looking for sex in all the wrong places

October 27th, 2010 | Category: rereading


I googled something about noses the other day and cannot tell you how many odd things sexual sprang onto my screen. A list of very descriptive titles – no need to ‘read on’ to get the gist. Any kid doing a ‘nose’ search could have the same images put into his or her mind at one key stroke. It made me remember just how difficult it was to excavate any information about sex when I was a young. And that we’ve gone from ‘huh?’ to ‘waaaay too much information’ in one generation. I was fortunate in grade six to have a know-it-all friend who told me about sex. She described the mechanics of coitus (I tried to keep a poker face) and told me that this wildly implausible thing was called ‘intercourse’. From then on the antennae were alert for any further and better particulars. Nothing much came my way. In fact nothing. Until I was reading ‘The Getting of Wisdom’ by Henry Handel Richardson and came to a passage in the book during which Laura, visiting her friend Tilly, is left in the dining room with Tilly’s cousin Bob. Imagine my surprise when I read: ‘During this time Laura and Bob were alone together. But even less than before came of their intercourse.’ Their WHAT? They’d already had sex? – and now they were at it again? Where? Under the table? WHAT? I read and re-read the preceding pages and the page in question but was none the wiser. It eventually occurred to me to consult a dictionary and I realised that Laura and Bob had been up to nothing saucier than ‘social communication’. Futher reading was required. As usual, I turned to fiction, the best source of real life at my disposal. In forms one and two (years 7 and 8) I found some more satisfying accounts if not of sex itself, at least of its consequences. I adored books that showed me what I imagined to be the seedy side of life, and how a girl might cope if she were down on her uppers. ‘The L-Shaped Room’ by Lynne Reid Banks and ‘The Millstone’ by Margaret Drabble were two of my favourites. It would not have occurred to me to ask an adult about any of this stuff. I far preferred finding my own way, one book at a time.

11 responses to “looking for sex in all the wrong places”

  1. DoctorDi says:

    They’re pretty sophisticated choices for a 12-13 year old, Fiona – I’m impressed! My sex education through fiction was a good degree more pulpy – I think things really took off after Flowers in the Attic…

    • fiona says:

      Not so sophisticated, Di – I still haven’t read ‘Flowers in the Attic’. I remember ‘The Godfather’ was a welcome pulpy addition to the pool of knowledge, but I don’t think that swept around the class until form three (year 9).

  2. Leanne says:

    I remember the library’s copy of Forever by Judy Blume was furtively read by all the Grade 6 girls when I was in primary school. And recently I re-read some Christopher Pike novels and remembered why I liked them so much when I was 13-14…so much sex. I was also far less sophisticated than you!

    • fiona says:

      Good on Judy Blume, too – that was pretty explicit in the day. I love the way things used to get passed around. There was a great willingness to share Valuable Life Knowledge.

  3. DoctorDi says:

    Oh yes, Judy Blume!!!! Wow, this makes me want to reread Forever right now just to see if it still makes me blush!

    Flowers in the Attic is actually pretty creepy – or it was when I read it as a child. It presents a dark and perverse sexual landscape, that’s for sure (shudder).

  4. Nathan Luff says:

    I think I always acted more mature than I was, so from the age of 13 Mum was feeding me racy novels by Irving Wallace and the like. I was the well-informed kid passing information onto others (with a few embellishments of course). There’s a particular scene in a Wilbur Smith book that scarred me. TV was also a good source – Beverley Hills 90210 introduced me to a different kind of period …

    The internet definitely gives too much information– there’s no room for the imagination, which is the best part when piecing things together.

    Great blog by the way!

    • fiona says:

      Thanks for visiting, Nathan – you sound like you were the go-to guy. I had a feeling I was right avoiding Wilbur Smith!

  5. Robyn Bavati says:

    Ha! Ha! That’s gorgeous – the bit about The Getting of Wisdom. It’s the kind of mistake I would have made.

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