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The answer to the question, How did we get here?, is a rather complex response built on many years and multiple encounters not with others, but with ourselves. Madelene and Christopher had a very routine experience with their own sexuality while growing up. That is to say, it was wonderful and terrifying at the same time.
Madelene, Maddy for short, had always been a precarious, precocious, inquisitive little girl. She had, like any other girl, studied the older girls and women around her, especially her mother, and watched rather unconsciously for clues on how to be a woman. Little did she know that sex would play such a big part in not only becoming a woman, but in becoming a human being.
But her introduction was slow and without what many would call trauma. That is to say, she was never molested or raped, she didn’t have that creepy uncle, she wasn’t harassed by the boys to the point of suicide. No, Maddy’s trauma was more on the surprise side.
There was that boy in preschool who couldn’t seem to keep his pants up. Maddy noticed he looked different, but just thought it was this one kid who was different. She told her mother about it. “He keeps scratching and picking at himself. You know, down there. Where you’re not a’possed to.”
Her mother had chuckled a little before asking, “And then what happened?”
Maddy was finishing a coloring page. She loved to color. Her mother was distracted with something in the kitchen. It took Maddy a moment to add, “He pulled his pants down so he could have a better scratch, I guess. The teacher didn’t see him right away. He scratched for about an hour.”
Mother started to pay more attention, even though she knew two minutes could seem like an hour to Maddy. “An hour? And what did you do during this time?” Maddy’s mother was curious, but not alarmed. Maddy was so small, after all.
“I looked at it, and I think there’s something wrong with him. I know he’s a boy, but that thing looked funny. It kind of hung out a little and had something he must have liked a lot.”
Mother looked at her daughter and scowled a bit. “Why do you think he liked it a lot?”
“He kept tugging at it and scratching it and wouldn’t let go. Even when teacher yelled at him to pull his pants up, he wouldn’t let go.” Maddy stopped coloring and looked at her mother, who had a huge smile on her face and was trying very hard not to laugh out loud. “Mom, I’m not going to grow one of those things, am I?”
Mother had to forcefully control herself to keep from laughing out loud. When she could, she told her pretty little daughter, “No, baby, you’re perfect the way you are, and you’re going to stay that way.” Later that night, Maddy’s parents would laugh out loud at the story, then worry half the night about their daughter and her eventual discovery of sex and boys.
Christopher, Chris to his friends, did not have the kind of curious and innocent introduction to female anatomy that Maddy did. He just thought girls were a necessary nuisance and should be avoided. His mother, of course, was perfect and acceptable and very necessary. Other females, including his older sister, were definitely not, at least not in his opinion. That all changed one day when he was in the third grade.
Sure, in the second grade he had noticed some of the girls smiled in a way that he liked to look at. And they seemed nicer than some of his friends. The other boys could be a bit mean at times. But boys were like him, and girls weren’t. He peed standing up, like his dad. Girls, at least so he thought, had to sit while they peed. Chris thought this was rather inferior. So when his older sister tormented him he didn’t like it because he thought he should be the one tormenting her. No matter that she was four years older than him. He could pee standing up, didn’t that count for something? But one day toward the end of third grade when they had a day out of class early, both of them got home and had too much time to kill. That’s when it happened.
Bickering is a past-time of all children, particularly siblings, but this bickering had already gotten Chris and his sister a stern warning form their father to “knock it off before I get hold of both of you”, as well as some stern looks from their mother. But, as siblings will, they couldn’t seem to help themselves. Until dad threatened the sister with making her miss her very first middle school dance unless she straightened up and “knock it off”. That’s when sister decided to stop the bickering once and for all.
Not by actually getting along with her brother, of course. But by physical intimidation. Sister probably could have thought of something better had Chris not been so loud. She needed a way to shut him up quickly. So, she grabbed him by the head, slammed his head down on an ottoman, and sat on him.
Chris was ready to howl at the top of his lungs, even as his older and stronger sister slammed him down. But then something strange happened to him. He looked up and saw her backside coming toward his face, and time seemed to stop. He didn’t think about her bottom as the bottom of his sister. He didn’t think at all. But as a silky pair of white panties planted themselves against his right cheek, he felt the soft bottom of a female inside those panties, and an immense surge of pleasure in a way he didn’t understand. She only sat there for the briefest of moments, but when she moved to get up Chris immediately started to say something so his sister, afraid Chris would yell or scream, sat back down.
Chris was dumfounded. His sister got up, smoothed her skirt, and looked away quickly. Chris lay with his head on the ottoman, blinking at her. His sister hissed, “Shut up! And don’t tell mom or dad!” Then she started to stomp away to her bedroom.
Chris watched her go, sitting up slowly. He couldn’t figure out what had just happened to him when she sat on him like that. But what Chris knew deep down was that something had changed, and changed for good.
Testosterone is the sex hormone driver, the thing in us that makes us want to look, touch, and feel each other. We all have it, but males have much more than females. Interestingly enough, testosterone is also a hormone that makes hair fall out, at least hair on your head. The most significant reason that men go bald at a much higher rate that women.
Females produce much more estrogen, a hormone that regulates sexual development, menstrual cycles, even heart and blood vessels. Estrogen gives women breasts, or at least contributes to the development of breasts. Interestingly enough men have breasts too, and get breast cancer just like women do. They just don’t produce estrogen in amounts that make breast cancer as much of a problem as breast cancer in women. So, men produce estrogen too.
It’s the amounts that are the issue. Males produce much more testosterone than females, and during peak reproductive periods males and females both produce higher amounts of both these hormones than at other times in their lives. Now, get this, peak reproductive age in healthy humans is…between late teens and about 30 years old (according to a 2013 study by Boston University).
So nature, the prankster that nature can be at times, gives us strange feelings starting in our early teens and continuing until we are about thirty years old, when our hormone production and sexual reproductive rate starts to drop off. In between our early teens and about thirty years old we are stuck with almost uncontrollable urges, desires, and curiosity that we are not allowed to act upon, voice out loud, or even think about at times. Such is the part culture and society play in our sexual development.
Maddy was no different. While she didn’t think her preschool friend should be pulling his pants down, she did appreciate a good scratch herself at times and wasn’t above pulling up her dress once in a while. Especially when it was hot. Fanning a little breeze felt pretty good on her groin, which became a bit sweaty at times. When she was running or playing and she could get a bit of breeze, Maddy saw nothing wrong with exposing herself a little.
Her teachers did, however, and her mother appeared a little embarrassed when Maddy would show her bottom while bending over instead of stooping, or fan her dress. Once, mother had been very quick to pull her arm and tell her in a forced whisper, “Don’t do that in public, honey. We don’t touch ourselves like that when other people can see.” That was confusing. Maddy knew she shouldn’t touch other people when they didn’t want to be touched, but touching herself felt like it was her business, not theirs. But mother was the rule maker, and Maddy loved her mother.
But by middle school Maddy was starting to think that there might be two sets of rules. For one thing, her mother wanted her to cover up when she left the house. And her father practically had a heart attack if she showed much skin at all. At home they were relaxed, although by seventh grade she had stopped walking around in underwear. She knew her father was male, and covered up at home to keep from embarrassing herself and him, something her father was grateful for. She still sat on his lap sometimes, though, and didn’t think anything of it.
But at school boys were more obnoxious than ever. They stared, they started to talk and then couldn’t say anything, and they were always looking. She wasn’t sure what they were looking at until Myra Linscow came to school in that ridiculously short skirt. It was just before Halloween, Maddy was still trying to decide on her costume and looking forward to candy and the loose restrictions on sweets her parents allowed for one full week around the holiday. Then, in walks Myra with a skirt up past mid-thigh! And for the entire day, she had the attention of every boy in the seventh grade class.
True, she also had the attention of the teachers, who didn’t like the length of the skirt one bit, and sent a note home to Myra’s parents about it. But that didn’t stop Myra, who had already figured out she could roll the waistband and shorten the skirt after she got to school, thwarting all her parents, and teachers, efforts to make her comply with the dress code. And in making this simple little roll of fabric she managed to get the attention of every middle school boy in the seventh grade.
Maddy watched with interest. The boys seemed to have been struck by lightning when Myra walked past. Maddy watched a little too closely in the locker room and was made fun of by the other girls for being a “lesbo”. But Maddy didn’t really see anything all that special about Myra. Myra was skinny and a little boyish, just like all the girls were. But the boys certainly saw something special in her.
It was LaTricia McDuggle who showed Maddy what the boys were so interested in. LaTricia suddenly, between Halloween and Thanksgiving, started to grow breasts. She also had her period, something Maddy didn’t but knew all about from the gossip of other girls and the matter-of-fact discussion from her mother. Her father avoided the subject completely, and Maddy assumed men just weren’t interested in this female characteristic, although she felt that it was quite interesting. LaTricia helped Maddy understand what having a period was like.
“It hurts!” LaTricia told her one day. “A lot, but only for a little bit. Then, it’s just an annoyance. These, though,” Latricia put both hands under her small but developing breasts and lifted them up and down, “take some getting used to. I put on my favorite t-shirt the other day and my mom made me take it off. I asked her why and she said my boobs were sticking out too far. When I looked in the mirror, I could kinda see what she meant.” LaTricia smiled in a conspiratory kind of way and added, “I kind of like them, though. And not just the way they look.”
Maddy was trying to follow, but her own breasts hadn’t grown and she didn’t have a period like LaTricia. “What do you mean?” she asked innocently enough.
LaTricia looked around, grinned, and put a hand inside her top and felt for a nipple. Maddy watched intently until LaTricia gave herself a small caress, then said, “That never felt so good before. I don’t know what it is, but it’s pretty nice. And, there’s some other places that have been getting interesting. I even thought once that there was something wrong with me, I was gettin’ so sensitive.”
Maddy was shocked. This was new information her mother had never shared. “Where?” she asked intently as LaTricia pulled her hand out from under her shirt.
“You know,” LaTricia looked a little embarrassed. She liked Maddy, and Maddy never judged, so LaTricia went on, “between the legs. It’s all different now. It’s really nice.”
Maddy studied LaTricia’s face. Was this a joke? No, she decided, LaTricia was her friend and they were always straight with each other. Maddy had touched herself in the spot LaTricia referred to, of course, many times. In the shower or the bath, in the morning when she rubbed sleepily across her crotch and felt herself through her clothes. But ‘really nice’ didn’t register with her. Maddy acknowledged to herself that LaTricia was a few months older, and asked if she would experience the same thing when she was the same age as Latricia. “I don’t know.” LaTricia said flatly. “Maybe. Mom wasn’t all that specific, just said it happens when it happens to every girl, sooner or later. It’s the way we become women.”
Maddy nodded. Becoming a woman was pretty high on the priority list for seventh grade girls. It was a mysterious thing that appeared to have a lot to do with body changes, bleeding, boys, and jealous looks from other girls. Maddy was suddenly unsure if she wanted to “become a woman”. LaTricia laughed when Maddy told her this and said, “I think you’ll like it. It might take a while, but it’ll be fun. A lot more fun than them boys have.”
What do you mean by that?”
“Ain’t you seen what happens to some of them when Myra walks by? They start putting books in their laps and get that stupid look on their faces? You’ve noticed, right?”
“Sure, but I didn’t know what was going on. Why do they put their books on their laps?”
“To hide their hard-on!” LaTricia laughed at her friend, then hugged her to let Maddy know she wasn’t making fun. “Their thing gets hard when they see girl’s bodies. The more they look, the more it gets hard. At least, that’s what mom said.”
Maddy scowled, “Your mom talked about a boy’s thing getting hard? What did she call it?”
LaTricia shrugged, “My mom called it a dick, then she stopped and called it a penis. At some point in there,” LaTricia got a serious look on her face as though she was trying to remember exactly what her mother had said, “when we were talking, she started to laugh.”
“Yeah. It was kinda strange to me, too. Like, I wanted to know what this was and why boys have to go through something like that. But mom was just grinning and laughing like it was real funny.” Maddy was shaking her head, puzzled. Then LaTricia added, “Mom hinted that those things might be something women like to have, then she stopped and wouldn’t tell me no more. I tried, but she just kept grinnin’ and laughin’ and told me to go play.” LaTricia’s face took on a defiant look. “I’m a woman now. I don’t have to go off and play.” Suddenly looking very unsure, she turned to Maddy and asked quietly, “Do I?”
That conversation led to some probing questions from Maddy to her mother, who appeared very good at dodging a direct answer. Maddy even tried asking her father about this, since he had been a boy once. Maddy was certain her father no longer had this problem, and had never seen her dad put books on his lap. But when she got up enough nerve to ask him if his ‘thing’ still got hard her mother burst out laughing and her father spit water he was trying to swallow across the table. Father deferred to mother on this particular inquiry, because father had no desire to discuss his erections with his twelve-year-old daughter. Mother handled the question delicately, with very little useful information.
Maddy was frustrated. Between what LaTricia didn’t know and what her parents wouldn’t tell her, she was left to investigate on her own. It was hard to do, but she got pretty good at spying on the midsections of other twelve and thirteen-year-olds. And not just boys, either, although that was her main interest. She started watching the girls, too, to see if there was anything ‘down there’ that might change. Maddy considered herself lucky to have the locker room as a laboratory. But all she really saw change was the addition of pubic hair.
The boys, however, had more difficulty concealing their erections, which at times seemed to have a mind of their own. Once, in an assembly, the boy sitting next to her started to squirm. Maddy didn’t think he was an interesting boy and hadn’t really spent much time talking to him. She also didn’t think the teacher conducting the assembly was all that interesting, and Maddy was fighting the urge to doze off. So she was annoyed when the boy started moving in his seat, and looked over to tell him to sit still.
And she saw it! There, right in his crotch, was a bulge pushing upward, and getting bigger! Suddenly, Maddy was very attentive and wide awake. She looked at the boy’s face, and saw he was studying the teacher intently. The look on his face was a bit dreamy, and his eyes just a little glassy. He was daydreaming, she decided as she looked toward the teacher. Maddy studied the woman who had curves, a pretty green dress, and, oh, could that be it? High heels!
No, shoes couldn’t do that, Maddy decided as she stole several glances at a growing erection. Maddy didn’t want anyone, particularly this boy, to catch her staring at his crotch. She glanced again and again, wondering what it must look like. And, did it hurt? Was it uncomfortable? There were so many questions. When she looked at the teacher again Maddy decided it wasn’t the shoes but could be the hose. The teacher’s legs were a little shiny and did look pretty, Maddy decided. Maybe it was the hose that caused erections.
Maddy couldn’t wait to tell LaTricia about the erection she saw in person. LaTricia had become her informal expert on all things sexual, ever since Maddy’s mother had bailed on the really important information. LaTricia laughed when Maddy told her whose erection she had witnessed. “Him?” LaTricia asked, scoffing, “he got a boner from looking at Mrs. Sullivan?”
“Boner? What’s a boner?”
“A hard-on. A stiffy, an erection. A tube steak, a…”
“Why are there so many names?” Maddy asked seriously.
“Same as for our cooter, kitty-cat, whoo-hoo, you know. The pussy.” LaTricia whispered this last one.
“Oh.” Maddy said sheepishly. That made sense. There was a slang term for everything, and since talking about sex parts seemed to be such a sensitive subject, she guessed people needed to make up names. “But why is it strange that he liked Mrs. Sullivan?”
“Maybe. But she had those shiny hose on that makes her look kind of sexy. Maybe that’s what it was.”
LaTricia, not being the sex expert that Maddy gave her credit for, agreed that there might be something to Maddy’s shiny underwear theory, and they decided to keep watch. A few days later LaTricia stopped Maddy and said in an angry huff, “Thanks a lot!”
Maddy scowled. “For what? What did I do?”
“I got caught looking at John Middleton’s pants and they sent me to the office. Thank God they didn’t call my mom about it.”
Maddy was intently interested. “What happened. And, did he have a boner?” The word ‘boner’ had definitely entered her lexicon. Maddy not only said it every chance she got, she thought about the sound of the word all the time.
“Yeah, but he turned and I couldn’t get a good look. But it was in Mrs. Sullivan’s class, so I dropped a pencil the way the boys do when they want to look up our skirts.”
Maddy’s eyes got wide. “Is that why they’re always dropping stuff? I thought they were just clumsy.”
“Girl, you got to pay more attention to what’s goin’ on around you. Anyway, I drop my pencil and took too long to pick it up. Mrs. Sullivan caught me, sent me to the principal’s office. When I looked up there was John, smiling at me.”
“Really? He smiled?”
“And acted like he was real happy. But Mrs. Sullivan was wearing pants today, so I guess we’re wrong about the shiny stuff. There must be something else that makes the boys do…well, that.”
Maddy nodded. It seemed like erections were a real mystery.