Can we take a minute or two and discuss sex?? Maybe even a post or two?? You see, as a culture, we don’t really talk about sex and if we do – it’s with snickers, snide comments, or an eyebrow flash. How did you learn about sex?
For me, it was a multitude of sources, some unreliable. First it was the kid up the street who wanted to see my c*** – “What’s that?” I said – “I’ll show you where it is” – he did. I was 8 I think. I told my dad who told his dad and he wasn’t allowed to play outside anymore. At puberty, my dad was the first one to introduce the idea of intercourse; something married people who love each other do about once a week. Ok… those are the guidelines. Then there was The Happy Hooker. Xavier Hollander, a famous New York madam wrote a book in 1972. I found it under a pile of sheets in the linen closet and would spend stolen blocks of minutes in there – studying. I learned WAY more than my 12-year-old curiosity was ready for. Golden showers – yuk! Shower head masturbation – maybe! I read all kinds of words that were new to me without understanding the meaning behind them.
When I got to California and was finally accepted into a ‘friend’ group, I recall a boy got me under a pool table once and after attempting to tongue kiss me fiercely, exclaimed “Didn’t those boys in Pennsylvania teach you anything?” Um. No. It felt like a failure. I was 14 and didn’t know how to kiss. I experienced a sense of humiliation for not knowing something sexual.
Then there was Joe – a boy I met while living in Germany on that Army base who told me he had cancer and that he didn’t want to die a virgin. Was he into ‘me’ or did he simply want my body? Tough luck Joe.
In high school, one of my BFF’s and done ‘it’ and said it was like ‘cotton candy’ … you just wanted more! I was intrigued. I designed my first time in a perfect way just before I turned 18. I had a serious boyfriend and thought I was in love. The relationship met much of the criteria that my social construct had designated. I felt physically safe and emotionally close to my boyfriend so I chose him for the experience of sexual introduction. My friend (in a similar situation) and I arranged the perfect time and place when her parents were out of town. We had dinner, candles, music, and condoms. I suppose in many ways it was perfect. But…. I was expecting Xavier Hollander sex. Where were the screams of pleasure and arching backs?? What was an Orgasm?? Did I have one? What did it feel like? Should I be disappointed? Was it good? What WAS good sex?? Who the hell can answer these questions?
How in the world does a young woman who’s never HAD sex evaluate the sex she’s just had?? He was asking… “was it good for you?” “Sure” I said. Lie #1.
He was a great choice for a first time experience because he cared about me – emotionally. I was curious though so we practiced a bit. I always lied and said it was good while I attempted to define what ‘good sex’ actually felt like. He seemed to be satisfied with ok… We eventually broke up but not because of sex. And might I just say that – who can blame an 18-year-old guy for being satisfied with ok…. Who teaches them to make sure that their partner is satisfied? Essentially at that age, we are all just practicing.
One of the most embarrassing moments of my life?? … Attempting a blow job. In a car. How is that done exactly? I remember thinking ok Les… it’s a BLOW job. Blow. Um, that didn’t work. Another self-defecating moment. How the hell does one learn these things?? Who should I ask? I know I am not the only woman in the world to have had that experience.
Eventually there was JG. He had abs of steel and he thought I was beautiful. He was older than me and ended up being a phenomenal teacher. I’m not sure he taught me what to DO but he definitely taught me what to WANT. JG and I were friends who had sex. We weren’t lovers. He taught me about my body and I’ve always been grateful for that experience. He didn’t love me but he was incredibly respectful of me.
I am often in session with people who are shy about discussing sex. I attempt to normalize it as quickly and easily as possible. Sex is hard to talk about in most of the population. On some level we are taught that it is ‘dirty’. On another we are told it is ‘private’. On yet another we somehow adopt an idea of what constitutes ‘normal’.
In the late 1940’s, Alfred Kinsey suggested that most humans fall on a continuum between completely heterosexual and completely homosexual. Then there was Masters and Johnson, the sex researchers in the late 60’s who ‘researched the female orgasm’ extensively. All of these researchers attempted to normalize sex in various ways but it stayed a taboo subject nonetheless. We know it happens, we are sarcastic about it happening, but we don’t honor sex unless it is specifically for reproduction – at least in most segments of our culture. In my mind – that is a sin.
So – essentially, this Catholic bred girl who felt ‘bad’ for lying is now feeling ‘bad’ about having had premarital sex and for having oral sex (abnormal??) and for wanting more sex. I labeled myself as ‘bad’ and I was pretty sure that a lot of others would have applied the same label if they had access to the history of my sexual life – as limited as it was. It was part of my life that I labeled as ‘disappointing’ before anyone else could. I felt judged even though I was the one judging.
I’d like to say that this is where the story gets better but it simply gets worse. When I do attempt to talk with someone about my sexual feelings and experiences, the discussion is met with judgement. “What did you do?” “Why?” – Curiosity didn’t seem to be a suitable answer. Why is it that when someone is curious about how to take a car apart it’s ok but when we want to understand what feels good physically it’s not?
I learned to be ashamed of the sexual thoughts and experiences I had – even though today I understand that they completely fall into the ‘normal’ range. I never had anyone to normalize them for me. Remember, my dad (my hero) told me that married people who love one another ‘do it’ once a week so when my husband wanted sex Every. Single. Day., I thought he must be kinky – weird – abnormal and I judged us both.
We need to talk about sex. We need to teach young women to feel free to share – to normalize. We need to open the lines of communication and free our children from the shame that we were taught to carry.