Once upon a sex life
When I was a child in my first year at school we lived in a rural area, surrounded by fields and tamed bush. Our only close neighbour lived across the road in a cottage similar to ours, rented, run down, apart from the surrounding community.
My walk to school was through another neighbour’s fields and aolong a short stretch of road. Every school day my three older sisters and I would walk to school through the fields, accompanied by my class mate, the girl from the house opposite us.
In those days, if your birthday occurred some time during the year, you started school that year, and those in years one and two were let out of school a half-hour earlier than the older grades, so I was still four when the neighbour girl and I walked home from school by ourselves. A little over half way home we walked up a small hill and then scrambled down into a deep gully. (The top of the gully was three or four times our height, so it was deep enough for us, though it wouldn’t seem so deep now.) This was the spot where she and I regularly played, out of the sight of parents, or anyone else.
With the hindsight of adulthood, it was inevitable that we would be discovered by onw person or another, wlthough we took some steps to avoid discovery on school days by scrambling up the side of the gully and onto a large rock from where we could see my sisters approaching from quite a distance. Sometimes we were otherwise occupied and didn’t see them until they were almost at the gully, leaving us barely enough time to scramble back down, clothe ourselves and set out to meet them. With equal hindsight, suspicion that we were not playing simple games must have arisen from those occasions when we saw them just before they arrived at the gully. They must have seen us naked and mentioned it because we were down the gully one weekend when the girl’s mother appeared above us.
I like to think that if we merely played naked, little or nothing would have come of it. But we weren’t playing naked. We were kissing (somewhat ineptly, as I remember), masturbating, engaging in oral sex (I particularly enjoyed this, and just looking at that part of her body), and there was frequent genital to genital contact (I do not remember if there was penetration, or attempts at penetration).
Of course we didn’t only engage in sex; we played a whole variety of games, and wandered off across the fields, but sex was a constant until her mother found us, after which I never saw her again. Keeping us away from each other muc\st have been quite a difficult task for her parents, although it became much easier a few weeks later when they moved house, removing any possibility of our seeing each other again.
Perhaps the single most important point to be made out of this memory is that it is a memory of sex, not “sex play”, with a child my own age.
Performing these same activities as an adult, with another adult, is sex, and is never thought to be anything else (except by the most narrow of definitions of sex). And it was sex way back then―I, at least, cannot think of it in any other terms. Just as important is that we, as children, exercised our own agency. I don’t remember who started it, but I do know that we chose to do what we did with each other, and I have no doubt that we would have continued, had we not been so rudely interrupted.
Although her name has long since been lost, I never forgot this relationship. None the less it has taken me fifty-five years to place it in a broader life context where I have better understanding of myself, and of childhood sexuality and how it affects children and adults.
One aspect of this is that I never have doubted that children are sexual beings who willingly engage in a variety of sexual acts with whomever they feel comfortable, this usually being someone their own age, or near their own age. However, the power of cultural belief and teaching is immense, and it is only over recent years that I have come to appreciate that children’s behaviour ranges far beyond this. My grade three teacher (Miss B.) was beautiful, and I wanted to see and touch her in just the same way that I had seen and topuched my neighbour girl and, had the opportunity arisen, I have no doubt that I would have done so, and that I would have enjoyed it immensely. That she was my teacher and much older (in her early twenties!) was irrelevant. That my desires would have been (and probably were) dismissed as a “schoolboy crush” also is irrelevant. To be simplistic: I wanted what I wanted, and when I wanted it.
At the same time, my knowledge of sex―what I could say about it and present as explicit knowledge―was woefully inadequate. There was no sex education, (and what there is now is woefully inadequate and mostly confined to don’t let anyone touch you), little or no access to pornography, and what we “knew” was limited to tall tales and school-yard gossip. Hence, as a child, I would not have said that I had had sex―that was something adults did; what I had enjoyed so much couldn’t have been sex, even if it was.
The common, publicly accepted idea that sex between a child and anyone five or more years older than them holds great sway, especially in English speaking Western societies. Unfortunately, this idea is being broadened gradually to include sex between age peers, and boys (it always is boys―as feminism has taught us, males of any age are predatory beasts whose only desire is the subjection of the poor female) have been arrested and charged with a variety of sexual assault crimes and placed on sexual offenders registers. This has been in the USA primarily, but the idea is beginning to become common in Australia and elsewhere, on the basis that children are so uniquely asexual and innocent that any sexual contact is irretrievably and permanently damaging.
It will come as no surprise that I deny this type of claim. Nothing about my experiences was traumatic. I certainly was not in danger, nor did I fear of my life whilst neighbour girl and I enjoyed our pleasures. But this changed during the coming week when I went over there to talk to her.
Neighbour girl’s father came to the door and I was soundly, at full volume, abused. He had told my parents to keep me away, I was going to die and go to eternal damnation for what I had “done” to his daughter. Unfortunately, I remember far too much of his abusive diatribe which included my parents as unfit, generally nasty and irresponsible, and…
It also will come as no surprise that while he was screaming abuse and (primarily religious) threats at me, I was frightened and believed I was in danger, nor is it surprising that I fled in tears and trembling. Any trauma I experienced was at the hands of neighbour girl’s father. Indeed, the effects of his abuse continue to reverberate throughout my life. But that is the private, non-sexual part of the story.
Copyright © 2016 B.J. Muirhead. All rights reserved