Sex Books

What's Going on Down There?: Answers to Questions Boys Find Hard to Ask

Mom-ita came in guns firing. She hit Amazon’s book section and found pages of books on puberty for boys. Within 36 hours three were on our doorstep.

“We’ve got books on sex coming your way,” I told M-ito.

He nodded.

“No, really. Your mom and I bought a few books on sex and puberty that can help answer questions for you about puberty and what’s going on with your body.”

“Okay,” he said.

I read through quickly, skimmed is the appropriate word ,all three and chose the one I thought would be the best fit: What’s Going on Down There? by Karen Gravelle with Nick and Chava Castro (an 11 and 13-year old boy). The other two books were written by women only. The boys’ perspectives were what swayed me. That and the illustrations. Oh and two chapters in particular: 1) one on what’s happening to girl’s bodies so the boys know what they’re going through, and 2) one on sexual orientation that talks about being gay, straight, and bisexual in simple, clear, affirming language. I showed M-ito a cartoon of five different versions of a naked male, boy to man (small with no hair to hung and hairy). This made him laugh. Another cartoon of a boy on a skateboard looking down into his own pants made him laugh harder. Three hours later he came up for air, having finished the book.

Two questions came up. “What’s an orgasm?” and “What’s an abortion? ”  “They use the words but don’t explain them.” He asked me these questions. Bingo. How I answered is not important (something about sensitive areas creating an electrical ball of lightning or ejaculation – I might have said something about the holy grail but I’m not sure – and then stopping a pregnancy early). Of course I over-answered on abortion as I couldn’t help explaining my political position on the issue. I spoke most of that part to his up-raised hand signaling me to stop.

And so, for now I think our job is done. M-ito is back to reading Inheritance by Paolini – an island before the next stretch of open sea.


There are some words that lead to others. Some move us forward in life and some move us back.

Penis and vagina are two words we’ve used in this house since M-ito was small. They are part of our family vocabulary.

Peanus is, in this case, a warning that it’s time to talk to my son about the details of puberty. We’ve tried here and there. “Do you know how babies are made? Do you want to know what sex is? Did you know that Blazing Saddles is an R rated movie?”

Usually M-ito says, “I know, I know.” Or, “That’s enough. I know the rest,” resulting in short conversations. But the truth is, he does not know the rest. He’s just saying that because the conversation is uncomfortable. He may have heard what sex is. He may have heard a description (by us, by his friends – oh that’s not something you want to hear) but he doesn’t know what things look like. He needs pictures of some sort so he can make sense of the mystery.

I learned about women’s bodies from a kid who lived near our apartment complex who brought a ripped up copy of his father’s Playboy Magazine to share with us one summer day at the bleachers when I was seven or eight. It didn’t show me what sex was but it did show me things I had no idea were in existence other than boys lunchroom mythology.

I want M-ito to learn differently.

Which brings me back to the peanus. I can only say it has to do with a spelling error, History, a little sleuthing, and M-ito needing to tell me the truth. The rest I can neither confirm nor deny but I will say that I have since learned how to use the parental controls on all handheld electronic devices.

Pernicious Sarcophagus Suspect Tarantula

We play this game in the car a lot. One of M-itos friends taught it to us on vacation last year.

One person says a word, any word, and the next person has to come up with a word that begins with the last letter of the word that was said.

Is there a way to win? No. Not the way we play. So what’s the point? Well… it’s fun. Also we’ve come up with the following to add some spice to long car trips:

  1. try to use the biggest and most obscure words you can. Why say “end” when you can say ecstatic, or essential, or effervescent?
  2. try to stick the person who goes after you with the same letter each time. M-ito likes to end words with “y” or “k”. Hah. Even ending words in “e” can get challenging after a while.
  3. ask people to define a word if you think they don’t know what it means. For example, I recently used the word pernicious. Everyone knows it’s the sound that ‘nicious cats make.
  4. try to do this game only using the names of geographic places (cities, states, countries, mountains, rivers, anything that would appear on a map). Not as easy as it sounds, unless you have a map handy.

It used to be we’d play Who am I or I spy. I love that my son finds using words to be fun. I’m also just happy to have found another thing to do during downtime that doesn’t include the sound of electronic texting or app-tapping.

DS i XL Grenade

Sometimes you just have to jump on the grenade. If you’ve been reading along with this blog you know my opinion of the DS and it’s not very high. I like people games instead of computer games. It’s not that I dislike computer games – I love them – but not to the extent that kids play them today. There is a disconnect occurring between children today and other children. They’re playing games too much by themselves and with a computer and not interacting with others. We’re social animals and this can’t be good for the upcoming generation. So that’s the set-up.

The camera zooms in on my face. It’s Sunday morning and it’s my birthday. No wait. Rewind. Go back to Saturday afternoon. The day before. I’m home after yoga class (a good day with 19 people and good pranic energy in the room). Mom-ita and M-ito are out shopping for various things including my birthday gift. The phone rings. It’s Mom-ita.

“M-ito has a gift all picked out for you,” she says cagily.

“Okay… ” I say, waiting for what sounds like is coming after. I’m picturing some Warhammer figures (a new game we’re playing together at a shop in Manhattan), or something yoga-like, maybe a cool stuffed animal that he will get soon after he gives it to me.

“It’s a DS,” she says quietly and waits.

“A what?” I ask.

“A DS i XL. He says you’ve always wanted one and that if you get one – you and he can play the game together at the same time.” She waits again. “He said you need the DS i XL version because it’s a bigger screen and you can’t see the small screen very well.” I think she’s trying to hold back laughter now but I can’t tell.”

I rack my brain. Have I ever told him I wanted a DS? Have I ever told him how much that would mean to me? If I did, and it’s possible, it was only to make him feel better because I would never in my life think that I would get one without someone forcing me to play with a gun to my head. Perhaps I have overstated that a little.  I took a deep breath and exhaled. We have only M-ito. “Of course,” I said. “That’s very sweet. I’ll take the XL and I’ll jump on the grenade. It’s my turn. You’ve been playing Harry Potter on the Wii all summer (and loving it I should say because Mom-ita loves to play the Lego games) so it’s my turn.”

Now she laughs. “This is your iPad, you know,” she says when she gets her breath back.

“Thanks,” I say. An iPad. Oh that hurts. She did that on purpose.

M-ito couldn’t wait so I opened my gift that night.

Fast forward to the next morning, October 3, birthday morning.

I sleep until almost 7:30am and it’s wonderful. The bed is so warm beneath the comforter. The wind is blowing outside and making the shades move back and forth. M-ito is staring at me from a few inches away. “Happy birthday,” he says, eyes full of mischief. “Let’s play your DS.”

And with a hug, a heartfelt sigh, and a smile, I say, “Yes. Let’s play with my DS. I’ll need your help setting it up.”

Forty-nine  years on this planet and still counting.

When I Was Little…

“When I was little,” M-ito begins, which always gives me a chuckle, ” I used to think you’d go to first grade when you were one, second grade when you were two, third grade when you were three…” At this point I have to admit I got the sequence and checked out for a moment – started to think about work and yoga classes – then checked back in a few moments later. “… tenth grade when you were ten. Eleventh grade when you were eleven. Twelfth grade when you were twelve.” M-ito laughs a little with me as if to say, Can you believe I used to think that? Then he says, “Can you believe I thought that?”

I shrug. “Crazy isn’t it?”


We are finishing dinner. I’ve just found out that M-ito and all his classmates are given a yearbook at school and that it is a ritual to get signatures from your friends and classmates during this whole week. M-ito is excited about it and it makes me smile. He says he wants to get the headmaster’s signature.

“I know exactly what I’m going to write in my friend’s books,” he says.

“What?” Mom-ita asks.

“To my good friends, for G-ito and J-ito,” he begins, “and to my best friends, for Mik-ito and K-ito.” He smiles as he looks at us. A settled smile it is. He has made friends this year and has both good and best friends.

Last year at this time all was in chaos. We were changing schools and we left on unhappy terms with many parents and with much disappointment in faculty. I just reread my entry from one year ago, June 7th, 2009, Classroom Blues.

It is a year later and my son has found a home base for the next six years, and so have we.