Teaching children about human sexual relations is probably the hardest part of being a parent. Some parents are too embarrassed to look into the eyes of what was their innocent little baby and admit that ‘Ma and Da did the nasty’. Other parents reveal too much, too soon. Other parents bring their own emotional baggage into Sex Ed, leaving their children convinced that sex is dirty, shameful and abusive. For too many children, they learn about sex by being sexually abused. The rest glean what they can from telly, their friends and, of course, pornography.
In last week’s blog, I revealed that my SRE (sex and relationship education) or Sex Ed as you call it in the States, was done by a misogynist and my abuser. The man I call ‘CC’ or ‘Chief Criticiser’ who groomed me and abused me. The subject of sex was tainted for me by him from an age so young that the pain and shame of the memories of abuse was ingrained, not so much in my mind, but more in my physical body.
All I knew was that anything to do with the genitals was shameful. It made your heart hurt and your flesh crawl while your head swam, a buzzing sound filled your ears and you seemed to be suspended somewhere above your physical body. That was my introduction to human sexuality as a tiny child before I even knew what ‘sex’ actually was.
CC soon put that to rights. He was diligent in teaching me about sex. Too diligent. He and he alone insisted on being my sole source of SRE. Not my mother, not another trusted female. Just him. He brought it up frequently and often, always when he and I were alone, often during the same times when he was ‘accidentally’ copping a feel. To say it was awkward is the understatement of the millennia.
Now, decades later and having experienced loving, sexual relations, I look back on what CC taught, what he did not teach and how he taught it with shock and disgust. What he chose to teach is almost as telling as what he chose not to teach. He left out some of the most basic facts and terminology about sex, focussing instead on the esoteric. Through it all, his misogyny shone brightly, colouring everything, making it all male-centric. Female sexuality be damned.
But first, there was shame. Always shame. When I had my first nursery school crush, CC roundly shamed me. He seemed to see me as a succubus intent on seducing little boys over their milk and biscuits. Today I realise it was his shame speaking. If he could define me as nursery school whore who seduced him, he could project his shame for abusing me onto me, his victim.
When, like so many victims of sexual abuse I began self-pleasuring at a ridiculously young age and CC discovered it, the verbal thrashing he gave me remains a ragged, unhealed wound to this day. Perhaps most interesting of all, while shaming me, he also made it clear that masturbation is the sole province of men, not women.
For CC, religion informed his views on sex so my SRE at his hands was informed by his religion just as much as by his misogyny. In his world, a woman’s sexuality was not hers to own nor did she have any choices in the matter. Her father was to utterly control her until he handed off the reins of control to her husband. Women, it was assumed, would be virgins on their wedding night or no one would want to marry them.
Of course, a completely different set of standards applied to men. In CC’s world, men could sow their wild oats. It was assumed they would. He scoffed at the idea that a woman should get as good as she gave. And give she must!
CC once told a story of a couple who were interrupted during sex by an important phone call that utterly ruined the mood for the woman. According to CC, that was no acceptable. ‘If you’re interrupted’ he said, ‘you’d better get back in the mood’. Trustingly, I accepted what he said. Now, I’m shocked. The woman ‘had better’ finish the job for the man? CC’s misogyny taught that it was her duty to perform for him, regardless of how she felt.
But what of the man’s performance? Surely, you assume, someone as detailed and thorough in SRE would explain the role of pacing, time, positions. But you’d be wrong. Apart from a pro forma explanation that ‘Part A goes in Part B,’ my abuser left the minutiae of sexual intercourse veiled. Until my first sexual relationship, I did not know that movement was involved. That sex was an activity was a shock. CC had been too busy harping on the ‘mystical bond between partners that extends for Eternity’ to even explain the sexual act, particularly ignoring the female orgasm. He took great pains to ensure I had no access to any information other than what he imparted. Birth control, lubrication, toys: I was shocked to learn about them and the variety available as an adult.
So it was that I bumbled into adult sexual relationships knowing virtually nothing. Part A went in Part B. That was all I knew. Foreplay, positions, movement and the fact the woman can be on top! All of it was a shock. Most surprising of all was the realisation that my SRE had been so poor, so narrow, so skewed and twisted by my abuser. For many years, I felt that CC was in the bedroom every time Rhys and I made love. I could feel him shaming me just as he had when I was his tiny, innocent victim.
Sex ed is hard for parents. No one gets it quite right, I’m sure. But when it’s done by a misogynist and an abuser, it leaves your views on sex skewed, long on shame, short on fact.