Saturday, October 23, 2010

Step on a Crack

From the lofty vantage of my late 40s, I can survey the depth and breadth of my sexual knowledge at each stage of my journey. When I look back at what I was taught by the authority figures in my young life, namely my mother and the Roman Catholic Church, it makes me shudder. To have escaped that indoctrination without a lifetime of crippling sexual hang-ups is, indeed, a miracle.

I'm still learning. Sex is fascinating on many levels. I know now that sex drive, being one of the most powerful forces known to nature, is used by organized religions and others, both individuals and groups, in an attempt to control. Young or old. Male or female or anything in between. Unbridled passions are anathema to those who know what's best for you. (You, after all, cannot be trusted to know what's right for yourself. You are, if you listen to them, weak and unworthy.) As a child, however, I lacked this insight.

Fortunately, I was born a rebel. A strong and worthy rebel. I am ever thankful that nature allowed the deeply recessive gene to surface in me. It certainly was not evident in any branches of the family tree that I could see.

When it comes to sex (no pun intended), I started young. Very young. I recall my first orgasm at 10, although I had no clue what it was called at that time. I just knew it felt good. I also knew my mother wouldn't approve. My childhood memories do not include any of my mother's laughter. None. I remember only her stress; her worry that I would "lay down" with boys, that I would get "a reputation," that I would cause "tongues to wag." My mother didn't approve of anything that involved touching your private parts. My brother & I were required to use a wash cloth for bathing so that we didn't have to touch ourselves. Yes, I'm serious.

That first orgasm was the result of masturbation, although I didn't know that word at the time, either. My bestest childhood friend turned me on to it, so to speak. How she discovered that scooting her pre-pubescent, cotton panty-clad crotch against the spinning fuzzy shoe-polishing machine, I do not know. Maybe someday I'll ask her.

I don't think much more than a day or two passed during my fifth grade year when she & I didn't simultaneously polish our pussies on that delightful dual-sided device. We called our orgasms "trances" and often competed to be the first to reach that state. The times that we "peed" a little bit in the process... well, those trances were even better. Our ignorance was magical.

It wasn't much longer before we abandoned the electrical device and sought our trances with one another. Although I knew I had to hide my activities from my mother, I felt no guilt, no shame. I assumed my mother was the one who was twisted, that I was normal. The concept of sin simply did not register sexually in the way it did with things like theft or murder or lying.

Fast forward a year. Sixth grade. I got my menses -- and breasts! While I had not yet achieved a "trance" with a boy, it wasn't for lack of trying. I can think of at least four boys who dipped their fingers into my honey that fall during high school football games. There were probably more, given that there were at least six home games each season, or maybe one or two of them had an encore. We'd sneak across the street and duck between the cars parked on the elementary school playground. There, on the crushed grass where kids played dodge ball during the day, I allowed George, Keith, and the Scott twins to finger me. None on the same night, mind you. I wasn't that progressive... yet.

My mother gave me a pamphlet about sex that year, shortly after I started my period. It was published by the Roman Catholic Church. Amidst the basic biology, it delivered dire warnings about sins of the flesh. Not only was I not to allow anyone else to touch me, I was not to touch myself. If I felt sinful impulses, I was to pray. Just pray. Well, I knew a faster and more effective way to make the "sinful" impulses subside... for a little while, anyway.

My seventh grade year was dominated by a new-to-me sensation: desire. Not desire for orgasm, with which I was already quite familiar, but desire for a specific person. Keith was the proverbial "bad boy" in the neighborhood. He was bigger than the other boys in my school, having been held back at least one grade. He smoked cigarettes and weed. He shaved. He had chest hair. He was a worldly rebel with a mysterious much older brother who told him stories about all sorts of naughtiness. I think, in hindsight, this older brother was probably in jail somewhere. I never saw him. My father threatened Keith's life on more than one occasion.

By 1976, my mother had taken to going to early Sunday morning mass. My brother & I were given the option of either attending mass Saturday evenings or later on Sunday mornings. He chose the former. I, the latter. Keith's house sat smack dab in the middle of the quarter-mile walk between my house and the church. I rarely made it past that point. I'd slip into his house, often mere seconds after his parents left for church, and into his bed almost every Sunday morning for a year.

I'm not sure how I managed to not get caught, but I am absolutely certain I learned more at Keith's house on Sunday mornings than I ever would have at church. Those lessons included my first orgasm with a boy, my first tactile exploration of a bare penis, and the first time I felt the electrifying sensation of a tongue against my clitoris. I also learned how much information was omitted from or misrepresented in that pamphlet my mother had given me. Nowhere in that publication was there any indication that sex could feel so damned good. How, I wondered, could they possibly miss that?

It didn't occur to me – at the tender age of twelve – that a church could be disingenuous; that it would intentionally seek to mislead its flock. I naively believed that religions were paragons of the virtues they espoused.

A year later, flat on my back under a tree on the dark riverbank with a gorgeous long-haired stranger several years older and several times stronger, I felt my first twinges of sexual fear. He was clearly intending to have intercourse, and I wasn't at all confident he'd take no for an answer. I wasn't overly protective of my virginity, but I didn't want to lose it like that: outside, cold, uncomfortable, and with someone I barely knew. He could've taken what he wanted from me, but he didn't. He was quite gracious, in fact. Almost gallant in his disappointment. Until that experience, I'd never heard the word rape or considered the possibility that sex could be anything but consensual and enjoyable for all involved. My once magical ignorance had become dangerous.

That loss of emotional innocence was far more profound to me than the loss of my physical virginity some six years later with a boy I dearly loved in the warmth and safety of his bed and his arms. I hated the introduction of fear into an area of my life that had, until that point, been nothing but fun & frolic. It really pissed me off, though I lacked the means to capture & express these feelings.

Did this potentially disastrous experience change my sexual behavior? Yes and no. I still had a hearty appetite for pleasure, but I turned my attentions back to their origins. Girls seemed safer. I could defend myself against another girl. The playing field was leveler and our topographies similar. I knew the turf. It surprised me to learn that not all girls wanted to fool around with other girls. What was this madness?

I look back on those critical, sexually formative years, and it's a marvel I emerged unscathed. They were, I think, somewhat less treacherous times. HIV and AIDS were a few years from interfering with our bliss. "Protection" simply referred to birth control.

Throughout my pre-teen and teenage years, there was no adult authority figure with whom I could discuss my experiences. Not one. The Internet was a couple decades from its maturity, and printed reference material was – as far as I knew – limited to dry, clinical publications & grossly misleading church pamphlets. There wasn't anyone to ask about the fluid that dampened my panties, about vibrators or other toys, about swallowing semen, about having sex during my period.

Luckily – and it was most definitely luck – I never got pregnant unintentionally, contracted an STD, or was raped, even though my college years were full of wild behaviors. Trial and error is not how I want my children to learn about sex. Nor do I want their sex ed limited to the dry mechanics of procreation. I don't expect them to bring their questions to me, even though I've tried to make it clear I'm receptive. I'm mom. It's awkward. I know this. That's why I'm glad there are resources like Scarleteen readily available online where they can get frank answers anonymously. They could use your support. Please donate if you have the means. Spreading the word & linking to them helps as well (and costs you nothing but a few minutes of your time).

peace & passion,

~ Alessia Brio

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