Birds, Bees And Vaginas: When Did You First Have The Talk?

Illustration for article titled Birds, Bees And Vaginas: When Did You First Have The Talk?

In our Daddy Issues series, a father of a young daughter seeks guidance, hoping to raise a strong woman. He looks to you, dear readers, for insight.


The night before my school was to begin a sex education class, my mom pulled me into the living room and filled me in — feeling, I suppose, that if anyone was going to tell her son about birds and venereal disease (it was an awkward, confusing talk), it would be her.

On the one hand, I remember being embarrassed. I was in fourth grade and felt I had a handle on how things worked. On the other hand, it was nice to finally know that the word vagina did not begin with a "B." I was more excited to figure out why I could never find the word in the dictionary than to discover the intricacies of humankind's sexual magic.

My wife had an even more awkward exchange with her parents. When she was 8 or 9, they gave her a sexual anatomy manual for Christmas; it had been gift wrapped and placed under the tree alongside toys and clothes. When she opened it, no one spoke a word, she recalled. The entire extended family stared for a moment and then, just like that, it was forgotten. Mortified, she slipped the book under some new clothes and waited anxiously for a talk that never came.

Before my daughter came along, I was determined to offer her an upfront, no-big-deal review of sexual reproduction when the time was right. I wasn't planning a cold, clinical lecture, something along the lines of Ben Stein discussing the fallopian tubes. But I wanted her to know how things worked and that she could feel comfortable discussing things like sex with her parents. I know from experience that an awkward, formal, weird talk about the subject only made it less likely that I'd ever go to my mom with questions, relying instead on the august opinions of friends. See Bagina, with a B.

But as my daughter ages, I'm wavering. Neither my wife nor I know exactly how to pull the trigger and have a talk that is informative and comfortable and leaves her feeling like she can come back to us when needed. We don't want to make it a formal thing but we don't want to put it off until she gets even older and the conversation becomes truly awkward. Part of me wants to flip on Animal Planet and just wait for the topic to bring itself up. ("Well rhinos, you know, are a lot like people, in that they all have penises and vaginas.")

So I'm curious: At what age did your parents fill you in on the birds and bees and how did it go?


Mike Adamick writes at Cry It Out! A friend once told him that sperm could attack.

Image by Lauri Apple.



How Babies Are Made: []

It's an oldie but goodie. To my dad's dismay mom whipped this book out when I was around 3 or so and asked where babies came from. It's good for young kids. The pictures are subtle, and somewhat vague. It gives a general explanation, without too many details. It's hard to remember, but from my memory my reaction was "weird. adults are gross and boring. I wanna go back to my playmobiles."

I didn't really understand everything, but I got a gist for it which was better than most (for some reason I thought the penis just went inside once, puked up some sperm, and that was it, I was pretty surprised when I saw in movies that it was more intense). But I think the important thing I took away from it it was that if I wanted to, I could ask my mom what's up. Generally I didn't. Mostly because I didn't care that much. But I never felt like I was totally alone in the whole thing. And sometimes I did ask questions and had a few awkward conversations about what a circumcision was, and what a blow job was (I think I was 11). And I was grateful my mom explained while watching And the Band Played On with me when I was 10 that gay people can have sex too, just a little differently, and that while it doesn't end up with a baby, it still was totally ok and that if they wanted to gay people can have babies too.

Sometimes these ongoing sex conversations were awkward, and sure they weren't perfect, there are things that I'll do differently when I have a kid. But when I met kids who didn't know what was up I was glad to be able to explain, and felt proud that my mom was cool enough to tell me and didn't treat me like a baby.