Melinda Luisa de Jesús: World Book Encyclopedia “S”: How I Learned About Penetrative Heterosexual Intercourse, AKA “Sex”

For Ann N.

1.
I grew up in the 70s but my household was far from the stereotypical 70s American
family. We weren’t like the Brady Bunch or the Partridge Family; my parents were
emigrants from the Philippines. Catholic, repressed, clueless, you name it. Although
there were 7 of us kids, which tells you something about my parents. Anyway, there was
no Joy of Sex to ogle and giggle over. Just lots of shame and guilt spread thick by the
nuns at school and reinforced by my parents’ silence and subtle delicadeza culture, at
least for girls. My brothers knew all about this stuff way before I did. Apparently the
same applied to Penn Dutch girls, too.

One afternoon in fifth grade my good friend Ann and I decided we wanted to use my
mother’s Singer sewing machine but didn’t want to ask her for permission. Confidently I
told Ann that we could just look up how to thread a sewing machine in the World Book
Encyclopedia at my house and I could take it from there. We grabbed the S encyclopedia
from the living room bookcase then ran downstairs and locked ourselves in the den.
Sitting on the scratchy green sofa together we quickly paged to S-E but overshot it and
found ourselves on S-E-X. I looked at Ann and she at me, and we started reading it
silently together. We got to this triumphant line and started seeing red: “And the man
puts his penis in the woman’s vagina. And some women find this pleasurable.”

Ann whispered it aloud. “And the man puts his penis in the woman’s vagina. And some
women find this pleasurable.” Oh my God! We slammed the book shut, too stunned to
laugh, our furtive sewing expedition forgotten. We stared at each other in shock, hands
over our mouths.

How did we not know about this?
Our parents did this!
Everyone’s parents did this!
Neighbors, our lay teachers.
The people we babysat for…
We couldn’t look at any adults without wondering if they did this too.
It was too disgusting to fathom.

Throughout that school year Ann sent me unsigned notes that just said, “And some
women find this pleasurable.” Why did she have to keep reminding me? It was enough
to make me burst out laughing, then blush and cringe. Thankfully menarche came as a
needed distraction from this terrible information. But it was clear our bodies were
changing, hurtling us towards new and uncharted lands . . .

Ann and I gradually drifted apart. In 9th grade I finally got my wish of transferring to the local public school. The following year I was shocked to hear that she, now a popular
cheerleader at the local Catholic high school, had been forced to drop out, pregnant with
twins, humiliated and abandoned by her cad of a boyfriend, the star football player who
refused to give up his college scholarship.

For years afterwards I felt weirdly responsible and connected to her story, wondering if
she recalled our innocent meander that afternoon from s-e-w to s-e-x. That one page,
that one letter had changed the world for us, divided it into stark absolutes, before and
after, virgin and whore, innocent and experienced, with no avenues to explore our own
girlish sexual curiosity and pleasure. Like the Virgin Mary herself, we were to let it be
done to us, passive recipients, receptacles; never agents, instigators.

2.
Some learning comes through reading, some through observation;
others demand a definite hands-on approach.
Sex is just like that–
an encyclopedia can only offer the most basic information
while the Church and your parents pretend it doesn’t exist outside of marriage.
What to do with these animal urges?
It’s more than simply mind over matter–
hormones racing, blood pounding,
bodies growing before your very eyes
weird thoughts and feelings spilling forth, unbidden.
And always, an older boy waiting, willing
to show you the ropes
to take your virginity (another notch on his bedpost)
to fuck and tell–at least in my hypocritical hometown.

Curiosity may not kill the cat
but it can kill a teenage girl’s reputation
disrupt her life, scar her and her family
Meanwhile, those boys carry on, smirking…
Oh, what we risked
for knowledge
for pleasure
for love

These days, I thank the goddess for the internets,
for Youtube, Scarleteen, Amazon Prime.
My advice?
Get yourself a good vibrator, girls, and have at it.
Learn how to please yourself first
then demand the same from everyone who enters your bed.
Life’s too short to rely on accidents
like a slip from -w to -x.
You need a license to drive, right?
Learn to drive and maintain your little red corvette.

from peminology (Paloma Press, 2018)
Melinda Luisa de Jesús
©2018
peminist.com


Melinda Luisa de Jesús: I was born and educated in Pennsylvania; my parents were emigrants from the Philippines. Growing up brown in a predominantly white steel town has shaped me in ways I’m constantly exploring in my writing. I identify primarily as a feminist of color.

Professionally I teach and write about critical race theory, girlhood and monsters. I’m also a classically-trained mezzo-soprano who dreams of singing in a funk band, an Aquarian, and a mother of two. I drink hard liquor and love Hello Kitty.

I believe, as did the ancients, that a poem can change the world.

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