highlights run like a blooper reel.
My mother called the vaginal/labia area “Mimis”. As in, the plural of Mimi. I think it was Hawaiian slang, as I spent the vast majority of my in vitro months in Honolulu before my grand debut. Now, normally this is just a cute folksy family thing, this slang-for-vagina practice, but my mom also called snap dragons mimis, or mimi flowers, because when you pinch the back, they open as if they are singing an operatic aria — the musical note “mi.”
So before my age hit double digits, I had firm association between my female parts, flowers, and music. This made perfect sense to me, but was met with incredulous alienation when the other girls in the playground took their “no no place” and “cookie” teachings to go play among other frigidly raised children instead of the little girl with an imaginative vagina that produced music and flowers. (In a related note, “Cookie”? Wtf is that about?)
I found my mom’s vibrator one day when I was probably about five. I ran around the house with the fleshy 1970’s relic turned on full blast, holding it aloft like the scepter of a sexually liberated relay runner. When I poked my napping mother in the side with it while she dozed on the couch, she made no move to take it away from me, and showed no sign of freaking out and telling me to drop it immediately.
Years later, earning my keep writing marketing for objects much like that one, I wonder if her lack of freakout was when the road to my own comfortable sexual awareness went the right way instead of the route of fear and loathing. I realized many years later in horror, as the memory flitted through my subconscious, what exactly I had been running around with and asked my mom why she DIDN’T freak out. She replied: “I always washed it, and if I grabbed it away from you or scolded you, you would have just gone looking for it again.”
When my mom instructed my father to throw out his Stonehenge-like piles of old Playboys, he did what any man would do: threw out the boring ones and hid a few of the really dirty ones that he wanted to keep under his ten year old daughter’s stuffed animals, (on a shelf too high for her to reach) to come back for later. My father didn’t realize the determination of a young lady to have attendees for the tea party that day, and when I stood on a box to get my Cabbage Patch Kids down for the soiree, my first real view of sex literally hit me in the face. A truly filthy issue of Hustler I read enraptured by curiosity as a tan, oiled woman spread across the pages alongside a story of a cable repair man, a lonely woman, and a banana. After gleefully retelling this story to my day care playmates, my father received a stern phone call and sent me to my room for the rest of my natural life. Mom came home, smacked my father upside the head, and told me to go outside and play.
Sex was like a bomb with a very slow fuse that went off in a glorious burst of a pilfered romance novel, Interview With the Vampire commercials on television, and and a cleverly folded pillow. It was one of the bigger “AHA!” moments in my life. My first self induced orgasm, at thirteen, was a glorious earth-shattering thing during which I actually saw stars.
Years later, it occurred to me that this happened while I was on my stomach with my face buried in a pillow, and that my first orgasm damn near killed me via suffocation. The “stars” were black blooms behind my eyes from my preoccupied but oxygen starved brain.
I remember being confused at the story in the bodice ripper novel, because all that seemed to happen was the man thrusting his “thobbing manhood” between her “nether lips.” I would find out in time that “lips” are slang for “labia” and the story, as well as my ensuing healthy appreciation for performing oral sex, became much more understandable.
–Submitted by That Toy Chick
When I was young, sex was never talked about. I don’t remember ever asking any questions of my parents, I wasn’t a big talker and I’m still not.
About the age of 12 I came home one day to find a book on my bed called “Growing Up.” No one said a word, or asked about the book or what I thought of it. I read it of course, cover to cover, many times. It had a lot of information about puberty mainly, and in the center a separate section about sex and pregnancy. And that was it as far as ‘discussions’ went with my parents. I didn’t talk about sex with my peers either. Now as an adult I am slowly becoming more open, very slowly.
I still have difficulty in saying words relating to sexual activites, even so far as names for all the downstairs equipment. This is making it difficult for me in relation to my son.
He is only five and is slowly realizing that girls don’t have ‘winkies’ so he wants to know what they have and I find myself deflecting his question because I don’t know what to call it. We have no problems with boobies; he knows boys don’t have those (but do have nipples) and also that babies can get milk from them.
I hope that I can be more open than my parents when the time comes for him to start asking the difficult questions. I know I will do more than just put a book on his bed, but first I need to work on being more comfortable with myself.
–Submitted by S.
For the third and (I believe) final time, my household finds itself in topsy-turvy tempestuousness with potty-learning passion.
I really should have a better grasp on how these things work by now. If I consider it rationally, I know that this is a normal progression which in a matter of weeks will be nothing for the boy (or me) but a memory.
Now, however, it is an excellent excuse for extreme histrionics. The theater will lose out on amazing performers if either my eldest or youngest choose any other career. “I can’t peeeee!” he screams from atop the throne. I relent; the instant he scoots off his wee tush the stream breaks loose all over the floor. The tears come next, the heartbreaking weeping of frustrated shame. I assure him that it’s fine, that it takes time for everyone to learn how to put the products of elimination where they belong.
I speak to him but really I’m assuring myself, because it seems now like I’ll be cleaning up hot puddles of urine into perpetuity. In sympathy with the struggle, his sister has managed also to regress. She now refuses to pee when asked, preferring to wait until like a wobbly balloon she cannot control it any longer, at which point she scurries to the bathroom and bursts over the same tiles barely dry from her brother’s baptism moments before. I fear for my sanity and grout in equal measure. Surely by now it must be saturated and nearly rotten from the daily drenchings.
“Point it down, honey,” next time the urge strikes I instruct him while watching from the bathroom doorway. He tries, oh how he tries to aim it toward the bowl (and not his chin), but the second he begins handling himself nature takes its course and back up it springs.
“Quit touching your penis! That’s what’s making it hard!” I’m tempted to shriek. I resist the urge. Living with the parent recently dubbed by the lot of them as the “Weirdest Mommy Ever” will give him more than sufficient material for years upon the analysist’s couch. He needs no more angst in the form of his mother’s frantic commentary on the state of his equipment. I watch instead calmly, the very model of smiling, confident support.
After a week of sodden floors, towels, pull-ups and clothes, I begin to see some progress. He’s independently worked out a way to keep everything pointing south without too much interference from his hands; I’m relieved he got this on his own, for what do I know of peeing penis positioning? Nothing. I know nothing.
But he’s getting it, so much so that he can now manage pull-ups almost on his own. Almost I say; yesterday terrified cries pulled me to the bathroom where I found him looking into his pants. “It’s coming off!” he wept, and after the moment it took me to reconcile the different views we both had of the situation, I could see why he was so terribly distressed.
Somehow he’d managed to hitch up the training pants with his little package pushed rudely off to the side. Peering down from the top he could see only a sliver of penis, a section of testicle. It never occurred to him to look on the outside for his junk. Junk necessarily is on the inside. The poor child.
He will remember his mother as The One Who Re-Found My Package. This is good, I think. At least it’s better than being the Weirdest Mommy Ever.
—Submitted by aag
My father’s side of the family is Finish. My father, though born in North America, was raised in a tightly knit and traditional Finnish community. The language and culture are his first language and culture. This, among other things, means we have a sauna at my cottage and I have been going in the sauna since before I was born (my mother spent a couple months of both her pregnancies with me and my brother soaking in the warmth). This also means I have been going into saunas the traditional way for as long as I can remember– naked. And I’ve never thought there was anything weird about it.
When it comes to the sauna, the Finnish people do not have the western sense of body shyness or shame. I have sat as naked at the day I was born with family, friends and even completely strangers (though always friends of the family) of all ages and sexes, and never felt uncomfortable. The sauna is not a sexual thing. It is a social, relaxing and cleansing custom.
So, there has never been a time when I have not known exactly what the human body looks like and the differences between men and women. I have always known the proper anatomical names for things and was never shy to use words like breasts, penis, scrotum, vulva or vagina. I grew up without a sense of shame about my body or anyone else’s.
Sadly, some of that has changed. Like most North American women, I have fallen victim to our culture of negative body-image. I feel I am fat and worry about what I look like. I wish I could return to my more innocent days when I took the whole spectrum of human body shape for granted.
As a child, I learned quickly that this was not the norm and that what my family did shocked most other people. I learned to just not talk about it so as not to make other people feel uncomfortable. Though I never apologized for it.
The sauna was just one significant element of an overall open and sex positive childhood that has allowed me to at least become comfortable with my sexuality if not the size of my tummy and thighs.
–Submitted by A.
“Dad are you wearing mom’s jeans?” the 10yr old son asks.
“No, they’re my jeans.” They are low rise stretchy denim with flared legs and I hike them up a bit to make sure my pink panties aren’t peeking out the top.
“I’ve seen him wear those before,” says the 17yr old. “They’re girl jeans. Don’t you think those are girl jeans?” He asks the new girlfriend. “First painted toe nails now girl jeans, mom is turning you into a woman.”
“And don’t forget he even had painted finger nails that matched his toes for a while last summer,” says the younger kid, pulling off a sock to show the new girlfriend that they’re not making it up. “If mom told you to wear a dress and a purple wig you would do it wouldn’t you?”
The new girlfriend is clearly rattled by the conversation and my pretty pink toenails. ♀ saves the day by announcing that dinner is ready.
I wonder if this is the best approach with the kids; letting them see a little bit at a time. It is possible that either of them could walk in on me and me see fully dressed en femme and that wouldn’t be so good. I could sit them down and tell them straight out that I’m a cross-dressing sissy and explain what that means. Though that could be difficult since ♀ are still exploring that ourselves.
Also, the younger kid is only with us part time. Would his mother haul my frilly ass back to court for deviant behavior?
When we picked him up from school on Halloween, ♀ told him she wanted me to go to the school dressed as a woman (for a costume), but that we’d ran out of time. She asked if he would have been embarrassed. He laughed and said no, he thought it would have been hilarious.
I don’t think either kid would be very surprised. ♀ & I have been painting each others toenails for years, they’ve seen some unusual clothing choices, they know I brush and braid mom’s hair every night. And neither of them expect me to be a ‘normal’ dad, what ever the hell that means.
If it was my dad and I was their age…hmmm…. I think I would probably accept it, but I think I would prefer not to know about it. The thought of my dad in a dress with fake boobies and a wig is not an image I want to dwell on.
–Submitted by Sweat Shop Sissy
A few nights ago, the princess and I finished reading “The Marvelous Land of Oz” by L. Frank Baum. Written in 1904, it details what happens to the boy Tip, who runs away from the witch Mombi. In the end (spoiler following!), the sorceress Glinda forces Mombi to admit that the boy Tip is actually enchanted, and that Tip is really the Princess Ozma, who disappeared from the Emerald City when the Wizard arrived and deposed King Pastoria.
My daughter found the scene in which Mombi un-enchants boy-Tip to girl-Ozma to be hysterical, clearly trying to work out how one would change a boy into a girl. “Mama! The witch had to CUT OFF HIS PENIS! And then he was a girl!” Then she shook her head. “But, but boys can’t become girls!”
“Well, actually, they can,” I imparted. “But it takes a long long time. Certainly longer than it took Mombi to change Tip.”
She considered this. “REALLY?” She seemed quite fascinated for a moment and then asked, “Does it hurt?”
“Yes, I would imagine so. There are doctors and surgeries and medicenes.”
She wrinkled her nose. “Ugh! What if I was a boy? That would be yucky. Then I couldn’t marry my [male kindergarten friend].”
“Why couldn’t you?” I asked.
“He wouldn’t like me so much if I was a boy,” she said firmly. “And ’cause then we couldn’t HAVE A BABY,” she informed me.
Of course, I wanted to follow up on this announcement by pointing out that male-male relationships can in fact have children through a surrogate, and then there is the entire transgender discussion to have. But it was 8:30 on a school night and I was tired, even if she wasn’t. So I comforted myself by pointing out that I’d already disclosed that boys could become girls and reminded her that boys could marry boys.
“Sweetheart,” I said, putting the book away and switching off the light. “The marrying part comes BEFORE the baby part.” (Hey, I will discourage teen pregnancy. Will, will, will. Will put her on birth conrol, if necessary.)
She sighed dramatically. “I know, and I have to go to school FIRST to learn to be an animal doctor. Before we can have the baby.”
“Exactly,” I said. Thank goodness for college funds.
–Submitted by sparkle from Life In Motion
My mother was born in 1908. Me in 1953. For a woman who had four husbands and numerous boyfriends, you’d think my mother would have been all over the sex talk thing. You’d have thought wrong. She never once mentioned sex, penises, vaginas or how babies are made.
She actually bestowed this gem on me on the night before my wedding: “Use the Margaret Sanger method to prevent getting pregnant.” WTF? I’d been on birth control pills for three years. Who the hell was Margaret Sanger? If my BFF’s mother wasn’t as open as a barn door and I wasn’t as curious as all get out, today I’d be Susan Boyle without the voice! When my daughter was dropped off by the stork in the cabbage patch, I knew that I’d right up front with her about sex, love, pregnancy and disease, among other things.
As she grew, I did what I believed were age appropriate sex talks with her. Books were read, pictures shown, etc. I took her for her first GYN exam and went with her when she filled the birth control pill prescription. I was a good post-sexual revolution mother. I felt confident that my daughter would make proper and informed choices. While talking openly and honestly about all that sex has to offer, you cannot know (even your own offspring’s) what goes on in their twisted teenage brain.
At 2:30 AM not long after her 17th birthday, my daughter woke me up to tell me “we had to talk.” If you think having “The Talk” with your children will be scary, them wanting to “Talk” to you is Hannibal Lecter scary! She told me she’d had sex for the first time a couple months ago and only now realized that the boy was “an asshole of the nth degree.” She cried about her “mistake.” She was bereft that the choice she’d made was so wrong.
At 2:45 AM on a hot, summer morning, I held my newly deflowered daughter while she sobbed. All my efforts in education seemed to have been for naught. I didn’t say anything while she cried, I just held her as I did when she was a baby. She needed comfort not criticism. I also realized that being a parent was like being a tenured professor – you didn’t stop teaching until you died.
Her tears were drying as I discovered that they had used condoms because she wanted to be safe from disease. She had enjoyed sex but didn’t think it was like, “in the movies.” She was terribly hurt that she “chose the wrong one for the first.”
While I couldn’t change that, I did tell her she needed to go over the whole experience in her mind, take out the best parts to savor and to build on in the future. I told my daughter that even though her boyfriend had turned out to be an idiot, she had seen something in him that made her want him to be first. She needed to focus on that good point, not dwell on the bad ones.
I compared her fledgling sexual experience to those of her taking her first steps as a baby. When she first started, she fell. She got bruised and bumped. Yes, she cried sometimes. But she didn’t give up. Now she s able to walk, run, skip, jump, climb, swim and dance. I said, learning about sex and making love was the same, after some false starts, you eventually learn the steps to a wonderful, exciting, mind-blowing dance.
My daughter told me recently that she’s glad she had a supportive, understanding instructor while she was learning. She also mentioned how much she loves to “dance” now that she has the right partner.
–Submitted by nitebyrd from A Dust Bunny in the Wind
My parents never told me anything. Learning about sex in the late 70s-early 80s was like taking an independent study course with a couple of professors who couldn’t be bothered to keep office hours.
I was a first-born, serious girl. I had spent my preschool years playing outdoors with my older male cousins. Sometimes our games were sexually charged: as a result, I knew what boy parts looked like and that they didn’t have to sit down on the toilet. I knew I liked being tied up as we re-enacted various Bugs Bunny cartoons, but I couldn’t say why. I had seen a medical textbook of my father’s when I was very young; the image of a cross-section of a woman’s abdomen with an upside-down baby inside was burned into my memory. I had seen big women like this and was able to conclude that babies come from inside women. But how did they get there? A man giving a woman “a special kind of hug,” as my mother explained it, seemed insanely vague.
When I was 11, Mom gave me a pamphlet called “Growing Up and Liking It,” which featured a dated photograph of a smiling blond teenage girl in a blue dress on the cover. The pamphlet described menstruation and really seemed to push Modess (”rhymes with oh yes!”) sanitary napkins. Included in the pamphlet was an insert about bras. This was lavishly illustrated with drawings of fabulous, impossibly-stacked women wearing various bullet bras and did little more than cause me to become fascinated with fabulous, impossibly-stacked women wearing various bullet bras. The menstruation information, however, was old news. They had already shown us The Film at school. And that, apparently, was all we needed to know about sex. Except they were skipping what seemed to be the most interesting part!
Being self-reliant, I set out to learn about sex via the only tools I had available to me: books. I knew the act was called sex, so I consulted Webster’s Student Dictionary, but looking up “sex” was a big disappointment to say the least.
I turned to fiction for help. Judy Blume seemed to know what was going on, and I pored over Are You There God, It’s Me, Margaret (useful, but not about sex), Then Again, Maybe I Won’t (inscrutable at the time because it was a boy’s story, but I knew I was on to something), and Deenie, which described what I later understood to be the miracle of masturbation. Deenie talked about getting in the bathtub, rubbing herself somewhere–I don’t think she ever said exactly where–with a washcloth, and getting a “really nice feeling.” So, of course, I tried rubbing my body in various places such as my stomach and arms with a washcloth, but I never experienced a sensation beyond “washcloth feeling.” Eventually it occurred to me to try Down There, but I didn’t know what to do or how long to do it, giving up after possibly ten seconds. “It must be something weird that only Deenie does,” I concluded. I mean, the girl had problems.
Strangely, I didn’t connect this Deenie thing with what I sometimes did in bed to fall asleep. I would close my eyes and imagine some elaborate scenario in which I was tied to a chair, tree, or pole. Bad guys would be lurking around in a threatening kind of way, about to do something to me, whatever that might be. Some heroic man, usually faceless but probably also Christopher Reeve-ish (I had a crush on Superman), would rescue me. As I thought about this, my hand casually migrated south, not doing much beyond just being there, providing warmth. I never came close to having an orgasm and had never even heard of the word at the time.
Things continued like this until I entered high school. At age 14, I was in a hospital waiting room as my little sister was being born. Bored out of my mind, I started reading the hospital’s offerings from cover to cover. I came across a Redbook with an excerpt from a popular romance novel reprinted on pulpy, peach-colored paper. The story’s heroine described an encounter with her lover and said something about “how good it felt to have him inside me.” This concept was a complete revelation to me: the man has to be inside the woman! It all makes sense to me now!
–Submitted by K.
I endeavor to avoid writing about politics on this blog, except when politics intersect with sex. I avoid politics because I don’t want how I feel about deficit spending, or gun control, or NAFTA or other rancorous issues to become entangled in how people understand my films. So much at I might be tempted to vent, I don’t. Not usually.
Some background. Peggy and I have two children, two daughters, one seven and a half, the other not yet two. Before I became a parent, the guiding star for my work was that I did not want to do anything I would be embarrassed or ashamed to show to my mother. After I became a parent I stopped looking back and started looking forward. My daughter became my new star, and my new guidance was that I did not want to do anything that I would be embarrassed or ashamed to explain, when the time came, to my daughter.
What we tell our older daughter about our work is calibrated to what she knows about sex. She knows about reproduction, and is fascinated by the workings of genetics (I am a recessive blue dark-eyed person, Peggy has fair eyes. There have been many discussions about Mendelian principals.) She knows the proper names of her sex organs so far as she’s asked, which is to say that she knows her vagina is different from her vulva. She knows the name of my sex organs too. She knows that her mother’s body is different from hers, and that when she is older, she will get breasts and pubic hair, and her body will change from being a straight-sided child’s body to a more or less curvy woman’s body. She knows about menstruation. I also know that she knows that people who love each other enjoy being close to each other, and I think she understands that although there are many similarities in the way that she snuggles with me or her mother, there is also something different in the way that Peggy and I snuggle, that it means something different when mommy and daddy snuggle. She knows about eggs and sperm, and how babies grow in their mother’s tummies. She knows that babies emerge from their mothers’ vaginas.
She has yet to ask just how the sperm gets into mommy’s tummy. When that day comes, I’m not sure what I’m going to tell her, except that whatever it is, it is going to be the truth. Against this understanding of her knowledge, we tell her that we make films about the good feeling that it gives people to be close to someone they love, and the good feeling it gives people to hear stories about that good feeling and see people who are in love.
Back to politics. A couple of months ago, on the way to drop my daughter off at school, she asked me about the war in Iraq. I did my best to explain in simple, objective facts, without betraying my own bias. I thought I was doing pretty well until she asked me, “Who started it?”
I felt myself freeze for a moment, then I said, “We did, honey.”
“We did?” bewilderment running across her face. “Why?” We had arrived at school and I was let off the hook.
“If you want, we can talk about this some more after school,” and politics did not come up again, until last night. Last night our daughter asked me why people are saying we torture people. “Why are people saying we torture people?”
How do you answer that question? How do you calibrate your answer against what you think your child knows about stress positions and water-boarding and the Geneva Convention and the blast radius of a suitcase nuke? After a bit of hesitation, I told her, as simply and gently as I could, what I believe to be the truth.
There is a lot of worrying in our country about what happens if children are exposed to sexual ideas or sexual imagery before they are ready to understand it. I think these concerns have merit, but I also think part of my responsibility as a parent is to give my children the knowledge they need to, as best they can, understand and incorporate sexuality as a part of the human experience and as a part of their own experience. To my mind, this is the best prophylactic against their inappropriate exposure to sex, and to mitigate whatever ill effects it might have.
It’s hard to know if you’re doing too much, or not doing enough, but Peggy and I bumble along as best we can. But as ill prepared as I might feel about being my daughter’s guide on her journey from a child’s understanding and experience of sex to that of an adult, I am far far less prepared to be her guide in a world where her own government subjects prisoners to water-boarding and other “enhanced interrogation techniques.” When I was her age, I was indoctrinated in the idea that we simply didn’t do things like this in America, and that’s what made us different and better than our mortal adversary, the Soviet Union. I was taught this difference was something worth making sacrifices for, worth killing for, even worth dying for if need be. I was indoctrinated in these ideals and I still believe in them. I don’t know how to explain torture to my daughter without becoming confused and angry.
Compared to explaining torture, explaining why mommy and daddy make dirty movies seems like a walk in the park. Perhaps some of you think I’m naive, and perhaps you even disagree with me. If so, I hope you will chalk it up to the same idealism that has sustained our efforts to make our films, and excuse this outburst as the ranting of an overwrought parent who only wants the best for his children, and wants them to grow up in a country that is regarded throughout the world as a place that is different and special.
–Submitted by Tony from Comstock Films
Picture this: he and I, sitting with Gander in the hammock. The weather is lovely, serene. He’s cuddly, something rare in an bouncy 8 year old. “Mom” he says, “I learned a new word today.”
“Really?” say I.
“Oh, goodness, what on earth does that mean?” I offer while glancing in an amused fashion at Gander.
“They’re BOOBS! And there is a whole restaurant about them! Alex said so in class!!!!”
While pondering the wisdom of continuing the conversation, and also wondering just how on earth Alex knows of this dining mecca, I say, “You mean breasts, honey.”
Always use the proper lingo.
“Do you think that sounds like a good place to go? I mean? Is it ok for a restaurant to just be about breasts?” I ask? Surely a teachable moment, this is.
“Yeah!” he says (naturally).
“Well, what if there was a restaurant that only had men waiters and they wore tight tight pants and it was called….Butt-ers? Would that be ok?
He breaks into gales of laughter. I don’t think it was the genius juxtaposition of my male to female sexism that got him going, nor was it an age old sense of male privilege at the very idea of men in hot pants.
I had said “Butt”.
“I’m gonna tell everyone we are opening a restaurant called “Butt-ers” he giggled and ran off.
My future with the Parents Association is tenuous at best.
The children are our future, and I think they want to go to Hooters.
–Submitted by Goose from Living In Outlaw Territory