Everything I know about sex, I learned from friends and bathroom walls

I can’t decide if kids these days are more enlightened when it comes to sex, or just as stupid as we were at their age.

Back when we chose middle schools for our sons, many factors came into play. Their particular magnet program won because of its rigorous academic environment, uniforms, early hours, and diverse student population. Added bonus? Students consistently focused on academic issues.

My sons’ middle school friends cared about good grades, high test scores, and challenging coursework. Seriously. We’re talking 8th graders. They competed with each other for places on debate teams and chairs in orchestra, and spent their spare time at Kumon, SAT-prep classes, and tutoring.

Jacob and Zachary’s closest friends were of Indian and Asian descent and a few girls were actually shunned (similar to being grounded, only ruder) when caught innocently chatting with boys online, about homework no less, without chaperones or permission.

This made me happy on several levels. First, my sons stopped thinking their mother was unreasonably strict. Second, they mostly chatted with male friends and third, I rested easy at night knowing no one at the weekly study group sessions was getting pregnant.

Then my sons hit the age of 14 and something exploded inside their brains. They came home with a new question every week.

And I began running out of answers.

As they get older, teenagers become more interested in sex. There isn’t much parents can do to suppress that, and studies suggest it’s counterproductive to try. The best thing moms and dads can do is stick around, answer questions, and try not to look mortified.

When driving my kids home from school, they talked to me about a guy breaking up with a girl because she had too many ex-boyfriends. She’d been called a slut and a whore because she “gets around.”

“Did I just wake up in the 1950s?” I asked.

“This guy himself has dated every girl in the school,” Jacob said. “He’s being hypocritical.”

“What does dating mean?” I asked.

“If we make eye contact with a girl and ask her to go with us,” Zachary said, “it’s dating.”

“Go where?” I asked, even though I already knew the answer.

“Nowhere,” Jake and Zach said at the same time.

So at the ripe old age of fourteen, a boy is shaming a girl for doing nothing more than what he does – making eye contact with the opposite sex and agreeing to be their “date” which, according to my children, lasts no longer than 3.5 days and doesn’t involve tongue.

I knew these kids and their parents were accomplished, successful, and enlightened. They were surrounded by strong women and men who appreciate them.

And yet they had archaic views that were accepted throughout their school.

Just when I started thinking there was no hope, I heard a different story. Another classmate came out on Instagram.

That’s right.


He posted a note that said, “I have a confession to make. I’m gay.”

The response was overwhelmingly positive. Every follower, acquaintance, and friend left a message of support and encouragement. We’re talking 8th graders. No one said anything negative and the kid felt confident enough to come out to his parents.

At a time when too many gay kids are bullied and committing suicide out of sheer desperation, I was thrilled to hear a good coming-out story for a change. We are moving in the right direction.

Or so I thought until I overheard one middle-schooler say to another, with disdain, “You like Bruno Mars. Dude, that’s gay.”

These kids seem as conflicted as so many others, and the inconsistency is alarming.

Or maybe I’m overreacting and there’s nothing to be concerned about. I wasn’t exactly an enlightened kid. When I was fourteen I thought gay people only lived in San Francisco.

I believed sex was okay in the dark between old married people, I believed masturbation was a sin, and I believed I was definitely going to hell.

I heard a rumor, in junior high, about a girl who used her flute as a dildo.

“How does she do that?” I asked my best friend, Becky. “Doesn’t the smoke go through all the holes?”

Becky then had to take ten minutes to explain shit so I didn’t get ridiculed at the next party. Thanks to Becky and the graffiti on bathroom walls, for a long time I knew just enough to be dangerous.

But look at me now… I totally understand the difference between a dildo and a bong.

Maybe our kids will be all right, too.