I had total hippie-wannabe parents - they were MIT geeks who regretted "missing the 60s" (well at least mom) so really took to the Califormia lifestyle in the 70's...organic garden, parties with braless women jumping into the pool, and sex education starting at 4. I feel very fortunate to have had parents and teachers very open to talking about sex, but I still remember some amusing episodes from my childhood, as well as those misconceptions kids get. My mom dressed as a playboy bunny for halloween every year, quite the riske costume at the time, which my sister and I both borrowed - she won the halloween costume contest, while I got made fun of and had my balloons popped (literally, folks, no innuendo intended), the trials of youth. I distinctly remember (although my mom will tell you how faulty my memory is) sitting down as a family going through playboy magazines to get ideas for my mom's costume - could this really have happened?
I had the family where the parents walked around nude, and there was this large painting of a naked women in our front hallway which I told my friends we got as it was so similar to my mom. I grew up thinking bathrooms should always have naked deorations, since my parents wallpaper had these really silly cartoons of naked men and women, and I think their toliet seat had a nude woman as well. It didn't seem odd at the time, hmm. My mom had no problem with people seeing her naked, but never wanted anyone to think she was an exhibitionist, so she did sometimes put on a top when sunbathing if she knew I had friends coming over, but a number of them got quite the surprise.
We got all the "in" books - "Where did I come from?" - with those great cartoons, and "What's happening to me?" - with actual lifelike pictures of the maturing body which I found fascinating, and a hilaroius chapter on different boob shapes. The idea was to show that all body types are fine, and while I still have some body image issues, I have no problem stripping down at the drop of a hat.
Since I think I learned about sex by 5 years old, those little errors in my knowledge came from my own mind, not from my peers. I still remember learning about intercourse, but not about actual erections - so could not quite figure out how it exactly worked. I also thought people could have sex before they were married, but not have babies - now wouldn't that be convenient?
Growing up in California we had sex eduction starting in 5th grade (same movie in 6th but you watched it with the boys). I remember when I got pregnant the first time and my doc suggested we rent the movie "The Miracle of Life" I was shocked to find out my husband had never seen it, and don't think he ever really had sex education in school - leave it to Kansas city and Utah to skip that part of his education. It could certainly go too far, however, as we had one health teacher who would talk about his own sex life - looking back probably not the worst idea, but quite creepy to a 6th grader.
I hope I can start the sex ed at our house bright and early (the've already mastered yelling out the appropriate body part names), but considering how wierd it is to talk to my mom about sex now, I think I'll continue the conversation beyond kindergarten.
Originally posted on Silicon Valley Moms blog for Sex Education topic day, Sept 21, 2006