(“Let’s talk about sex” song)
Narrator: Hello there and welcome to our Podcast: “What your parents won’t tell you.” If you could not already tell this podcast is all about sex. Not like a cosmo article about new positions to try in bed, nonono, but about what sex means to all of us and how we have come to have those beliefs. You will be hearing from three people today. First you’ll be listening to Peter and Abbie. And last but not least we will be hearing from Rachel. Three upperclassman at the University of Vermont with their own coming of age stories much different from the ones you read in “Chicken Soup for the soul”. So, sit back, or clean your room, or keep driving and enjoy!
Narrator: There is a pivotal point in every child or young teens life when their parents sit them down, and they brace themselves for the dreaded sex talk. Or maybe that never happened. But at one moment or another we stand face to face with the reality of sex.
Abbie: Yeah, I was never given sex the talk, my parents never brought it up, never talked about what sex was.
Peter: Uhh officially… I don’t know if that’s happened yet.
Narrator: With the conversation off the table, Abbie had delved into her own investigation of sex, masturbation and sexuality.
Abbie: Um, it was a lot of like, self exploration. I waited until my freshman year to really even, like, look into that side of possibilities for myself, especially in terms of like masturbation and understanding how I like work and can pleasure myself and not just like needing someone else for that. And then one of my good friends from home, when I went home for break one year, freshman year, was talking about how she masturbates a lot and she had been doing it since like we were in middle school. And I, that never really occurred to me when I was young, because it was never brought to me and I never thought of it in that way. And, like, even thinking back, I don’t even remember a time when I was like going through puberty and was like horny or thought of sex.
Narrator: As Peter grew up, he witnessed his parents’ abnormal sexual behaviors.
Peter: I knew they were both having sex, like, very regularly, and would have people coming in and out of the house that they were like cheating on each other with and it was very all like swept under the rug.
Narrator: If their child is having sex, it must mean that they have a partner; but in both stories that was not the case.
Abbie: I remember like my freshman year she’d really egg me on about like, “oh like why don’t you have a boyfriend,” da da da and, I don’t know, I’m just one of those people where, like, I don’t honestly know what I like or when I would want to stop and like be with like one independent person because one minute I’m really attracted to, like, a man but the next a woman and I don’t wanna be put into one relationship because like my parents keep asking me why they dont know of someone else in my life. And I don’t think, it like, deems happiness or success socially whether or not you have a significant other. But, my mom does not talk about sex and neither does my dad. I’ve never even heard my dad even mention the word sex, I don’t think.
Peter: My family’s always really upset that I don’t have a partner. (same) They’re upset I don’t have a girlfriend specifically. (yeah) But they, everytime I see them, always ask me about, like, the girls in my life and like which ones I’m like secretly dating, and it’s usually never, never, any of them. (weird) And I don’t think there should be such, uh…. emphasis on like finding one person to have sex with.
Narrator: With a lack of dialogue revolving around sex and happy, healthy sex lives, Abbie’s mother (when confronted) tended to slut shame. After a trip to the ER, Abbie had been given a few tests, one of which was a pregnancy test. Dun, Dun, Dun. Just kidding, the results were negative, as was her mother’s opinion about it after finding it on her medical record. The discouragement of testing for STI’s and pregnancy is something which Peter also endured.
Peter: There should be, like, less shame involved with getting tested. My parents were really upset when one of my sister’s got tested and it came up on the health insurance bill that she got an STI check.
Narrator: So, when you have parents that won’t talk about or even utter the word sex, what are they to do when you go out into the real world and face it head on? Once you leave the protection of home, mom and dad no longer have their tight grip on you or what you do, or what you consume. Peers and cultural influence come into play and you evolve into an individual of your generation – that is where the separation between parent and child begins to widen for better or for worse.
Abbie: umm I remember it was this past summer. My mom came up to have lunch with me and she, we were just talking and in the middle of it she was like, “oh you’ll never believe what John, what I caught John doing,” and I was like, “oh god what did he do now?” He’s my little brother , he’s in high school. I have an older brother and a little brother and he’s the one at home right now, so bless him, because that really is not fun. But, ah, my mom was like, “oh I was on the computer upstairs in the office and I noticed that on the search history was Pornhub and I think he was looking at it.” And I just looked at her and I’m like, “he is seventeen years old. Anyone and everyone at the age of seventeen has probably either heard of Pornhub or has watched Pornhub.” And she was like “ugh Abbie don’t say that,” like kind of just bashing it off. And then she completely stopped the conversation because she didn’t like where it was going.
Narrator: As an upperclassmen in College Abbie has had her share of sexual experiences, creating new judgements and exploring new pleasures. From her past experiences, Abbie has been able to create her own idea of what sex means.
Abbie: I would say I wasn’t like where I am now, like on the journey I am now with sex, because it has always been something that has confused me because of the lack of exposure I had as a kid. And I think that really shaped my opinion coming into like being my adult life and how I should treat it. Also, the taboo of coming from a small town where people sleep around and are labeled as “sluts,” or sleeping around. My mom slut shames people and she once slut shamed me. Like, there’s a lot of different things where I’m just like thats so dumb and foolish to label someone when they’re just trying to explore themselves. I remember like sophomore year I was like hanging out with this guy and it was the first time I really enjoyed having sex. He was really open and talked about it because he was bisexual and he always tell me different things and I thought that was really intriguing. And I really liked the fact that he didn’t care what anyone would think, he would be like yeah I fucked that guy, it doesn’t matter if like I wanna fuck a woman, like it could be either way. I always thought that was really unique. And then my best friend who I roomed with sophomore year, she was really in the same boat as me. Where like she came from a conservative town, her parents were really conservative, never talked about sex, and when they did it was in a really negative, religious like degrading way. And then sophomore year, she ended up starting to date a woman and it was something she didn’t think would ever happen, but it ended up being like her first ever, like, love and like big adventurous time.
Narrator: Through people Abbie has met, and friends she has created, she has watched as the world around her freely expressed their sexuality – reflecting on her own growth and experimentation.
Abbie: And it really inspired me to explore my own sexuality and, like, what I believed would be something that would make me feel comfortable. And then I didn’t, like, start just like being really comfortable having sex until, like, this past summer is probably when it happened. Because I just realized I needed to let go of what anyone from my hometown or anyone I knew thought of me and it didn’t matter because like your like sex life is just all personal and has nothing to reflect on who you are as a person. Other than like how you, like, treat someone when you’re being intimate with them.
Narrator: With Peter’s parents estranged relationship, he watched as two people manipulated sex for personal success and reward. Observing this helped in many ways to uniquely shape his view of sex.
Peter: I think it definitely affected how I view like romance and love a lot more than sex, just ‘cause my own sexual identity is so different from theirs, but it obviously plays a huge role. I think it taught me that, that you use sex, that sex was like intrinsically like tied to money and power … and not much more, and that you could have sex with your boss and get a promotion kind of, and like use that as a way to support your family. But then you could also hurt someone’s feeling in the process kind of. I just realized it was really complicated and didn’t have much to do with love and was like, seemed very transactional, like you do this I will give you that and one person’s end would be sex kind of, so I kind of use sex that way. If I want something from someone and I don’t know other ways to get it, I would offer sex, I guess, or like my body for things or people I want to have a higher opinion of me, or something. I don’t know. Or a different opinion. I don’t know.
Narrator: Well, let’s give Abbie and Peter a big round of applause for sharing their stories. Except if you’re driving, keep those hands on 10 and 2. So, Abbie and Peter were able to give us their perspective of how they came to learn about sex coming from households where sex was never really talked about. Rachel on the other hand was raised very differently when it came to her sexual education, learning quite a bit, maybe a bit too much from mom and dad.
(smooth, sensual jazz music plays in background)
Narrator 2: Rachel sits cross-legged on the floor, brown hair thrown into a bun with one of her big, favorite, clips, wearing a sweatsuit and big round glasses.
Narrator 1: What was your parents approach to talking to you about sex?
Rachel: Um, I don’t think there was ever a specific time that I can remember where they sat me down and talked about it or when the word sex came out of their mouths. I just think that ever since I was little their affection, um, their public affection specifically, opened up that dialogue later in life where it felt natural umm, and something we would talk about as a family. And I remember my dad would crack jokes about it at the dinner table or slap my mom’s butt in the kitchen.
Narrator 1: Rachel smiles as she recounts being little and watching her dad who would pull her mom into the laundry room, shutting the door and turning the lights off.
Narrator 1: With a big grin on her face and her eyes alight with excitement, Rachel asks if she can tell me about the first time she saw her parents having sex. I with some, or realistically, much reluctance, say yes.
Rachel: My dad was in Grad school at Columbia and we went to visit him over the summer and I remember we were all in the same room. My sister and I in were in one bed and my parents were in the other. And, my dad came home late from partying with all of his friends and I remember waking up and neither one of them were on the bed next to us, but I could hear noises from the side of the bed that was in between the bed and the wall.
Narrator 2: Not knowing what to do, Rachel put her hands over her ears to block out the noise and squeezed her eyes tightly shut.
Rachel: I was afraid. My heart was pounding. I had no idea what was going on.
(heart pounding noise)
Narrator 1: Wanting to stop whatever it was her parents were doing, Rachel said…
Narrator 2: Mom, I’m having a bad dream!
Narrator 1: Rachel remembers looking at her parents the following morning and feeling nauseated because she didn’t understand what she had witnessed but knew it had significance.
Rachel: Yeah, I had never asked them about it the next day, but I kind of wish that I had because I’m sure that if I had brought it up they would’ve have just sat me down and explained it and then I wouldn’t have spent the next weeks feeling so uncomfortable. Umm, just cause I remember looking at them in such a different light after that because your parents are these sort of superhuman role models and it kind of threw me for a loop because it showed me that they were just human beings too.
Narrator 1: Your parents were so open, maybe too open. How did your upbringing and understanding of sex differ from that of Abbie and Peter?
Rachel: That’s a pretty good question. Um, so I think unlike Peter’s parents mine were very open in a way that was healthy whereas his were open in a way that was super in his face because they were having affairs and because my parents were open in a very loving way I think that just made it so comfortable for me to start experimenting with masturbation at a really young age. Umm, yeah, I was a pretty horny kid.
Rachel: And, I remember Abbie saying how she had never thought about masturbation when she was younger or sex really for that matter. And, I think I differ from her because I thought about it all the time when I was a kid. And, I just remember feeling the sexual frustration and not being able to identify it because I didn’t know what it was. But, also being able to feel comfortable with experimenting.
Narrator 1: Rachel recalls one of her earliest memories of masturbating, the first time, she took things into her own hands…literally…
Rachel: I think it was in the fourth grade. Umm, but I was riding my bike to meet my mom at her garden.
Rachel: And the hardness of the bike seat was rubbing, against my vagina and I remember I didn’t know what the feeling was but I knew that it was stimulation.
Narrator 1: Rachel felt so uncomfortable that she furiously pedaled home, ran up the stairs , and jumped on her bed and…
Rachel: Yeah, I actually grabbed my stuffed giraffe and started to hump it.
Narrator 2: insert giraffe noise.
Narrator 1: You started humping your giraffe?
Rachel: Yeah. I remember apologizing to the giraffe after because I felt so guilty.
Narrator 1: Although this technique did not allow Rachel to reach a climax, she was able to reach orgasm in the 7th grade, only using her fingers.
*Applause, cheering, and whistling*
Rachel: Aw shucks, thanks guys. Um, yeah, I felt comfortable experimenting too because at this time in my life I was able to talk to my friends and my mom about it.
Narrator 1: What did your mom say?
Rachel: She said something along the lines of it’s okay to masturbate, it’s ok to make yourself have an orgasm. And, to not feel guilty about liking self pleasure and it’s something that’s natural and that everyone should experiment with and enjoy.
Narrator 1: Rachel recounts her sexual experiences.
Rachel: So, I had a really serious boyfriend in high school and we had sex my Freshman year which means that I was only fourteen and that’s pretty young. And the first time was super weird, and awkward as are most first times I feel. And, I’ve only had sex with two people in my life and the first was my first boyfriend who I dated for three and a half years and then the second was my most recent boyfriend who I dated for two and a half years.
Narrator 2: Rachel pauses, her brow furrows.
Rachel: So I’ve really only been in serious relationships when I’ve been having sex and I think that’s just been because I’m super comfortable and able to be super open and relaxed about it.
Narrator 1: Do you think your parents’ PDA when you were younger helped you bridge the gap between intimacy and sex?
Rachel: Umm, yeah, I think so. Umm, I think I’ve just been someone who’s always more comfortable partaking in sexual stuff, even if it’s just kissing, um, only when it’s in a stable relationship….
Narrator 2: Realization dawns on Rachel’s face.
Rachel: Which is kind of weird because I’ve always considered myself a super open person but that seems to be sort of on the more conservative side of things.
Narrator 1: So you are open to experimenting with sex and being very vocal about it, but choose to be in relationships when you actually partake in sex.
Rachel: Yes, exactly. And I just think that has to do with how my parents were so in love and so intimate, and so now I believe that those two things should always go together.
Narrator: As a closing remark, I wanted to give a little PSA to you parents out there and you young adults who may have some kiddos of your own someday. I think I speak for Abbie, Peter, Rachel and anyone with any sex drive at all when I say, “talk to your kids about sex.”. Let their stories be reason enough that talking about sex and being open about it is worth the awkward conversations. Let’s be the generation that tells our kids that consent is required ALWAYS, the generation that actually allows our kids to be open and not feel pressured to conform to being in heteronormative relationships and the generation that allows our kids to feel comfortable enough to speak to us about safe sex. Ask questions! Let’s actually buy condoms, practice safe sex, get tested for STI’s and know our options for what to do when the sperm outruns the birth control. Ok I am done with my rant. Anyways. Talk about sex even though it’s awkward. Once you say sex enough it loses its meaning and you stop wincing, trust me. Thanks for listening!
(“I Just Had Sex” song)