An Incomplete Education

I blame my complete inability to chat nonchalantly about sex and, um, you know, women’s things, on the fact that at school I was never taught how to put a condom on a cucumber.

My “adult” education began when I was just about to go to boarding school. My mother thrust a book in my hand called You’re A Young Lady Now which had been produced by Kotex. Things went downhill from there.

At school we had one girls-only lesson given by an embarrassed biology teacher who fixed her eyes on her desk and never once lifted her gaze, while mumbling about girls-only things (see, I can’t even say the word ‘menstruation’ out loud). I didn’t listen that closely as I considered myself something of an expert on the subject, having read You’re A Young Lady Now from cover to cover.

As for sex, a couple of years later we were shown a film about the reproductive cycle of a rabbit which included a brief glimpse of two rabbits going like it, well, like rabbits. We were also shown cross section diagrams of a male and female body with all the relevant bits clearly labelled while we tried not to snigger at the word “penis”.

How different it is for young people these days who have sex rammed down their throats, if you’ll pardon the expression, almost from the time they are a foetus. By the time they are 11 they know all the ins and outs of the whole messy business and can even say the word vagina out loud without blushing to the roots of their hair. Thanks to that cucumber and condom, and films that in my day would have been seen only in seedy cinemas, they know all the mechanics too.

My teenage years, on the other hand, were largely spent in complete ignorance of what these mechanics entailed, having only a hazy idea of men and women’s parts coming briefly together with what I thought was the inevitable consequence – a baby.

So avoiding becoming a fallen woman, one whose father would say, “Never darken my doors again,” was uppermost in my mind when it came to boyfriends.

Although how on earth I thought I could ever become pregnant while wearing clothes that had all the defensive capabilities of Kevlar armour, I don’t know. That stiff coned bra could have a boy’s eye out at two paces. Then there were the waist-high knickers with killer elastic and the thick patchwork maxi skirt. They were enough to deter the most hormone-infused adolescent.

My sex education may have been scanty but at least I was never a teenager with an unwanted baby.

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  1. I remember sex-ed lessons being a huge let down. My girlfriend says that explains a lot...

  2. Those who don't get an education make do with vocational training.

  3. i remember that booklet.

    we were also all herded into an education film when we were in fifth grade; the girls saw one film, and the boys saw another.

    the film woefully lacked specifics, and all i remember is that at some time in my life very soon it was going to be to be wrong to ride a horse during certain times of the month.

    i had no idea why.

    i have long wondered what was in the boys' film.

  4. You sound like me as a teenager and I did come to full blossom in my adulthood.

  5. Found you from Kittyb's blog. Gosh this brought back some memories. I suffered terrible agonies during my teenage years worrying that so much as kissing a boy might make a sperm fly up my skirt and impregnate me!! Our biology teacher advised us to tell boys to take a hot shower as cold showers would only make them worse. Ooh-er!

  6. Oh, gosh, yes - remember an excrutiating video we all had to watch in year three that left me none the wiser. And had to explain the whole embarrassing lot to my eight-year-old recently, which I obviously did reasonably well since several days later, when he asked why good friends of ours didn't have any children despite being married for some years, he piped up, "Do you think we ought to tell them about that willy and bajina thing?". Hmmmm - he obviously has about as much faith in school sex-ed as I do.

  7. I never got the banana condom thing taught to me either. I was forced to learn years later whilst drunk and in a dark room. Much more difficult.

  8. While I can chat nonchantly about sex I still am not very good at putting on condoms. Is anyone?

  9. Oh god - I'd have preferred the shy biology teacher to the one I had, who said using a condom is like eating a lolly with the wrapper still on! Silly, stupid, ignorant, show off, I'm a pal not a teacher, idiot! I hate to think of the damage that might have been done to the girls who could no longer get their boyfriends to wear a rubber for fear of letting down the (glamorous) teacher.

  10. I now have this vaguely alarming notion of you sitting round at coffee mornings blushing while the others all chat expertly about the theory and swap tips. Surely not?

  11. great blog, first time I've been (came via your comment on Kitty's blog, too) and, in those immortal words, I'll Be Back. Mortified here, too, though try to pretend not to be as my children (spot on about that) are so bafflingly up front about everything. Can't quite work out when it all must have changed. Clearly I wasn't looking.

  12. Hee hee. I remember Jessica Reagan having to leave our sex ed classes because she felt sick when the condoms came out. The rest of us rolled our eyes as if we'd known all about this for years and were seasoned consumers (so to speak) of various forms of contraception.

    However, we never actually had a cucumber. Now that would have been fun!

  13. I think we learned about frog spawn! I don't remember much else about sex education. My Dad borrowed an encyclopedia from some fellow at work and put a book mark in the page I was expected to read!

  14. Fantastic piece - you made me laugh out loud!

    your blog is fabulous! thanks!

  15. Pity the poor fools who thought rolling a condom onto a cucumber would protect their girlfriends.