Why I couldn't have sex with the lights on
As a journalist, I have confronted a Pakistani government official about nuclear proliferation. I've interrogated a leader of the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia about drug trafficking. I've even stared down a member of the Taliban in Afghanistan when he told my escort that I was out of line for speaking too loudly in public.
But for some reason, whenever I've had to talk to someone about matters pertaining to sex, my heart begins to pulsate wildly and I start to giggle involuntarily. Throughout the years, I've profiled swingers, people who practice polyamory, those into kink and countless sex workers. Inevitably though, when asking about specifics, I become that little girl, who at 8 years old was told by my grandmother, "never let a man see you naked — even your husband."
Yes, she really said that. Grannie proceeded to tell me that all of her interactions with her husband, my grandfather, happened in the dark. And that was with her own husband. Sex before marriage was a non-starter. My other grandmother, a devout Christian, had persistent, dire warnings for me: "never commit the sex sin."
Then, in Mrs. Spect's 5th grade class, a permission slip went out to all of the parents for consent to allow their kid to sit through a two-hour sex ed discussion. Every kid in the class came back with a parent's signature except one: me. Incidentally, if my recollection serves me right, I believe I was the only Asian kid in the class as well. Asians as a culture aren't exactly the most communicative bunch, especially when it comes to personal matters. I told my teacher that my dad flatly refused to sign the paper, saying, "Sex ed in 5th grade? No way!"
Mrs. Spect felt compelled to make a personal visit to my home to talk to my father. I recall her telling me that it was the first time she ever went to a student's house. She explained to Dad that the course was more about anatomy than sex. It was important, she said, for kids this age to be aware of their bodies in order to be able to keep themselves safe. Not to mention, she added, that I would be the only kid to have to leave the classroom and go to the library while the course was in progress. Dad reluctantly agreed, but the whole scenario left me feeling pretty ashamed.