I forget how old I was when my parents first had the sex talk with me. It was sometime in elementary school, because I do remember all of my little friends and I spreading misinformation to one another.
In 4th grade, we had a class on sex ed. Not much of a class really. The boys and girls were separated to the gym and cafeteria to have our gender-specific PE teachers tell us the birds and the bees. I really don’t remember much about that talk either, except for being epically confused as to why Ms. Birch was giving us make up tips. After all, Ms. Birch was not exactly the kind of gal who wore make up.
“Make sure you sweep the brush upward when you’re applying powder, as not to pull on delicate skin and cause premature sagging.”
Keep in mind, we’re 9 year olds.
From then on we had an annual sex talk in Health class. There was even a video and test on it in high school. By my junior year, I can certainly name all the bits and pieces, know where babies come from, and name all the STDs (probably even tell a dirty joke for each).
One afternoon, my mom was driving us home from somewhere, per usual listening to NPR. A new segments starts:
“Up next - shocking new data suggests that most teenagers do not know what happens during sexual intercourse.”
I kid you not, I could see my mom grip the steering wheel tighter, as the little wheels inside of her head process this shocking news. I remember silently pleading with God to not let me mom ask me about sex. Please, please, please, please!
“In fact, most teenagers cannot even name or describe reproductive body parts. Or articulate the process of what occurs during intercourse.”
OH MY GOD NATIONAL PUBLIC RADIO!! What are you doing to me?!? Why do you hate me??
My mom glances over at me, and taps her fingers on the steering wheel.
GODDAMN IT! Resist woman, resist! They said “most,” and I’m not most. Please don’t...
We’re still a good 5 minutes from home. That’s more than enough time for my mom to make this completely embarrassing. Which is, of course, exactly what she did.
“Jessica...umm...can you name and describe the...”
“Jeez, Mom! Yes, of course I can.”
“Ok, well then name them.”
“Jessica please...it’ll make me feel better knowing that you know these things.”
“Mooooooooooooom! Can’t you just feel better knowing that I know these things because I’m telling you I know them??!?!”
“No honey, I can’t. I need you to name the reproductive organs and their function.”
STUPID, STUPID NPR!!
I cross my arms defiantly. There is no way, no how, that I’m describing sex to my mom.
Of course, this defiance just comes across to my mom as a sign of me not knowing these things. “Jessica really. Tell me. Now.”
Just then, we pull up into the driveway, and I get ready to bolt from the car. But my mom has other ideas. She puts the car in park, turns herself so that she’s facing me as much as she can from the driver’s, and says, “Well, if you don’t want to tell me, I’ll just tell you.”
I can’t decide which is worse - 16 year old me having to tell my mom what happens during sex or my mom telling 16 year old me what’s the what! I felt like I was going to implode from embarrassment, and would have welcomed it gladly. Fuck NPR!
I wish I could tell you that some weekly test of the Emergency Broadcast System came on right at that moment to save me from the epitome of teenage embarrassment. Or that my mom suddenly came to her senses, and decided we didn’t need to have this conversation after all. Or that a pterodactyl came swooping down from the sky and tore me to bits right before I had to hear what my mom was about to say next.
But, alas...none of that occurred, and I was forced to experience this:
“Well Jessica - a man has a penis and a woman has the vagina. Have you ever seen a penis? In real life honey. It’s ok to tell me. You can tell me anything. You know that right?”
“I mean it honey! Anything at all. I love you and you can tell me if you’ve seen a real penis before. Or if you touched one. Have you Jessica? Have you touched a penis before?”
“What? Jessica Leigh, you listen to your mother - I am asking you if you have seen and/or touched a penis or any other part of the male privates. Right now young lady - have you or have you not?”
Right then I vowed to never listen to, or donate money to National Public Radio as long as I lived. While they were now moving on to some story about folk storyteller from Rwanda, I was being interrogated, Spanish Inquisition-style, by my mother about tactile familiarity with penises.
“Well, they vary in sizes, and girth...”
“Mom, please stop!”
“Honey, don’t be embarrassed. Now, the size and girth can make sexual intercourse more pleasurable for a woman because...”
“MOM! MOM STOP! Please, please - I am begging you! I know all of this, so just stop it!”
“I am trying to help you dear. This isn’t something to be embarrassed about. Mothers and daughters should talk about this kind of stuff. I know that your Granny...”
“Please don’t bring Granny into this!!!”
“It’s nothing to be embarrassed about.”
“No, no, no! It’s EVERYTHING to be embarrassed about! ALL OF THE WORLD’S EMBARRASSMENT!”
“Can I finish?”
“Do I have a choice?”
“No. Ok, so before we get to intercourse, let’s talk about foreplay. This is where seeing and touching the penis will probably happen, so you...”
I’d had all I could take, and I could take no more. I then did something I never thought I would do - I confessed (by yelling) to my mother that I had seen and touched a penis.
Just imagine the absurdity: Sitting in my mom’s white Camry, in front of my house, shrieking, “STOP IT WOMAN! I’VE SEEN A PENIS BEFORE! I TOUCHED IT! I KNOW WHAT FOREPLAY IS, AND I KNOW WHAT HAPPENS DURING SEX, AND WHO PUTS WHAT WHERE! AND I KNOW ABOUT INCHES AND WIDTH!! I KNOW ABOUT POSITIONS - MISSIONARY, DOGGY...”
And as I am screaming “doggy style” at my mother, the most terrified look comes across her face (which isn’t all that out of place considering I am screaming “doggy style” at my mother), and she puts up her hand to stop me.
“Are you telling me that you have had sexual intercourse Jessica?”
Then I imploded from teenage embarrassment.