Nick from the United States
I grew up in the north of Kentucky, so it was a weird mix of being culturally ‘southern,’ but there was still this mix in of Midwest culture. They aren’t that different, but some aspects are distinctive. Most people I grew up with were Catholic, but not super devout. I went to church every week with my family until I was 14, but if we were traveling or something, it wouldn’t be a big deal to miss it.
That degree of religiousness was always there in the background though. My friends and I were all told not to have sex before marriage, but it wasn’t that we thought our lives would be over if we did. Even when I was in my twenties, when my girlfriend and I would come and visit my parents, we had to sleep in separate rooms.
I went to an all Catholic boys school as well, but I wouldn’t say they were strict Catholic schools. We had religion class every day, but it wasn’t like all our teachers were priests or nuns or anything like that.
I think for a lot of people, going to an all-boys school would mean growing up in a really sexualized environment, but for me, it wasn’t that at all. No one really had a girlfriend where sex was on the table, so we didn’t really think about it much. Some guys had girlfriends, but not many because it was an effort. Also, sports were really popular, almost everyone was on at least one sports team, so we got a lot of our energy out that way.
We had two different sex-ed classes, once in fifth grade, then again in ninth. The way I remember it, it was fine. It wasn’t super repressive, I’m guessing that it was probably super heteronormative and oversimplified but not actually bad. With my parents though, sex education was simply non-existent. Sex wasn’t shamed or anything, it was just ignored.
I think more than anything, I probably learned about sex and relationships mostly from movies and TV. My parents let us watch pretty much whatever we wanted growing up; if a sex scene came on, they wouldn’t turn it off or anything. We all just kind of ignored it. They never asked if I understood what was going on or if I had any questions.
In regards to sex, I think learning from movies, TV, and different bits of information from society was enough; I had an okay understanding. I mean, as much as anyone does at that age. I was twenty before I did much more than making out, so by then I had enough of an idea.
When it came to learning about relationships though, this kind of education wasn’t enough. I definitely fell victim to this Hollywood idea that everything is a big deal. Especially something like asking a girl out. I had this idea that you had to be head over heels for someone before you could ask them out, and you have to be in love with them before you could kiss them. American television in the 90s was very much the era of family values. I watched a lot of Seventh Heaven, Full House, and Dawson’s Creek, all of which had a strong message about how the family should be.
There were two things that I watched that really stuck with me and my sexuality. The first of which, was Titanic, but not the hand on the glass scene, it was the draw me like one of your French girls scene. I don’t even know how I found out that the scene existed, but somehow I did. Funny enough, even to this day, I have never seen the whole movie. I would always just fast forward to that scene, and then immediately turn it off when I was done.
My wife and I were actually on vacation recently and she wanted to watch Titanic. I realized that I don’t want to see the whole movie now. I kind of like this funny story that I have seen this one scene hundreds of times, but never the entire film.
The other show was called Silk Stockings. It was a crime show, but it had a lot to do with sexuality. Often there were affairs or sex workers or something like that. The show itself wasn’t that interesting, but I loved the intro. Since this was before any kind of recording, I would have to time it just right so that I would be in front of the TV exactly when the intro started. It was about a minute long and showed lingerie and sexy legs or something like that. I was allowed to have a TV in my room from quite young, so I would watch that intro all of the time and masturbate to it.
Thankfully I was given quite a bit of privacy as a kid. I shared a room with my brother when I was younger, but when I was eleven, he moved into his own room, so I had more privacy. That is about the same time, probably not fully by coincidence, that I started to masturbate. I finally had space, it was my kingdom.
My parents never spoke with me about masturbation, but they must have known what was going on. I used tissues to clean up, and I would leave them in the bed, which my mom made for me every morning. She never said anything though. Well, she never said anything directly, and anything that she tried to say indirectly went over my head. She might have said something like, “You really need to clean up after yourself.” I was a messy kid though, so I would just interpret that as that I needed to clean up after myself in general.
Shopping catalogs and magazines like Sports Illustrated were also around my house a lot and we very useful. I am not positive, but I kind of think maybe my parents left them around the house on purpose as a subtle way of introducing it. I actually think, especially nowadays that kids can find really hardcore stuff online, it’s better just to give a kid a magazine. Then kids can approach it when they are ready, and it’s only a picture so it can be more regulated. Though, I do wonder with kids now who have unlimited access to everything online, if having magazines readily available would actually detour them or not. Would that be enough for them?