Sex Don't Scare Me None
by Del Miller
"I can always tell when I'm drivin' into Pulaski County. The kids start fightin', the dog starts barkin', the wife gets hot and I wanna steal somethin'."
-- Ernest Newberry
It was one of those glorious spring days of the sort that makes birds and bees do the things that make them so famous. The whole of Pulaski County was turning deep green, puffy clouds rafted through giant, blue skies and the air was full of nature's own aphrodisia. Aside from noticing Fido's vague, sudden loopiness, all of this vernal chemistry was lost on me because I was only five years old and I had an altogether different pan of fish to fry. I had bugs to inventory, grass to smell, rocks to throw and a million other pressing engagements that seemed my duty to pursue, and I pursued them all with the manic, time-sliced attention span that makes young children such kinetic engines. So when I spied my father striding toward the barn, all else was forgotten and I raced to join him in his next project -- inevitably strange but a guaranteed adventure every time.
Farmers are magicians. They have this endless supply of baffling rabbits to pull out their hats every time they walk into the fields and you never can tell just what they're going to do next. For reasons unfathomable to a child, forty acres of perfectly good pasture absolutely must be forcibly rearranged so that the grass is on the bottom and the dirt is on the top. Immense, ancient hedgerows, so impenetrable that a rabbit couldn't pass through, must suddenly be torn from the ground to make way for a flimsy, barbed-wire fence to keep cattle from crossing the very same boundary. A farmer may walk over poisonous snakes as if they don't exist, but should he find some fat old ground hog in his field, he'll pursue it like Ahab after the great white whale. The really amazing farmer stuff, though, has to do with livestock: Since centuries of selective breeding has speciated just about all the gumption out their already simple brains, there is no end to the weird rituals required just to keep large, semi-domesticated, quadrapeds eating, breathing and multiplying.
I could tell right away that this was going to be one of those livestock days when my father began to rearrange the barnyard into a new maze of gates and passageways. Since eye level was about three feet above the ground, I had no concept of the overall plan so I just helped, as much as a five year old can, until everything was just so. Then Dad turned a cow into the pen from one gate, and through another he let in the bull.
From the doorway, ten feet distant, a two-thousand pound bull is an inarguably impressive creature and when you weigh maybe fifty pounds yourself the visuals are truly awe inspiring. Millarden Enquirer 7's big, black shoulders towered over me, each rippling muscle bigger than my entire body. Legs like small trees ended in stump-like hooves. His huge liquid eye looked like the bottom of a root beer bottle set into a shaggy, washing machine sized head. He paid no attention to me though, his interest lay with the sultry, doe-eyed, jersey posing saucily before him like some bovine Betty Page.
He was so cool, the way he moseyed on over and gave her ear a little lick, but she just pulled away in coy indignation. He nonchalantly sidled up again to nuzzle her shoulder, but she had obviously seen his type before and she once more skittered away. Casually shuffling his north end closer to her south, he began to investigate things with a contrived innocence that made the giant, lumbering beast somehow seem suave. His debonair behavior was short lived, for suddenly his breathing became ragged and one of his ears started flopping, his eyes grew wide and he curled up his nose in a look of sheer rapture. The big boy was in love.
I stood there by my dad, quietly waiting for him to explain the significance of all this heavy, ruminant breathing. An air of expectancy was building but all I could see was the same old bull, looking pretty much like he always did except for that funny face and that ... that ... what the hell was THAT?! What I saw called for some profound revision of my existing theories on comparative anatomy. Our gentle old bull was morphing into an underslung, weapon of war and I could see in his eyes a determination that just wasn't like him.
Suddenly the world exploded. With a grunting bellow he launched himself on poor Blossom like some black, hairy missile. With eyes the size of pie tins, snorting and grunting, he pounded up arcs of barnyard dirt with churning, hind hooves that shook the ground. To my astonished eyes, from way down below all of this monstrous, brontosauroid commotion, it looked like a locomotive hitching onto a boxcar, only noisier and in full, wide-screen Technicolor. I saw the whole thing, up-close and so personal that even Masters and Johnson would surely blush. Finally an enormous, strangled bellow from Millarden Enquirer boosted a startled moo from Blossom and -- sudden as a car wreck -- it was over. The two wandered away from one another like two ships that had just failed to pass in the night.
Agog, I slowly swiveled my stunned face up at my father. He just beamed down at me with a happy, satisfied grin and explained, "He got her!"
And that, ladies and gentlemen, was how I learned about sex.
Extending this sort of animalistic behavior to human endeavors was a little awkward at first, but facts is facts and I just had to accept the obvious extrapolation. Over the years I managed to fill in some of the finer details and I've probably even improved a bit on old Millarden Enquirer's general technique, but nevertheless, at the age of five I pretty much knew the fundamentals. My view of the whole process was pretty healthy too, I think. I suppose I never looked at the lingerie models in the Sears-Roebuck catalog in quite the same light but there was no trauma and I wasn't warped for decades due to the experience; well, at least not terribly warped. It was just part of life.
I still considered girls with pretty much the same sort of slimy ickiness that all little boys feel, and I felt that way for several years until processes entirely beyond my control made me start pawing the dirt myself, so to speak. But this change had nothing to do with things I might have seen as a younger child. Maybe it's just my agrarian upbringing, but I can only scratch my head at the big hoo-hah over sex on the internet. Yeah, so? There's sex everywhere, woven into the fabric of life, inescapable and totally obvious. It's in our blood. It's part of us. I really can't figure out what we're so darned intent on protecting our children from.
Throw some porno tape in a VCR and I suspect that five year olds would switch to the cartoons every time, ten year olds would prefer skateboarding competition and if the child in question is much over fourteen it doesn't matter because he already has his own tapes hidden on a back shelf in the garage. If he or she doesn't, it's because of upbringing or personal choice, but it isn't because of censorship.
Based on The Universal Law of Subverted Intentions, my guess is that by making such a big deal out of something so integral to human life, we actually achieve just the opposite effect. Theodore Sturgeon once said that if every boy was slapped each time he heard the word "frog," then frogs would soon develop a voltage and a reputation they could never imagine. Labeling any subject matter as "adult only" is about as sure a way to command a child's attention as exists, simply because children want to be adult way sooner than we would like and hiding the offending material from them is like tossing gasoline on a flame. I'm not saying that so-called, adult entertainment is recommended fare for young people, but an isolated instance of sexual content now and then isn't going to wreck a child's life. Ninety-nine percent of all the children who have ever lived upon this earth slept in the very same room in which their siblings were conceived, so exposure to the animal nature of life has always been around as a form of neolithic sex education. I suspect that many parents would be outraged if their children stumbled across some graphic internet video of cows mating, but my father considered the real thing to be a positive lesson in agricultural economics -- and life.
Children are eventually going to find all of this out anyway, and if parent's think they can preselect the desired moment of enlightenment and be johnny-on-the-spot with the exact, proper wisdom they are surely mistaken. How many of you learned the facts of life from your parents in one of those fabled heart-to-heart talks? Raise your hands! That's what I thought. If we had to wait for Ward and June Cleaver to teach us about sex, the human race would have gone the way of the dodo long ago. So where are children supposed to learn about sex? School? Church? Divine intervention? Ain't gonna happen. The fact is, children learn about sex, a little bit at a time, from the life around them, probably as it should be. A completely disproportionate reaction from parents, however, only distorts the lessons and will almost certainly void any chance that their child will ever ask them for the answers to the inevitable questions.
Due to its ubiquity, the pace that it has grown and it's unique nature, the internet is easy to blame for any or all of today's problems. The internet was cited as a cause of the Columbine High School tragedy, but from one corner or another, so was television, comic books, poor parenting, school athletics, rock-n-roll, gothic fashions, law enforcement, Hollywood, teachers, Kosovo, gun manufacturers, Monica Lewinsky, trenchcoats, congressional budgets, etc., etc. Which only proves that we can't ban everything that anyone with a soapbox chooses to condemn. Further, no one remarks on the hundreds of millions of other children throughout the world who are inundated with the same influences and the same social pressures and never turn violent. Studies of Hollywood violence seem only to indicate that violent people tend to watch violent movies, but we seem determined to reverse cause and effect. We nurture an enormous, generalized disconnect between complex problems and the simple solutions we expect to solve them.
All sorts of peripheral arguments for censorship get thrown into the issue, like the need to protect children from internet predators, but what does that have to do with the internet, really? Children need to be taught to be wary of strangers wherever they encounter them -- that's just good sense -- the internet is no different from the street and the rules for avoiding predation are the same. In fact, there are no rules for safe surfing that don't apply in the outside world already.
We want our children to ultimately acquire enough wisdom and judgement to handle life in a healthy way, but judgement is an acquired skill and, as it happens, one that is not well learned through instruction from others. Good judgement is something we learn mostly from experience and the only way to gain that experience is if we have the freedom to see what a bad choice looks like. Institutionalized, blanket censorship hobbles that very freedom and takes away the very possibility that someone can learn to make choices on their own. If you're concerned with objectionable content on the internet, put on some filters to catch the bulk of it, but don't get hysterical if the child occasionally sees something you hadn't planned on. Give them a little respect, it's all part of the big, wide world of choices that is an unavoidable part of growing up.
Censorship doesn't make better people; it never has. Curtailing freedom of expression doesn't make better nations; it never has. Wisdom and liberty are inseparable; if you want your children to have good judgement, allow them some freedom to learn it well.