Warning: This post talks about sex education and mentions a sexual act by name. It doesn’t actually talk about what happens during that act, but it mentions the word several times anyway. If you don’t think you can handle it, don’t read it. If it piques your interest and you can’t help but read it, go ahead. Proceed at your own risk.
When we were in fifth grade at St Paul Lutheran School, the teachers gathered all the boys from 5th through 8th grade in the upstairs 8th grade classroom in the school’s addition and all the girls from the same grades in the 5th grade classroom in the school’s (old) main building for our one and only lesson in sex education.
Now, the reason I’m relaying this story is because James and Jacqui’s daughter Charlotte is getting “the talk” soon at her school, although this seems to be a little older than when we got that same talk. Mind you, I don’t think we had as many boys in the classes ahead of us, so it might’ve been easier for the teachers to just chuck us all together to give us the talk all at once. “Never mind the boys in 5th grade are 10 and 11, they need to know this stuff. Let’s get it done and over with in one fell swoop.”
I remember being very nervous because it wasn’t something we probably talked about or were terribly too much aware of at that age. Mr. Matthias (one of the junior high teachers) said a few words about different things, and I think I was so in shock that I honestly don’t remember much of the day to this day, other than a film the teachers put on to explain sex, Lutheran style.
Of course, I’m sure there was a bit of snickering by using anatomical names for the bits that make boys boys and girls girls. But I get the distinct feeling that the male teachers, unsure on how best to approach the subject, decided they were in deeper water than they dare tread, so, like many teachers before them paddling in an ocean they weren’t accustomed to swimming in, they resorted to the best teaching aide they could: the film projector.
The movie went through the normal things: as you get older, your voice drops, you grow hair everywhere, blah, blah, blah. That wasn’t too much of a shock because some of the boys in our class (and definitely in the classes ahead of us) were going through this already. I’m not sure about everyone else, but I noticed it and thought, “Oh well, you have to become an adult somehow.”
The funny thing about that movie is that, other than the changes to our body we might expect, I don’t think it actually taught us anything we needed to know in a straight-forward and scientific manner. It was full of, pardon the word choice, innuendo.
The story I tell everyone, because this is what I remember the most, is when the film approached the subject of masturbation. The protagonist of the story — let’s call him Johnny — was in a library, looking around at different books and things. He picked up a book, looked around sheepishly, and then went to the bathroom with it. The next shot showed stalls side-on; all you could see of Johnny was his feet and lower legs entering a stall (as if you were at the end of 3 stalls and peering underneath, and he’s in the furthest stall from you). He opened the book and put it on the floor, then he hiked himself up on the toilet, with his pants around his ankles.
The announcer stated something like, “Masturbation is bad.”
Now, to my 11 year old, slightly over-analytical and quite literal mind, masturbation was a word I had never heard before, so obviously, the definition of masturbation in my head was “reading on the toilet”. That’s what’s shown on the screen, so that must be what the announcer was talking about.
I was in shock. Dad took a book or magazine to the toilet to read. Quite a few people I knew took a book or magazine into the toilet to read. It even seemed to be a Fack family trait. I didn’t know this was a sin! Did they know? Should I tell them? Would God punish me for taking a book into the bathroom? And why? What was so wrong about that?
Would God be angry with me for taking books or comics or anything into the toilet with me before I knew it was bad? He seemed like a very angry and vengeful God in the Old Testament; maybe He would hold my sins against me before I even knew that bringing reading material into the bathroom was a sin!
I’m not quite sure when or how I discovered that the word the announcer was talking about in the film and the act it referred to were not the same thing. I’m sure it was during some conversation that I highly embarrassed myself by showing my naivety. My mind wasn’t developed enough to capture the implication or context between the two things. And while the film makers (as adults) obviously knew what masturbation was, and they decided not to go any further other than to say it was bad, they didn’t take into consideration they were putting adult values on what was meant to educate children and young adults about subjects they didn’t know about: puberty and sex. They wanted to imply the sexual act but assumed that children and young adults would pick this up somehow.
I think I went about 6 months or so where I was terrified to take anything into the toilet with me when I had to go to the bathroom. Probably my friend Tommy or one of the other boys in my class told me what masturbation was or I didn’t think God would be so petty as to punish a child for taking reading material in the toilet, so, sometime later, I ventured into the toilet with a Transformers comic or something like that. God didn’t strike me dead, so that was a good thing.
In short… if you have kids, and it’s time to have “that talk”, as uncomfortable as it may seem… Have that talk. And don’t be embarrassed about it!