Tuesday, July 3, 2012
Sex is Ours
Then came the day when I was being teased after school by a group of popular girls. I can't remember what they said to me, but it was something to do with the word "orgasm." I looked at them blankly and they picked up on the fact that I'd never heard this word. "You don't know what an orgasm is!" they chorused, in fits of laughter, and pretty soon the whole school knew. Already, I was the square girl, the ugly girl, the girl who was good at schoolwork and not much else; but now I was also the girl who knew nothing about sex.
Given how confusing I'd found every mere mention of sex, I simply concluded that sex would never be mine.
As it happens, I first had sex at the age of seventeen and it was a painful experience. Frankly, I wasn't ready, but I'd been told that you lose a man unless you sleep with him. At the same time, I'd been told you didn't do that before marriage. But given my low self-esteem, I concluded that I'd lose a lover before I married them anyway...and sex might be a way to hold onto their love. In fact, though I was with a very loving partner, sex was a painful experience with very little pleasure -- such is the cost of believing that orgasms just aren't yours.
It actually took me until my early thirties to become sexually healthy, and it was around the same time that I started to acknowledge that my fantasies tended to revolve around women. But of course, the first thing I'd ever learned about sex was that it was unpleasant, so why would I think my sexual pleasure counted? And as for sexual climax, no one had handed me the word "orgasm" as if it was mine.
Earlier this year, I posted at the Boston Daily about sex education and condoms for twelve year olds. These days, twelve year olds are having sex. We simply have to deal with it. And it doesn't mean they're having painful, dissociated sex...although many of them may well be. Such is the power of peer-pressure and "giving in" before we're really ready. But of course, the adults who do talk positively to twelve year olds...and much younger children too...are often afraid to tell others about their philosophy and methods. And this is totally understandable, given how we're socially silenced via shame.
Today, I came across a terrific post on the topic at the Our Bodies, Ourselves blog (Our Bodies, Our Blog). Here, Annie Brewster shares how she talks with her own kids about sex, and she's full of wisdom on the matter. In fact, she--like myself--is all for talking about sex with kids when they are young and I couldn't agree with her more. After all, I know that those girls who bullied me when I was twelve also knew little about sex. Knowing the word "orgasm" (like knowing the word "vagina") doesn't mean much unless you understand that there is something profound and beautiful behind it. And considering we're seeing so much queer-bashing right now, it's worth mentioning that the same thing goes for the words "gay" and "queer." Let's teach our kids that these words are beautiful and can absolutely be theirs.
An excerpt from Brewster's post:
Sex is everywhere in our society, and kids are going to hear about it one way or another, either from friends or from the media. Isn’t it better for us, as parents, to help them make sense of what they are hearing? Frankly, I am much more comfortable talking about sperm and egg, penis and vagina with my five-year-old than I am hearing her parrot the pop song “I’m Sexy and I Know it,” after listening to the radio with her teenage sisters in the car. Disturbing images of “Toddlers in Tiaras” come to mind.
Do take a look. We need to support parents who are sex-positive and caring, in spite of the shame that our society often uses to control us all.