I was ten years old and in fifth grade when mysterious comments began circulating through the boys (we were an all male school, of course). There were all these odd words, "fuck" and so on, and "vagina" (pronounced "vageena").
From playing nude with my maternal uncle's neighbour's daughter as a young child I knew girls were different between the legs, but that's about all I knew about it.
As I think I mentioned before, I was a loner at school and not exactly the most popular guy in class, so I wasn't in the thick of things. I wasn't exactly informed what this word "fuck" meant - I assumed it was marriage, because fuck always seemed to involve a man and woman. I recall after doing an excerpt from some nineteenth century novel in English literature class, I said to a couple of classmates, regarding the hero and heroine, "I'm sure they will fuck." The guys burst out laughing. "Do you know what that word means?"
I, in some confusion: "Of course I know."
Laughing like hyaenas: "What does it mean, then?"
I, desperately facing up: "I know but I won't tell you."
Well, a day or three later I did find out what it meant. And it seemed so silly I rejected it right off. Just think about it from my PoV: out of the blue, you're told you're in the world because your father and mother put parts of their bodies you were told shouldn't be mentioned inside each other. All these days you were told you came floating down from heaven on a flower or some such happy bullshit, and then you were told you grew in your mom's belly, with no questions answered on just how the hell you got there. And now you're told your dad put his penis inside your mom's vagina? Seriously, yuck.
A year or more passed. In the biology textbook it was mentioned, oh so coyly, "fertilisation occurs when the sperm swims to the egg and unites with it" - with no word about how the sperm was supposed to do this swimming. I had a mental picture of the sperm crawling out of my dad, wriggling over the bedclothes, and inside my mother. I preferred to believe that rather than the ludicrous idea of them having sex.
You understand, of course, there was never such a thing as sex ed in school - and still isn't. Also you understand that neither of my parents ever mentioned sex to me. I remained under the illusion that babies came out of the navel until amazingly late - and then it was my grandmother who disabused me of that notion. She never told me about intercourse, though.
I don't know when I would finally have got round to the idea of accepting the reality of sex, except that I came across - quite by accident - a sex manual among some old books in a box I was emptying. Not knowing what it was, I opened it...and the first words that my eyes lit on, I promise you, were "After the natural insertion act of the penis..."
I still consider myself lucky to have escaped the horrible mess of sexual misinformation and hangups that plague my generation to this day. And I also think the teenagers of today who sometimes have at least some limited access to sex education should realise how very lucky they all are. They aren't quite as lucky as the German kids who can get to read this, but at least they are better off than we were.
They won't for much longer though, if the politicians who are out to destroy all sex ed in the country have their way.
It's kind of difficult to believe this was a culture where young men were initiated into sex by courtesans as a matter of course a thousand years ago.