I grew up in West Virginia and moved to Virginia at 13. My heart is in the South, but it’s safe to say that my brain is not. It’s an unfair stereotype to believe that all education in the South is backward and dated. It’s true for many things, yes, but I was lucky. I ended up in two small towns with two small schools that employed wonderful, open-minded teachers (for the most part). I got an amazing education in English, literature, math, and science, but the history left a lot to be desired and the sex education was… well, lacking. Take a look at some of the things I learned about sex from being raised in the South:
Good girls never have sex before marriage. To be a “good girl,” this had to be your mindset. This was the lesson you learned in church, whether you were a regular Baptist, a Southern Baptist, Catholic, Methodist, or Episcopalian (these are the only denominations in my hometown). Even if your family didn’t go to church, this was still what you learned. There were no compromises. It wasn’t okay if you waited until you were older or in love; you had to wait until marriage. I grew up believing that I could go to hell for tongue-kissing because it was like gateway foreplay that would inevitably lead to sex.
Only slutty girls experiment. Sex wasn’t the only taboo. Experimentation of any kind was not just frowned upon, but never discussed in clear terms. Kiss too many people and you’re a slut. French kiss and you’re a slut. Wear revealing clothing and you’re a slut. Explore your sexuality because your hormones are driving you crazy and you’re a slut. Fun times. It’s no wonder I lived vicariously through my Barbie collection until I was 15. (I wish I was kidding.)
But the boys who get around are heroes. For every girl walking around with a scarlet A on her chest, there was a boy strutting his sh*t down the hallway, getting respect for doing the same thing. It was considered healthy for boys to experiment with sex. Fourteen-year-old boys could get blowjobs without every worrying about getting called out for it.
A rumor can ruin you forever. In junior high, there was a girl named Shannon. She was only 13, but she was gorgeous – long, shiny, dark hair, big brown eyes, killer cheekbones, and a C-cup. The cup-size made her instantly popular among the boys in every grade, so much so that within the first week of seventh grade, there were rumors floating around that Shannon had a foursome with three popular boys from our grade in the equipment shed. People started calling her Tripod. Whispered insults routinely sent her running out of class in tears. Five years later, people still called her Tripod in their yearbook messages.
Sex is for babies unless you’re a man. A sex ed teacher – and I use “sex ed” and “teacher” as loosely as possible – in junior high said this. She seriously said this. Women should have sexual relations for procreation. Men should have sex whenever and with however many women they like because the men are simply spreading their seed. This was not a religious school, by the way. It did have the most teenage pregnancies in our district at the time, however.
Condoms encourage kids to have sex. Like this tired old trope isn’t still floating around out there, right? It wasn’t enough for the educators in my Southern schools to preach abstinence. This was the policy in my West Virginia junior high and my Virginia high school. However, even discussions about possible birth control were thoroughly stonewalled by hackneyed beliefs like this. Abstinence was the only thing that could stop pregnancy. Birth control pills and condoms were just invitations to bone.
Girls never get pregnant, they just go on vacation for a while. Unbeknownst to me, there were several pregnant girls in my graduating class. I had no idea because they disappeared seemingly overnight. I was friendly-ish with one of them and didn’t know she even had a kid until I got a friend request ten years later. Sex was a dirty little secret and its possible conclusion was to be hidden away at all costs.
A blowjob meant blowing on someone’s genitalia. I believed this until I was 12 years old! What the f*ck?! In retrospect, I should have asked my mom about all of this. In all fairness, I eventually did – she was indoctrinated with the same unfortunate beliefs, but getting away from our small West Virginia town helped a lot.
Same-sex sex is abnormal unless it involves two women in porn. This is the reason it took me so long to come to terms with my sexuality and embrace it. Surprise, surprise. I was so terrified of being different. Because sexual experimentation was frowned upon, I put myself in a box that had nothing to do with me.
Sex doesn’t have to be pleasurable for the woman. Yeah. She’s just doing her duty, you know. It’s just another aspect of married life. To wit, it was simply the wife’s job to give her husband pleasure. And get pregnant, of course.
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