In the past week, there’s been a lot of debate about when and how and why and what to say to teenage girls about “knocking the boots,” which is what we called it when I was one such girl. From this touching piece by dad Ferrett Steinmetz on hoping his daughter has “awesome sex” to the current “trend” of teen sleepovers parsed out in the New York Times of all places, adolescent doing it is the topic du jour.
Get ready to clutch those pearls
As of today, I don’t have any kids, much less teen drama queens, that I know of. But I definitely remember being one, complete with all the anxiety and awkwardness. I was a gawky thing. The boys I liked called me Olive Oyl and the girls I wanted to be like called me “a man,” like that was the whole insult.
Needless to say my mother wasn’t really worried that I’d be bringing home anything but A’s. It might surprise most to learn that my free loving hippie lesbian mother never had “the talk” with me. Besides telling horny-six-year-old me that sex was for grown ups — like she literally called it “grown up games” — and then once in college she asked me if I was on birth control. We never spoke of specifics. But I had plenty of teachers.
Firstly my mom’s long tern girlfriend, Vernell, cornered me one morning in the bathroom to explain how tampons worked. I had yet to get my period. Then she told me that I definitely shouldn’t wait until I got married to have sex. “You might not like it. You could be frigid.”
I looked “frigid” up later in the dictionary and immediately added the epithet “fucking bitch” to Vernell’s name — in my head.
To this day I’m fuzzy on her reasoning. Did she want me to have sex just to prove her wrong? Was she trying to low key recruit me to a secret lesbian cabal? Or did she really see something in me that screamed, “Oh that one? She’s just not that into it.” I answered “yes” to all those questions and came out the other end even more confused.
At 13, all my friends had run through every base, most sliding into home by the time we got to high school. I was the virgin by choice as much as by circumstance. As many times as I scoffed at my homegirls for “giving it up” too soon no one had ever asked me for mine.
By the time a boy actually wanted to see me sans clothes I’d built up an involuntary defense to such reckless experimenting. We were 15. My friend Mary and I were at her “boyfriend’s” house in Hawthorne although Mary’s mom that we were at the mall a few miles away. Mary quickly disappeared into a bedroom and I was left alone with a boy I’d just met. He was tall and dark and so many of the other cliches I’d built up in my mind.
“So when are you gonna let me eat you out?” he asked, knocking me out of my daydream.
“Huh?” I said, squeezing my knees together even tighter while also scooting over to the other end of the couch. He followed me there all the while whispering in my ear about how my vagina was calling his name and how all he wanted to do was say, “Hello.”
This was seriously happening and I had absolutely no idea how to react besides, “NO.” There were no other bullets in my chamber and, looking back, it absolutely had this kid’s name on it. But I also had no other words with which to express my own desire and valid apprehension. Some girls, I know, don’t even have “no.” But I always wonder what would have happened during those years if I’d had more words.
By the time I actually started having sex in college, I was no wiser than I had been as a teen but now I was thousands of miles away from home. I made hideous mistakes. The kind that everyone probably should. But by then I had a false sense of being able to handle them on my own. Wasn’t I an adult? Shouldn’t I know how to deal with the emotional and physical consequences? The answers to that echoed the all-purpose shield I’d been given: no.
As absolutely bonkers as it sounds to my narrow little ears, the idea of a sex under your parents roof with their consent doesn’t seem so nutty in practice. And having your dad, someone that wants you safe, telling you that “it doesn’t degrade you to have some [pleasure] of your own” is as powerful a shield as the ones I was taught in the self-defense classes my mom made me take before I moved to New York.
All that is to say I’m still working out the aftermath of my non-talk sex talk.