My Body, Foreign Territory: Richard’s Story

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Series disclaimer: HA’s “Let’s Talk About Sex (Ed)” series contains frank, honest, and uncensored conversations about sexuality and sex education. It is intended for mature audiences.

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My body, foreign territory

At one point in my life I was convinced that I had two assholes.

I won’t disclose my age when I held this belief, but it was certainly in the double digits. I’m not sure how I came to believe in this extra anatomy, but I was completely and absolutely sure of its existence. When I discovered the truth – for any young homeschoolers reading this, human beings have one anus – it was an uncomfortable collision between a grounded belief and new information: certainly one collision among many.

I can’t remember my imagined purpose for a second anus, but most likely it was something about sex, and was a byproduct of a complete ignorance of my own body and the shaming of new information.

I didn’t know anything about sex, and I certainly was afraid to ask. I lived under an umbrella of religion where a ban on sex extended to thoughts of questions about basic anatomy. Information was taboo. Curiosity was not a neutral disposition: curiosity exposed was met with animosity and speeches, and was immediately parceled with shame. To ask about sex is to engage in it. Sin is a mystic frontier that should not be visited, seen, or talked about. Ignorance in sex is strength.

Sex by wireless transmission

I should have counseled the Internet, but we didn’t have it. Instead, I turned to an older medium for my sex education: radio. Between the hours of ten and midnight, a local radio station broadcasted a show called Loveline, a call-in program about relationships, sex, and medical issues. It counterbalanced an informative doctor with a disparaging comedian and radio host. A typical call-in would go like this:

Adam: It says here you had a threesome with two girls?

Caller: Yeah.

Adam: No. No. Too squirrelly. First off, nobody named “Oliver” gets a threesome at fifteen years old.

Guest Everlast: [Laughing.] You’re wrong, dude.

Adam: Naw, no one named Oliver! Maybe Oliver Stone or Oliver Twist.

Caller: Dude, Oliver’s a tight name.

Adam: Yeah… It’s… I don’t know… It’s not the kind of name that gets a guy laid. Not at fifteen. Not in a threesome! You did not have a threesome.

Caller: Well, it was oral.

Drew: All right, well, that’s not a threesome.

Adam: Oral threesome?

Caller: Yeah.

Adam: I might count that.

Jokes were made, advice then dispensed. The format was undoubtedly devised to hook in teenagers with dirty humor, and give them practical advice about sex and diseases, and dispel free-range myths teenagers enjoy cultivating. Like two anuses. The show was brilliant.

I would listen in at ten o’clock, with my radio on a bookcase at the head of my bed, headphones plugging in, with the cord running incognito under my pillow and into my ear. Most nights I would stay up until the show ended, and some mornings I would be waken up by the radio buzzing in my ears, having fallen asleep with it on. It wasn’t just entertainment, it was my sex education. I had no idea what a condom or a menstrual cycle was, so they informed me. My curiosity was finally being addressed, rather than suppressed.

Rituals: talking about it

When I was a Peace Corps volunteer in rural Africa, I found a common perception of sex that was very familiar: the communities identified overwhelmingly as Christian and there was a conversational taboo around sex. Parents never talked about it with their children, and teachers avoided the topic as well. It was difficult to pierce the veil of silence about sex in order to talk about HIV/AIDS, a subject already colored by Bush era programming of abstinence, marriage, and fidelity.

However, there were two particular moments within the culture, when the sex conversation was allowed to bloom. The first occurs during coming of age rituals, for girls or boys, where advice is offered freely and traditions about sex and everything else were passed down. The second happens at “kitchen parties,” where married women share thoughts about marriage, children, and sex with soon-to-be brides.

Perhaps the homeschool or conservative religious community needs these kind of rituals where a taboo subject can be spoken about in an open, constructive, and safe environment. Clearly a philosophy of “not talking about it” doesn’t work – states populated with the conservative religious have the highest teen birth rates by being “more successful in discouraging the use of contraception among their teenagers than they are in discouraging sexual intercourse itself.” So-called comprehensive sex education has shown to reduce pregnancy, compared to abstinence education, which doesn’t even reduce teenage sex.

Perhaps rituals would involve actually participating in sex education in the home, church, or school. I know this is highly contentious terrain as long as knowledge about sex is still considered tainted by sin and a dangerous prerequisite to the act itself. Information is power, and it can be tempered with the guidance and kind instruction Christians often claim to offer yet rarely practice, particularly when it comes to sex.

While the idea of twin assholes is comical and suits the purpose of this essay, but it’s clearly the least dangerous misconception about sex teens can have when they’re not educated.

Abstinence from sex can work, but certainly abstinence from information has failed many communities.

10 comments

  • Wow this is amazing to me! I am a Christian homeschooler that has been really open about the whole subject – always. I am so sorry your only info was in Africa and on a radio show! That is just wrong!

  • Haha – Loveline! Yes, I did the same thing. My parents had actually taped the radio dial on my alarm clock so that I could only listen to the oldies station. Every night I would carefully remove the tape and listen to Drew and Adam with the volume so soft I could hardly hear it. As an older teen, I found a book of Dan Savage’s columns at a thrift store and that gem proved to be much more helpful.

    And a second resounding yes – ANY and all questions about my body were somehow tied in with sex and therefore taboo. I had to carefully word my phrasing and try to catch my mom at the right time. I’ll never forget being interrogated when I first asked for a razor to shave my armpits – you’d think I was asking for a box of condoms.

  • Our parents never taught us. We still talked about it with each other, but we called it the S word. Parents were aware that we called it the S word, still no talks

  • My parents never discussed sex with me, either. I remember reading about how flowers are pollinated, and somehow figured out that there were male and female parts to said flowers. I somehow ended up with thinking that men urinate inside their wives and that’s how babies were made. I had no idea about testicles, sperm, or anything else about male reproductive organs. When our dog came into heat, my mom said to me that “one day this will happen to you!” That was my first inkling of a menstrual cycle. Can you imagine how screwed up I was for years and years? I made sure my own two children were taught proper names for genitalia, and that they knew what sex really is. (I grew up in the 60s in a very conservative Protestant home). Hiding knowledge is the best way to mess up people’s lives. I just don’t get it. The worst part is that brides to be are suddenly expected to see sex as something fantastic on their wedding nights, after years of being told sex=sin.

  • Sounds like 1950’s deja vu all over again. Years ago in my 30’s I volunteered with the STD Hotline, which people called anonymously and asked any questions they liked, whether about sexual diseases or not. No you guys have the internet now and can check everything out for yourselves…anonymously. My best advice: Go to Planned Parenthood with a list of questions and feel free to ask ANYTHING. I took my 11-year-old daugher to one of their clinics and let her get counseling without me there and with the assurance she could call them anytime without the embarrassment of going through mom.

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