2 min

Off with the blindfold

Embarrassment about sex ed works well enough

Credit: Xtra files

Parental sex education is no naked picnic in the sand. Imagine having to brief a ready-to-ask-anything little bugger on a topic you can barely talk to your reflection about.

Countless creative strategies have been invented, from talking about insects, to calling it “love,” to the infamous, arm’s-length book.

My own parents’ choice was the book. I clearly remember that the closest description of sex in it was that the two participants (it only mentioned two), “lie facing each other.” Imagine my surprise at learning I had already had sex with my dog.

Today’s parents want to be more hip and we want our kids to be more informed, but the inhibitions of our parents are hard to overcome. At a Mother’s Day brunch, where I was the only lesbian (though not the only lesbian-curious I later, uh, discovered), one woman described her clever compromise.

“I’ve told them they can ask me anything,” she said to a few small gasps around the table. “But,” she continued, “they can’t ask anything about me.”

I wondered whether that wasn’t like teaching them to cook and pretending you’d never seen the inside of a kitchen. But at least she’s drawn a line.

My absurd ambition, right from the first “How did I get borned?” question, has been to be informative and casual. No cherished darling of mine will go blindfolded through the maze of sexual discovery. I’ve made a commitment to answering all of her questions, whenever they’re asked, with age-appropriate information.

Which means, of course, there have been lots of times when I wish I’d just tossed her the book and the blindfold.

When she was around six, she called over the wind and traffic noise from the back of my bicycle, “Mom! What’s fuck mean?”

Navigating Queen St traffic on a populated summer day, I didn’t have the courage to yell out an answer loud enough for her to hear. Misreading my silence, she clarified her question, “I know it’s a swear, but what does it really mean?”

When on a quiet little side street, she was satisfied to know it meant the same as having sex.

Then there was the day, maybe a year later, when it dawned on her that, “If men have a penis, how do lesbians have sex?” A free-thinking, sexually liberal friend of mine happily jumped to the rescue.

“They use their hands,” she said cheerfully. My daughter looked wide-eyed at me for confirmation, “They do?”

In fear and trepidation I wondered what the next question would be. But years of daycare sanitation drills took over. All she wanted to know was whether, afterwards, we wash.

Last year I was asked “What’s KY?”, “Do you use it?” and “Why?” Worried that the communication door might slam shut if I chickened out now, I forced myself to answer as if I was talking about toothpaste.

But with dawning adolescence, we’re gaining some discretion. In Price Chopper recently, in between the root vegetables and the bulk canned pop, she informed me that it was possible to plan the birth date of your baby. Pregnancy probabilities seemed easy after KY and lesbian sexual practices.

“But you don’t get pregnant just because you have sex,” I responded. She gave a horrified glance at the man behind us who was choosing between ginger ale and Coke. “Mom!” she said in a reprimanding tone of mortification and drew me away toward the cucumbers.

I was tempted to loudly continued the conversation, just to see her squirm – after all, I hadn’t gained all this casual confidence to be shut up now. But visions of the frigidity she would suffer from the trauma of having her mother shamelessly discuss sex in a crowded grocery store stopped me.

So, we’re kind of even now. She can still ask whatever she wants, and I will still answer, but it’s much more likely to be where it’s just her and me.