My knowledge of sex began as a childhood memory in 1947, when I was four. A couple with two girls moved into our old house after we moved from Myton to Roosevelt. I came to know the girls, Marilyn and Carol, when I stayed at Grandpa and Grandma’s house on weekends. Mama said I could play with the girls, but only at Grandma’s house. I couldn’t go to their house—because of their parents.
I overheard Daddy and Mama talking about their family and more than what was said, I remember low voices judging the parents who lived together without benefit of marriage. I felt the shame of it without understanding why. I thought that people who lived together were, of course, married. How could it be otherwise?
This was my first acquaintance and although the association was weak, I knew something was amiss. Naturally, I never said anything to the girls—it was too secretive and shameful, but I could tell by the way Grandpa and Grandma acted, they knew about those parents too.
The mystery came to an end the summer I was seven and my sister, Mary, was nine. Mary’s friend Jeannie reported that her mother gave birth to a baby boy. That afternoon Mary and I were playing on a blanket in the back yard. We each had our Baby Coo dolls we’d received for Christmas. Mary laid her doll’s clothes in neat rows and then dressed it in one outfit after another. With a wet finger I wiped my naked doll’s dirty face and tried to borrow clothing from Mary because I had lost mine. Mama sat with us reading a book.
“Mama, how do mothers get babies?” Mary asked.
Mama stiffened, frowned and replied, “The baby grows from an egg inside the mother, Mary. You’ve seen women at church in maternity clothes and their tummies get bigger and bigger. When the time is right the baby is born.” She went back to her book.
“How does the egg get into the mother’s stomach?”
“We’ll talk about this later, Mary,” Mama said with impatience. “You girls go ahead and play with your dolls.”
Now I asserted myself, knowing this was an attempt to keep me from hearing.
“No, Mama! If Mary gets to know, I do too.”
Mama, now irritated said with finality, “The egg is already inside of the mother and when the father fertilizes it, a baby grows.” She again went back to her reading.
“How does the father fertilize the egg?” Mary queried.
Mama, flustered and with red-face, muttered, “It’s called mating. The father deposits sperm into the mother and then the baby grows over a period of nine months before being born.”
“Where does he get sperm?” demanded Mary, excited, like she already knew the answer.
Now Mama, hesitant and pleading. “It grows inside the father’s body, just like the egg does in the mother’s body.”
Finally the big one! “How does he deposit the sperm?” Mary countered, not waiting for the answer.
“He puts it into her pee-pee with his pee-pee!” she squealed.
Mama, trembled, dropped her book and whimpered, “Yes, that is correct, Mary. It’s called mating.”
I was thoroughly confused. “Does he pee in her?”
“Sort of,” Mary hooted, jumping up and down with delight.
“But you and Daddy don’t do that, do you Mama?” I cried.
“You nitwit,” Mary sneered amid peals of laughter. “How do you think they got you? Jeannie says parents do it sometimes for fun, even when they’re not trying to make a baby.”
Fun! I looked to Mama for reassurance, but her face was pallid and she wouldn’t look at me.
“I have to, Dianne,” she whispered. “Men want to do it—it’s a woman’s duty—they just like sex.”
SEX! That’s what this is? Well, I won’t do it. I’ll just never make a baby.