As part of our education services we hosted “Fact or Friction: Community Stories of Sex Education” for a second year to showcase the importance of early, inclusive, and continuous sex education. This event was a collection of stories submitted and shared by brave, often humorous and always caring members of our community. These stories have been lightly edited for clarity, and in some cases a title has been assigned.
I met George when I was 13 years old, my mom introduced us actually. I can guarantee you she did not know what sex-doors she was opening up for me when she brought George home that first day. To be honest, neither did I. See, I grew up in a strict Italian, Roman Catholic family; you know the type… “No sex until Marriage.” “You make some man really happy one day.” Nobody spoke of things like sex or masturbation. My whole childhood all I knew was that sex was for a man and a women who were married and loved each other and wanted a baby. Yet, I knew my peers were having masturbating and that there was such thing as “gay porn.” So if un-wed people of all sexual orientations were having sex, why couldn’t this catholic girl get it too? When I was 14 my mom brought me to get my HPV vaccination. While we were at it, I was put on the birth control pill. It was quite obvious to me that my mom was giving me permission to hope on the train to sex-ville, right? I mean, I had my vaccines, pills, and my school taught me that pregnancy was only for those who didn’t leave room for Jesus. I was good to go. You know how they say all teenagers are horny? Especially the deprived catholic school girls? Well, they were right, kind of. I did a good job of hiding it every day. I didn’t think about sex all that much and every boy at school just grossed me out. It wasn’t until one day I was watching Liar, Liar, I knew I was ready. I know what you must be thinking, Liar, Liar?! Well, you know that part in the movie where Jim Carrey has sex with his boss and he says his infamous line “I’ve had better”. Well that pre-sex, make-out scene gave me the tingles in the hip feeling I could only imagine was horniness. A girl can’t help what gets her going, you know? But now what? Every boy at school grossed me out. I didn’t want them to be my first. But then I remembered…I knew just what I needed… George. Always the silent type, I knew that I could get what I needed and didn’t have to worry about pleasing someone else. The perfect experiment. So, after a steamy replay of the Liar, Liar scene and searching a few online images of a teenaged Johnny Depp and Zack from Saved By the Bell, I was ready to go. And let me tell you, it was amazing. I have never felt anything like it. George gave me everything I wanted, I didn’t have a care in the world. I knew I was introduced into a world I didn’t want to ever let go, a sex-positive, body-loving kind of world. Now, I know some people think I should have waited. I mean, I was only 14, I got turned on by Liar, Liar… how on earth could a girl like me be ready for sex? I didn’t even have a proper education on birth control nor any means of protecting myself from STIs. But, George taught me pleasure. George taught me that I can be the centre of the action. I can be pleasured without having to pleasure others. I know what stimulates me the most. And now that I know a little bit more about sexual health I know that George was the perfect, most safe way I could experience my first orgasm. No fear of pregnancy, STIs, or heartbreak. George was a risk-free experience with no strings attached. Well, I guess there were strings, or is it more like thread? Either way, George was always the perfect body pillow.
No sex until marriage…or at least college
14 year old me was one year away from reading the life-changing book “The Purity Myth” by Jessica Valenti, two years away from my first time having sex, three years away from secretly identifying as a feminist and 5 years away from outright identifying as a feminist and perhaps non-coincidentally 5 years away from actually enjoying sex. 14 year old me walked into my catholic high school sex-ed class with bright and nervous eyes, giggling with me peers because we were about to learn about all the naughty stuff. After the class settled in my teacher – who was about as over this as we were- welcomed our two guests. They were new teenage moms here to terrify us into not having sex until marriage- or at least until college. That was it. There was no discussion on abortion. No discussion on safe sex No discussion on adoption or resources at all. Instead we had two young mothers nervously talking to us about ‘the biggest mistake of their lives’ while their supervisor glared at them from the back corner. They talked about how their bodies will never be the same after giving birth, how both their boyfriend’s left them, and (easily the scariest part to me) how they disappointed their families. I walked out of that classroom vowing to wait until marriage (see timeline above).
The Tomato Soup Sisterhood
Karly, cis woman, 24
When I was in Grade 5, my Mom was my teacher at my elementary public school. This meant I had the unique experience of being taught about puberty by my parent, in a room of a couple dozen other kids! The moment that stands out most was when all the girls gathered on the carpet over lunch time and we learned about our periods. I remember feeling a sense of “sisterhood” that only some of the class were doing something out-of-the-ordinary together, jealous that the boys were outside playing at recess, and horrified that my Dad packed me tomato soup in my thermos that day for lunch (I am not kidding). I remember the cool, tough hyper-masculine boy of the class came into the room to get something and ended up running out of the room with a beet-red face… I wonder how much that experience stigmatized periods for him, which could definitely affect how he treated people with periods in his life. We all need to work together to end period shame!!
So many men, so little time
My parents were pretty open with us about sex education. They were too young to be hippies, too nerdy to be bohemians; they were the political activists/La Leche League/United Church types particular to the late 70s/early 80s. My father was a straight ally to the newly emerging Metropolitan Community Church, where queer Christians could openly worship and support each other. He also worked on NDP campaigns. My mother ran a food bank, renovated our house and did fun things like the time she made a bunch of small whipped cream pies and we kids all ran around shoving them into each other’s faces. We went to church every Sunday and visited our conservative relatives every holiday. “Don’t say that in front of your Grandmother!” feels like a good way to sum up my family’s quirky yet gentle style. My mother had a shirt that she got from a thrift store with fuzzy letters that spelled out “So many men, so little time.” Knowing my mom, it had to have been ironic. I always thought it was a political comment about capitalism and how it took away from quality of life. She was 30 when she wore that shirt; I was 7. We loved to hear mom tell us our birth stories, including how the first thing my dad did when my mom’s water broke was run to the kitchen and make a peanut butter sandwich to take to the hospital. I spent many hours (maybe a weird amount of hours) looking at the pictures in that seventies classic “A Child is Born”. At the same time, my knowledge of sex acts was pretty limited. My parents used the term “hug jay” for sex. “Jay” was the word our family used for “naked”, as in “naked as jaybird”, and hug, well, you get the picture. I remember feeling anxious about how people in nudist colonies avoided impregnation. I kept thinking about what would happen if my grandpa and I were in a nudist colony and he hugged me. I didn’t feel super distressed by this; just confused. So I understood where babies came from, but how they got there was a bit unclear. Our family watched Dallas every Friday night for my entire childhood. I am sure a great deal of my sexuality was formed from that show. When I started to have sexual fantasies around 8 or 9, they always involved two people french kissing intensely and then going into a room and closing a door. I didn’t allow myself to visualize the act of sex until after grade 7 (I felt I was too young and it would be inappropriate!), so I’m assuming I learned the actual logistics of it during junior high sex ed. I have no memory of my parents explaining it, although I can’t imagine they would have felt shy about doing so. My dad, sister and I used to walk around this park near the Ottawa River. There were lots of trails. This was a park where queer folk would go back in the 80s to meet up. I remember my father saying, “If we ever run into two men here in the woods, don’t be scared. They are here because they love each other but they can’t show that love in public. Our society is wrong and these men should be allowed to show their love. They will not hurt you, just keep walking.” At a certain point, my parents taught us the term “sexual intercourse”. One day my father told me, a propos of nothing, that “music from the 70s is really all about sexual intercourse, kids. Like, if you hear the word ‘dance’ in a song from the 70s, you know they are actually talking about sexual intercourse.” This led my sister and I to often dance around the living room singing “Sexual Intercourse Queen! Young and sweet only 17!”. My father reasonably felt no need to correct us. My mother later told me that every time a man sings in a song that he wants to be friends with a woman, it meant he wanted to have sexual intercourse with her. We amended the Bob Dylan song, “All I really wanna do” accordingly, and added that to our repertoire: “All I, reallllllyy wanna dooooooo, ooooo, ooo … is baby have sexual intercourse with you.” So while I was still unclear on the mechanics, I got a good education in social dynamics, sexual politics and double entendre. One day in grade six on the school yard this grade 8 guy yelled at a grade 8 girl, “How much do you charge for BJs?” I didn’t know what that was but had the anxious sensation it was “dirty”. To work up the courage to ask my mom, I suggested we play chess. After a long and awkward game in our big sunny kitchen, I finally broached the subject. I asked what it meant; she told me. I was disgusted, and we lapsed into quiet chess playing. But yet another anxious wave was rising in me and I had to ask the follow up question, even though I truly did not want to know the answer. “Do you and Dad do that?”. My mother said, “Someday, when we are both old ladies sitting in lawn chairs, I will tell you that.” I am proud of my parents, for their gentle honesty, compassion, integrity, outright weirdness, and political awareness. For the ways they showed me the bigger picture, while protecting me from the things I wasn’t yet ready to handle. For the way they made sex seem funny and real, political and personal. When I turned 18, my mother gave me a Playgirl, and when I had my first serious adult relationship at 19, she told me I should “have sex in her bed since it is more comfortable than the pull out”. I did have sex for the first time on that pullout, with a man I loved very deeply and who loved me very much. When I was 26, my father was the only person I trusted to take me to and support me during an abortion. Through my drugged out haze in the surgery, I remember saying to the doctor, “Thank you, on behalf of all women, for giving me a choice.” It was because of my parents that during one of the most difficult personal situations of my life, I was also deeply connected to my social values, and was able to speak my gratitude and support for those who do the work of social justice. I am proud of who I have become in the world because of my parents.
Lost in Translation
Marissa, Cis woman 24
I was in grade 5. This group of boys were laughing and calling each other “homos”. I didn’t know what the word meant at the time so I asked Gary, a Korean exchange student to use his translator/ electronic dictionary to look it up. We had a supply teach that day who was walking around the class to make sure we were doing our work. She walked behind me just as I typed the word into the dictionary. She screamed at me so loudly and in such a punitive way that I jumped out my seat. “We don’t look up those kinds of words in this class!” I went home thinking that I had done something terrible. It took 3 years for me to finally understand that she was the one who did something wrong.
Talking Sex with Sue
Christa, Female, 42
The vast majority of my sexual health education came from Sue Johanson and her Sunday Night Sex Show. As a pre-teen and teenager, I spent many Friday and Saturday nights babysitting, which gave me the opportunity to watch the reruns of this show without “getting caught”. Sue taught me so much about male and female bodies, contraception, menstrual cycles, sex toys, and more. As a student in the Catholic School system, and in a time where the internet didn’t exist, her show was an invaluable resource. Her knowledge and professionalism, coupled with her quirky sense of humour and her candid, almost casual conversations about topics many people have difficulty discussing even in private, helped me to realize that being a sexual being is normal and healthy, and that the best way to have a good, healthy, satisfying sex life is by talking about it.
casual sex miseducation
AW, Female, 25