Sex education

Teen fiction is a massive fiction market, but when I was a teenager in the early 1980s we had to make the leap from children’s literature to literature with nothing in between.  Well, that’s not entirely true.  I vividly remember the cruelty and transgression of Paul Zindel’s The Pigman and the taboo-busting discussions of menstruation in Judy Blume’s books.

But, generally, we created our own pool of teen fiction and filled it with delectable trash.   We rebelled against good literature, because we were hungry for sex and sexual identity.  We sought knowledge, titillation, and sin in bonkbusters, romances, and horror.

All normal for our teen development, except I’m horrified that my formative sources for understanding adult sexual relationships and female identity came from a combination of The Thorn Birds, Flowers in the Attic, and Bella.  Oh, and my parent’s divorce.

A couple of years ago I found a copy of Bella by Jilly Cooper in a secondhand bookstore and couldn’t resist re-reading it.  It’s a horrible, but concise guide on how to behave with men.  One should be seductive, emotionally volatile, and highly tragic until that dangerous swarthy man carries you off to his cave and takes you for his own.  I’ve got a couple of those things down pat.

Some friends gave me a special gift this year and I finally found the courage/gave in to the desire to read the tome they handed me…V.C. Andrews’ Flowers in the Attic and Petals on the Wind.

The books were published in 1979 and 1980 and sold a gazillion copies.   If you weren’t a teenager at the time you probably had no good reason to read them.  They are a ghoulish blend of incest, abuse, religious zeal, money, beauty, and grandeur.  Half-uncle and half-niece marry, have four kids, hide identity from world.  All is well until half-uncle/husband dies in car accident.  Half-niece/wife needs rich and religious father to forgive her and must therefore hide devil’s spawn in the attic.  For three years.  And try to kill them with poisoned donuts.  You know there’s something wrong when the character you root for is the sweet doctor brother who just wants to settle down in a loving adult relationship with his sister.

The story is told through the narration of Cathy, said sister, who is justifiably bitter and twisted and in the second book, post-attic escape, lives through the deaths of three husbands/lovers.  No drama is spared.  But one of my favorite moments in the first book is when the half-niece/mother Corrine Dollenganger explains her incestuous relationship with their father to future sibling-lovers Cathy and Christopher.

People make the rules of society, not God.  In some parts of the world closer relatives marry and produce children, and it is considered perfectly all right, thought I’m not going to try and justify what we did for we do have to abide by the laws of our own society.  That society believes closely related men and women should not marry, for if they do, they can produce children who are mentally or physically less than perfect.  But who is perfect?

Who indeed?  Well, certainly not me after learning everything about adult sexuality from Virginia Andrews, Jilly Cooper, and Colleen McCullough.  Stephanie Meyers is looking quite enlightened.

3 responses to “Sex education”

  1. lane says:

    OMG, who can read this when that photo just STOPS you in your tracks!

  2. lane says:

    OK now, double wow, my contribution to this library is a book called “Homicide Zone 4”

    yeah, it wasn’t the best sort of sex ed, but . . . there it is, we (the 5th grade boys) read parts of it over and over and over . . .

  3. Mark says:

    Mine was the Clan of the Cave Bear. I just remember the phrase “assume the position” popping up over and over.