During my sophomore year in high school we had a sex education component in health class. It consisted of learning the proper names and biological functions of each part of the genitalia. We then labeled each appropriately on the mimeographed drawings we had received. That was it.
The last day of sex ed, our female teacher felt compelled to tell us that hymens are rather easily broken, say while horseback riding or doing strenuous aerobics. So on our wedding nights, if a guy looked down there and noticed that his bride lacked one it did not mean she wasn’t a virgin. Seriously, that was it.
Already, my kids have had more of a comprehensive — yet age appropriate — sex education than most kids in Utah will ever get.
It started last Christmas. The boys received two male guinea pigs, who Gus named Tom and Jerry. When we noticed that Jerry was gaining weight, we became suspicious and hypothesized maybe he was a she after all. About two months later, three pups were born.
Gus and Niko had two dads and now their two male guinea pigs had three babies!
Gus wanted to know if this meant that our hypothesis was right: Jerry actually was a girl.
Clearly, we needed to talk.
As was to be expected, Gus had a lot of questions after watching the birth. So, I answered everything as honestly as I could in a manner appropriate for a six-year-old.
First off, I had to correct his theory: the babies did not come out of her butt.
Second, he had misheard me. It is not called a “ma-gina,” it is called a “vagina.” And yes, they are different from penises.
I corroborated that Jerry was indeed feeding the babies milk from her nipples. But no, neither Papa nor Daddy had fed him or Niko milk from our nipples. And no, I didn’t have an answer for the question: Why do boys have nipples, then? (Nor was I able to give him an answer when he asked why I have hairy armpits.)
However, I feel like I did dodge one bullet. He didn’t ask how Tom and Jerry actually created the babies. He didn’t seem at all interested in the mechanics of it. And frankly, I was relieved.
In another half dozen years or so I do plan on having the discussion about the mechanics with him. And for all my lack of overall knowledge of the heterosexual creature, I do understand how they “do it.”
When that time comes, the conversation with both my boys will start with a statement that my health class teacher could never have made: We don’t care if you like girls, boys or both. We love you just the way you are.
As uncool as it may seem, I plan on pushing abstinence. At least until they’re definitely sure they’re in love with the other person, and the other person is in love with them. And if asked, yes, I’ll be honest: I wasn’t a virgin when I met Kelly — sorry, Mom. But I’ll also hammer home the need to practice safer sex — even if that means grabbing a cucumber and a condom and showing them how to put it on. I mean, what good is having a gay dad if he can’t teach you about safer sex?
Of course, all of this is theoretical. Gus is six. Niko isn’t quite yet three. I’ve got a few years to go before the level of questions change from proper body part names to what you can do with those individual parts. I may just find myself hemming and hawing and looking at my feet when it comes time to really discuss the birds and bees with the boys.
But at least the ball is rolling. We’ve established a dialogue in which they are comfortable asking me questions. And they receive honest answers. That’s a good start, right? At least it’s better than a mimeographed drawing of a penis and a vagina.
And for the record, when we were tested back in school, I got 100 percent when labeling the various parts of the penis!
You know, in retrospect, I shouldn’t be too harsh on my health teacher from 10th grade. I mean, it wasn’t entirely a waste of time. I did learn something from her. On my wedding night, I looked down there and I didn’t see a hymen.
But I knew it didn’t mean Kelly wasn’t a virgin!