The things kids discuss during class!

I’d like to preface this post with a warning that it will contain some frank sex talk. While I certainly don’t consider what I’m about to say explicit enough to merit an NC-17 rating, I also respect that it might make some of my readers uncomfortable. As such, I would encourage everyone to use their own discretion while deciding whether to continue reading or skip this one.

Now that I’m home and had some time to think about it, I decided it’s time to return to Barbara (unfortunately, her blog is marked private, so it’d do my readers no good to link to it) and her excellent question:

What is a childhood memory or even that has shaped your life in a significant way (either negatively or positively)

I suppose some might choose to pounce on the fact that the vast majority of the memories that rushed to my mind when I read this question related to sexuality. To be honest, most of the prominent memories from my childhood — especially those that I consider somehow significant — really do have to do with sexuality. I make no apologies for it. And while I feel I don’t need to justify it, either, I will point out that when you’re at war with your sexuality, it does tend to consume a considerable portion of your life.

At any rate, the memory I decided to focus on was of the day I first found out that there was such a thing as sex between two men. I was in the eighth or ninth grade at the time (I can’t narrow it down any better than that), and I and the rest of my peers were sitting at our desks in English class. I’m not sure whether the bell to signal the class was starting hadn’t rung yet or the teacher had to step out for other reasons. For whatever reason, however, we were left to our own devices, and numerous conversations were going on about the room. I was only peripherally involved with the one occurring one row from my desk, though I became interested in it. At one point, the others mentioned a rumor that two guys from school (one in our grade and another a couple years behind us) had been caught “screwing” each other.

At this time in my life, I was extremely naive when it came to most topics about sexuality. This is something that greatly amused some of my classmates, I think. So when I actually asked what it meant for two guys to “screw,” one of my classmates described the basic concept to me in a tone that would best be described as a cross between amusement and disgust. I was both fascinated and disconcerted by this discovery. I didn’t really understand how the mechanics of such an act worked, and I wasn’t inclined to pursue the matter any further, given my classmates’ obvious distaste for the subject.

So in a single moment, I learned three things. The first thing that I learned was that it was possible for two guys to sexually pleasure each other. The second thing that I learned was that most of my classmates found the very idea of doing so disgusting. And of course, the third thing that I learned was that unlike my classmates, the thought of having such an experience absolutely fascinated me.

At one point after this conversation, one of the boys from the rumor (the younger one) and I were in the same Boy Scout troop. I remember stealing quick looks at him and thinking about that conversation back in English class. Again, I found myself fascinated with the whole idea. I even considered ways I might get him alone to see if he’d be willing to fool around with me. I never did, though I’m not sure whether it was more due to the fear of rejection or due to the knowledge that doing so could prove to further set me apart from my peers and stigmatize me. And of course there were the religious issues.

So there you have it, during a single off-handed conversation in English class, I both got my first clue that I like guys and learned that many people felt this was something to be ashamed of.

3 thoughts on “The things kids discuss during class!”

  1. Let me ask you this, and feel free to decline to answer any or all of my questions here.

    I have a going-to-be 7th grader, and I do struggle about how much of these kinds of conversations to have with him. Not sex talks…we’ve been over that…but same-sex sex talks. Do you think that is something that ought to be included in the typical sex-talks for all kids…to say that a small percentage of people experience same-gender attraction and that it is OK? Or do you think that for the average kid that is too much information? Obviously it would have helped you to be told that this is acceptable…do you think?

  2. Erin: Those are some great questions! I think, however, I’m going to answer them in a comment here rather than in a separate post.

    I’m of the opinion that kids need to know something about sexual orientation at a relatively early age. I’m loathe to try to offer any specific guidelines, however. To be honest, I’m not a parent, and the only point of reference I have (my own experience growing up) is a highly biased one that’s further complicated by being vague memories.

    I will note that it would’ve been a great benefit to me to have known something about sexual attraction between two guys earlier. After all, I remember learning out the basic information concerning sex between a man and woman in sixth grade. I was completely shocked and more than a little distraught at the time. (A more perceptive person might have picked up on this as a pretty big clue that I was gay.) Knowing that there were other forms of sexual expression probably would’ve helped me not feel so weird — after all, all my other classmates took the idea of sticking their penis in a girl’s vagina in stride at the time.

    I also believe that just like I did, most kids are probably going to find out about these things somehow — if not from their parents, then from their peers. The problem with letting their peers be the source of this knowledge — as is exemplified by my own experience — is that you also leave their peers to present the first value judgment on the subject that your children will ever hear. That strikes me as a risky business at best.

    Of course, I think what’s even more important than talks about sex is talks — and even examples — of love and relationships. Ideally, this would include discussion of and exposure to healthy same-sex romantic relationships.

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