Thursday, September 27, 2012

Sex, Rock-and-Roll, and Language
~ by Jay

No sooner do I start writing about kids and language than Lisa Belkin writes this at HuffPo, linking to a blog post from a woman who doesn't want her three-year-old to use the word penis. He's a boy - so he's an owner-operator, but apparently until he went to preschool and was corrupted by the big, bad outside world, he didn't know the word.



We used every correct anatomical term with Eve - including vulva for external genitalia, instead of the usual vagina-covers-everything approach. I don't think I ever had much shyness about using these words, but if I did it was long gone before medical school. I was a dorm health aide in college, and one of our training sessions involved listing every word and phrase we'd ever heard as a euphemism for genitalia or sexual acts or forms of contraception. It was a very interesting afternoon, and by the end, I was perfectly comfortable with all the words I knew, and some I didn't. It was no big deal, after that, for my three-year-old to point to the dog and say "Mommy, he has a penis. He's a boy". (I am aware that not all penis-bearing humans are boys, but I didn't explain that when she was three. She knows now.)

There are words I don't like - I won't ever use cunt, no matter how many women tell me it's been reclaimed - and generally I am far more comfortable with the real, non-euphemized words than with the street vernacular, but I've heard them all and I can repeat them without blushing.

Which is a good thing, because last night we were driving home from shul and Eve tuned the radio to her favorite Top 40 station. A song came on I hadn't heard before - something about a whistle - and she said "Mom, do you know this song is really about blow jobs?"

No, I didn't. Nor did I know that you knew the term "blow job". By the time we got home, she'd learned the correct term (apparently in health class, they didn't teach them the word fellatio), and also been reminded that men also perform oral sex on women - it's not a one-way street. "Have you ever done that?" Yup. "YUCK". I'm glad you feel that way.


Anna said...

Wow, she is very quick on the uptake! I think I was in late high school, maybe even college before I started to get all the sexual references in rock songs. Yes, it did take me that long to actually decipher the oh so cryptic lyric "I'm going to give you every inch of my love."

But about discussing blow jobs with moms - when we first came to this country, my mom was an excellent speaker but not entirely up to date on all the slang. I still remember being 11 or so and watching "Good Morning Vietnam" with the parents. At one point Robin Williams tells some uptight dude that he "needs a blow job more than the last man on earth" at which point I laughed. And then my mom said, "Honey, what's a blow job?" and I had to choke enough words out to convey the idea...

My other favorite English as a second language story I wasn't actually there for. My grandfather went to the store to buy some more of those thing you use to hang up clothes in the closet. He'd forgotten the word and apparently after the saleswoman passed him up the chain of command, was angrily demanding "more hookers!" from the store manager. "What do you mean, you don't have hookers here? I bought some just last week!"

Jay said...

Anna, aside from reminding me how old I am (I was in residency when "Good Morning Vietnam" was released), that's just hysterical.

She's much quicker on the uptake than I was. We *all* knew what Starland Vocal Band was talking about with "Afternoon Delight". I'm still not sure about "Muskrat Love".

Ros said...

Ah, language and slang!

A few years ago, my mother (a francophone) attempted to translate an expression, which, in French, means "I'm really busy and I don't know what to pay attention to first" (je en sais plus ou donner de la tete), and unfortunately went with the word-for-word translation of "I don't know where to give head". It would have been ok if she hadn't done it in front of about 20 anglophones... and then I had to explain to her what giving head meant (using the French slang of "une pipe", which gives Magrite posters in designer decor a hilarious overtone that I'm not sure a lot of anglos actually get...) I don't think I've ever seen anyone blush so hard.

My parents were also big on specific names for body parts, and accurate sex ed, and that served me so very well later on in life (my high school had sex ed taught by priests. Let's leave it at that...)

Lynne Marie Wanamaker said...

Thanks for this. Knowing the right names for the parts of your body is such an important part of empowering and protecting our kids.