Saturday, July 28, 2007

Modern-day Virgin Birth

Why is it that we all have such a hard time with imagining that our parents had a sex life? We can focus on the pastels of our baby blankets, but it is hard to imagine the act that marked our real beginning.

I had a single conversation about sex with my mother in which she never used the word “pleasure” and instead depicted intercourse as an obligation to satisfy my father’s occasional urge. Not exactly a heady endorsement of procreation for a young pre-adolescent girl, but I just assumed that’s the way it was. It was not until quite a few years later that I learned anything to the contrary.

As our children were growing up, we were careful to lock the door when we had sex and there was never an embarrassing moment. We didn’t walk around the house nude. But there was also not a lot of open discussion about sex. There was never a staged time to sit down and read one of those books together. I always had the sense they had the necessary information.

But as our children became adults and I am sure they have discovered sex, I somehow thought things might be different. However, the following discussion with my daughter who is home before moving out west would indicate that I was totally wrong:

R: The guy I’ve been seeing in Boston really likes a clean house.
D: I was like that when Mom first met me.
Me: Yeah, I would go over to his apartment and always find the sheets in the dryer. It was never like we could just hop in bed.
R: ENOUGH! I don’t want to hear about your sex life. It’s off limits. Dad, don’t you agree?
D: I suppose it would be just too much information.

What I want to know is whether this will ever change? Since my mother’s death and since I read many of the letters she had written to my father and to other admirers, I realize there are so many questions that I would have liked to ask her. I even suspect her description of sex to her 10-year-old daughter was deliberately tainted so as not to make it attractive. What a shame that we never had a chance to explore the truth.

So for now at least, sex will definitely be off the table as a discussion topic with my children. Perhaps one day we will sit over coffee and talk about the birds and the bees in a way that is free and open.


Blogger Velvet said...

My mother maintains to this day that sex is for making babies. At least to my brothers and I. I think it continues to go that between parents and kids, these things can only be discussed in a third party sort of way. I could tell my mom that a friend slept with a guy, but I could never insinuate that I did.

You should watch that show with Gene Simmons and his wife Shannon Tweed. They routinely talk about sex with their kids, and the kids are always like, "EAU, STOP IT!" It is really funny, because even with a rockstar husband and a gorgeous playmate wife, the teenage kids just don't want to hear it.


1:49 PM  
Blogger Barbara said...

Velvet -- Whew! I guess that means we are just a normal American family. God forbid I should ever mention toys...

Do you think it's this way everywhere, or are Americans just more screwed up than other societies? I'm pretty sure that in Scandinavia sex is just taken for granted, sort of like eating 3 meals a day. Most women are pregnant before they get married and it's really no big deal. And yet here we have trouble even talking about sex.

I haven't watched the Gene Simmons show but it looks entertaining.

2:28 PM  
Blogger GEWELS said...

I don't really undestand the taboo that we, as a society, have placed on sex. We allow our kids to watch so much violence and hatred on television, with no problem. Yet, we have a huge problem with exposing them to sex (as it applies to love). Why should we not present ourselves as loving sexual creatures to our children? That way, at least, they know that mommy and daddy don't hate each other.
My family is Italian- and sex is so much a part of that society, even though the Roman Catholic church is such a HUGE influence. They seem to understand the rightful place that each has in their lives.
Heck, why do you think they have 3 hour lunches?
Why don't we have 3 hour lunches? We'ld probably all be happier at work in the afternoons.

2:38 PM  
Blogger Barbara said...

Gewels -- Is that really why they have those long siestas? And here I thought they were all napping. :)

I'm all for being more open about sex. It might even diminish the need for porn in our society.

But the real question I have is whether Italian families talk about sex with their children?

4:06 PM  
Blogger Velvet said...

Well, I never gave the 3 hour European lunches a second thought until now. Huh. Guess it makes sense. You can't do anything but go home, since everything else is closed at the same time. Not like you can run errands. But wow, think about it. Sex during the day means no "I'm too tired" excuses. Jeez. They really are better at everything!

You have to watch that show, they are hilarious. And I hate TV. Seriously. But Gene's son? 18 years old? Whoa. I don't even like younger guys, but mmm hmmm.....anyway, sex talk with the kids comes up a lot. It's very interesting. The kids are almost more straightlaced than the parents.

2:41 AM  
Blogger GEWELS said...

The answer is no- Well, my Italian mother did not tell this Italian daughter anything aboout sex. When I brought that up to her years after having my two kids her response was- "You found out about it, didn't you?" And my response to her was-"Yes. but probably not in the way you would have wanted me to learn about it."
I was such a brat!

And yes, it is True- the Italians have tons of sex during their afternoon "naps", while the french women go get facials. Either way they're all rosier in the afternoons.

9:25 AM  
Blogger Barbara said...

Velvet -- Maybe I'll suggest that we watch the Gene Simmons Show as a family this afternoon. Ha!

Gewels -- I knew it! Those Italians still keep hoping for another virgin birth.

I guess there are various paths to rosiness...

I just have to share a comment sent to me by e-mail from my 78-year-old friend who reads my Blog but never comments: My mother's advice to me just before I married at 18 was "never tell your husband no". She had 5 children and a very happy marriage!

9:54 AM  
Blogger Aileen said...

Barbara, I think the question of being more open about sex, and the question of whether children ever want to know/discuss the details of their parents' sex life is two different questions.

I don't think it's a cultural thing, I think it's a biological thing. Thinking of my mom and dad exploring toys and different positions is as disgusting to me as the idea of incest. (Even typing that sentence was tough!:)

I've always enjoyed getting the perspective of older women on sex/relationships etc. which is why I have those types of conversations with my friends that are around my mom's age.

So, no, I don't think your kids need to be able to talk to you openly about your sexuality (or theirs) in order to be very open and healthy about sex in genera.

10:30 AM  
Blogger Aileen said...

PS my Italian mother never really discussed sex with me, other than giving me a book describing the biology. Remember, most Italians are Catholic..

10:32 AM  
Blogger avocadoinparadise said...

I'm assuming that frank & interesting conversations about sex will happen with the parents once I'm married. They've always focused so much on my needing to get married before having sex that I can't imagine talking to them frankly about it before then, no matter how old I get!

1:57 PM  
Blogger Richard said...

While I have never had "the talk" with my parents, there was never any topic that was taboo in our household. My parents (mostly my mother) raised us as responsible people who were full members of society. There was never any notion of dividing things into children's and adult's. We ate what my parents ate (i.e at a BBQ we got the same meat as my parents, not hotdogs or hamburgers). People are people, they should be treated as such.

While may parents had no problem discussing things with us, some topics were private, such as their intimate life. On the other hand, it was no secret or surprise that my parents had sex - um, how else would we be here.

In fact, sex between married people was perfectly normal for me. Sex between umarried people or adultery always had that ewww! factor for me.

3:28 PM  

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