By Dan Savage · August 25th, 2004 · Savage Love
Well! Far from lightening my late-summer workload, LAMN's idea crashed my server and ruined my appetite. The server crashed because so many people wrote in. What's worse, once the server was back up, reading and sorting all the misconceptions turned out to be more work than busting out a regular ol' column. And the misconceptions mail ruined my appetite because, gee whiz, about 400,000 of the e-mails were from adults who as children thought a man had to pee in a woman's vagina, mouth, anus, hair, pillowcase, or nose (!) to get her pregnant. One out of every two e-mails concerned the Daddy-pees-on-Mommy pissconception.
So before we get to the mail, a quick thought for all the parents out there: For the love of God, moms and dads, when you have your "where do babies come from" talks, make it clear to your young'uns that piss plays absolutely no role in reproduction, OK? Unless, of course, you want your kids to make early, perhaps fetish-forming associations between sex and piss.
Now on to the mail....
When I was 7, one of my friends tenaciously held to the theory that babies were made when a man urinated into the woman's mouth. The humping part, my friend explained, which we all vaguely knew was part of the baby-making process, helped the man build up enough pee. I was grossed out and alienated from all adults after learning this. I couldn't understand why anyone would ever make a baby under such circumstances. Did grown women like the taste of pee? Troubled, I asked my dad how I was born.
"Well, your mother and I decided to have you and then...." He stopped. "I'll tell you when you're 14."
Fourteen?! Unwilling to wait that long, I found a book in the children's section of the library about human reproduction and got my answer. The penis-in-vagina model was still disturbing to me at 7, but it was better than the my-mom-guzzles-pee model. So I was able to feel OK about being kissed by my mother again ... until I learned about oral sex.
I was one of those brainy kids that read too much and understood even less. So it made "perfect" sense to me that if my penis got bigger, wider and harder when I wanted sex, then it logically followed that a girl's vagina gets softer and opens up like the doors on Star Trek to accommodate me. Then, when I found out that gay men have sex by inserting their penises into each other's asses, it logically followed that, if you're gay, you must have an orgasm every time you take a shit. At the time I thought it must be great to be gay!
I was about 12 when I started figuring out that I was gay. The popular theories at the time (as I understood them) all revolved around dramatic Freudian psychoanalytic revelations. My revelation was that I liked other boys because I still had my foreskin. I was apparently the only boy in the U.S. who was uncircumcised (it was the 1970s). So I postulated that the psychological trauma of my embarrassing wiener had made me go fag. It was pretty humiliating to ask my mom to get me the chop job "for health reasons." Worse than that was the actual bloody mess that is a 12-year-old freshly circumcised penis. And still worse was the agonizing wait for the desire to hump girls to arrive.
It turns out that telling your mom you need a circumcision when you're 12 is actually more traumatizing than telling her you're gay at 19.
My older sister kept a box of tampons sitting on the floor next to the toilet. I was probably 8 years old when I became interested in these strange little plastic tubes. I had no idea what they were for. The box had helpful visual diagrams that made it look like the tampons were meant to be inserted in your butt. I had no idea what a vagina was at the time. Wanting to be cool and grown-up like my sister, I began inserting tampons in my butthole. Only later did I discover that tampons were not for 8-year-old boys' rectums.
I had my first orgasm in the bathtub. For months, the new hobby was indulged in the tub, under water, in a bubble bath. I'm the cleanest kid in town. But the itch gets the better of me in bed one night. All's going well, door's locked, the ever-more-familiar feeling of warmth is on its way and ... what the fuck is that whie stuff?!! I concluded I must have cancer and this vile, pus-like discharge was my body's attempt to keep the disease from eating me alive. My terror over the copious amounts of cancerous goo flowing from my dick didn't stop me from playing with it. I'm extremely courageous that way.
When I was about 7, my 8-year-old older brother had the pleasure (or painful discomfort, I still don't really know) of seeing his first porno flick at our teenaged cousins' house. It was called Oriental Orgasms, and I'll never forget his exact words about it: "There were all of these Chinese guys getting their penises sucked by this one Chinese girl. Their penises all got real big, and then after a while CHAMPAGNE SPRAYED OUT OF IT!" After my initial "Eeeewwww!!" all I could think was, "So, is that where champagne comes from?"
When I was coming of age, I lived alone with my mom.
I was younger than my classmates and too intimidated to ask about puberty. As a child with a vivid imagination, observing my horny dog led me to conclude that one day my erections would emerge from the outer layer of skin, like the dog's did. For a time, I was terrified of getting an erection, convinced that if not suppressed my penis would "peel back" to reveal the true, slimy boner lurking inside.
One of the kids at my Catholic school was proud to teach the rest of us guys all about sex. He had peeked in on his mother and her boyfriend and explained it as follows: The man puts a balloon on his dick then uses his dick to insert the balloon into the woman's pee hole. Then he puts his lips to the woman's pee hole and inflates the balloon until it pops. He knew it popped because his mother screamed when it did. We believed him because his story was just too bizarre to have been made up.
When I was in second grade, I used to sneak away during recess with one of the other boys and we'd fool around in the tall grass at the edge of the playground. We pulled our pants down around our ankles and rubbed our tiny erections together. I remember him always on top, and I believed the only reason I didn't get pregnant was that we didn't kiss. We called our playtime activity "fucking," though of course it wasn't even close. One day in line for the cafeteria, I told Danny, "We can't call it 'fucking' anymore, because 'fuck' is a bad word." I said, in complete earnestness, we had to start calling it "rape"!
At 7 years old, the image I had of sex in my mind was that whenever a guy got hard, he could just walk up to his girlfriend/wife/prostitute, stick it in, pee and just walk off. Just as simple as that. So one night, I decide to practice this routine on my bed. I stand up, drop trough, get hard and just kind of start thrusting forward in the air, pretending that there's a beautiful woman in front of me. At this point, my father walks into the room. I'm about 7 or 8 years old at the time, so he must be thinking, What in the fuck kind of pervert am I raising? He doesn't say anything, just turns around, closes the door and walks away. I, in turn, am mortified but have learned a valuable lesson about simulated solo sex since: Always lock the door.
A long time ago, I knew two things about jerking off: It involved "jerking" something, and it "felt good." Alas, if only I'd known what needed to be jerked. One day, determined that I should no longer miss out on this marvelous "jerking off" I kept hearing about, I made a guess, grabbed a hold of my testicles and gave them a good solid "jerk" straight downward. I felt something, but it wasn't good.
I'm a 28-year-old straight male. But when I was 11, a male friend and I used to "fool around." It was mostly just the two of us "humping" and pretending to kiss. Nothing major. The misconception part came later. In junior high they started teaching us about AIDS. It was presented to us as a gay disease, and the teacher offered no specifics about how one caught it. My young mind figured that it was somehow created when two men fooled around. For several years I was sure that I had it and would die young from the dreaded disease.
In high school I found out that AIDS is not created when two men "fool around" but is caught by having sex with another person who already has the disease, gay or not. It seems quite amusing now, but at the time I was scared half to death about it.
Most of what I learned about sex when I was a kid I learned from my fucked-up next-door neighbor. The only difference, he informed me, between male and female genitalia was pubic hair. I thought both boys and girls had dicks but only girls had hair on them. See, I was about 10 and was of course hairless, as was my neighbor, and our dicks were the only dicks I had ever seen. I had seen my fair share of Playboys and assumed those girls had dicks that were simply obscured by all that bush. So one day we were digging around in his garage and came across a nudist colony magazine of his dad's and -- lo and behold -- there were pics of guys with pubic hair. I freaked!
When I was about 4, my 8-year-old older brother used to pin me down and fart in my face. As you can imagine, I hated this. One day I saw some graffiti on a wall that said "Fuck you." When I asked my older brother what it meant, he wouldn't tell me. I kept asking him until he replied, "Just imagine the worst thing you could do to anyone." The next time my brother farted in my face, I immediately ran home and told my mother that my brother had just fucked me.
I grew up in a house full of dogs. Lots of puppies all over the place. On one particular afternoon my parents were away and David, a 10-year-old down the street, and my regular sex buddy came over. David had been reading his 17-year-old brother's porn mag in which there was an article about buttfucking. I had no idea what buttfucking meant. I was an 8-year-old, it was the 1960s -- what did I know? David thought we should try buttfucking, so he attempted to dry fuck me. It hurt. I was upset. David went home. A few hours later my parents returned and my dad found me crying in the den. He asked me what was wrong and I screamed between sobs, "David stuck his weenie in my pooper and now I am going to have puppies!" I told him that David did to me like the boy dogs did to the girl dogs and they eventually had puppies. "I don't want to have puppies," I shrieked.
After my dad stopped laughing, he assured me that I wouldn't have puppies. David and I continued playing around, and when we discovered lubricant we tried for puppies as often as we could.
When I was in the sixth grade, our friend Tom, who lived on a farm and thus had instant credibility in our group concerning all things reproductive, told us that when we were older we'd have to have sex, but as males we'd get no satisfaction from it. When asked to explain, he replied, "When your ear itches and you scratch it with your finger, what feels better, the ear or the finger?"
My older brother (I'm the youngest, so they're all older) told me that when a man and woman decided to have a baby, the man fucked her in the vagina if they wanted a girl and fucked her in the ass if they wanted a boy. Well, I've been getting fucked in the ass for years now, and no boy. But, boy, does it feel good.
I was young and learning about sex in the usual manner, via my best friend's babysitter. We would ask questions; she would answer them. Now either she was clueless too or she received a kick out of lying because when I asked her about the term "making out," she explained it as full-out penis-pounding-pussy type sex. About a week later I was watching the episode of my favorite show Full House where DJ is talking to Steve about how their relationship will change now that they're broken up and just friends. DJ explained, "We won't be making out anymore." I was floored by the conflicting images of family-valued Full House with DJ and Steve engaging in premarital sex. Confused, I asked my older brother, "If I like a girl, is it OK to make out with her?" Cautiously he explained making out is an acceptable way of expressing affection between a young boy and girl. Then I asked why inserting my penis inside her vagina showed affection. He nearly choked to death on the question.
After a few moments he pulled himself together enough to give me a sex talk, clearing up that and a few other misconceptions I had.
When I was about 6, my mother took it upon herself to explain the basic physical aspects of sex to me. To help in this task, she showed me a biology textbook with pictures of the male and female genitalia. I understood erections, and I got the concept of penetration. However, I didn't understand the drawings very well. In particular, the depiction of the female parts seemed to portray the vulva and the anus as lying very close to one another on the same plane. Worse, they looked fairly similar.
While, both then and later, I didn't want to ask my mother to clarify what was going on, I feared that, when faced with a woman who wanted to have sex with me, I would have to worry about figuring out which hole was the one I was supposed to penetrate and that I'd wind up putting my penis into her rectum instead of her vagina. I carried this fear and confusion through several years of sex ed, despite opportunities to write anonymous questions. Only when I began looking at porn, around eighth grade, did the easy visual distinctions between the two holes become clear.
I had a friend in elementary school who liked to act like he knew a lot about sex but was, of course, as clueless as the rest of us. I, of course, believed everything he said. The funniest misconception he came up with was when a man and woman have sex, the woman's vagina clamps down on the penis. The vagina will allow the man to thrust his penis back and forth inside her, but it won't let the penis leave until she comes. Took him a year or so after telling this tall tale to admit that he had just pulled it out of his ass. Imagine the kind of performance anxiety that would give men.
I think I was about 10 or 11 when we visited my Aunt Edie. I'd already had "the talk" and had a fairly good idea of what "adult" meant. Adult movies. Adult videos. Adult magazines. I was told that my Aunt Edie now lived in an "adult community." Now, my aunt was a good 80 years old by this point, and I'd met her wrinkly ass at a few family gatherings, so when we got to the (clearly labeled) adult community I got really creeped out. I asked my parents if they were really supposed to bring a kid in here, and upon more questioning explained my reasoning.
After laughing so hard my dad had to stop the car, they cleared everything up.
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