The wrong way to teach sex ed…

Jeremy and I were having one of those conversations about the silly things zie and zir sister said when they were younger. I told Jeremy about zir unusual conclusion regarding anal sex then, to give the conversation a bit of balance, brought up the time Emma asked me how lesbians had sex… on our way into the local mall.

“There wasn’t much I could say,” I concluded. “I don’t actually know how lesbians have sex. I told her if she was that interested, she could Google it herself when she got older or try it for herself.”

Jeremy gave me a look that said zie was not only concerned about my intelligence but that zie was obviously more knowledgeable than I was.

“Oh Mom,” zie sighed. “Everyone knows how lesbians have sex.” Zie held up zir hand then opened and closed two fingers, bringing them closer to me for emphasis.

“Yes, hon, I have heard the term scissoring before. I just don’t know what it means and have never been interested enough to look it up for myself.”

“Well I know what it means,” zie announced.

I gazed at Jeremy expectantly and waited for zir to continue. I could tell when zie realized why I was silent because that was when the expression on zir face changed from “worldly wise” to “deer in headlights”.

“Oh… well… you see…” Jeremy stammered. “They, umm, put their legs around each other’s necks then open and close them as fast as they can.”

I’d been trying to keep a serious expression but lost it then. That had to be the most unlikely scenario I could come up with and, as usual, unlikely was Jeremy’s first choice.

“Hon, I think you’re confusing lesbians with black widow spiders. No one gets decapitated during sex.”

“But you said you don’t know what scissoring is,” zie protested.

“Seriously Jeremy,” I blurted. “I’m reasonably sure I’d notice if my friends were losing their heads. That’s not how scissoring works.”

“Okay, I guess…” Zir tone was pure reluctance. Jeremy has a really hard time admitting zie’s wrong and that’s the closest zie gets to admitting it.

It wasn’t the best sex ed talk I’ve had with either of my kids but at least Jeremy’s no long confusing lesbians with spiders (seriously, zie will never live that down). All I got out of the conversation was a few laughs and the realization that if Jeremy’s watching porn, there’s a good chance it’s not of the lesbian variety.

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I take it back!

I joked half a year ago (double checks the date, yes, it was exactly half a year ago today) that sex ed talks could be renamed “Why Mommy Wants to Drink”. I take it back. Plain, basic explanations on what people do together in private (you know, beyond sleeping and surfing the net) are easy.

I was in the kitchen preparing dinner when Jeremy walked in. He leaned against the fridge and eyed me seriously.

“Mom. Some people say men can’t get raped.”

I put the knife down and stared at him, momentarily speechless, my thoughts colliding with each other as they went from organizing food prep to serious conversation.

“They say that men have to, umm, be interested in order to have sex.”

Really? I’d rather just go back to explaining anal sex. Talk about needing a deep breath. I was tired, hungry, and in no way ready for a conversation like this.

“Okay,” I said slowly, trying to corral my thoughts. “Something you have to remember is that nature has only one goal and that’s to reproduce. That’s it for every single plant and animal and that includes us. Nature doesn’t care what you think, feel, or want; it tries its utmost for a baby regardless. Men can have erections and women can have orgasms even if they don’t want to have sex at all.”

He nodded then added, “And women have it a lot easier because they get believed and men don’t. They get more help too.”

Jeremy rattled off a statistic which I promptly lost. Under ten rape clinics that worked with men and clinics numbering in the thousands for women. He had exact numbers, presumably from a video he’d watched.

“They said there’s more clinics for women because men get raped less but how would anyone know that if they’re not believed?”

Another deep breath. My doctor offered me Ativan last month and I turned him down. Which was probably a good choice because this was not a conversation to have while looped.

“In one way that’s true,” I agreed. “Men don’t get believed and often don’t report assaults. Plus there’s a whole different mentality. If a grown man has sex with a 14 year old girl, that’s rape. But if a grown woman has sex with a 14 year old boy, he’s considered a stud. And that’s not right.”

Jeremy nodded and stayed silent. So I continued.

“Sadly, women don’t have it much better. I read a story recently where a judge reduced the sentence on a sexual assault case because the 14 year old girl was too mature for her age and must have been willing. And the first things people ask when a woman’s raped are what she’s wearing, how late it was, and if she was drinking. You know, to figure out how much was her fault. Women might be doing a bit better when it comes to being believed but everyone’s getting the short end of the stick.”

Then a thought occurred to me.

“Jeremy? Has anyone ever touched you or done anything…” I had no idea how to finish that sentence. Luckily I didn’t need to.

“No,” he replied simply in a voice full of surprise. His expression was baffled as if he couldn’t comprehend that anyone would try to hurt him like that. I think everyone feels like that, until something happens at least, and I hope he keeps that feeling forever.

Jeremy has a girlfriend…

When Jeremy got home yesterday he immediately wanted me to see his bedroom. He’s been working on cleaning up for several days now and spent an hour working on it that morning after I left for work.

It looked really good but he hadn’t cleaned under his bed. I got the broom and began sweeping.

“I’m in a relationship,” he blurted.

I reached the broom into the far corner beneath the bed. “Does The Doctor know?” I asked.

“Mom!” he retorted. He was probably trying to sound shocked but was laughing too much to manage. “It’s not The Doctor.”

I put the broom down. “Okay, so who is it?”

“It’s Hannah,” he replied, which wasn’t a surprise. He’s been frustrated with Hannah since late last year. She keeps picking boyfriends who have her marked as an easy lay then inappropriate behaviour ensues.

“I wouldn’t treat her like that,” he told me last spring. “I don’t know why she keeps picking assholes to date.”

This was shortly after the bus incident; one where Hannah was caught giving her boyfriend sexual favours on the bus ride home. Jeremy is in a special class and he’s quite easily the most high functioning child in the room. Hannah would be more accurately described as sweet and pliable and the boyfriend as developmentally delayed.

This incident is what prompted the school to finally offer their classes a sex ed program. Until then I’m pretty sure Jeremy was the only teen in his class who’d attended one and that’s because I sent him to the OWL program offered through our Unitarian Universalist congregation.

As an aside, I highly recommend this program to anyone with children, especially if they are or you suspect they might be LGBTQ. It’s not a religious program, Canadian Unitarian Universalists aren’t considered Christian and I’m sure a third of our congregation is atheist. It’s a comprehensive program and one which treats all sexual orientations and gender identities equal. When Emma took the program, they role played asking people out so they’d know how hard it is and be gentle with someone who’s made the effort (even if they weren’t interested). They didn’t pair the kids by gender, they drew names out of hats. Emma was paired with a girl for her turn.

Obviously sex ed for Jeremy’s classmates had come a bit too late.

Last month a friend of Jeremy, one of Hannah’s ex-boyfriends, decided to touch her inappropriately at school. She complained to one of the teachers. At first Jeremy was mad because he felt his friend hadn’t done anything and they were blaming him over nothing. Then the friend confessed. Neither teen wanted to go any further with charges so the issue was dropped. However, the school and Hannah’s parents decided it would be better if Hannah didn’t date at all anymore. Jeremy was livid.

“She wasn’t dating him and didn’t want to be touched. They’re punishing her for doing the right thing and telling someone in authority. That’s not fair.” He shook his head in disgust. “She keeps picking guys who only want her for sex and I’m not going to be like that.”

He said the last part emphatically and I believe him. That’s why he broke up with his last girlfriend. She wanted sex and he didn’t, at least not with her. And I was dancing inside because he was only 15 years old at the time. You can be sure I praised him to the sky for his decision.

Of course this is a relationship in name only. They can’t go out anywhere because she’s not allowed to date. They can’t say anything at school. I’d be surprised if they’re even able to hold hands, let alone kiss. But he can tell people outside of school that he’s dating her and I guess that’s good enough for him. As Lenny pointed out, it’s a safe relationship.

Shortly after I sat down at the computer, Jeremy appeared at my door, a huge grin on his face.

“Did you know The Doctor’s bisexual?” he asked. “There’s this guy he likes and they flirt back and forth and talk about sex. The guy can’t die either.”

“Is it Captain Jack?” I asked. I’ve only seen four episodes but Jeremy’s watched everything available on Netflix. He nodded.

“Yes, Captain Jack and the second doctor in the new seasons,” he replied.

He came back a short time later. “Mom! Mom! The Doctor went to a gay strip club,” he blurted excitedly.

One of these days I’ll have to sit down and watch the rest of the shows with him. Four episodes and some disjointed descriptions aren’t enough to know what’s going on.

Sex Ed (aka Why Mommy Wants to Drink)

First of all, I’m going to mention that I started writing this blog because of the blog Raising My Rainbow. In it, the mother (Lori) details raising her son CJ, who describes himself as a boy who only likes girl things. While Colin is not as girlish as CJ, the blog brings back a lot of memories.

The flip side is the blog brings back memories. It doesn’t help with what’s going on now. CJ is in grade one and navigating primary school. Colin is in high school and navigating… well, he’s not navigating much. He goes to school then comes home and stays here. If I didn’t send him on errands or take him grocery shopping, he wouldn’t go anywhere.

When he was younger, he was my social butterfly. He didn’t hang out much with other kids but he was out all the time. Every shop in the area knew him by name and we couldn’t walk anywhere without someone yelling, “Hi Colin” from a car window. But he’s slowly withdrawn to home and we’ve moved since then. Now almost no one knows him.

I realized that there was no way I’m the only one dealing with this teenage minefield and, that maybe our struggles might help someone else. I wrote the introduction and showed it to Colin. He was horrified and wanted me to delete it immediately. Why would I write that? He’d told me those things in confidence. I explained how I’d felt about reading Raising My Rainbow and he looked at me thoughtfully.

“You’re not going to use my picture are you?” he asked. I hastily assured him I wouldn’t.

“Can I read the post to you?” I asked. He nodded then started smiling as I read. Some parts made him laugh.

“Okay,” he said once I was done. “You can post it.”

Now, at one point Lori wrote a brief post on Sex Ed, mainly dealing with who gives the sex talk if one of the children is gay. There’s no discussion on who’s going to deal with sex ed in my house. I’ve raised these kids on my own. All the discussions fall onto my (woefully inadequate) shoulders.

Over the years I’ve made it a point to talk to both Kait and Colin openly and honestly, answering their questions as best I can. Since I was raising two children of opposite genders, I couched my answers in gender neutral terms. Kait was a preteen when she informed me she was straight and I could just talk about dating boys when I talked to her. Colin never commented and I still use gender neutral terms with him.

Often our conversations occur at the dinner table or out walking. And while the conversations can make me feel uncomfortable, I’m still glad we have them. Some of the misinformation they overhear or simply come up with on their own can be mind-bogglingly wrong.

We were on a walk home from the library about three or four years ago. We were chatting about something completely inane then Colin asked, out of the blue, “Mom? Why do people have anal sex when it kills them?”

My mind went right to AIDS and other STIs but I’ve learned over the years to ask questions instead of just assuming. Especially with Colin, whose mind tends to wander in some pretty odd directions.

“Umm… what do you mean?” I asked cautiously.

“Well, you know, they explode,” he replied.

His expression said he felt this was perfectly obvious and I was a tad slow. Kait erupted into a fit of giggles while I stared at him in amazement.

“Hon, no, they don’t,” I quickly assured him. He shook his head.

“But Mom, that’s where poo comes out. Nothing’s supposed to go there, so they explode,” he informed me seriously.

His sister was laughing so hard by then, she was squeaking. I began to worry she’d wet herself. We were a good twenty minutes from home.

“Colin, trust me on this. No one’s going to explode. I swear I have yet to hear of a single person exploding anywhere ever from any type of sex.”

“Dorkface, you’re an idiot,” Kait helpfully added between giggles. “No one dies from having sex.”

He eyed us suspiciously then shrugged. “Okay, I guess so,” he said grudgingly.

To be fair, it was funny as hell, but kids come up with absolutely wrong ideas and sometimes there are devastating consequences. How many young teens end up pregnant because they thought she couldn’t get pregnant the first time, or if he pulled out, or if she stood during sex or douched with pop? How many kids have tried (and failed) to make homemade condoms to protect themselves from STIs or pregnancy? I want my kids to feel comfortable coming to me with questions, no matter how odd or embarrassing those questions might be.

Kait never had any issues asking me questions. Colin, on the other hand, found it quite awkward to talk to Mom. I signed him up for a comprehensive sex ed program. The good news was it covered EVERYTHING. The bad news was it encompassed two full weekends of information. Colin’s been suspected of ADHD before. He doesn’t listen to two full weekends of information.

Then one of his teachers decided to organize a sex ed class. I found the letter at the bottom of Colin’s backpack, crumpled into a ball.

“I should sign this,” I mused, smoothing out the crinkles.

“Don’t bother,” he mumbled. “I don’t want to go. I learned everything in my other class already.”

“I know you learned a lot but there’s always a chance you could learn more,” I replied and reached for a pen. He plunked himself down beside me and scowled.

“The teacher asked the class if there was anything they wanted to discuss and I said ‘gay stuff’. Then she told me not to be rude. I asked her how I was supposed to ask and she said she didn’t know but not to ask like that. I don’t think they’re going to mention anything and I don’t want to go. Can’t I just stay home?”

I looked at the crumpled paper then sighed. Colin was already coming home at least once a week due to anxiety issues and I didn’t want to add any more missed days to his already spotty attendance.

“How about if I write that I want them to discuss same sex relationships and intimacy? Would that help?” I asked. He nodded then sighed with relief.

I quickly penned my agreement and note, wondering what the reaction would be then put the paper in his backpack. At least he’d brought the form home with him. As far as I could tell, the permission forms for his school field trips were going into the recycling bin at school. I never saw those.

I was talking to his teacher several days later on yet another day he was coming home early.

“Did you get my note regarding the sex ed class?” I asked cautiously.

“Yes,” she replied. “You actually didn’t need to write it. We already had that on the agenda. Colin’s very good at advocating for himself.”

Colin felt she hadn’t listened to him at all but I didn’t say that.

Once I got home from work, I told Jeremy about the call. He flashed me a mocking grin.

“I only told them I want to discuss ‘gay stuff’ to piss them off. It’s not something I’m interested in,” he informed me.

“Don’t!” I snapped. He looked surprised. “I will stand up for you but I will not play games and I will not support you teasing your teacher. If you want to discuss ‘gay stuff’ in sex ed, I will fight my hardest to get you that information,” I replied, complete with air quotes. “But I refuse to take a serious issue and use it for bullying.” He nodded.

Several weeks later, I asked Colin how the class went. He shrugged. “It was boring,” he admitted. “I learned nothing.”

“Did they discuss anything to do with gay relationships or sex?” I asked. He shook his head. My heart sank and I tried to figure out how to bring this up with his teacher.

The next day I got a call from his teacher. Colin was coming home, again. I headed into the stock room and leaned against one of the shelves. This was the most privacy I could find at work.

“Colin said same sex relationships weren’t discussed in the class,” I said hesitantly.

“Really?” his teacher replied. “I don’t know why he’d say that. This was penciled into the schedule and I was there, in the room, during that part of the discussion. He got silly for some of the talk and had to leave but he was there for that part too. It got really controversial with some of his classmates arguing that they thought being gay was wrong.”

I rubbed my head and hoped I’d remembered to put the bottle of pain pills in my purse. I knew I’d need them.

“Colin,” I said almost as soon as I walked in the front door. “I talked to your teacher and she said that gay stuff was brought up in the sex ed class, that it got really controversial and she was there when it was discussed.”

“No, it wasn’t,” he protested. “Just ask anyone like… no, not him. His parents wouldn’t sign the form. Maybe you could ask so-and-so.”

The name washed over my head. He was someone Colin hadn’t mentioned before. I wasn’t going to track down a random student.

“Honestly,” he continued. “It was never brought up. She’s lying. I don’t know why but she’s lying.”

Both of them were totally, completely serious. And both were making the exact opposite statement. I looked at my son and wondered if it was too late to start a drinking habit.

“At least you learned about same sex relationships in the class I signed you up for,” I said pragmatically. He stared at me blankly then shook his head.

“They talked about a lot in that class,” he said quietly. “I got tired of listening.”

He thought for a moment then shrugged. “It doesn’t matter anyways because men and woman have a lot more sex than two men would.”

“Why do you say that?” I asked cautiously. I was reasonably sure he still didn’t think people exploded during sex.

“Because gay sex would hurt,” he replied logically.

If I wrote a book on all I know about gay sex, it would be pretty much blank. However… I used to lurk on a sex forum for parents and I did read a thread on anal sex before. It had been at least five years since I’d read that thread but I had to remember something.

“Umm… sex doesn’t hurt if you do it right,” I replied, thinking so hard I’m surprised smoke wasn’t pouring from my ears. “You’re supposed to use lube and go really slowly.”

He looked at me, his expression blank with surprise.

“This is new information, isn’t it?” I asked and he nodded. Damn. I thought hard again, remembering a scrap of information I’d seen on a safe sex notice somewhere.

“And use two condoms too,” I added, hoping I wasn’t misremembering. Another look of surprise.

I barely felt qualified to give my daughter information on straight sex. Now I’m really flying blind.