Wednesday, December 1, 2010

Let's Talk About Sex, Baby

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Oh boy. It would have been more funny if it hadn’t left the poor kid traumatized for life. And yet, it was all I could do to stem the tide of giggles threatening to explode from within me and wash over Jake like a tsunami of parental dysfunction.

The topic for today: Sex, via a study sheet from 7th grade Health Class. Let me remind you that Jake is thirteen years old, autistic, and riddled with OCD. He’s smart, overly sensitive and worries over everything to an infinite degree.

I pulled out Jake’s homework file and began quizzing him on his vocabulary words in preparation for his health test. It became immediately clear that he had a handle on the True/False questions as far as sexually transmitted diseases were concerned.

Quite a conundrum, then, that when I asked him to define sexual intercourse, he seemed to draw a blank. So while he knew, for instance that, ‘some STD’s are very dangerous; a few can permanently damage or kill you’, he didn’t actually understand how someone would get the STD in the first place.

“Jake, what does sexual intercourse mean?” I asked nervously.

“I don’t know.”

“You don’t know what sex is?”

We’d briefly covered the whole ‘how babies are made’ a year or so ago, but apparently Jake hadn’t put together the fact that penis + vagina = baby (or anything else, for that matter). They’d also covered the topic at school last year, via one of those ‘Your Maturing Body’ movies. But Jake doesn’t even like the idea of discussing kissing, so it’s somewhat of a touchy subject. We’d also previously discussed matters of which we Catholics refer to as ‘self-abuse’. He’d been duly informed that ‘tickling his wiener’ was completely normal and wouldn’t cause it to fall off. It was touch and go there for a while, but after what I assume were many private trial runs, and his penis remained firmly attached, he’d stopped obsessing about it.

Now, with his vocabulary list clutched firmly in one hand, I proceeded to give Jake a nuts and bolts description of sexual intercourse using one erect finger and a hand curved into a little circle.

“So…” I concluded, using as many of his vocabulary words in the sentence as possible, “…this is the penis (finger) and this is the vagina (hand in a little ‘o’) and a Mom and Dad have sex like this and the semen comes out of the penis when the Dad ejaculates, and there is sperm in the semen.” I was about to explain that the Mom produces an egg and when the sperm and egg meet, a baby is made, but he’d already put his hands over his ears and started whining.

“Oh my God! Stop. I don’t like Health Class. I want to take Spanish. When does Spanish class start?” Jake’s face was in full-on panic mode, while my inner sadist was hopped up on Red Bull and ready to rumble. I am proud of the fact that I was able to keep it under control, letting only a minor chortle escape.

“Not until the end of the semester, Jake. Calm down. This is a perfectly natural thing.”

“No, it’s gross! And now I don’t know why someone wrote on the bathroom wall, SEX RULES, because it does not rule, it’s GROSS!” Jake turned his back on me and sat in a nearby chair. “Only weird people do that.”

“Jake, I hate to tell you this, but if your Dad and I hadn’t done it, you wouldn’t be here.”

Jake mumbled something I didn’t catch, slumping down further into the chair. I took a deep breath and looked over the rest of the vocabulary words. Next on the list: clitoris.

Are you kidding me?!

Listen, we’d only minutes earlier discussed the definition of foreskin and circumcision - before we got into the whole STD thing - and he wasn’t happy about the fact that I’d let the pediatrician lop off a part of his penis he never knew he had. He found it pretty disturbing, but managed to assimilate that information and move on. If the whole sex thing had him freaked out, I was sure it was unwise to venture further into female pleasure.

Even though the definition on the study sheet seemed rather banal…

Clitoris - The part of the female genitals that’s full of nerves and becomes erect. It has a glans and a shaft like a penis, but only its glans is on the out side of the body, and it’s much smaller.

…I can assure you that this definition - should I have chosen to explain it - would have left Jake thinking I had a tiny penis, and that wasn’t something I was comfortable with. I made an executive decision to skip it. In fact, we skipped a few, which didn’t bode well for his future test score, but at that point I felt the need to pull him back from his horrified, trance-like state, rather than try to explain things that I didn’t think the kid was even remotely able to process.

I nudged him around to look at me and after a few moments of obstinate silence, we went over a few of the easier words like erection. I used the finger again for a visual aid.

Jake cringed.

Unfortunately, when we got to buttocks, the politically correct Mom in me felt it necessary to elaborate on the fact that not only man and women had sex, but also men and men, as well as women and women. Don’t judge me! Anus was one of the vocabulary words so the discussion naturally progressed! Also, we’ve had the homosexual discussion before - when Jake was six, in fact - and asked if a man could marry a man. I’d used age-appropriate language, but he knew the basics. (I will also note that the vocabulary list alluded to oral and anal sex in the definition of sexual intercourse.)

“So, not just men and women, but also men and men can have sex, and when they do, a man can put his penis into the anus of another man.” I held my breath.

“Oh, come on! Be serious, Mom.” Jake groaned.

“I’m serious, buddy. That’s how gay men have sex. It’s nothing to be ashamed or embarrassed about. Nothing about sex is bad as long as both people want to do it together.”

“I’m never doing it. NEVER!”

“Well, that’s up to you, but I’m pretty sure you’ll change your mind one day.”

The thing is, I don’t really know if Jake will change his mind one day. Any sort of physical intimacy, shy of a hug or a peck on the cheek, makes him uncomfortable. All I can do, for now, is give him the facts and hope that one day he comes to a better understanding of sex, love and emotion. There will certainly need to be more discussions to follow, but all in good time.

I’m just thankful he’s only got about four more weeks of Health, and then he’s on to Spanish class.

Hola Jake. ¿Cómo estás?
(TRANSLATION: Hello Jake. How are you?)

Bien gracias. No vamos a discutir el sexo de aquí, ¿verdad?
(TRANSLATION: Fine thank you. We won't be discussing sex in here, right?)


  1. Ah, Jeni. I don't know how you do it. And I imagine Jake being a miniature version of Richard. You should send this post in to the Amazing Race producers! Then they would HAVE to pick you!

  2. Oh dear, el probrecito! Well, Mum, I am totally drained, just from reading this!