More sexual misconceptions

When I was 8 or 9, I awoke from sleeping to use the bathroom. My father happened to be standing there using the toilet at the time, and in my half sleep I swore that he had three penises (which of course was just the one and his two low hanging balls). For years I thought that men had three penises. —Linda H.

In Kindergarten my mother signed a permission slip for me so I could watch what the teacher called a "health education" film. When I got to school the teacher and school nurse talked to us about where babies come from, then put on the film so we could see the miracle of birth. This film was from the early ’60s and it was all about hamsters. A voice said, "Oh look! The mommy and daddy hamsters are kissing!" as two hamsters were licking each other. All they did was lick each other in a way I would consider foreplay these days. The movie never showed any hamsters humping each other or a female giving birth, which was very confusing. They were licking each other then the scene faded out into one with a female hamster surrounded by her litter of pink babies. "Ahhh! She is a mommy now. What a good mommy!" the stupid narrator cooed.

Anyway, when I got home I said, "A man gets a woman pregnant by kissing her! I’ll never let a boy kiss me because I’ll have a baby pop out of me!" My mother complained to the teacher about my new misconceptions about sex, but the teacher said that there was nothing she could do about it because this was the only "health education" film they were allowed to show. So for several months I lived in a constant state of fear that if even a male relative or boy kissed me, even on the cheek, that I would have a screaming baby pop out of my belly. —Confused Kiddie

Much like LAMN, my well-meaning mom also showed me Nova’s Miracle of Life in response to the typical kid inquiry, "Where do babies come from?" Bless my mother: I was only 5, but wanting to give me a mentally healthy outlook on sex from the get-go, we proceeded to have an hour-long conversation after the video screening about grown-up relationships, how intercourse is wonderful, beautiful, natural, healthy, etc.

But apparently, in her zeal to instill me with a positive notion of sex, we failed to fully discuss the mechanics. At the close of the conversation, Mom asked if I had any questions. I paused, looked up at her with wide eyes, and said, "Does Daddy know about this?" —Missed the Point

When I was about 12, my friends and I affectionately called each other dildos. We knew that dildo was an inappropriate term, but we used it as synonymous with "dork" or "dumbass." I’m not sure any of us knew exactly what a dildo was, but we knew enough not to use the term in polite company (i.e., in front of parents or teachers). Anyway, my kid sister also started to use the term. Unfortunately, we didn’t warn her against calling someone a dildo outside of our circle of friends.

Which brings us to my family on a Christmas shopping outing at a very crowded mall. My dad did something characteristically goofy, to which my sister shrilly responded, "Dad, you’re such a dildo!" Our fellow shoppers were horrified. I don’t remember what I got for Christmas that year, but I will never forget being told what a dildo is over dinner in the mall’s food court. —Kara

When I was 11, I thought that foreplay — oral sex, nipple play and so forth — only occurred in the Neolithic era.

You see, I was a rather precocious reader, and by the time I was 9, I often picked up books my parents brought home from the library. They made no protest when I read Jean Auel’s Clan of the Cave Bear at that age, although they were careful to talk to me about the rape scene that occurs in the story. I loved the book; it was imaginative, vivid, and starred a young girl about my own age. So when a sequel came out, I was eager to read it. However, after both my parents had read it first, they suggested that I was too young for it, and should "wait a few years." This, of course, caused me to find a copy as soon as possible and hide it in my bedroom. The Valley of Horses was full of all kinds of explicit sex: ritual deflowering of teenage virgins, instruction of young boys in sexual techniques by women with red-painted feet, and, oh, yeah, plenty of descriptions of cunnilingus and fellatio. —Nancy

My mother, having decided to pursue a policy of complete disclosure concerning sex, sat down with me the first time I came with questions and we had a very long and detailed discussion. Unfortunately, as I was about 6 or 7, I wasn’t prepared for most of what I heard and developed some very enduring misconceptions. Most notably, there was the part where my mother said that the man puts his penis in the woman’s vagina and they stay connected "for a long time."

"How long?" I asked. "Oh, a long time," my mother answered, probably unwilling to engage in a discussion of sexual stamina with her cherub. That was fine, but it left me thinking … like a couple of days, maybe? Perhaps a week? That, of course, led me to a lot of other questions: Do they go to work like that? How about shopping? How do they walk around? And if having babies was so common, how come I hadn’t seen more of these sexually conjoined couples going about their business around town? Maybe I hadn’t been observant enough. —Older, but Not Much Wiser

When I was about 8 years old, I was as sweet and innocent as any little 8-year-old girl should be; some of the boys in my class, however, were more advanced in their sexual vocabulary. One day in the cafeteria line at school, the two boys ahead of me decided to have some fun with me. They asked, "Are you a virgin?" I knew if I picked the wrong answer, they would make fun of me, but I had no idea what a virgin was, so I started looking around to the other kids for help. The girl behind me in line piped up: "It’s an unwed mother — you know, like the Virgin Mary!" I quickly understood why the boys thought their question was so funny — they were hoping I’d say that I had a baby! Or maybe being a virgin was something special and holy, and if I claimed to be a virgin, it was sort of like claiming to be God! Either way, I was horrified, and I whipped my head and said, "No way! I’m not a virgin!" They, of course, laughed hysterically for the rest of the lunch period. —Still Not a Virgin

My mother grew up in the ’50s and didn’t even know what "intercourse" was until she was 16. Furthermore, she tried to pass on the morality of the ’50s: Boys ask, and [good] girls say "no." Sex is bad, and only whores want it. You do it because you HAVE to. Once I asked what "that little thing" — my clit — was, and she said, "I don’t know. I don’t think it does anything. It’s just sort of there, like the thing hanging down at the back of your throat." For years I didn’t know that women were even capable of having orgasms, and I doubt my mom knows now. The even stranger thing was that I’d been having them for a long time (I discovered masturbation quite by accident at the age of 7), but had no idea that’s what I was doing — I thought it had something to do with my kidneys and that I was going to give myself renal failure, because it felt vaguely like I "had to go to the bathroom" whenever I came. —Orgasmic but Ignorant

I went with my dad to visit his best friend, who bred Saint Bernards. While there, I saw this large wooden contraption and asked Dad what it was for. Turns out it was a breeding support so the dog (who is usually well over 150 lbs.) doesn’t hurt the bitch. My dad explained what a mommy dog and a daddy dog do to make puppies. He explained as accurately as a 4-year-old could understand, and I seemed to get what he was talking about. Later that day we came home and I ran up to my mother. "Mom! Guess what I learned today!" I then proceeded to give a fairly detailed description of what a mommy dog and a daddy dog do to make puppies, followed by the exclamation: "You and Dad should do that!" You see, I wanted a puppy. —Biologist Who Knows Better Now

When my mom gave me "the talk," I was pretty young, maybe 5 or 6. She kept talking about it in this very glowing, hippie way, saying things like, "When the man and woman feel love, they get excited to be around each other, and the penis and vagina get excited too." I kind of imagined my parents’ genitals bouncing around, detached from their bodies, in a little pre-sex party. A couple of months later, my mom told me that my dad was going to have an operation to make sure that they didn’t have any more babies. I was horrified. This would mean that they would be cutting off his penis, and it wouldn’t be able to party anymore. Babies must be really awful, I thought, if my parents would give up this wonderful thing to avoid having more. So, my dad had the operation, and a week or so later, he was changing in his bedroom and I was playing in there, and I looked up and saw he was intact. "Good, you’re keeping it!" I said. Dad called Mom into the room and we sorted it all out. —Party On

Not everyone who has a sexual misconception is a child: My best friend at work is one of those goody-two-shoes virgins. I’ve been steadily corrupting her for a year now. She was giving me a ride home one night when I made a comment about a lesbian co-worker’s tongue piercing, saying, "Her girlfriend must really love it when she gives her head." My friend turned to me and said, "Lesbians give each other head?" I rolled my eyes at her and asked her how she thought lesbians had sex. "Oh, I always imagined that they would hump each other’s leg or something." —Hopeless in Houston

About The Author

Dan Savage

Dan Savage is a sex-advice columnist, podcaster, and author, and has appeared on numerous television shows. His sex advice column “Savage Love” first appeared in The Stranger, Seattle’s alternative weekly, in 1991. The column is now syndicated across the United States and Canada. He has published six books...
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