Educating your nine year old about sex – not as easy as it seems

[Janet Chilcott, Family & Parenting News Contributor]

Guardian.co.uk’s Julia Sweeney, gives an amusing though insightful story about a problem that visits every parent at sometime in their lives – how to educate your child about sex.

The settting of the conversation that follows is a visit to a local Thai restaurant when the delicacy ‘frogs legs’ is served.  Julia converses with her 9 year old daughter, Mulan, about the dish and then the topic changes to sex.

Mulan: “So, Mum. First, the frogs lay eggs, in a pond, and then the eggs turn into tadpoles and the tadpoles turn into more frogs.”
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Julia (mumbling): “Uh… yeah. I think so. I think, though, that it’s probably just the females that lay the eggs, and then the males fertilise them – although I don’t know for sure – and there are probably all kinds of species of frogs with different ways of doing things. But yeah, in general, I’m willing to bet, the females are the ones with the eggs. Or something like that.”
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Mulan (intently): “Huh….but, what does ‘fertilise’ mean?”
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Julia: “Oh, the males have this substance inside them, and it’s like a co-ingredient, called sperm. They sprinkle, or squirt it on the eggs. That’s how they get fertilised. It takes both the female’s eggs and the male’s sperm, and together they make the new tadpoles”.

Mulan (curiously): “Soooooo, only the females have the eggs?”

Julia: “Yes”.

Mulan (beginning the ‘danger’ zone): “Humans, too?”

Julia: “Yes”.

Mulan: “Where do women keep their eggs?”

Julia: “Well ……we women have evolved to have our own pond, right inside our own bodies. We lay our eggs in this pond, which is so convenient when you think about it compared with frogs, because we don’t have to worry about any competing eggs. It’s a pond of our own.”

Mulan (eyes widened): “Where is it?”

Julia: “It’s in our lower abdomen, inside us, below our belly button, above our vagina.”

Mulan: “But… how do the eggs get fertilised?”

Julia: “By the man”.

Mulan: “But how does the sperm get in to fertilise the eggs?”

Julia:  “Oh, yes. That. Well, the sperm comes out of the man’s penis and it goes into the woman’s vagina. This happens when the two do what’s called, ‘have sex’. And that’s where the egg – there’s usually only one in the woman’s pond at a time – gets fertilised.”

Mulan (face twisted in disgust and her voice rising): “That’s where humans make a baby, where you go to the bathroom? Mum!!”

Julia (sheepishly): “Yes….I know ….it is weird. That part can take some getting used to.”

Mulan (mumbling):”Gross.”

Julia: “Yeah, I know. As they say, it’s like having a waste treatment plant right next to an amusement park. Terrible town planning.”

Mulan: “What?”

Julia: “The thing is……that’s how we evolved. That’s where it all happens. And even though going to the bathroom and having sex are both in the general same area, they are actually totally separate….except for some people, where psychologically it gets all mushed together, which is creepy in my opinion but certainly not morally wrong, and is actually understandable given the proximity …..like your nose and your mouth……they’re both close to each other on your face, but you wouldn’t stick a bean sprout up your nose.”

Mulan (chuckling): “But Mum ….how can this ever happen? I mean, men and women, they can never be naked together.”

Julia: “Well…..when people are older – much, much older than a kid – when they are older and they both decide they want to, in very certain circumstances, like if they’re in love with each other, well, then, they can be naked together.”

Mulan (holding Julia’s gaze intently): “But how do they know when…..does the man say, ‘Is now the time to take off my pants?'”

Julia: “Yes….that’s exactly what they say.”

Now in the car driving home from the restaurant, Julia and Mulan continue the conversation.

Mulan (laughing): “Oh Mum, you’re going to laugh so hard.”

Julia: “Why?”

Mulan: “Because, Mum, you can’t believe what I thought you said back at the restaurant. It’s so funny. I thought you said that the man puts his penis in a woman’s vagina – inside of it – and that’s how people make a baby. Isn’t that hysterical?”

Julia: “That is what I said.”

Mulan (reflecting seriously): “Oh…..what if two people just walked up to each other on the street and started doing it?”

Julia:  “The human species is very private when it comes to sex. Humans are unusual in this way. They have sex in private.”

Mulan: “What if you went to a party and there were a bunch of men and women and they all just started doing it? Would that ever happen?”

Julia (lying): “No…..that would never happen. Because humans are so private.”

Mulan: (with a serious face): “Mum…..have you ever done this?”

Julia: “Yes”.

Mulan: “But Mum, you can’t have children.”

Julia: “That’s true.”

Mulan (with relief in her voice): “Well, you never have to do that again.”

Julia: “Well, if you really love someone and you’re an adult, then you want to do it, even if you can’t have a baby.”

Mulan (reflecting silently):  “But Mum, how can people do that? I mean, how do their legs go? You know, not everyone can do the splits.”

Julia: “Mulan, people figure the legs out. They just do.”

Mulan (now back at home with Julia upon being greeted by their cat, Val): “Oh….. what about cats? How do they do it?”

Julia: “It’s basically the same idea”.

Mulan: “But how do their legs go?”

Julia (exasperated): “They, well, I think the male stands behind the female and… and… they just do, Mulan”.

Mulan (eying their pet dog, Arden): “What about dogs?”

Julia: “Same thing. It’s basically the same thing for all mammals.”

Mulan: “But what about their legs?”

Julia: “Look….I’ve lost my ability to describe it. Maybe we can look on Wikipedia or something and it will show us.”

They then went online and Googled ‘cats mating’ and watched some of the videos that came up. Mulan was spellbound.

Mulan: “Now what about dogs?”

They then watched a few dog videos.

Mulan:  “Mum, do you think there would be any videos of humans mating on the internet?”

Julia (feeling like a totally incompetent mother): “No. There would never be anything like that. Because humans are so private…..hey, how about some ice-cream?”

Mulan (later that night): “What about Roger and Don – how do they do it?”

Julia: “I… I don’t know.”

Mulan (after a longish visit to the bathroom):  “I think I know how Roger and Don do it.”

Julia: “Oh yeah?”

Mulan: “Yeah, Mum, there’s another hole down there, where you also go to the bathroom. Maybe… you know, maybe they use that.”

Julia: “Maybe”.

Mulan: “But Mum…what about two girls? What about Eileen and Karen, how do they do it?”

Julia (weakly and completely beaten): “I… I…”

Mulan: “Why don’t you call Karen and ask her?”

Julia (pretending to read a newspaper): “Nah,”

Mulan (disgustedly): “Mum, aren’t you even curious?”

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