Let’s talk about the birds and the bees

“I wouldn’t even want to do it that night, I’ll wait for about 3 months so my husband and I can get to know each other more. I think it’s better that way”; The girl stated with a clear conviction. A sizeable number of girls in the room nodded in agreement with her decision, others started supplying additional reasons to buttress her stand. It was clear to see that everyone shared this point of view.

“Three months ke! For what?!” rang a shrill voice from one corner of the room. Evidently someone had a dissenting view. The small wiry girl with the unpopular opinion strode to the middle of the room to deliver her counterargument in an animated fashion. “What are you waiting for? To know each other after you are already married?! Hian! As for me it is that night o, I can’t wait!”

“You this girl!” retorted the first girl, “nawa for you. Why are you always in a hurry? You better calm down and listen to reason”. “Don’t mind her, what you are looking for you will soon find. Shebi you are rushing” echoed another girl. “Anyways, I’ve said my own, I’m not with you guys on this one” replied the troublemaker as she left the room.

“Just leave her jare, it’s her young age that is worrying her. All these children that their parents won’t let them finish primary school before bringing them here. That’s how they are” opined another girl. “Abi o, what were we saying before the interruption jare?” the first girl said, as the room settled for the next round of discussion.

So where was this discourse being held? Room 2, in the annex hostel that housed JSS 1 female students. The topic being discussed? The right time to start having sex. The impatient girl with the different viewpoint? Yeah, that was me.

You see, I had recently discovered Mills and Boons novels at the time. Despite the fact that the paperbacks I had read were very chaste and totally eschewed explicit sex scenes, they all had a way of describing the way the heroine felt when she was with Bae. The release of her pent up emotions, the way her body responded to him against her will, the increase in her heart rate…I’m sure you get the drift by now.

These novels made one thing very clear to me; sex was the greatest way to show/feel love, it was the climax to all love stories…pun intended. So for the life of me, I couldn’t understand why every girl in the room was saying they would wait until after some months of marriage to have sex for the first time. Like how would one have the legitimate right to express love, to feel what my beloved novels had been describing and then decide to wait for 3 whole months?! God forbid bad thing! The notion was preposterous to my 9 year old self at the time, hence the very vocal expression of my disagreement in the earlier mentioned scene.

Up until JSS2, the general belief was that we had to be married before we could start having sex. Also none of us knew what the act entailed, we just knew that after kissing, the guy lay on top of the girl and something magical happened. That naivety was soon to change though. One Tuesday, a day student braved all odds to import into school a hardcore magazine that she had discovered in her brother’s room. Over the next few weeks, the magazine made the rounds in all the junior female hostels. After lights out it wasn’t uncommon to see a group of girls shrieking in horror while peering at images in the publication. Like Adam after eating the forbidden fruit, the veil had been lifted from our inexperienced eyes. Till tomorrow I have yet to come across any pornographic work (print/video) that explicit and I’ve seen quite a few. After reading the magazine we all went away thinking sex was mechanical and quite unfeeling. In retrospect though, I think the greatest damage was to our moral code; none of the actors/models in the magazine sported a wedding band.

My mother must have sensed the paradigm shift going on in my mind, because around that time she started her sex education talks. I remain fully convinced that the book my mum consulted to guide her on these sessions was missing quite a lot of pages. The woman skipped topics like sexuality, love, sexual activities, contraception etc. in the syllabus, preferring to talk about pregnancy and sexually transmitted diseases instead.

Every school holiday, my mum would look for any opportunity to sneak in her sermons. If an unwed girl in the neighborhood got pregnant, you would get an earful from my mother on how ‘2 minutes enjoyment’ could lead to negative consequences that last a lifetime. Anytime NTA Channel 5 beamed their documentary on HIV/AIDS you could be guaranteed a recital by my mama on the consequences of fornication. I went through the motions during her talks like I was at morning mass; listening in a solemn manner, looking convincingly frightened of the repercussions of derailing from the Lord’s path, and exiting with the resolution of a reborn catholic after leaving the confession booth to do away with sin.

While in SSS1 my school invited counselors to speak to us on safe sex as part of the activities to commemorate World AIDs day. During the 30 minutes lecture, they managed to let us in how condoms had been saving lives since 18gbogboro. I experienced different types of feelings during that lecture session. The first was shock; so my mum actually knew about condoms and had refused to tell me that there was a way to avoid getting pregnant! I was upset about her betrayal. The anger began to dissipate though once I realized that I didn’t have to be terrified during her sex talks any more…I had condoms!!!

The next time she brought up the subject; it was the next holiday, we were watching a home video in the living room. While one of the characters in the movie was debating whether to go for an abortion or face the stigma of being an unwed mother, I could feel my mum warming up for her sermon as usual. Before she finished off her introductory sentence, I had cut her short like a smart Alec with my newfound knowledge. If she was shocked by my statement, she didn’t show it. She simply asked if my almighty counselors had failed to mention that condoms were not 100% effective. Once she started explaining how factors like poor storage, improper usage reduced the efficacy of the condoms I could feel my spirits sinking.

“Anyways, 94% efficacy rate isn’t bad. I’ll take my chances with that” I told my mum after she finished. I was going to see the cup as half full…at all at all na hin bad pass. “Ehen! Who told you 6% isn’t something?!” she replied. “You must be very unlucky for the 6% to apply then” I retorted. As if on cue the woman leaned back on the sofa and began to laugh uncontrollably while I just sat there wondering what I had said that was so funny.

“Anu e se mi, see this child! So you don’t know we have bad luck in this family?! Let me tell you, in our case if anything can go wrong, it will surely go wrong”. She then proceeded to talk about how it was common for people in my family to bear the repercussions of any wrong/risky act they engaged in while their counterparts emerged from similar incidents unscathed. As she began to reel out names of affected relatives and their respective incidents I could literally feel my legs fusing together till it became a mermaid’s tail. That conversation scared the bejesus out of me. I passed through secondary school and university without incident. No way would any relative use me as a bad example to his/her kid(s).

During talks with girlfriends during my university days, I realized I was quite lucky. It wasn’t uncommon for someone to recount an episode of sexual abuse in the hands of a trusted relative during their childhood. At times it was common knowledge within family circles about the existence and identity of such a predator, but it seemed like the adults just didn’t do enough to prevent the repeat episodes from recurring.

My parents didn’t encourage sleepovers, overnight visits amongst families. We also didn’t have paid help until we were well in our teenage years. But we had relatives stay with us intermittently. I related with teachers starting from kindergarten. I attended boarding school. Anything could have happened, but I was just lucky. Most kids in my generation stumbled upon knowledge or had to rely on their peers when it came to matters of sex. A lot of missteps, bad decisions, regrets, and scars stem from that anomaly.

I don’t recall my mom ever sitting my brother down for any of her sex talks. It was always the problem of the girl child. She was the one who faced the stigma of having a child outside wedlock. She was the one who bore the shame if news got out about her having sex at an early age or having multiple sex partners. She had everything to lose unlike her male counterpart.

So what do I plan to do differently? My kids (irrespective of gender) will be exposed to sex education very early in life. They will be equipped with the knowledge and tips required to protect them from sexual predators. I will ensure that sex education starts from the home, they will not have to inquire about sex matters from an equally ignorant friend. I intend to be open and honest with them. I will continue to assure them that their parents will always have a listening ear on ALL matters concerning them. If all else fails and I detect the slightest hint of any deviant behavior, then its Grandma to the rescue.

Did you have ‘the talk’ with your parents, how did it go? Have you started talking about the birds and the bees to your children? What has been your experience so far? Let’s share.

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