Dear 1990s Youth Pastor,
After watching an episode of The Golden Girls last week, my 9-year-old daughter asked me why “old people” — who can’t have babies — would want to have sex. I tackled it head-on by calmly and matter-of-factly explaining to her that we would “talk about it later.”
For the next 24 hours, I wracked my brain. Why do people have sex? Or specifically, what do you tell a little girl about non-procreative sex? And why hadn’t I prepared for this question? Especially if I was planning on exposing her to that sassy minx Blanche Devereaux.
As I reflected on the advice of “trusted adults” from my own childhood, your words came to mind. It was Sunday night in the United Methodist Church multipurpose room when you presented this gem on women’s sexuality: “Girls, when a man rents a house, he doesn’t mind having a used couch. But when he buys a house, he wants new furniture.”
Even after using whatever standards are set for grown-ass men talking to teenage girls about their hymens, this metaphor feels sloppy. There were just too many unanswered questions.
- How pristine did our “couches” need to be to get husbands?
- Would our husbands be pure and fresh like us or would we have to settle for any urine-soaked, bed-bug-ridden futon on Craigslist offering to put a ring on it?
- Were our whole bodies the couches or just our vaginas?
Not to be crass, but we definitely had a few gently-used mouths and pre-owned right hands in the room that night. I won’t name names because over the last 20 years slut-shaming was revealed to be a bad thing, but I’m sure you know who I’m talking about.
Unfortunately, your words weren’t unusual for the times. There was scant “sex-positive” advice to recall. The closest I had was my mom telling me that “sex between a husband and wife is beautiful.” I didn’t want to tell my daughter that because it’s heteronormative and moralistic. And really, really, really gross. My head is shaking “no,” and my shoulders are up around my ears remembering it.
Yuck. Way to ruin sex, Mom. And the word “beautiful.”