Let’s talk about sex. Here’s a story from a woman at work that I heard during our holiday party yesterday:
My kids aren’t allowed to say “sex” or “sexy” or any of that. But they’ll find it in games — I don’t know why, it’s always the games — and they’ll come running, “Mommy! Mommy! This game has a bad word in it! Should we take the card out?” […] And then [child] the other day was like, “Mom, what does S-E-X mean?” and I was like Oh, crap! “It means like whether you’re a boy or a girl.” [Co-worker asks how old child is.] He’s 8. Seems a little young to know about all of that.
It is not my place to tell you what to teach your child and when to do it, but you’d better believe I am going to judge. This poor child is going to be sexually mature within the next decade, and he will have spent at least the first decade of his life thinking that “sex” and all things associated with it are bad and forbidden like other (actually) bad words. Talk about baggage. In some part of his mind, that’s going to stick with him for decades.
There are definitely things you are slowly initiated into over time, like your knowledge of sex. My family was one in which your questions were answered. Anatomically, with hand-drawn diagrams of various organs that could take over the dinner table, food half-forgotten. I really appreciate that in retrospect. Sex was what brought about babies. I could understand that. I could understand the body parts I had and the body parts male bodies had and how they worked together, which at least made sense logically, although it did seem a little sketchy where motivation was concerned.
I do remember, though, one Christmas when one of my cousins was in town and she was telling a story and stopped suddenly and was like, “Wait, do your kids know about sex?” to my mom. And my mom answered, “Yes, but they think we’ve only done it three times.”
My mind was blown.
The idea that people would have sex to have sex and not for babies was confusing. And I had previously believed all sex lead to a baby, so I was not sure why I only had two siblings if my parents had had sex more than three times.
I remember the “Joy of Sex” books on one of our bookcases, although I’m not sure I ever pulled them out. I remember trying to look up “oral sex” in the dictionary with a friend because I had a puberty/sex book that mentioned but did not explain it. I remember totally wanting to avoid the topic completely for most of my teens because I knew I wasn’t thinking about sex in the same way as everything had informed me I would (spoiler alert: totally gay).
Everyone has a different journey growing up and learning about sex. But I really feel for that 8-year-old, who either doesn’t know how to pronounce S-E-X as a word or feels so much shame around it that it must be spelled. Puberty is going to hit that kid hard.