My chief memory of sex education in school is not the class itself but a Maths lesson which followed. I arrived there late with rather damp hair. Mrs E., the least pleasant teacher I encountered in my school career, demanded an explanation. An explanation that I could not give. Oh, but I can tell you.
It had been the banana and condom lesson. Everyone under forty had one of these, right? Our Biology teacher began by producing a condom which she had allegedly bought in a Czech supermarket; it was bright red, had a painted smiling face and… horns.
We were told about coils, levers, pulleys and variable frequency oscillators and then left to lark about with these (common or garden) condoms we’d all been issued with. We were encouraged to test their strength, but the lesson quickly descended into a contest as to whose condom could stretch to the greatest capacity. This involved hooking them over the taps and filling them up in those huge laboratory sinks. Five or six gallons average, before they exploded. And they did explode. Which was how I came to be so late and wet for Maths.
The talk we had from the Old Girl (former pupil) who came in to describe her pregnancy was of similarly dubious value. She explained that she didn’t want any drugs or to be pushing against gravity, so she had stood at the window looking out on a glorious summer’s day and sipping her herbal tea. The baby then painlessly dropped into the waiting arms of her husband. Hmm.
Actually it was all fairly useless. My parents are not religious or particularly weird, but it was always too early for me to have my questions answered and by the time they might have been prepared to speak, I was too embarrassed to ask. So I didn’t really know what was happening when I started my period, because we hadn’t covered that in biology yet and Mum had sewn me some myth about how it couldn’t happen until I was at least sixteen so there was no need to talk about it yet (I was in fact eleven). Everything else I learnt from shameless older friends and books.
So there is a young lass who’s about to marry a sailor and her mother takes her to one side and tells her, “Now sailors are a funny lot and at some point in your married life, your husband may suggest that you make love the other way. But if he asks you, you must say no, because that is an altogether ungodly practice.”
So the young lass and the sailor get married and after a few months the lass begins to wonder why he hasn’t ever made this request.
“Darling,” she says, “Why is it that you’ve never suggested that we make love the other way?”
“Oh, we don’t want to do that,” he says, “that’s how you get pregnant!”