I’m 43 and my father still hasn’t sat me down to discuss the birds and the bees. I imagine that if the talk had come about, he would have explained it all using automotive parts. (My dad liked to fix cars in his free time.) Instead, I brought home a permission slip in the eighth grade that he or my mother signed, so the Burleson Public School System could explain everything I ever wanted to know about sex but was afraid to ask.
I really didn’t have many questions. My best friend had already showed me a few minutes of a porn tape that he had nicked from his older brother’s bedroom. I went over to Kent’s house after school, and he said that he wanted to show me something. He popped a VHS tape into the VCR and hit play. The next thing I knew a close-up of a man and woman’s private parts flashed in media res burst onto the TV screen. It startled me, and I think I actually fell off the sofa. Not only was I unaware that I was about to confronted with genitalia blown up twice its actual size, but the volume was turned up full-blast, assaulting my ears with heavy breathing, melodramatic moaning, and cheesy music.
In a few minutes, I pretty much figured out how all the pieces came together. And although it sounds like it should have been a sexually-charged moment of self-awakening, within two minutes the scene degenerated into manipulating the couple onscreen with the fast forward and reverse buttons. “Before,” Kent said, before hitting the reverse button. “Now after!” I mentioned to him that the synthesizer music was quite catchy, and then we went over to the piano and pecked out the melody and forgot about the movie.
So by the time my science class was separated into two groups by gender, I pretty much considered myself a pro on the subject. I sat with the other boys in my class as the male teacher went over the basics, anatomy, nocturnal emissions, pregnancy, etc. This was 1981, so we didn’t have worry about AIDS or testicular self-exams. The teacher did discuss sexually transmitted diseases, though, and he took great pleasure in describing in detail how the military dealt with syphilis in Viet Nam.
“Our sergeant would make us soldiers line up every morning and drop our pants. He’d walk down the line and inspect our penises. If he found a soldier with a chancre sore, he’d pull out his machete, and cut it off.” At this point, I happened to glance around. I saw a roomful of wide-eyed 13–14-year-old boys with crossed legs and their hands folded across their laps, grimacing. One of the boys may have even passed out.
Sensing some confusion, I raised my hand. “Sir, are you saying your sergeant cut off the chancre sore or the penis?”
Our teacher smiled. “The chancre sore, of course.”
The boys let out a collective sigh. I noticed that the Don Juans of our class avoided the girls for a few days.
What do you remember about sex education?