Our theme for the month of June is “Sex and the Church.”
The Sex Talk I Never Had
And other atrocities committed by my parents
“I found my Virginity. Turns out it was there all along.”
– Joke I keep telling people that only I think is funny.
I was eight years old.
I was collecting half-sized Sears bra brochures sent to the house. I paged through them, inspecting the tiny pictures of torsos. I hid these under the mattress of my bottom bunk, and I would review them if I wanted to remember what a supportive beige bra looked like. Rebel. My mom found my two-catalogue collection when she was changing my sheets one day. “What are these?” she asked. “Oh,” I said, imploding. “…Emily must have put them there.” The perfect lie. That’s it…my older sister…must have gone into my room…with multiple bra catalogues…and placed them under my mattress.
I was nine years old.
I thought a uni-sex salon was some sort of brothel.
I was eleven years old.
I was sleeping over at my friend’s house. We were camped in his TV room pretending to sleep. We were fast-forwarding through the Titanic VHS tapes, plural—Titanic is so long it required two. If you’ve been an eleven-year-old boy, you know what what we were looking for: Kate Winslet being painted like one of the French girls. This is what’s under the bra. Boobs.
I was twelve years old.
I discovered AIM chat rooms. People would type “a/s/l?” And you’d get to see their fake age, maybe fake gender, and hopefully fake location. I was an eighteen-year-old man from New York City, and I. Was. Livin’! I’d talk with these hopefully women who were my same fake age and I’d say things like, “Yeah I’ve been doing it a lot lately.” “Oh I know all about the new things.” “Too bad we’re both not in Saskatoon, otherwise we’d really have something to talk about.”
What is this…”IT”?
I was thirteen years old.
I was supposed to go on a weekend trip with my dad. On the drive, he was supposed to put in Focus on the Family cassette tapes where Doctor Dobson was supposed to explain what happens with a penis and a vagina. Spoiler alert: sex happens. (My brother told me.) Days and weeks and months went by, my father would randomly remember we never took this trip, and he’d say, “Hey, we gotta go on that trip!” And I’d say, “Dad, I’m 30, please stop asking.”
Just kidding. The odd thing is, it was never explained, but we both knew what trip that trip was. “Pick a weekend and let’s go.” And I’d say, “Okay”, and leave the room. As if thirteen-year-old me would then grab a calendar to compare notes with my dad’s Palm Pilot. “Hey Dad, how about Friday the nineteenth? We can have the talk on the twentieth, never speak again, and be back by the twenty-first and get a head start on the week.”
We do anything to avoid talking about sex because we do anything to avoid being uncomfortable. The sex talk is called “The Talk.” We don’t even want to say “sex.” We say we’re talking about the “Birds and the Bees.” Why?
I know for a fact birds and bees don’t sex each other. “Listen son, no—sit down! This is important, DAMMIT! NOW REMEMBER: birds lay eggs, bees pollinate flowers, women are like birds, men are like bees…the flower is obviously a woman’s vagina….*Starts sweating* …The bee…uses his penis—his bee penis, I THINK, now I THINK it’s called a beenis…DO NOT QUOTE ME ON THAT. He uses his bee penis to pollinate the flower’s vagina, a bird flies near, freakin’, ah, gets pregnant by OSMOSIS, lays eggs, then there’s a baby and here we are! NOW GET OUTTA HERE!”
“…Dad, what’s osmosis?”
“I’ll tell you when you’re older.”
I was sixteen years old.
I was lifting weights and drinking protein shakes and trying to clear zits. I had no idea what was happening to my body and Google wasn’t a thing. I also wasn’t allowed to be taught. I was one of those religious kids whose parents didn’t let him go to the health classes because they were, “just going to tell you sex is fine as long as you use a condom.”
My mom told me I could take a health class in a homeschool environment. Unsure whether this meant she would teach me, I told her I would be running away from home. I never ended up finding a replacement for those two health classes. With four kids, a dog, a cat, and life in general, I think my parents just forgot. I figured these classes were two full courses on sexual mechanics, so I found an online course taught by women with huge breasts. Pornography 101.
It was around this time that one of the elders was preaching in my small Massachusetts church. He asked, “When do you become a man?” He asked again. “Is it when you get married? Have kids?” He spied me behind the soundboard: “What do you think, Bart? Is it when you have sex?”
My face was probably twisting into red hot mortification, like he kicked down my door, shot my dog, and was now asking me in front of the whole church if I was a virgin. He acknowledged this and apologized. I was embarrassed, partially because I thought the answer was yes, but also because I had never heard sex so openly mentioned. It was taboo. It was quiet. It was hidden under a mattress, it was a secret found in a split second in the middle of a long movie, it was alone in the dark on chat rooms with strangers, it was implied but never spoken about directly.
This is the part where I’m supposed to lash out at my parents, the church, and adults in general. Could the church have been better on this? Yes.
How? I don’t know.
Could my parents have admitted they were too busy or uncomfortable to teach me? Yes.
Am I mad, bro? No.
Do I think we could address the issue head on? Yes. We can talk about sex without code words and we can explain it without fear that we’ll ruin our children. We have to stop pretending our kids won’t learn from somewhere else. (AKA literally everywhere.) And I know people have been a lot more hurt than I have, but, children of the church, maybe we can give the adults in our life a little grace because God knows we’ll need it too.
Bart Tocci (’11) lives in Boston where he writes essays, performs at open mics, and threatens to start taco restaurants. He’s been told that he looks like the kind of guy who stands up for what’s right. And who goes to the store before the party. Read more here: barttocci.wordpress.com