I should start by letting you know I’m no sex expert. Sex isn’t even really what this is about, but I think a disclaimer is necessary if I’m going to post anything remotely related, considering how much traffic comes my way since I wrote that thing about pineapples––really just speculation on whether our neighbors were swingers (jury is still out on that)––which was picked up by a porn aggregator site that now regularly steers about a third of my blog traffic this way.
Don’t get me wrong. I’m not one to complain about an audience, ever. But I think whether you’re here for the pseudo-porn or the more regular fare of random, inane stories, it might be good to switch up to higher-brow entertainment once in a while, just sayin’…
Anyway, where was I? …Right. Boffing. Boinking. Bumping Uglies. The Horizontal Greased-Weasel Tango. Or more specifically, straightforward conversations with teenagers on the topic.
Not MY teenagers, mind you. Other people’s kids. Even better.
Last spring, I was with a small team at a youth exchange conference, and we decided to split up to cover as many sessions as possible. That plan went out the window it came to a presentation called “My Students Aren’t Having Sex on Exchange!”
I was pretty sure I was the one who was slated for this session on delusional grownups and their perceptions about the prevalence of adolescent hanky-panky among exchange students (well, no, I was very sure, since I remember slapping my hand down on the program and saying “that’s mine” and then making aggressive eye contact with everyone at the table until they each gave a little nod like they were afraid I’d make a scene). But I’ll be dammed if every one of our crew wasn’t there, along with just about everyone else at the conference. The room was packed.
I kind of felt bad for the other presenters that afternoon, but, c’mon, they had to have seen the same program we did. Speaker tip: if something about someone getting their corn ground is anywhere on the docket and it’s not part of your presentation, just forget it. Leave your slides, and your pointer. Come on over to grab a seat with us. No one’s going to be interested in whatever you have to say about securing a visa or culture shock or whatever, Karen. You’ll be talking to an empty room.
This is where I should let you know that the folks who work on this exchange program and I have long thought we were pretty clever communicating the basic rules for a student’s year abroad: what we call the 4Ds. No Drinking, no Driving, no Dating, no Drugs.
Isn’t that cute? I mean, who doesn’t love alliteration?
Here’s the thing with adolescents and that third D, though: teens tend to separate what we old folks like to call “dating” from any kind of related activities which may or may not have romantic implications.
In other words, they will look you straight in the freaking face and tell you sex does not necessarily equal dating. Seriously. So, if you’re going to tell a teenager to avoid the kind of drama that comes with any version of “dating” while they’re supposed to be fully occupied as an ambassador for their country and learning about a new culture, you have to be frank. “Dating” in this sense does in fact include any and all sorts of physical activity one might associate with dating, whether or not one is actually dating. You feel me?
No, don’t. I mean … sigh.
Honest to Pete. Why is this so complicated? I don’t know, but when the suggestion was made that we incorporate a frank discussion about what constitutes “dating” while on exchange as part of our orientation sessions, my hand shot up like it was launched out of a cannon.
Like I said, I’m no expert on the topic of Jamming the Clam, but I do happen to be semi-pro when it comes to righteous indignation. I’ll not be misunderstood, by golly, no matter what the fluency of the teens in question.
In fact, I may have had a little moment there, getting all worked up on the subject. People would LISTEN THE HELL UP, there would be the LECTURE to end all lectures on sex, these people didn’t scare me. If I felt like it, there might even be a quiz! I’d use all the slang. There’d be aggressive eye contact. THERE MAY EVEN BE PROPS.
…. Which is how I found myself stationed in front of a dozen dazed teenagers a couple days after they’d arrived in-country at a mountain retreat designed to imbue them with everything anyone ever needed to know about conducting themselves properly during a year-long stint as an exchange student in the US.
I’d thought about this presentation a lot beforehand. What was going to get their attention? What was going to stick? When these students arrive, a fair number of them are fluent enough in English for a conversation like this to be straightforward, but some aren’t. Over time, one begins to recognize that slightly vacant stare and hesitant nod of the student who is only recognizing one word of every three you say.
Not surprisingly, there had been a fair amount of interest from my committee-mates in how I was going to deliver said lecture, since, also not surprisingly, I have a big mouth. This is especially true when I am fed up, which is pretty much my permanent mood these days. I had several people ask about the lecture and guess at the props I might use to get my point across.
Unfortunately, most of them were not able to sit in on the lecture. There was no auditing of the class since everyone had their own, concurrent session to conduct or attend (I may have had a hand in the agenda development).
To be honest, the lead up to my lecture was probably a lot more interesting than the actual lecture. The students just stared at me. I made eye contact with each one. A couple of them nodded. Were they absorbing any of what I said? I couldn’t tell. I was met with so many glassy stares, I could have been preaching to a fish market display.
But I did it. I said what I came to say. Whatever you want call it: the Pants Off Dance Off, the Chesterfield Rugby, Pelvic Pinochle, Riding the Bologna Pony, whatever, just don’t you DARE tell me DATING does not equal SEX (aggressive eye contact, hesitant nod, move on).
The exception in the line of glazed-eyed-display-fish-people was a lone, smart ass American kid who was just hanging out for the weekend biding his time until his departure for his own exchange in Argentina. He snorted and choked while I talked, pulling at his face while I delivered my VERY IMPORTANT MESSAGE about drama and other unintended consequences of Paddling Up Coochie Creek.
I cut him some slack. He’ll likely get some version of the same lecture in rapid-fire Spanish (probably delivered by some potbellied septuagenarian), and that’s going to be as intimidating as whatever I could say. The kid needs to get his giggles out while he can.
Ultimately, I was mostly understood (I think), and all without props. I know this because when I was done everyone bolted from their chairs.
Later we made s’mores around a bonfire under a peaceful mountain sky, and everyone avoided any eye contact whatsoever.
I might take this show on the road.