Boomers, the birds & the bees

We baby boomers came of age in a time of radical social change, not the least of which was the sexual revolution. Women’s lib empowered young women to claim their rights in the bedroom. The Pill freed us from fear of unwanted pregnancy. “Free love” and “Make love, not war” were bywords of our generation.

But when you look at the advice (or lack thereof) we got from our parents and peers about sex, all I can say is, “Who’d have thought we’d start a revolution?” Here’s what some of my contemporaries shared about how and what they learned about doin’ the deed:

The movie “Summer of ‘42” and 10th grade biology class took care of it. Oh, yeah, and a super-embarrassing conversation in religion class – still turns my face red.

With my mother a pre-boomer, the indirect messages I got from her were all very old school – sex was something boys wanted and girls should fend off. Not much more than that. I actually remember her once trying to chase away a male pigeon from courting a female pigeon. Fortunately, my school had sex ed.

I remember seeing a movie when I was 12. It was about an unwed mother and how she is ostracized by society. I asked my mother “Why?” I mean, it’s the woman who has to bear the child so why are other people so bothered? Trust me, that was no feminist speaking, just a pre-teen who was ignorant about the birds and bees. That night, my mother came into my room, put off all the lights and explained patiently about the science of birth. I had to excitedly tell this to a friend whose reaction was, “I wasn’t born that way!”

I got “The Film” in school in fourth grade. The facts of life I got from Shakespeare.

I grew up with all brothers and my mom has never mentioned sex to me – ever! I learned by trial and error…and error…and error!

I never had the conversation with anyone. I had pets – lots of them – and grew up in rural Maine. Animals taught me all about life and death. Sounds like a cross between Amish living and The Jungle Book, doesn’t it?

No one ever told me anything! Perhaps that’s why I got pregnant the first time I had sex.

My friend Carol told me about it in fifth grade…I didn’t think it could possibly be true.

No talk. We were given a book. It’s still for sale on Amazon. It’s called “Where Did I Come From?”

After I laughed with my mother that Queen Elizabeth the First was certainly not a virgin (though called the Virgin Queen), my mother took me aside and explained the birds and bees. She thought my virgin reference meant I knew something. I knew nothing. Raised a Catholic, I assumed virgin meant GOOD and QEI had done some bad stuff. I was in sixth grade, I think.

My mother told me, “I never kissed anyone before your father and I’m sure he never did either.” Meanwhile, my father tells my brothers, “Just don’t get caught.” My brothers taught me the most about what boys at 16 want; I believe the words they used were, “Any port in a storm.” So who taught me about sex?

At 18 and the night before my marriage to a man he picked, my father sat me down on his lap and wanted to talk about sex. I have no idea what he said but I was beyond mortified.

My parents were “progressive” then, so I suppose that partially explains this. My father left a pamphlet with a lot of pictures and some writing on the windowsill when I was five. I picked it up and read it. Later he asked me if I had any questions. Really? Years later I asked him what he was thinking. He had no idea – thought I was mature, he supposed.

In my junior high and high school years, my mother allowed me to read anything and often left books such as The Happy Hooker and Fear of Flying lying about. I wish I were kidding, but honestly, I never really had any questions – just a little less-than-healthy fear of having sex until I was out of high school, which I am sure was her goal! Solid parenting, Mom!

My cousin and I were besties as kids…we were about 12 and he asked me if I knew how babies were made. Um, did I even care? He told me anyway…and to think that my parents did THAT?

Dorise told me at recess in the 4th grade. She was 10 going on 17…a tough little broad from the poor side of town, sometimes without clean clothes or face. She told me [about sex] and I was disgusted for days. 

One of my older girlfriends told me about sex when I was 11, shortly after I started my period. She explained that when a man and a woman get together for sex, the man sticks his “dick” into the woman’s hole and it would hurt the first time “when the cherry breaks.” She said, “This how women get pregnant and it can happen fast.” It didn’t sound fun to me, but my friend said sex is great after you try it out and if you don’t get pregnant.

I remember vividly the day I came home and asked my mother what the word F*** meant as I saw it scrawled in chalk on the sidewalk. I was probably 13. She was standing in the bathroom applying lipstick. When the tube dropped from her fingers into the sink bowl, I knew she was startled by my question. Her answer? “A dirty word for a beautiful thing between adults.”

Of course the only contraceptive that was discussed in those days was “keep your legs together.”

The overarching message most of us got was save yourself for marriage because, after all, who’s going to buy the cow if the milk is free, right?

Apparently, a whole lot of us disregarded that admonition, inspiring this haiku:

If nice girls abstained,
how’d we start a sexual
revolution, huh?

We must have believed in the corollary to the cow/milk analogy, which goes something like: Why buy an entire pig if you just want a little sausage?

So what’s your story? How’d you learn about the birds and the bees?





Roxanne Jones

About Roxanne Jones

By day, Roxanne Jones is an award-winning freelance copywriter specializing in health and medicine. She launched Boomer Haiku, a humorous blog about life as a baby boomer, in 2015, and a Boomer Haiku greeting card line in 2016 (available at 6 Maine stores; visit to learn more). Born and raised in Brunswick, she left Maine after high school (Class of 1971) and, after living in Massachusetts and California, came screaming back to her home state in 2006. She enjoys chardonnay, laughing at the foibles and frustrations of getting older, and contemplates plastic surgery to get rid of the wattle on her neck.