My Body, Foreign Territory: Richard’s Story
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.
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?
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?
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.