I thought sex happened by accident.
For some background, I am an only child, so had no older siblings to help educate me. Mom & Dad avoided the subject entirely. I attended Catholic school from grades 1-8. My friends were as sheltered and clueless as I was. I assumed what I saw and was told were true, so I tried to connect the bits and pieces of the information I received in a logical manner.
Here follows the account of what led me to the above assumption:
1st Grade, age 6 - In the car on the way to school one morning, I asked my Mom where babies come from. She replied, "Mommy's belly." I pondered this, then asked how they got inside her belly. She replied "Mommy and Daddy pray together very hard, and when they've prayed enough, God puts a baby in Mommy's belly." My mother had her gallbladder removed back in the Middle Ages, so she has a large scar on her abdomen, which kept me from asking how the baby got out of Mommy's belly; I just drew the logical conclusion there. Even though they put me in a Catholic school, my family wasn't particularly religious--I think Mom just panicked.
Grades 1-3? - Ok, so Mom told me Mommy and Daddy prayed real hard and God put a baby in Mommy's belly. Mom, however, also watched soap operas, which meant I grumpily ended up watching soap operas instead of cartoons sometimes. Hrumph. Eventually, though, I started to notice the women on soap operas were always getting pregnant by accident. Something didn't add up here. I probably asked my mother about it, but I imagine she fled since I don't remember her response. I think I decided the people probably said the wrong prayers or something.
Grades 2-3? - By this time, had heard the word "sex," but didn't have much idea what it involved. The soap opera people seemed to be kissing naked together in bed a lot, so I figured that was it. No connection between sex and pregnancy yet; I was still buying the prayer thing.
Grades 2-4? - I'm old enough to remember a time before VCRs. My friend's father had a collection of actual movie reel porn films. When we found the stash, we had no access to a projector and couldn't view the films. However, the movie boxes had photographs on them; LOTS of photographs, very explicit photographs, and photographs that...well, let's just say her father owned some 'specialized' films. Naked people were cool, we already got that. The 'specialized' pictures were gross, but we understood the WHAT, if not the WHY--people were peeing and pooping on each other, then eating and drinking it sometimes. REALLY GROSS, yes, but peeing and pooping were at least familiar things to pre-pubescent girls. The rest of the pictures were far more confusing. Naked people kissing--ok, that jived with the soap opera stuff, cool enough. We knew what 'wee-wees' were, but we had no concept of an erection--so the pictures were obviously of wee-wees, but they didn't look like those we had seen on our fathers, friends, brothers, cousins, whoever. We also couldn't understand what exactly the men and women were doing with these unnaturally-shaped wee-wee's; I guess holding them or batting them around a bit seemed ok, but we definitely didn't understand WHY anyone would do something like lick one, or put in in his or her mouth! The boxes showed scatology, golden showers, and oral sex, but I don't think they showed vaginal or anal penetration. After much discussion and debate, we finally figured it out, and attributed it to--CLAYMATION! Well, wee-wee's didn't really look like those pictures, and NOBODY would ever lick one, or put one in his or her mouth. So we thought of our old-time holiday specials, and determined the movie people used the same methods to make these strange, hard wee-wees out of clay so the people in the movies could suck on them and stuff. Putting a REAL one in your mouth was just beyond disgusting, and the movie wee-wees didn't even look real! We didn't really understand WHY they would do this, but we didn't understand why people would pee or poop on each other, either. We chalked it all up as a way for grown-ups to get to see naked people.
Grade 5 - Dum DUM! Sex ed, Catholic-school style! Realistically, it wasn't as bad as many of you might think (but writing this now has me believing it was much worse than I realized). They separated the boys and the girls, and each group had its own class. We learned about our vaginas, and our periods--what would happen and why. We learned pregnancy was caused when a sperm fertilized an egg, and we learned the sperm came from a man during sex. Ok, at least, the prayer theory was finally dispelled. We were told sex was for married men and women, and that it felt good, which was ok (yay, Vatican II!) because it was a gift from God. They showed us diagrams of girl parts and boy parts, we learned the boy parts were actually called penises, and that they were the source of the sperm. They left out some unnecssary details like erections and orgasms, though. So, since we hadn't yet reached puberty, we understood WHAT had to happen, but had no freaking clue WHY anyone would ever want to do it! I remember my friend saying during recess "I wanted to have 5 kids when I grow up, but if that's what it takes to have one, I'll have to adopt them all. I'll NEVER do THAT. It's just GROSS!" (Sideline: she, naturally, got pregnant in high school.) I wasn't particularly grossed out, but even though I now knew how a woman technically got pregnant, I still didn't actually know what 'sex' was. Ok, they taught us a woman got pregnant when a sperm from a man's penis entered her vagina and fertilized an egg. Got it. They left out a few minor details, though, like erections, penetration, and ejaculation. They told us sex felt good, so I basically thought 'having sex' meant a man and a woman got into bed together naked, then kissed and hugged for awhile. Kids generally like hugs and kisses, so it wasn't too difficult to imagine a "grown-up" version that felt good and involved naked--because naked was still good. The missing links of penetration and ejaculation caused me a lot of confusion, however, because without them, I still couldn't figure out how those damn soap-opera women kept getting pregnant by accident! Those links are pretty important when you're trying to put this stuff together, especially when you're a child who has not yet reached puberty, had an orgasm, or even consciously experienced sexual arousal. Looking at naked people made my vagina feel a little 'tingly' sometimes; so I might want to touch it, but it sure as hell never occured to me to try putting something in it! WTF? (Literally.)
Continued in the next post...