“I told you about sex when you were three,” my mother explained to me in her typical matter-of-fact fashion. I had asked her about when I had first learned about sex.
It made perfect sense because, even as a very young child, I can’t recall a time in which I did not I understand the mechanics of sex, at the very least, in the context of where babies came from. My mom is a devout Catholic, but she’s also a registered nurse who takes care of new mothers, meaning she sees plenty of pregnancies, including those from minors. Right after I asked, she went into a quick lesson about how to put on a condom and mentioned a banana. I remember saying, “I’m not having sex anytime soon.” I was barely a teenager, and while my hormones were raging, the same could be said of my body— the round belly and fat deposits on my chest screamed “the training bra soon cometh.”
My father has always been in my life—for better and for far worse—but we have never had a conversation about sex. Ever. The only sex-related question he’s ever asked me was well into my 20s—he wanted to know if I was gay. Even if I said something sooner, it’s wasn’t like he was going to go out of his way to find a pamphlet detailing the pleasure and pains of gay sex.
I did take a health class in 11th grade that vaguely referenced sex education, but as the wave of pregnant girls in my high school swelled, there was not much in the way of wisdom shared and it was too little, too late, anyway.
So yes, while I understood sex in terms of procreation, I knew embarrassingly little beyond that. But, like many things I was intrigued by as a child—religion, whatever I saw on the news, and the various warnings of doom and gloom that I saw on episodes of Captain Planet—I wanted to know more. I don’t know many people who can say they have talked with great frankness about sexuality with their folks. Many of us, however, can say we’ve been largely influenced by the images we’ve seen in film and television and the music we grew up listening to.
If there’s a pop cultural figure that played an integral role in my sexual education, it was Janet Jackson.
When the janet. album was released, I was only nine-years-old. I vaguely knew what she was singing about, but I didn’t have any meaningful understanding of what exactly I was singing along to. What I did know, though, was that I could not stop staring at one of her dancers, Omar Lopez, with excitement. If you don’t remember this man, he was the one Janet Jackson groped in the “If” video. He’s also the beautiful man who played the male lead in TLC’s “Creep” video. Omar Lopez is a legendary bae and one of the first real tests of my heterosexuality.
Spoiler alert: I was defeated.