This column is the second in a series of three about the questions Heather was asked in her role as a facilitator for a 5th grade sexuality program. You can read the first installment here.
I love words.
When I asked a group of educators, “What are words you love?” One teacher surprised me with “Wenis, of course.”
Do you have a wenis? Yes, you do! It’s the skin on our elbows that allows it to bend. At dinner that night I announced that I had a wenis. My husband choked on his salad. For the next week I heard, “Mom! She’s touching my wenis!” and “I wacked my wenis” and “Would you be mad if I pierced my wenis?” and “Hang on, I’m putting lotion on my wenis.” My kids knew the word wenis wasn’t allowed to go to school, but we sure had fun with it at home.
Slang words for body parts and other sexual terms dominated the question box during each of our sexuality classes for fifth graders for eight weeks. Even after the students read the chapters on “Kinds of Sharing” with their parents, they struggled to understand sex beyond vaginal sex. The second week we received this brave question: what is anal sex? What is oral sex? I read about it, but I still don’t understand it.
I happened to be out with some girlfriends the night before the class and I got to practice answering this question with their feedback. Here’s what I rehearsed: “Anal sex is when a man puts his penis in another person’s anus. The anus is hole between the buttocks. So the word anus is connected to anal. Oral sex refers to the mouth. Oral sex occurs when a partner puts his or her mouth on a woman’s vulva and clitoris or a man’s penis. Neither oral sex nor anal sex can result in pregnancy, but both involve exchange of fluids so one must use protection to prevent disease. Some, when they are old enough to be responsible sexual partners, participate in oral and/or anal sex and some do not.” When I shared this in class, the kids sat straight up and their eyes widened.
The oral/anal sex question seemed to be a gateway question — once it was asked and answered accurately and respectfully, the others came flooding in.
What does pussy mean? It is illegal if someone writes on a bridge, “I like to eat pussy” and leaves their phone number? During the week I dissected this question. I realized it was asking three things: the meaning of pussy, issues of legality, and the inclusion of the phone number. My response was, “Pussy is a slang term for vagina. The person writing, ‘I like to eat pussy’ is saying he/she enjoys oral sex with a woman. For the second question, graffiti is writing or drawing on a place like a bridge. It is a type of vandalism crime, which ruins someone else’s property and can be punished. The person may not have left his/her own number, but left someone else’s instead. It is dangerous to give out your phone number to strangers in general, but especially in connection to something sexual.”
That same week another student wrote: what is jizz? I saw the word on the bathroom wall. Graffiti, I realized, is also one of our children’s sexual educators. My first grader taught me about the power of public literature when he read off the bumper sticker of a passing car. He read aloud, “How’s my driving 1-800-eat-shit” and then asked, “Mom, what does that mean?” As a teacher, I know teaching academic vocabulary requires multiple exposures to help kids learn, but I also know that sex words don’t require the same reinforcement. Seeing a pussy bridge, a jizz stall, or an eat shit bumper just one time makes those words stick.
At the time I didn’t know what the word jizz meant . I discovered Urban Dictionary where I read a scientific explanation as well as the simpler “a male sex explosion.” My response to the kids was quick. “Jizz is a slang word for semen, the fluid that comes out of a man’s penis when he ejaculates.” I didn’t add that even hermaphroditic animals like slugs discharge semen. As my husband passed by the door of my office I called out, “Dude, did you know that even slugs have jizz?”
During class someone brought up the lyrics “Boys try to touch my junk” by Kesha. We had a discussion about what junk meant. I posed the question “Do you think that’s a respectful way to talk about sexual parts?” One of the highly articulate kids spoke up, “No. Junk is something you are going to throw away because you don’t need it. You are always going to need your penis or vagina.” The kids cracked up and another boy clapped him on the back. It was healthy laughter, and I was thrilled that the kids were getting more comfortable with sexual terms in regular discussion. The next week this question appeared in the question box: what do the lyrics from “Tea Party” by Kerli mean?
With a quick internet search, I had the “Tea Party” lyrics and chuckled to myself, wondering, “how am I going to answer this one?” Tea Party is one of those songs some teens love because it explores a sex metaphor with many clever associations. It even has a call back to the classic I’m a Little Teapot with the chorus, “Welcome to the Tea Party, want to be my VIP? When I all steamed up, hear me shout, tip me over and pour me out.” The stanzas offer more: “Your appetite is flex, I got the table set, Don’t get your dribble on my T-t-table yet” and “Try not to move so fast, you know the sir comes last, I’m the lady fatha mucka try to show some class.”
On behalf of the kids that don’t listen to “Tea Party,” I didn’t want to make the song too inviting so I answered, “To answer this question, songs like Tea Party, have lines that can be about two things. It can be about a tea party, but it can also be about sex. It’s good to know that when you are listening to songs, but with any songs, you can decide what it means for you. That’s part of determining your values as you grow up.”
In the sixth week of the course, we got this question: At school somebody said they teabagged someone else. I don’t know what that means, but I saw the person’s penis go near the other’s face.
“Oh, wow,” I said reading the index card.
The other facilitator said, “I don’t even know what that means.”
“Teabagging?” I said, “Oral sex performed on the scrotum?”
He stood back, “Oh, OK, I’ll let you take that one.”
And so I did. “Teabagging is a slang term for oral sex that involves the mouth of one partner and the scrotum, the sack around the testicles, of a male partner.”
Not only was I learning a lot, I was delighted that kids, my daughter included, had an anonymous place to ask those “What does it mean?” questions without shame or embarrassment. Stay tuned for the third and final December column in this series when a ten-year-old asks, How come Greek sculptors do not put on arms, but they spend so much time on the penis and vagina? How true! Those Fatha Muckin’ Greeks were all penis and no wenis.