I’ve always been something of an affable perv.
I vividly remember my first masturbatory fantasy, largely because it reads like a Craigslist post written by Herodotus: girl meets cow, cow turns out to be Greek god, god takes girl to Olympus to have ambrosia and/or threesomes.
I was nine at the time, and some fool had given me a modem and a library card. While my peers were sending themselves into fits of glee over Redwall, I was wildly pillow-humping to strange amalgamations of “D’Aulaire’s Book of Greek Myths” and the three-quarters of “Summer Sisters” I got through before my mother confiscated it. My sexual education largely came about as a result of mistakenly signing up for adult joke list-serves and the ensuing dates with the dictionary to look up “fornication.”
Good thing, too, because as long as I can remember being fascinated by sex, my parents have staunchly denied its very existence. I can recall exactly one conversation on the matter with my mother, and it was so uncomfortable that I can only relate it now in text message form:
Me: Mom, what does sex feel like?
Mom: Well, it’s like when you have a really bad itch on your back, and then Dad scratches it for you.
Puberty was even worse. At my all-girls’ Catholic school, the sex that was mentioned was of the purely hetero variety.
My friends and I managed to investigate such things readily enough, mostly through the magic of slash fiction and anime of all ratings. But though a rollicking trade in Harry/Draco porn was entertaining, it rarely provided the sexual advice we probably could have used at the time. House and Wilson rarely paused in their passionate lovemaking to discuss the importance of maintaining healthy boundaries in relationships or what to do if you suspected a friend had been sexually assaulted.
Real-life, sex-positive adult mentors were few and far between.
As a teen, that solitude meant that I had no one to turn to for nonjudgmental help when I found myself in a relationship with a classmate. If just one of the adults in my life had even dared to say the word “lesbian” without the obligatory moral high ground side-eye, maybe I wouldn’t have spent so much of my junior year in a bathroom stall, furiously digging keys into my forearms so I could get through lunch with my girlfriend. As far as I knew, this is what queer people did in real life: fucked badly in their parents’ basement, called each other “fat whores,” published scathing diatribes about their partner’s emotional prowess over MySpace. Normal?
So when my baby brother started getting the hormone-ridden crazy-eyes, I took it on myself to do what our parents hadn’t: make sure he knew what was up with his business.
On the off chance our genetics had spawned two Conwaymos, I started sending him texts that said things like “I love you, no matter who you love!” and “You can talk to me about ANYTHING” as soon as he turned 14. He largely ignored me, which I took to be a good sign.
On visits home from college, I’d take him out for coffee and subtly grill him about what he’d been learning about safe sexual practices.
“So, how are classes?” I’d ask.
“Whatever,” he’d mumble in the universal cadence of 18-Year-Old Boy.
“Do you like your teachers?”
“Seen any good bands lately?”
“Did you know that there are three methods of contraception -- barrier, chemical, and hormonal -- and when you have intercourse, you should really be using at least two out of three?”
He’d blink at me, one hand desperately outstretched toward the cell phone I’d preemptively confiscated from him to ensure his presence in the conversation. “I—yes?”
I’d nod, smug. “Yes.”
Mikes and I have always been pretty close. Early on, each of us realized that it was way more efficient to regard the other as an ally rather than an enemy, particularly as the cadre of well-meaning but misguided adults in our lives started to show interest in our personal habits. But I’ve always been the ebullient oversharer, happy to venture into the realm of TMI for the purposes of a story, and I often don’t know that it’s gone too far for him until it really, really has.
Last time I went to my parents’ house for a weekend, for example, we had a “Game of Thrones”-inspired conversation about consent.
“It’s not just that she doesn’t say no,” I said casually as we watched Khal Drogo strut around Dany creepily. “For it to be consensual, she has to say ‘yes.’”
“Uh-huh,” Mikes said.
“And ‘yes’ to one thing doesn’t mean ‘yes’ to everything,” I continued. “It can mean—“
“Kathy,” Mikes said. “I get it. OK? I always ask. Always.”
I grinned at him. Then frowned. “Wait, what have you—what have you—DONE?”
Mikes made a horrified face. After a minute, he mumbled, “Third. She, uh. You know.”
I blinked, stunned for a second. But then I returned to the matter at hand. “Did you reciprocate?”
“I don’t really like it,” he muttered, and then fled toward his room. I followed, hot on his heels, but not fast enough to make it before he slammed the door.
I banged on it as the dog looked on, baffled. “Well, you better LEARN to like it!” I hollered. “I’m queer, Mikes, I’m a good RESOURCE for this kind of thing! And sometimes girls aren’t great at asking for what they want! You have to COMMUNICATE about these things!”
“Please, stop talking,” Mikes begged from inside his room.
See, for me, that exchange was completely normal. I don’t regard sex as something that’s taboo or sacred -- for me, it’s all about context. But apparently, trying to offer your siblings sex advice veers way too closely into seriously creepy territory.
Maybe it’s an older sister thing. As I’ve gotten older, it’s become more and more important to me that I act as a feminist bulwark against the mountain of steroid-laced crap that the media loves to shove down boys’ throats. The little brother I grew up with is a sensitive lad that cried at the last “Doctor Who” Christmas special, and I can’t stand the idea of him acting like a stereotypical frat jerk as soon as he gets within pheromone-distance of a short skirt.
And so far, I think it’s working. He’s taken to texting me every time he corrects one of his friends about using “gay” pejoratively, which I fucking love. I’d like to think that he does feel comfortable talking to me about his girl problems.
But is it totally weird to want to be someone he turns to instead of Google when he finds himself in an awkward sexual situation? I want him to think of me as a cool friend, not as a judgey teacher/parent/pastor-figure.
Does anyone else talk about this stuff with their siblings or family members? How do those of you with kids of your own deal? Or is it a creepy, weird impulse?
…It’s totally weird, isn’t it.