sex talk


It was in the living room. My father was reading the newspaper. I was reading Sir Arthur Conan Doyle: Sherlock Holmes sat up with a whistle. “By Jove, Peterson!” said he, “this is treasure trove indeed. I suppose you know what you have got?” “A diamond, sir? A precious stone. It cuts into glass as though it were putty.” “It’s more than a precious stone. It is the precious stone.” “Not the Countess of Morcar’s blue carbuncle!” I ejaculated. I looked up from my book. “Hey, Dad.” “Hmm?” “What does ‘ejaculate’ mean?” He put down the newspaper and sighed. I never did find out who stole the Countess’s blue carbuncle. Kids today have different options. “You already know a lot about your penis,” Karen Gravelle begins, in “What’s Going on Down There?: Answers to Questions Boys Find Hard to Ask.” In “Sex, Puberty, and All That Stuff: A Guide to Growing Up,” Jacqui Bailey writes, “Whether her hymen is holey or whole, a girl is always a virgin if she has not had sexual intercourse.” Lynda Madaras’s “On Your Mark, Get Set, Grow!” includes a chapter subtitled “All About Erections,” although I’m pretty sure the Bette Davis joke is lost on her readers: they’re in fourth grade.

more from Jill Lepore at The New Yorker here.