I was brought up to believe that any discussion about sex was so taboo, that this belief was never even expressed; it was just strongly implied. So this topic, even to this day, is a tough one for me to talk about. Sometimes the ceilings that are built for us as children are hard to break past. This ceiling is not even glass; for a long time, I couldn’t even see what was beyond.
OK, enough with the architectural metaphors; let’s get to some childhood events that helped shape who I am today.
My Sex Education
When I was in Grade 7, I was entering a class with my buddies and to this day, I can’t even remember what we were talking about, but we were carrying on the way that 12-year-old boys do. I made some kind of a gesture in a random direction; I believe I was imitating the “Walk like an Egyptian” dance from the Bangles song of the same name. Turns out I unknowingly gestured towards one of the prettiest girls in our class, whom I had never even spoken a word to. For the weeks and months following, I was relentlessly teased by my friends and others about how we had a secret relationship. The lesson learned here was to forever be cautious and never express myself without careful consideration, especially in a physical way like a silly 80s dance.
My dad was a big fan of the 1983 movie Trading Places, starring Dan Aykroyd and Eddie Murphy, for its hilarious rags-to-riches-turned-upside-down story. We always watched the edited version on cable TV. One day, probably when I was about 12 or 13, he rented the videotape for us to watch together as a family. Naturally he didn’t know about the part when a topless Jamie Lee Curtis joins Dan Aykroyd in bed, because it got edited out for TV. My dad grabbed the remote control, stopped the tape and fast forwarded it for several seconds, mumbling something about my mom’s eyes hurting so we needed to take a break. Now, I was at an age that I knew this was utter silliness; surely they knew I had seen far worse in movies already. But I was also at a young enough age to not call him out on it, since talking about sex was totally taboo. And what did I learn from this experience? It only reinforced the taboo belief in my mind that anything sexual in nature was to be kept secret and not talked about with anyone.
In early high school, a friend of mine invited me over after school, like we had hung out many times before. But on this day, he had two girls over at the same time, who I didn’t know. He raided his dad’s secret stash of porn videos and we watched one together. I felt incredibly awkward the entire time, and excused myself afterwards. Even into my teens, sex was still taboo and I had no idea how to behave in this kind of situation.
Simply talking to girls was frowned upon when I was growing up. In high school, I had many friends who happened to be girls, but no girlfriends. The American comedian Hasan Minhaj summed it up perfectly in his excellent stand-up routine Homecoming King: (I’m paraphrasing) “When you’re a kid, it’s like, ‘No talking to girls!’ And then when you’re 30, it’s like, ‘Why can’t you talk to girls?’”
Many years later, I ended up marrying the first girl I really had a relationship with, which as it turned out, was a mistake. In hindsight, I realize that most things don’t work out the first time I try them; why would an intimate relationship be any different? I talked about this on my Movember Man-isms Part 2: Mental Health article. I stumbled through our first sexual encounters, and managed to learn through trial and error (not terribly uncommon, I realize). Today, I’m happy to say I’m in loving, healthy relationship with my second wife.
Fantasies and consent
Maybe it’s my lack of experience, but I feel like even my fantasies are on the cautious, careful side. Don’t worry, I’m not going to get into the details. For those readers who are hoping I would, I’m glad I don’t know yours either! But this point has been solidified in my mind recently, with the recent #MeToo movement: fantasies are supposed to be fun and pleasurable; for me, there’s no fun without enthusiastic consent.
Another childhood incident resurfaced in my mind after #MeToo began making headlines. Around Grade 7, I was in the public library with a few of my friends, and somehow the discussion got around to sex, and they were teasing me that I had no experience. Today, I wonder if they actually had much at age 12. One of my friends told me, “You wouldn’t even know what to do if Madonna walked in here right now completely naked.” It’s true, I didn’t know what to say to that as the boys continued to laugh at me. I do remember thinking I would probably cover her up with my coat, because why would she be strolling in here naked? But I didn’t say that; I was embarrassed enough without making it worse.
There’s a special kind of rapture when there’s enthusiastic consent. So yeah, even in my fantasies, there might be hesitation and verbal or non-verbal foreplay, but always a strong willingness to get it on.
As part of my Movember 2017 plan, I’ll be blogging about four aspects of my man-isms throughout the month. I’m far from the stereotypical “guy” so the stuff I have to say is perhaps a little outside the norm. I’ll be sharing my thoughts and experiences with mental health, physical health, social health, and sexual health.