Often these columns are prompted by a reader question, other times by things in the news. Today’s inspiration is a delightful Twitter thread.
“What’s the dumbest beliefs you had as a child?
“When I was 4-5 I swore that bird seeds grew birds, thus the name. When my parents asked me to prove it to them, I planted a pile of bird seeds.
“The next day there were loads of birds where I planted the seeds, showing I was right.”
People shared a litany of snort-laugh inducing stories, including several about sexuality.
“My dad did his best to explain homosexuality to me when I was 6, but I had no idea what bisexuality was so when I started crushing on Lara Croft and Spongebob I thought I was broken and no one could love me because I sincerely thought you could only be gay or straight.”
And gems like:
“I thought since babies grow in a woman’s stomach, then she would have to eat one of the man’s balls to get pregnant. The math worked out, since I was the younger of two children. What about families with 3+ kids? I dunno, balls grow back? Still not sure how to remove the balls.”
This led me to ask my social network what kind of erroneous beliefs about sexuality they had held as kids, whether they were given inaccurate information or if they had extrapolated creatively. Below are some of my favorites.
“When I asked my mom where the baby came out, she said something like, ‘a special opening between the legs’ and I assumed the baby made its way down to the knees or something. This info was crucial for me carrying my Cabbage Patch dolls full term (I was 6).”
This was a common theme: confusion about the nature of the vagina.
“That the vagina can get ‘stretched out’ from too much sex (people still absolutely believe this).”
“I came away from a middle school health class with the impression that AFAB people have three holes lined up like a traffic light. I thought the red light was for peeing, the green light was for poop, and I’d have to aim carefully to impregnate my future wife in her yellow light.”
“Pee comes out of the clit. (Not me, but I did have to teach an ex-girlfriend that wasn’t true.)”
This reminded me of a time in college where I had a very sincere discussion with a fellow student who was under the impression that she peed, menstruated, and pooped from the same hole…like a human cloaca. This was an adult woman who had been instilled with so much shame about her genitals that she had simply never explored her own body.
There were a lot of misunderstandings about genitals in general, it seems.
“When I was little I didn’t know that there were different names for genitalia. I thought all genitals were called penises even though they looked different because no one had ever said the words vulva or vagina in front of me. Didn’t know I was wrong till 4th grade.”
“I thought vaginas were inside out penis… And I thought penises would be moist…. Lmao.”
That one isn’t entirely without merit, to be fair. All human genitals are derived from the same types of tissue that have the potential to develop as what we describe as “female” and “male.” The same tissue could grow to be either a clitoris or a glans penis, for instance, depending on a series of chemical reactions. This explains why intersexuality is more common than people think and refutes the idea that sex is binary.
Parents who are uncomfortable imparting the details of sexual reproduction left a lot of their children confused on precisely how sex and pregnancy work.
“I thought sex = two naked people lying on top of each other on a couch. Only that.”
“I remember in sex-ed they never actually said that the penis enters the vagina at any point. Just that the sperm fertilizes the egg, and that abstinence was the only way to prevent that from happening.”
“A woman gets pregnant when a man pees in her vagina.”
“Any part of a man touches a girl’s private parts (like, even his toe) and she gets pregnant.”
“My mother thought that you could get pregnant from a public toilet seat. She always thought something was going to ‘jump’ onto her when she used the bathroom.”
“Omg – so the movie ‘Look Who’s Talking’ reference: I used to think that it was impossible for people to not know they were pregnant because the massive light went off in the belly when the sperm and egg met.”
“That having unprotected sex equals a living baby in 9 months. Miscarriages, infertility, the struggle of TTC; never mentioned.”
“So much of sex was fear-based. I remember thinking that if two people had unprotected sex, they could create an STI together…what in the nonsense?!??”
“You can’t get pregnant if you have penile-vaginal sex in a hot tub because heat plus chlorine kills sperm.”
“I had a cousin that insisted you had to ‘make out a lot’ while in labor or else the baby won’t come out.”
And this real humdinger, which I’m sure the writer was relieved to learn was (largely) untrue:
“Part of sex was eating each other’s pee and poop.”
But just because we’re older doesn’t mean we have it all figured out. It’s fairly easy for misconceptions about anatomy and sexuality to stick around. Which is precisely why I’m here – to help correct the record.
“A buddy of mine a few weeks ago told me he didn’t want to get a vasectomy because he didn’t want his cum (sic) to change to being completely clear like water.”
And finally, let’s wrap this up with a personal favorite:
“Dogs are boys and cats are girls.”
Have a question for Dr. Timaree? Send an email to firstname.lastname@example.org.