Chapter 51: Sex in the South: Part 1- Setting the Stage

To put it bluntly, when we were growing up, we knew sex was everywhere in the South.  It was poorly hidden, but not a topic of socially approved conversations.   Or at least it once wasn’t…

We came from, perhaps, the last generation to be fed totally screwed up information about sex.  At least, I hope so…

Sex certainly wasn’t talked about to us by our parents.  Or if it was, it was in vague or cautionary terminology.  We were mainly told how to use it as a weapon or how to avoid it being used against us as a weapon.

Pleasure did not enter into the conversation at all.  It was all about abstinence and consequences.  We had to figure out on our own how to make it safe and fun…

Due to this traditional way of thinking, I’m sometimes amazed that native Southerners didn’t become extinct generations ago.

In our house, The “Birds and the Bees” lecture simply did not happen.  It was unthinkable.  It was way too much of an ordeal for my Mother to deal with.  My Father seemed to assume, correctly, that we would find out what we needed secretly from our friends.  His attitude was basically that we were on our own…

Knowing my Father was not going to help, my Mother was in a total tizzy as to how to handle this responsibility.  Eventually, she solved the problem for herself by sending away for a four volume set of books called The Time-Life Life Cycle Library .  In her world, if “Readers Digest” didn’t have a solution, then “Time” or “Life” magazines most certainly did.

She just gave us the books and told us to read them.  No questions were allowed.

Of course, by the time she gave them to us, we knew enough to find these books extremely amusing.  They were both vague and scientific and very judgmental.  Every reference to sexual partners was “husband” and “wife”.  Aside from their amusement value, they were basically worthless.  I wish I had them now for their camp value…

I liked my friend Allen’s version better.  He first told me all about sex in the first grade.  He said the man pees on the woman, then goes to sleep.  He said that’s how babies really happen.

Even then, I didn’t think that was quite correct or the whole story…

In all the years since, I’ve never met anyone with more screwed up ideas about sex than my Mother.  But then, I’m afraid she was representative of her generation.

In my parent’s world of sex, there were only two types of women:  Ladies and Tramps.  Ladies held out for marriage before they had sex and played by the rules.  Tramps had sex outside of marriage and, God forbid, enjoyed it.

Like most well-trained women of her generation, my Mother  viewed sex totally as a tool or weapon.  In her world, you withheld sex to get a husband.  Then, after marriage, you only allowed sex to occur to have planned children or to get new furniture or other big-ticket items.

Virginity, for women only of course, was a very big deal.  In my Mother’s view, a woman only had one card to play and she was to give it to the man most likely to support her the best.  She always seemed to think she had misplayed that hand…

She frequently said one of her favorite movies, that she and my Father saw together shortly after their marriage, was “The Moon is Blue.”  To summarize, the lead character was a young woman holding onto her virginity until marriage.  One of the key passages was when one character referred to her as a “professional virgin.”  The point being made was that professionals usually have something to sell.

My Mother seemed to take this as a validation instead of an accusation.

My Father didn’t help matters.  He only encouraged her as he seemed to think my Mother’s most redeeming characteristic was that she was a virgin when they got married-and that she behaved as a Lady about sex after that.  For the first 20 years of their marriage he put her on a pedestal.  Then all hell broke loose, but that’s another story.

He only expected her to give in to sex for procreation and to get things she wanted.  He knew how the system worked, too.

He also knew, like most Southern Men, that there were “bad girls” you could go to, if needed, to escape the complications of marital sex.

My Mother only viewed sex within the confines of marriage.  She was always appalled by large families.  They just made her crazy.

She seemed to see them as a public statement that these people had lots of sex.

In her mind, if you had lot’s of children, of course, you had lot’s of sex.  Which must mean either a) you weren’t playing by the rules of the game and were foolish or b) you enjoyed sex — and that was just plain tacky….

Best I can tell, the major messages given to most girls of my generation by Mothers such as mine were:

  1. Don’t have sex outside of marriage or you’ll never get a husband.  Lot’s of talk about “why buy the cow if you could get the milk for free?”
  2. If you have sex, even once, outside of marriage, you will get pregnant.  Period.
  3. If you get pregnant, you’ll have to marry the loser you are dating in High School and not be exposed to a broader range of better husband choices in College.
  4. Therefore, you will end up in a trailer park with a bunch of White Trash.

They guys were told:

  1. Cheap, tacky girls will try to have sex with you so they can get pregnant and make you marry them.  If they let you have sex with them, they are Tramps.
  2. If you have sex, even once, before marriage, the Tramp will get pregnant.  Period.
  3. If you get some Tramp pregnant, you’ll have to marry her and she will embarrass you and ruin you socially for the rest of your life.
  4. I won’t pay for College if you knock up some Tramp and you’ll end up in a trailer park surrounded by White Trash.

Needless to say, after the Roe v Wade decision and before Parental Notification restrictions, there were lot’s of trips out-of-town…

In this world, homosexuality did not exist.  Therefore it was never talked about.

It was great fun to watch all this blow up as the world changed and we got to be young adults…

More to come….

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2 Responses to Chapter 51: Sex in the South: Part 1- Setting the Stage

  1. cblackink says:

    Wow, my mom never even discussed sex enough for me to learn all the rules you’ve laid out here. I guess that explains a lot. I just didn’t know the rules.

  2. Aunt Lily says:

    My childhood was quite different, my mother always wanted us the know the difference between love, respect, tc. I think she was shaped by Hollywood womens’ films from 1937 to 1963. Women always suffer in a man’s world, a good man is hard to find,etc. The double standard was a huge part of her world,but she did not realize until later in life that it could be changed.

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