What sex education?
(a paper I wrote for a contemporary sexuality class possibility TMI)
I did get a sex education – it just didn’t come from where it should have. Aren’t parents and teachers supposed to teach you about relationships, contraception, and sex? Mostly, I learned about sex the hard way, by trial and error. And there was a lot of error but after about fifteen years of playing with sex and sexuality, I think I have it figured out. I learned about contraception from parents and teachers, and random chance led me to figure out orgasm, but it was my partners along with television and the internet who taught me the mechanics of sex, along with polyamory and BDSM.
Most of the information I got from adults was about contraception. After walking in on a make out session with my thirteen year old boyfriend my parents decided to have a little talk with me. They told me that they couldn’t pick my sex partners, that I was going to have sex when I was ready to, and that they were mostly ok with that. But there would be one rule: you may not get pregnant. My mother did not really talk about all the contraception options but offered to take me in to the doctors to begin birth control pills. I did get another little talk from my mother a few months later while I was wondering if I could be pregnant: “Weren’t you using condoms? You know those pills don’t start working right away.” Lucky for me, this and every subsequent pregnancy scare has been a false alarm.
In the seventh grade we studied biology and had a few weeks of comprehensive sex education. Our teacher seemed very comfortable with the information. She unrolled a condom for us, showed a pack of birth control pills, her own I think, and even talked about her son’s circumcision during the Jewish ritual of Brit Milah performed in her home by the family rabbi. By the time she was done I was well versed in how to use a condom and what birth control pills did to your body. I knew more about STDs and HIV than most of my friends. But even with all her open and progressive views there was no discussion about how sex should feel, what an orgasm was other than in reference to a man ejaculating, or the mechanics of sex. When the class was over I still had no idea how to have sex. In fact I had more questions than answers. How do you kiss? Where do your hands go? Do you stand up or sit down? How do you do it?
My parents never told me sex was bad, there was no negative talk about sex, but there wasn’t much talk about sex at all and certainly no discussion on how to have sex. As a young teenager I found the Discovery Channel and they were happy to tell me all about sex, or rather animal mating and how it related to human sex. Even now I can tell you how porcupines mate, but the rest was up to me to figure out. And I did, by trial and error and with the help of my first two real boyfriends. Mike taught me how to kiss, what a hand job was, and that boys expect you to “put out”. Robert was my high school sweet heart, my first sex partner, and the first person I had oral sex with. Later he would be my husband and then ex-husband. Though we had figured out the mechanics of intercourse, there were still a few things missing.
Most of all, orgasm was difficult to figure out. I didn’t have my first orgasm until I was in my early 20’s and when I did it was a complete surprise. I didn’t know what I should be feeling during intercourse. Sure there were parts of sex that felt better than others, but what was all the fuss about? How come he always seemed to be having a better time than I was? A girl friend of mine invited me to one of those women’s pleasure parties, where they show you all kinds of sex toys, lingerie, lube and lotions. For the most part I had no idea what I was looking at. I had never used a sex toy and I wasn’t even sure what you did with half of them! One of the items passed around was a small bullet vibrator with a cock ring attachment – I bought it and a few other little things. The vibe was not well received at first by Robert, who may have felt threatened by it. The first time we used it I was convinced that I had to pee. I had no idea that this feeling was the start of an orgasm. I taught myself how to orgasm over the next few days, hiding from my boyfriend in the bathroom of all places! And then I educated him how to get me off. A later boyfriend got me a much stronger vibrator that plugged into the wall and we played a new game called “how many times can we get Jen off?”
I knew how to have sex, I knew how to orgasm, what else could a girl want? How about multiple boyfriends at one time? In high school I seemed to always be lusting after some boy who was not my boyfriend. I really didn’t see anything wrong with that but my boyfriend Robert did. I told him one night how much I like this boy Carl and he cried and asked me if I wanted to break up. I told him I did not but that I wondered what it would be like to be with Carl. He was so upset that I dropped it and we stayed monogamous for a few more years. That is, until he met Kim. Now it was his turn to want someone else. We started having threesomes. I got to play with my sexual identity in terms of sex with women and I got have sex with Kim and two other women. What about sex with other men? What if I did not want to have just one lover at a time? Once again trial, error, and the internet would be my guide. I don’t know where I first encountered the term but when I heard of polyamory it clicked. That is what I wanted to do: I wanted to have a live in life partner and also a few less involved partners. I wanted to have my cake and get to eat a pie too, along with some cupcakes and ice cream. After a few years polyamory stopped working for Robert but it worked for me. There were no role models for what I was doing; I didn’t see it on TV or in movies. There was no script. I found internet dating sites and support groups but I could not find the user’s manual for this life that I wanted to have. I met Pepper while I was still married to Robert, and ours was the first relationship that I would start as a polyamorous one. Although Pepper had been trying to be poly all his life, we discovered how to make it work mostly on our own. There is no one to help you muddle through this kind of sexuality. The therapists and marriage counselors just don’t know what to do with you. When my marriage to Robert came to an end Pepper was there to help me – without him the divorce and sense of loss over my old life would have been much harder. Over the last seven years Pepper and I have collected as many books and guides to polyamory as we could. We even started giving a Polyamory 101 class through Good Vibrations hoping that people would not have to figure it out the hard way like we did.
Intercourse? Check! Orgasm? Check! Multiple partners? Check! Bondage and beatings? What? My dad has told me a story about picking me up from preschool. He said that I had acquired myself a human “puppy” who I walked around on an invisible leash. When my dad said it was time to go I tied my puppy to a desk and told him to stay. Sometimes I wonder if that poor boy is still sitting there. Back then I had no idea that I wanted to have kinky relationships, or that it would become a vital part of my sexual identity. In my late teens I worked with a boy named Cam. He was short, cute, small, and a few years younger than me. I wanted him and at the same time I thought I couldn’t date him. I was scared that I would hurt him or that I would make him do things he didn’t want to do. I mostly found myself attracted tall men, men who where built like a brick wall, dominant men. I had done some research on BDSM on the internet and in books, and it made sense. It seemed to be what I wanted. Pepper was my first real S/M partner, and through trial and error I learned how to have the kinky sex I wanted to be having. In addition to learning how to submit, I later learned how to dominate without hurting my partner. My shorter pixie-like boyfriend Ari would help teach me how to hurt my partner in just the way he wanted to be hurt. I was lucky, I was old enough when I figured this out that I could go take classes on BDSM and how to do it safely and creatively. I only wish I had known that it was an option back when I was trying to date Cam.
It is hard to puzzle out sex on your own. All your friends are talking about it. The TV, movies, and commercials are showing us sex, but only in a “couple is making out and then fade to black” kind of way. We use sex to sell things and we use it to get what we want. And yet, we have no idea what sex is. Our country cannot even agree whether or not oral sex is sex at all. Where are the coming of age ceremonies where your relatives sit you down and tell you how to be a woman, how to please yourself and your partner? My friends in high school didn’t know what they were talking about, my parents were not talking about sex, and my boyfriends only knew that they wanted to have it, but not how to do it. There is no reason people should not be taught about safe pleasurable sex. I wish someone had found me in high school and said to me: “You are a polyamorous, hetero-flexible, kinky switch. Now here is what you need to know.”