"Whenever I go into a restaurant, I order both a chicken and an egg to see which comes first"

Sunday, March 1, 2015

Sex Education–Hot And Steamy

Any boy growing up in the Fifties got shortchanged when it came to sex. We were warned off of ‘impure thoughts’ by Father Murphy; but of course as soon as he delivered one of his sex sermons, all we could think of was Marilyn Monroe and how we would give anything to be in bed with her.

Marilyn Monroe

Since Father Murphy was obsessed with sex, he delivered his ‘impure thoughts’ sermons many times a year; and you could bet that he would ask you about them in the confessional.  We always figured it was good to confess them right up front so that he wouldn’t ask sticky questions.  They were only venial sins anyway, and a few Hail Marys did the trick.

Bobby Parsons told me that he had undergone a particularly severe grilling.  “Father did not just ask me if I had any impure thoughts”, Bobby said, “but he gave me suggestions. ‘Did you think of a woman’s breasts?’, he said.  When I said, ‘No, Father. I didn’t, he said, ‘Well then, what about her thighs?’ The more he said, the more impure thoughts I had right there in the confessional and the more I had to confess.  I could have been in there for an hour.”

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Most of us were old enough to be aroused by the thought of a woman’s body – even a quick glancing thought was enough – and we spent Saturday afternoons at Jimmy’s Smoke Shop ogling the girlie magazines that Jimmy had in the back.  He wasn’t supposed to let us back there, but if we gave him a dollar he would. It was OK when we were alone, but we asked for our money back if creepy Mr. Westbrook was there.  He went through Flirt, Whisper, and Hot Girls from Baltimore page by page, jiggling his pockets and getting a tight look on his face, and we didn’t want to be anywhere near him.

Image result for images girlie magazines of the 50s

We weren’t old enough to know what went where, however.  Our fathers had never told us anything, so we had to rely on rumor and innuendo.  Once I actually found out how things actually worked I was amazed at how wrong the stories were.  Johnny Ritzer, a boy ahead of us in sixth grade, had so badly mixed up a woman’s organs that only a circus freak could have performed the sex that he had imagined. 

My mother had repeatedly said to my father, “Henry, isn’t it about time you had that talk with your son?”; but he could never bring himself to actually do it.  Once he tried, but his allegories and metaphors were too abstruse to have any meaning.  He alluded to reproduction in the animal kingdom, spoke about family values and fatherhood, and said he knew what it was like to be a boy my age; but he never got down to brass tacks, what went where, and how to do it.

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By the time I had gotten to Lefferts, a New England boarding school on the Farmington River, I knew all about mechanical positioning and the basics of pregnancy and reproduction; but it took Mr. McCurdy and his beautiful wife to provide the add-ons, the real story about sex.

Mr. McCurdy was one of the youngest teachers on campus, not that much older than us.  He had graduated from Yale a few years before, married Mrs. McCurdy in a big ceremony in Kingsport, Rhode Island, and had been appointed as the biology teacher at Lefferts. All of us knew that once a year he gave his famous sex lecture; but since he liked to keep his classes guessing we never knew when it would come.

Mr. McCurdy had divided the fifty-minute class into discrete segments: How to Get a Woman Hot; How to Know When She’s Hot; How to Know When She’s Coming; and How to Hold It In Until She Does.

If he had even hinted at any of these topics today, he would be tarred and feathered and run out of town on a rail; but somehow back then, the school administrators gave him a pass.  I am not sure they would have if they had heard his talk about hard nipples, wet pussy, panting, moaning, and ‘ecstatic release’.

Image result for image tarred and feathered on a rail

In any case, Mr. McCurdy had our attention.  Fifteen open-mouthed adolescent boys being turned on by the biology teacher. He must have known that every one of us would think of his wife in that way every time we saw her; and that she would be the woman we thought of when we whacked off under the covers.

The wives of teachers always sat at the dinner table with her husband and us boys.  Mrs. McCurdy always sat demurely next to her husband while he ladled out the soup and carved the roast beef; but she had to have known that our eyes were on her and not the meat.  Now that I think about it, the two of them must have been playing some elaborate, secretive sex game that involved us.

As explicit as Mr. McCurdy was, we still had no visual proof of what he was talking about. That was taken care of by Pete Henny, an upper classman who was on full scholarship to Yale. In those days ‘bursary boys’ had to repay their debt to Yale, at least partially, by working; so he and others bussed tables, helped out at the laundry, and shelved books at the library.  Pete had always been ambitious, and coming from a relatively poor family, he knew the value of money and the importance of enterprise.  By the time he graduated Pete had made small fortune in selling used refrigerators, managing the laundry service for Branford College, and last but not least, showing ‘blue movies’ to underclassmen. And that was when we all finally saw with our own eyes what went where.

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I worked for many years in the field of reproductive health, focusing on family planning.  Most of the countries in which I worked were far more conservative than America in the Fifties, so foreign advisors had to be very careful about introducing the subject. One Minister of Education provided us with a list of approved guidelines; and sure enough there wasn’t a word about sex in any one of them.  There were plenty of demographics, relationships between human and natural resources, and economic formulas of supply and demand linked to labor and capital, but no sex. “That will come in due time”, he said.

Image result for india family planning red triangle posters 60s

Other countries while very circumspect about sex education permitted media campaigns about condom use once the HIV/AIDS epidemic began to spread.  Yet the informational programs were all mechanical, focusing on product, cost, and benefit.  There was little about the psycho-social and emotional factors that determine sexual behavior.

Worst of all, few of the US government contractors were willing to discuss the moral aspect of sex and sexuality within a mortal epidemic. Cultural relativity and ‘respect for diversity’ prohibited frank discussions of moral responsibility.  One of my colleagues had crafted a message that went something like this: “AIDS: Sex without a condom is morally wrong and irresponsible”.  It never saw the light of day.

I have never figured out what all the fuss is about. There is nothing mysterious about sex, and everyone figures it out sooner or later; so there is not much point in the Mr. McCurdy-type lecture, harangues from the pulpit, or campaigns to promote sexual responsibility. Men and women have sex. Fidelity is a a social, economic, and health issue and dealt with in every marriage. Deceit, duplicity, dishonesty, and betrayal are all as much by-products of sex as much as love and intimacy. Cost-benefit and risk analysis are features of the enterprise.

It all would have been a lot easier if Paul had not been so obsessed with sex and conflated it with sin; but that’s water under the bridge:

I wish that all were as I am…those who marry will have affliction in regard to the flesh, and I would spare you that …he who marries his virgin does well, and he who does not marry her does better…in my opinion she, a widow, is happier if she remains as she is and does not marry again (1 Corinthians 7)

Image result for images st. paul

Paul had no idea what he was doing when he let loose the sex-and-sin bugaboo which has resulted in no end of stormy relationships, jealousy, and murder.

On the other hand perhaps he did know what he was doing – that there is a moral and spiritual nature to sex; and that moral responsibility should be a guide to our behavior. In other words, sex education is only important if it has a moral dimension.

In any case, I can remember exactly what Mrs. McCurdy looked like.  She might not have been the sexiest woman I ever met but certainly the first.  Thank you, Mr. McCurdy.

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