A few days ago a package from Amazon came in the mail. There were some regular kids’ books, and then two not so regular: What’s Happening to Me? and Where did I Come From?, both by Peter Mayle.
These two are classic texts in the puberty genre. They’re not too judgmental, and the facts are almost completely correct save for one notable exception - perhaps to reassure insecure pubertal boys, the book calmingly states that although penises may cover a wide range of sizes when flaccid, they are all generally the same size when erect. Any woman who’s been with more than one man, and any man who’s seen porn, knows this is not true.
The night they arrived, my wife and I leafed through What’s Happening to Me? while our eight year-old leafed through Where did I come from? in his room.
|This, boys and girls, is a wet dream. Wet because he's in the|
ocean, I suppose.
I’m not complaining about these books. Not at all. I’m glad my kids are going to read them, and not get their sex-ed from the psychotic bed-wetter at school. There’s no religion in these books, no proselytizing. The explanation for masturbation is adorable - kids’ bodies are ready for reproduction at thirteen, but kids aren’t socially or emotionally ready for reproduction. Nature has invented a solution: Rub one out! It’s not bad, but sometimes you may feel embarrassed. To illustrate this point, there is a wonderful picture of a tiny, round-bodied little ginger-haired boy sitting in bed with his hands down his pants as a long and judgemental lighting bolt points angrily at him. The books covers feelings, curiosity, and even reassure us that having pubic hair that is not the same colour as the hair on our head is normal. I can’t really complain.
Except… this books makes sex look no different than your average kids’ book. It’s cute and acessible. The boys and girls are little caucasian cherubs that resemble Ewoks or cabbage-patch kids. It demystifies sex and while this is good on the surface, I wish I could tell my kids what I’ve gleaned. I wish I could tell them this:
Look. Sex is one of the three most primal things we do. The other two are being born, and dying. Being born is something you get out of the way quickly. But the other two are inextricably linked. They are tangled in a greasy Gordian knot that for most of our life-span we pretend does not exist.
We try not to die, and in the time that we succeed in not dying, we’re trying to have sex. Evolution wired us so that we are fooled into thinking that we have sex for pleasure, but we do it to survive. It’s about passing on enough of your genes so that your death becomes moot.
Got all this, I hope? This means that sex is complicated, and it’s powerful. We’re doing our best, through a combination of internet porn and female empowerment, to make sex seem like a recreational sport. It’s not. It’s both the most umimportant, pleasurable, and fun thing you’ll ever do, and at the same time it is a force that has enslaved populations and countries, toppled kingdoms, fomented mass murder, inspired car design, and was nearly the undoing of an otherwise brilliant and unbeatable American president. It’s spawned massive government-regulated sex industries and made countless innocent children disappear. If you look at someone under the age of thirty, there’s a good chance that he or she is thinking about it. It’s powerful.
Is it something to afraid of, you ask? No. It’s a natural phenomenon, like wax and wane of the moon, or the vast sheets of ice that fall from icebergs in the Newfoundland spring. It’s not different than the leopard seal that hunts penguins, who are hunting food to feed their chicks. It’s life and creation, and I hope you have a chance to be involved in it.
You don’t want to have kids? You don’t want to join the Circle of Life? That’s fine. I want you to do what makes you happy. You’ve been born, you’re going to have sex, and you will eventually (and I don’t want to think of this) die; you’re doing all three primal things anyway. But every day you will be interacting with people who are on their journeys from, towards, or through these three things. You have to be aware of that, and these earnest and funny little drawings aren’t going to be telling you any of this.
Rather than have you read this, your mother and I are probably going to muddle through your sex education like all parents do, and you’ll recount the awful discomfort you felt when I try to lecture you on ‘taking the gentlemanly precautions’, or when your mother asks you if ‘you really like that girl or whether you’re just using her, because she seems really nice.’
We’ll make mistakes, because we’re trying to educate you on something ephemeral and elemental.
In fact, the more I go on, the more futile it seems. How about I change tack and just be practical?
Wear condoms, know where the clitoris and G-spot are, try not to cheat because you’ll eventually get caught, don’t be too smug to your friends if you find a Friend With Benefits, and above all be nice. Be respectful to strippers or the doorman will have legal reason to beat you up. Porn isn’t a bad thing but I learn to hide it, dammit.
There. That wasn’t too bad, was it?