In honor of this Mother’s Day I wanted to recognize all of the great moms out there. I want to give thanks to all of the moms who talk about sexuality with their kids and I want to recognize all of the moms who accept their kids unconditionally regardless of sexual orientation. I want to recognize all of the moms who encourage their kids to be open and accepting of difference be it race, economic, gender, sexuality, or something else. I also want to recognize the figurative ‘moms’ in our lives. Those moms, regardless of gender, who take care of others and those ‘moms’ who support others. I want to recognize the ‘moms’ who open their homes and hearts to those who feel they have no home, family, or love. To all of you, I salute you and I thank you for making the world a better place.
And of course, I want to recognize my own mother by sharing a short story from my childhood. While I haven’t published my own “How I became a sex researcher” blog yet, you can see in the following story that my own journey began with a great role model who has championed me every step of the way. Thanks mom!
Compared to most moms in southwestern Virginia, I think my mother had a stronger awareness of issues around sexuality. It wasn’t something she ignored or turned away from. Like most things in my family, this was something that would be tackled directly and head on. I had just turned 13 and my mother decided it was time to give me and my brothers ‘the talk’. It was the day I met Mr. Binky and it was a day I’d never forget.
I remember it like it was yesterday. My mom sat us on the couch before beginning her lecture. A lecture that, in hindsight, was actually pretty brilliant.
“Now you boys are starting to hit puberty.” She began. “If you haven’t already, I’m sure you’ll discover masturbation soon enough.” She took a deep breath creating an awkward pause that only contributed to her dramatic effect. “When you were little, I taught you to look both ways across the street. I NEVER said go PLAY in the street. I said, look both ways! In the event I’m not there to hold your hand, you need to be able to cross the street on your own.”
My brothers and I nodded, slightly confused by my mom’s metaphor of street crossing to masturbation. I wondered where she was going with this.
“As I said,” she continued. “You’ve probably discovered masturbation.” At this point, mom takes out a handful of condoms and a dildo shaped like a peeled banana. Yellow rigid plastic banana peels formed the base, giving way to a yellow, fleshy banana penis up top.
“This is Mr. Binky” she proudly proclaimed. “I borrowed him from the Southwestern Virginia AIDS Council to educate you. “And this” she declared as she held up the shiny square package, “is a condom”.
The moment was surreal for my 13 year old self. My two brothers and I were sitting in front of mom while she waved around a bright plastic yellow dildo she named Mr. Binky.
Practice Makes Perfect
Mom took a breath and continued her lesson. “Since you’re going to be masturbating, I want you to practice with these.” At this point, mom handed each of us a condom and asked us to open it.
“The first time you decide to have sex,” she began again. “It is definitely going to be already awkward. The last thing you need to worry about is figuring out how to put on a condom.”
I thought about my mom’s declaration. Her logic made sense.
My mother took another breath. “Since it’s going to be awkward enough, you might as well be a pro at something.” At this point she brought out a wicker basket that has been stuffed full of condoms. “I’ll keep this basket on the bookshelf and I’ll refill it as needed.”
Mom now referred to the open condoms in our hands. “These things are useless unless you know how to put them on”.
As we were asked to practice putting several condoms on Mr. Binky, mom continued her lecture. “Make no mistake” she said. “Just like I never gave you permission to play in the road, I am not giving you permission to go out and have sex.” She took another breath and looked each of us in the eye. “I’m trying to give you the skillsets needed so that one day, far away, when you have picked a partner and feel that you are ready, you are going to know what you are doing”.
For the next 5 years, the basket sat on the living room bookshelf. Over time, the condoms became a part of our everyday life. It wouldn’t be unusual to find me or my brothers watching TV while mindlessly picking up a condom, blowing it up or sling-shotting it across the room at someone. If it wasn’t in the living room, it was in the community. Occasionally, on Friday nights, we had family outings where we either ended up at Southwestern Virginia’s AIDS council or the local PFLAG chapter (Parents, Families, and Friends of Lesbians and Gay) stuffing safer sex kits.
The Condom Lady
Mom had made sure that once I turned 13, condoms would always be a part of my life. She took the stigma and taboo-ness out of condoms. This was true not only for her kids, but also for many of our friends (much to the dismay of some of their parents). As word got out among our social circles, mom quickly became known as ‘the condom lady’. She was always ready to educate and carried a variety of colors and flavors in her purse.
The condoms were her trademark and she passed them out every chance she got. One such incident took place on her first visit to my freshman dormitory. After visiting my room during move-in, she addressed a packed elevator of students. “Do you all practice safe sex?” she asked in a concerned motherly voice. One by one, the students in the elevator awkwardly nodded yes. My mother smiled and proudly proclaimed “Great! Condoms for everyone”. To this day I can still hear her voice as she opened her purse and declared” I have a purple one! Who wants the purple one?” In response to her question, a shy girl in the back of the elevator extended her hand and received the shiny purple package.