The Birds and the Bees – Say it Ain’t So!

The Birds and the Bees – Say it Ain’t So!

I was eleven when I learned about sex. My classmates and I had snuck into an empty classroom at recess, and one of them had drawn diagrams on the chalkboard explaining what a daddy does to a mummy at night to make babies. I was horrified. I mean, we had a kids’ book at home that explained the difference between male and female bodies – it was called Peter and Caroline –  but nothing about how they fit together. (Or maybe I skipped that chapter).

I went running home in tears. “Mummy, Mummy, please, tell me it isn’t true”. I was practically hyperventilating. I tearfully recounted the horror story that was told to me earlier that day. God bless my mum because she kept a straight and serious face throughout while she must have needed to laugh so hard. She took me in her arms, and corrected a few minor details, but said that yes, for the most part, what I had been told was true. I don’t remember anything she said after that, because well, it was disgusting and I was never going to let any man do that to me.


Anyhow. When it came to Kallah classes (where brides learn about the laws of family purity) before my wedding, I pretty much knew the nuts and bolts of marital relations. Just to make sure, my grandma sat me down before my wedding to tell me what to expect. That was a most uncomfortable ten minutes – but one that makes me giggle now, decades later. My Kallah teacher met with me a few times to go over the laws and the traditions, but there was an expectation that I knew what sex was, and that she didn’t have to be the one to tell me what to expect on my wedding night.

I listened to this sound clip the other day – Chussen and Kallah Teachers – and I was shocked. I know this piece is satire, or semi-satirical, but one thing that I have known from before is that many many ultra-orthodox / chassidic brides and grooms have no clue what is supposed to happen on their wedding night.

At eleven the idea of sex scared the pants off me (wrong analogy but you get my point) – how can a fully grown person deal with the shock of what sex is when the whole subject has been taboo all their lives? How does one get to marriageable age and know nothing about how babies are made? How does one deal with that – you’re getting married next week. Your husband is going to do x, y, z; or your wife will expect you to do a, b, c.

I just cannot get my head around it. I want to tell myself that these days every bride and groom knows about sex – at least the basic theory. (Although by reading some posts on you wonder what some women have been taught)

How old were you when you learned about sex? Do you remember your reaction?

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  1. Shoshanna says:

    This topic is something that bothers me for many reasons- the main one being how what should be something beautiful and holy and incredibly fulfilling is stolen from so many. I have heard stories you would not believe and would make you cry. You are 100% correct. It is an injustice to keep the sexes so separate and taboo and then expect a man and woman who have never touched a non family member to behave most intimately and to have it be a positive experience. There must be much more openness and education

    • Agreed. Especially when compared to other religions, we’re so much more sex positive. What other religions have a marriage document that says a husband must pleasure his wife sexually?!

  2. Trip'n Mommy says:

    I came across this in a seforim shop and nearly fell over. Then I thought “Thank G-d someone had the guts to write this! I hope Chossen and Kallah teachers are buying them by the case to give to students!”

  3. Trip'n Mommy says:

    We also had the author of this book come and speak on the Yishuv and she was amazing! Basically, she encouraged us all to help our kids avoid situations like how you (and I, in a very similar story) found out about sex.

  4. Daniel says:

    Even if you know what to expect, those who practice Shomer Negiah, or even those who don’t but are “everything-but-intercourse” will still have some figuring out to do on wedding night…

  5. Rubyv says:

    For me, as for my child, sex was an ongoing conversation about reproduction, relationships, etc. She had always know where babies are from.

    This is not pornographic, or sexy. It’s simply information about puberty, etc. This is how it should be. I never had A Talk, because there was many many chats about it.

  6. tesyaa says:

    Although I had gotten some info from my older brother (isn’t that what brothers are for??), most of my knowledge came from public school health classes. I think every kid should get this curriculum; it’s calm, to the point, and nonjudgmental. Yes, and our classes were mixed.

    • I agree. I was horrified that my friends from day school were married with kids and didn’t know that cold sores were a form of oral herpes that could become…something else if…. But I had my health classes in public schools in mixed environments.

  7. Druid says:

    At the end of the day, there is something beautiful about a guy who can spend the first twenty years of his life without one of if not the biggest distraction that people face. I have friends who did not know anything about sex until they were about to get married, and I can say in all honesty that some part of me is jealous of them.

    • I think it is a beautiful thing to have only shared that kind of intimacy with your husband or wife.

      • It is so different than the secular world where in college, I was being PRESSURED by female friends to lose my virginity because they felt there was a certain age by which someone needed to lose it. Apparently, for most of them it was 16 and I was already 21 aka “a total loser.” I’m STILL disgusted thinking of these friends.

  8. Four years old. I walked in on my parents so I learned the mechanics of it. I was thoroughly horrified. I was a very precocious 4.

    We had THE CLASS just for girls in middle school to learn about our bodies. I decided I want to be a boy so I wouldn’t have to deal with periods or breasts. :)

    Then we had THE CLASS again in health class in high school, which was so graphic that I decided I wanted to be a nun. Is rabbi’s wife close enough?

    Actually, the best teacher was a friend who was willing to answer the stupidest questions I had because growing up Catholic, we DID NOT talk about our bodies. We didn’t even take showers together, my sisters and me as babies!

    I can’t believe I’m married and now I’m explaining things to OTHER people. The 4 year old me, the 11 year old me and the 16 year old me would be turning bright red and dying if she knew. ;)

  9. My kallah teacher actually DID go over the mechanics of sex and more. It was uncomfortable for both of us but I was glad to know that anyone that went to her would walk away with more than knowledge of the halakha of family purity.

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