There by the check-out line in the local King Soopers was a Cosmopolitan Magazine with the big white words on the lavender cover, “Find your erogenous zones.” Well, it was the 70s and love was free, “Strangers in the Night,” kind of thing. It was kind of a kinky King Soopers (Kroger) in what my boyfriend, Peter, called the “gay ghetto of Denver.” It was such an interesting King Soopers that LONG before I knew Peter, friends and I would hang out there to “watch the freak show,” which is to say, some pretty outrageously decked out transvestites on a Saturday night.

Erogenous zones and similar libidinous mapping were a big deal back then. It’s fun to watch movies from those times. My favorite is Shampoo with Julie Christie and Warren Beatty, but Woody Allen’s, Everything You Ever Wanted to Know About Sex but Were Afraid to Ask is a hilarious send up of that histrionic I mean historical moment.

The “sexual revolution” coincided with the Women’s Liberation Movement. Magaziines carried articles explaining that sex was something that women could enjoy TOO and that’s where the erogenous zones came (ha ha) in. I guess someone had to teach the men, but first someone had to teach the women.

I don’t know how it was for my peers reading this blog, but in my case it all started at age 9 (terrified my mom). The moment was met by a lot of stuff but no fanfare or congratulations as happens today. Ultimately, my mom handed me a little book from Metropolitan Life called “Your First Period.” She sent me to my room to read it saying, “Don’t come out until you’ve read it.” I read it. It was some bland anatomical graphics in the favorite colors of 1961 — turquoise and tangerine, maybe? It explained how babies were made but said nothing about sex. For my mom, that was all I needed to know EVER. She was a typically repressed WASP woman about this stuff. My dad was afraid I’d grow up like that and put his OWN book on the subject lower on his bookshelf a few years later when he decided I was old enough to care. He inscribed the book in his barely legible MS hand, “I pray you never need it, but if you do this book will help you. Don’t be afraid to talk to your beloved…” and some other lovely words that I don’t remember. It was a very dry, very detailed, textbook-like volume on, yes, you guessed it…erogenous zones. The key (as my dad clearly understood) was “…talking to your beloved.” Even Cosmo got that.

My friends were similarly clueless. I remember walking to high school with my best friend at the time. She had a date with a zoomie (Air Force Academy Cadet) and she was worried they would kiss and stuff. “What’s a French kiss, Martha?” she asked me.

“Well, you put your lips together, and then you stick your tongues in each others mouths.”


“No, it’s nice.”

“But HOW?” So I demonstrated by making a “mouth” (circle) with my thumb and forefinger and “kissing” it.

“No way I’m doing that.”

Yeah, right. She clearly didn’t know about erogenous zones.

I guess I ultimately figured this out in the way of animal species throughout time. HIV-AIDS put the kibosh on free love and sexual liberation. My international students sang a grim little melody in the early 90s, “Strangers in the night; AIDS in the morning.” I’ve never thought about this until now, but that DID bring the erogenous zones down from the supermarket checkout line.

Tigers. It can happen that in the moment of coitus a male tiger can (accidentally) kill his mate. Some species of anglerfish females absorb (permanently) their mate’s body into theirs. Sandhill Cranes have to go off alone in couples to do the wild thing and hatch their eggs. We all know about black widows and mantids. Many animals have a one off with a mate they never see again, the females go have the cubs and once the young are born, their father is a big danger to their future lives. The coot kills most of its young and raises only one or two. Many animals only “nurture” their young so long and then it’s “Sorry, Sweet Cheeks, I know you’re young and vulnerable, but I’m done.” The whole “mate for life” thing that people get sappy about is often more about the nest than about the mate.

It’s a jungle out there.

P.S. Cosmo is still writing on the topic of erogenous zones. As I “Googled” looking for a good cover photo, I found a recent article… Well, at 69 I’m sticking with my early assessment. Sex is weird. Good, but weird. I’m not speaking for myself in particular but all the time I’ve spent watching animals and learning about their sex lives…

17 thoughts on “TMI

  1. My “education” from my parents (such as it was) came from my mom after I asked what a certain F word meant. It was written on the bathroom stall, and my first-grade self had never heard it. Somehow I knew it was a “bad” word.

    • I never never never dared say that word around my mom. I guess my dad did once… That led to my philosophy of words. No word is a bad word. There are bad people.

  2. Our mothers had similar (and equally unhelpful) approaches to teaching about sex.

    I do remember a book I got for myself at age 18 (and newly married) called Our Bodies, Ourselves. Much more helpful.

    Divorced at 20 (1977) I was ready to expand my horizons, but by then STDs and AIDS but a crimp in that 60’s carefree attitude and one became, of necessity, quite selective and always a little afraid of catching something.

    • Our Bodies Ourselves caused quite a sensation as did Everything You Always Wanted to Know About Sex but Were Afraid to Ask (if I got that title right). Herpes seems to have been (in my memory) the first real damper on the wild and crazy years. I got divorced in 1977, too, age 25.

  3. The sex book my mother handed to me started out, “Listen, Violet, I am going to tell you a wonderful story, and it’s all about the birds and the bees.” I am hoping it was a joke as I was 16 at the time.

    • Oh my that’s hilarious. My mom was a notch up from that, I guess. About the time my dad moved the sex book down to my reach, all his Henry Miller novels showed up beside it… I didn’t read them then.

      • I absolutely cannot remember how I found out the facts of life. I do know I was eleven and it was a complete shocker. When I ran over to tell my friend Lynnie, she said, “Oh, I figured that out a long time ago,” but I think she was lying. Surely she would have told me if she’d known! It must have been my 4 year older sister, but I can’t remember exactly when and how.

        • My mom’s little book showed me how babies were made and what menstruation was all about but the actual stuff happening between men and women? It just happened in a series of steps. I held Rex Bennett’s hand, somebody kissed me, I can say it was one of the most fulfilling training periods of my life. Then, at 18, I learned about the pain part when someone breaks your heart. 😀

  4. I never had a single thing explained by my father, my mother, my health teacher or my peers. Had to figure it out my self by shoplifting “The Sensual Man” by M. NObody was going to sell that to a kid.

    Porn wasn’t available anywhere and the only instructional literature I was allowed was “God Speaks Out on the New Morality” by Herbert W Armstrong. You may have heard of him.

    Mail ordering “The Joy of Sex” when I was a teenager was a major coup. (It was my job to collect the mail every day after school.) In my neck of the woods nobody would sell such a thing. It had dirty pictures!

    • I forgot all about health class! I remember when the boys on bikes were 13 and had the sex lesson in their health class. They were freaked out about HIV and STDS. I ended up having “the talk” with four rough kids and we reached the conclusion together that the best thing was to keep it covered. ❤

  5. I never had the talk with my mother. Yucky. We were both uncomfortable. Funnily enough, my eldest son refused the conversation too despite my desire not to be like my mother. I remember asking my mother when I was about 9 whether babies came out the bum (I’m not sure whether bum means the same thing in America?). She never corrected me so for a few years I thought you could poo babies out. Also, when I was young we visited my grandmother. Her son lived there from time to time. I slept in his room and read a book in his drawer. It must have been one of those novels that came in a brown paper bag … I couldn’t put that book down! First time I’ve ever told that story, Martha. 🙂

  6. I can relate completely. I had no brothers and there was absolutely no point of reference. I got the talk in a special health class in 5th grade… We were each given a booklet that went through the menstruation cycle complete with very clinical drawings. The one of the egg being fertilized by the sperm begged the question of where the sperm came from and how and where they met up. Of course that question in class was very frowned upon (and at least it wasn’t me who asked)! It wasn’t until I was in college and taking a vet med class on artificial insemination that the truth was made apparent! It was one of those light bulb moments. Then when I was getting ready to get married (the next day), my mother decided to give me a talk. It was very uncomfortable for her…. When the boys were very young Sparky bought a book to explain it all to them. I was flipping through and there was an illustration that perplexed me – it was a cross-section of coitus and how everything fits together. I’d never seen such a thing and it would have clarified so much if I’d seen it when I was 12!

    • I remember walking to school with the same friend to whom I explained French kissing telling her that people took off their clothes to have sex. She was concerned about how the penis would get through the two layers of pajamas. :O

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