Judy from the United States
I was born in 1945, that makes me 72 now. When I was growing up, sexuality was not an open topic for discussion. I was born in West Virginia and grew up on a little farm way out in the back woods, five miles out on a dirt road.
When I think back, I honestly don’t know what my sisters and I did during the day. My mom was doing all of the farm work, driving the tractor, planting, milking, making butter and bread and so forth and my father was away a lot. We had innocent, simple entertainments. We picked Queen Anne’s Lace and stitched it together and made doll clothes and things like that. I don’t think I even had chores.
Here is a little example of just how repressed and secret the idea of discussing sexuality with your kids was at that time. I was an early reader and an early speller. I must have been three or four and I was practicing phonics, so I was going through the whole alphabet trying to make words. I started with the suffix “uck” and I started saying auck, buck, cuck, duck…. And then when I got to F, my mom exploded and said,
“I don’t ever want to hear that word again, that’s the filthiest word!”
That word, which I use many times a day now.
I was a smart child but also fairly oblivious.
Starting in grade school, before I even knew what sex was, I had developed a very rich fantasy life. In the seventh grade, a couple of very tall boys moved into our school and I had a huge crush on one of them, Bill. I had so many fantasies about Bill, not sexual fantasies because I didn’t yet know what sex was. Just fantasies of fainting and Bill would catch me, or having hysterical crying fits and he would comfort me. Or being very ill and he would care for me. I also had kidnapping fantasies of a space alien coming and taking me away forever but then we would fall in love with each other. Or cowboy fantasies, there were lots of cowboys on TV at that time.
I never told anyone but I lived for these fantasies, they were such an important part of my inner life. For a while I even thought that I should be an actress because I really enjoyed these fantasies and I thought well, that’s the thing I enjoy the most so maybe I should be an actress. I am too shy to be an actress though, so I became a writer instead.
I kept having fantasies until I was probably 50 years old. Until my marriage ended and I entered real life. I haven’t had any fantasies since then.
Another example of how secretive things were was that my mom had a blue box and this blue box was a matter of great curiosity and secrecy. Every so often, she would say something to my dad about how she needed to go get something from the blue box. Even when she spoke about it, it was like a secret language. When we asked, she would only say that she would tell us when we were older and could understand.
I never thought to sneak in and look either. The reaction I got from my mom over the uck thing scared me enough. I didn’t know where she kept it anyway.
When I was ten, shortly after we left the farm and moved to Cincinnati, I asked, “When am I going to be old enough to know what’s in the blue box?” She said, “Oh well, I think maybe you are old enough now.” We were outside burning brush and she told me about menstruation, about how a woman can get pregnant once a month and that the mysterious blue box had pads in it.
Even though my mom finally told me what menstruation was, she didn’t tell me what sexual intercourse was. I was a sophomore in high school before I found that out. We had health class and our teacher asked us to write down any questions we had anonymously and pass them in. I didn’t even know enough to ask anything interesting but somebody else was clearly thinking about it. So the question came up,“What is sexual intercourse?”
When she read that question I thought, yeah.. What is it? She explained and said it’s when a man inserts his penis into a woman’s vagina. That’s what it is. When I got home, I told my mom that our teacher had told us what sexual intercourse was. She asked, “Oh what did she say?” I told her and she said, “oh yes, I guess that is about right.” That was the end of it.
Pregnancy was also a huge concern since this was before the birth control revolution. (read more about the history of birth control here) There were girls in my high school who got pregnant; my sister was one of them, twice. She first got pregnant when she was a senior in high school. My mom claims that she took her to our family doctor and he gave her medication to induce an abortion. I am not so sure if that actually happened or not though. I don’t think a doctor would have done that but I read recently that women had historically known about certain things that would produce an abortion so I don’t know. After that, her and her boyfriend promised never to have sex again but she ended up pregnant a few years later.
I was terrified of getting pregnant. I was not a particularly attractive girl in grade school or high school and I didn’t have guys after me until I was older. Even when I started having boyfriends, we didn’t have sex because I was too scared.
The first year I was in college my boyfriend came to visit me for Thanksgiving, it was the Thanksgiving Kennedy was killed. A girlfriend and I got a hotel room and my boyfriend and her boyfriend got another room and then we swapped. We stripped down to our underwear and made out like crazy for the whole weekend but we didn’t have sex. I actually regret that. Before birth control, it was just too much of a risk.
When I left my parents house, I made a decision to be comfortable and accepting of my sexuality and to enjoy it. I read a Readers Digest about this Polynesian Island where there was a shortage of men and the women were so practical about it- they simply shared the men. There was this main character who fell in love with one of the girls and he wanted to be monogamous but her sister didn’t have a man and needed a baby. As a practical matter, she wanted him to create babies for all of these women who didn’t have partners. I took that to heart; not for myself but that made me think sexuality was more natural and flexible than I was raised to believe.
I also made a very conscious decision about how I wanted to raise my own kids in terms of their sexuality. Like many people who grow up to have their own kids, I decided I didn’t want to do to my kids what my mom had done to me. I let them run around naked because I didn’t want them to be ashamed of their bodies.
Sadly it didn’t work for any of them. They all ended up being ashamed of their bodies at some point. No matter how you try to raise your kids, other people come into the picture and influence them. Maybe I put my kids at risk by letting them think they are going to be accepted by everyone. Then when they got out into the big wide world, they found out that wasn’t always going to be the case.
When my oldest two were maybe two and three years old, we went up to my mothers house and I let them run around naked. My mom was not very accepting. She said to one of them, “Cover that up! It’s ugly!” After that I broke relations with her for probably fifteen years. She didn’t have a relationship with my kids growing up at all. I didn’t want her pushing that attitude on them.
My mother’s mother, had a child out of wedlock actually. She was also in love with her sister’s husband and my mom has never been sure who her father was. She thinks that two of her sisters and herself were fathered by her uncle and only her younger sister was fathered by the man her mother was married to. So I think my mom didn’t have a leg to stand on to criticize somebody else. I don’t actually understand why she felt so judgmental and appalled about sexuality and pregnancy out of wedlock. She and her mother had a very rough relationship so I think maybe she didn’t want to be anything like her mother and didn’t want her daughters to be anything like her mother either.
Eventually I left my parents house and moved out to go to collage. Then not long after, birth control became available to the public. When I finally did become sexual, I had a talent for it. Being out on my own for the first time plus birth control, it was very timely.
Editors Side Note: While sex is not often a topic discussed in many families, here at SoS, we are all about that open dialog. Not only was Judy’s son Zach present for this interview but he also gave us a few of his own stories a while back. Check them out here and here