Some people claim to have bad memories. But asked if there is one memory that sticks right there as vividly as it were yesterday, many people define it as that moment they learnt about sex. It's interesting asking adults about the moment they learnt what sex was. Everyone’s experience is so different and more often than not, it is a memory tinged with laughter and nostalgia. Unfortunately for others, it is surrounded by shame and secrecy. For me, I am lucky it is the former. And here is my story.
I grew up in the country and attended a wonderful little village school that was like an extended family. These were such happy days and the presence of media and advertising rarely penetrated. Multi-coloured king-fu shoes were about the height of fashion awareness: functional clothes ruled. We gained status from how fast we could run and how long we could reign champion at four square or padder tennis. My parents had grown up in the city and were determined to experience all manner of menagerie on our 3 acre block – chickens, donkeys, goats, sheep, calves, ducks... and we kids were witness to mating, births, deaths and even vet students castrating our pet donkey (the operation photographed in graphic detail by my Dad and placed in the family photo album). In light of this, my naivety around sex was astonishing.
When I was nine my parents casually gave me the seminal tome “Where Did I Come From?” and I duly opened the pages. The book is filled with pictures of a nude couple who bath and then hop into bed together. The text tells you that sex is a really tight hug that makes you wiggle. Then something happens that feels like a sneeze, "but much better." I was horrified. People do THAT with each other? I just couldn’t believe that this was how babies were made!. Even worse, I had a younger brother and sister, so my parents had done this THREE TIMES!
Later my parents and I sat down in the lounge to expand on the conversation. They were open and keen to chat, but I was gob-smacked: All I could express was disgust. I think my Dad found my horror amusing and possibly a bit over the top and must have attributed this to the fact that I actually knew all along what was happening. He kept telling me it was OK if I had known already – as I sat there shaking my head in horror. Dad even asked me what I thought was happening when we took our lady goats to the man goat every autumn – I replied that I just thought they loved to jump round with new goats for fun.
Not long after this discussion with my parents, the topic came up amongst my group of girlfriends at school. We had all recently found out about the ‘facts of life’, and im hushed tones we were discussing it amongst ourselves ior the first time. My main memory of this conversation was how we all agreed how awful the concept of sex was. Then one friend realised in horror: Oh but I want to have children but I could never ever ever do THAT! We all nodded in agreement, the weight of the world on our shoulders. With heavy hearts we all made a pact that we would all have to adopt. I am still in contact with many of these friends and luckily I think we have all since broken that pact!
I would love to hear your story!
Rachel is a writer and educator whose fields of interest include sexuality education, gender, feminism and youth development.