Literary Yard

Search for meaning

By: Stephen Faulkner

            Since it has gained its small share of notoriety over the past few months it has been labeled a “profession” in a sneering sort of manner.  One does not go into such a discipline lightly, seeking only monetary recompense or the simple satiation of the baser drives. Money should mean nothing to the practitioner. Any amount of money received for such services would have an evil feel to it as if it had been come by illicitly. As for the other – satiation – it is only one of the many fringe benefits that a serious practitioner associates with his or her work in this field. The overwhelming feeling upon completion of an assignment should stem from the knowledge that one young person has been set on the right road and will grow up with but a modicum of problems in that area of growth with which the practitioner deals. To meet one of his protégés later on in that person’s young life, happy and grateful – then the practitioner’s fulfillment in such knowledge that he has been of inestimable assistance will be complete.

            In the town in which I reside, Fire Oaks, Oregon, the resolution was passed some years ago to allow the subject of sex education to be taught in our town’s schools. Fire Oaks began only a quarter of a century ago as an artist’s colony, deriving its name from the wide expanse of burned ground – due to the bad chance of heat lightning striking at the water starved trees and thereby resulting in a catastrophic forest fire – on which its first buildings were erected. In such a liberal atmosphere such as this in which artists, writers and philosophical theoreticians can build about themselves an environment which has been unsullied by the lure of tourism, the phrase “sex education” received a large amount of discussion which ultimately led to a rather drastic redefinition of the term. Sex education, to this community, meant not only teaching our children about the mechanics of reproduction, though that certainly was to be a part of it, but also included a practical guide on how-to and when-to. What better way is there to teach such rudiments of sexual endeavor than by example and through the tutored personal experience of the pupils themselves?

            “But at what age should this form of education commence?” queried one of our erudite English teachers. Who else but one ensconced in the study of the workings of our language would use the word “commence” where anyone else would have settled for “start” or “begin”? The point was well taken, though and I, being the principal of our rather anemically populated high school, attempted an answer.

            “Courses shall be made available,” I said. “From about the fifth or sixth grade onward concerning the biological aspects of human reproduction. These courses will focus on slideshows and other audio-visual media but practical instruction should begin, I should say, no later than a student’s first or second year in high school as long as he or she has parental approval to do so. And this is also assuming that we are all agreed that that is generally the time when a child’s curiosity concerning the opposite sex becomes evident.”

            There were nods of assent and approval from the small audience. All seemed to be in agreement on that particular point.

            “And with that curiosity,” I continued. “Comes the lurid stories born of supposition and tittering wonder and, hence arise the misconceptions.”

            There was another mild hum of agreement.

            “So,” piped a man in the audience, a sculptor named Barneslow. “What we will be attempting to do will be to squelch the dirty rumors before they have a chance to begin. Is that right?”

            “Correct, sir. And along with those ‘dirty’ rumors will go that overlying feeling of dirtiness and guilt that accompanies the performance of what should essentially be an act of love.”

            “Contraception will be taught and advocated as well, I suppose,” came a high, squeaking voice from the back of the room which could not be accurately pinpointed.

            “Most assuredly,” said Mister Homberson, the Director of the town’s two school educational system. “And our druggist, Mister Combroczyk, has assured me that his supplies of prophylactics will be kept well stocked along with the spermicidal creams, gels, foams and the like. And I have no doubt, either, that our town’s resident gynecologist will likewise beef up their stores of diaphragms, IUDs and, for those women who can stomach them without too much ill effect, birth control pills.”

            The town sortie of words went back and forth throughout the length of the entire evening. There is no need to transcribe here all of the proceedings as they occurred. Suffice it to say that a week later, based on the town discussion, a resolution was drafted and voted into being by a margin of approximately 85% pro, 11% con and 4% undecided or who did not show up to cast a ballot.        

Once the resolution was drafted and so overwhelmingly accepted there remained only the rather minimal problem – or so it seemed at the time – of setting the workings of the thing into motion. I, being in a position of some authority, was added to a list of citizens who were to be the Fire Oaks Town Committee for Sex Education Practitioner Appointments (FOTCSEPA). Noel Homberson, Carey Dorsler, Doctors Emil Brauler and Benjamin Mendel as well as Vladio Combroczyk were also on the proposed list. All of us listed and later instituted were those who would be at least indirectly involved with the lives and minds of those young persons which such a program would directly affect.  Noel Homberson was the Director of the Fire Oaks School System, as I have previously noted. Mrs. Dorsler was the principal of the Fire Oaks elementary school and I of the William Faulkner Memorial High School. Doctor Brauler was Fire Oaks’ only gynecologist and a key spokesman in our state on the causes and dangers of the known varieties of venereal disease. Doctor Mendel, a noted psychiatrist, gained his piece of fame for his work with rapists and sexual deviants in the State Hospital in Portland. Mister Combroczyx has already been identified, his rather indirect role as purveyor of contraceptive articles to those over the age of thirteen – the age set in the original resolution – was rather explicitly outlined. At least now, he told me when the results of the vote on the resolution had been tabulated, he would no longer have to demand proof of age from youngsters wishing to by rubbers now that the age limit had been dropped so low.

            So, there we were, a mere half dozen of us and we certainly had our work cut out for us. We would have to screen out the pedophiles from those whose main goal in applying for a position as a practitioner was, simply, to tutor the student on how to bring pleasure to his or her sexual partner while deriving at least as much gratification for him or herself. The practitioner – it was the only non-suggestive title we could come up with at the time – would first have to stand – or sit, as the case warranted – naked with the pupil while explaining the erogenous zones of both the male and the female bodies by pointing, touching and with practical demonstrations consisting largely of caresses to those areas of the student’s body while inviting the student’s similar caresses to the practitioner’s own in order to allay the adolescent’s fear of hurting or being hurt in this intimate process of learning. The human body can take a great amount of pain, it is known, especially when the promised outcome is to be a pleasurable one. The foreplay segment of this final intensive lesson is extremely important in the case of a young woman for, as Doctor Mendel has said, “Women, in America, are usually so unsure and unaware of their own bodies that a great percentage of them go through life never achieving an orgasm or even knowing what it is.” The gross generalization of this remark has since been noted and an official statement of definition had to be quickly developed in committee for in-house publication.

            The final objective of the male practitioner, it was conceded, would be to coax his female protégé to climax and to instill in her enough need and desire for orgasm so that she would demand as much from whatever lover(s) she might take through the course of her life. The female practitioner’s job would mainly be to familiarize the young male with the erogenous zones of the female body (clitoris, labia, breasts, etc.) and the means by which those areas could be stimulated and bring about excitation and climax in his lover.

            For the first few weeks of screening, needless to say, the majority of our applicants were male. There were twenty of them of which only four were accepted. Only one female applicant submitted her services for our approval. Her name was Rachel Kershaw and she was the head of the Biology Department at Faulkner Memorial. “An example should be set,” said the attractive, thirtyish widow in way of explanation for application to our program. “I mean, there’s nothing dirty about this, is there?”

            “Of course not,” said Doctor Mendel l jovially. “Bravo for you, dear woman. Now perhaps you could persuade some of your subordinates to make a similar offer of their services to our cause, eh?.”

            “Persuade?” She seemed genuinely perplexed by the suggestion. “But Doctor, I can’t order my teachers to….”

            “No, no, not order,” he cut her off kindly. “You said it yourself just a moment ago – persuade. And perhaps we could add an incentive…. Maybe a raise in pay to those who fill out an application and would be willing to serve in the program if chosen. I am sure Mister Homberson would agree to such an arrangement, wouldn’t you, Mister Director?”

            “Sounds good,” said Homberson in a considering tone. “And I’m sure that almost all of the applicant’s from Mrs. Dorsey’s department will be accepted by this committee. So far all we’ve gotten with only a few exceptions, have been a lot of recent college grads with little education experience at all. Most won’t last a month before they’ll get tired of the novelty of the thing or they decide to get married and settle down and be done with this kind of sanctioned promiscuity.”

            “I don’t think we’ll put that particular phrase in any of our promotional literature,” I said and drew a spate of polite laughter.

            “I’ll offer my teachers whatever incentives the School Board deems appropriate,” Ms. Dorsey announced, apparently intrigued by the simplicity of this approach. “For both male and female practitioners. We should get an ample response this way and from much more responsible people, I’m sure.”

            Everyone nodded and a vote was taken to rescind the standing offer of applications for anyone who wished to fill one out. It passed, five to one and so it was decided: applications for practitionerships were no longer open to the general public.

            “So,” I said with a chuckle at the turn of events. “Now it’s all a case for the Ed-System alone.”

            “Hasn’t it really always been that way?” said Combrowycz the druggist. His son, a college graduate, had had his application rejected for the same reasons that the Director had voiced just moments earlier. “Isn’t it always the same? Always up to the big wigs and always them that gets the pie?”


            Looking back on the beginnings of the newly revised sex-ed program now that it has been in effect for a little more than seven years, I find it comforting to know that it has been so successful. All the children enrolled in the program were tutored in the nature, reasons and practical applications of sex and, as was predicted, such intensive practical and demonstrative instruction helped to dispel in each student most, if not all, of the misconceptions and suppositions that naturally get circulated among adolescent peers about the act of sexual intercourse and the sexual make-up of the opposite sex. Such instruction would help to quash any germ of further misinformation or resultant emotional trauma that might arise from such misunderstandings if they were allowed to continue to thrive and flourish unchecked.

            The “graduates” of that first year of our experimental and much more limited program than we have today are now approaching or past their respective twenty-first birthdays. There were only fifteen of them, then; five were male, ten female. Several are now married, one of which is presently seeking annulment. It seems that her groom was not a recipient of the advantages that our program offered. He was too old to apply for enrollment in that first year, being eighteen at the time. His idea of sex was a selfish one, seeing the vagina solely as a masturbatory device for his pleasure alone. After all, she was his woman, wasn’t she? But when his enlightened bride questioned him about and then demanded foreplay as he was just attempting to lay wide her bare thighs for his penetration, he balked and then bellowed angrily at her suggestion, bringing the honeymoon to a swift and dramatic halt. The petition for annulment, tendered on grounds of non-consummation, is presently being reviewed by the Marriage License Bureau of the County Clerk’s office. I have signed the petition along with the rest of TCSEPA, all of us with the clearest of consciences in doing do.

            Since that first year, however, enrollment in the program has grown tremendously so that today practically every child in Fire Oaks in his or her second year of high school will be subjected to the three day long “intensive” with a trained private practitioner after which a mandatory, monthly meeting with a psychiatrist will be set up for each student for a year in order that they should not lose sight of the reason for the practices which they had so newly mastered. Love, the psychiatrist stresses, is not a word to be taken or used lightly and though there had been little or no real love between student and practitioner during that, the student’s first sexual encounter, the intensive tutorial was designed to instruct one in how to make the loved one feel loved by the use of intimate touch and physical affection and for the student not to be afraid of hurting or being hurt during sexual play and penetration for that – being hurt – the doctor points out, is a danger in any human dealings, whether love is involved or not. Demand your pleasure, the therapists tell their charges, for it is your right but also be willing to give as much as you can in return. That is what the intensive was designed to do: to show how to give.

            And so the “graduates” know what they want and they seek it whether it be love or just sexual satisfaction. The young men will have their first taste – pun intended – of sex and so the myths are broken. The mystery lies not in the act but in the person with whom the act is performed. There will no longer be the question, “How do you look without your clothes on?” but rather, “Who are you? I want to get to know you.”

            The young women, then, knowing the pain and pleasure of lost virginity will then have first-hand experience with the sight and feel of an erected penis and will not stare in terror as a naked lover comes near showing her his expectations in quite certain and physical terms. The young woman will be ready for that man. Rather than fear the unknown pain there will be only calm expectation as she holds out her arms lovingly, ready for the lover’s embrace, for the tender caress and the warmth of fulfilled desires.


            Over the past seven years that the program has been in practice in Fire Oaks we of the Sex-Ed Appointment Committee have been joyous at the success and popularity of the practitioner method of sex-ed instruction among the parents as well as the students themselves. We had, however, lost sight of what was bound to become the inevitable: our pride in our new-found sexual liberation for the young would soon find an outlet with individuals who would be far from congenial to the practiced ideals that we had set for ourselves as worded in the original resolution.

            It began innocently enough.

            Several of our former graduates came of college age and sought and received acceptance to out-of-town and out-of-state schools. One such student entered her freshman year at UCLA. She was the first of such pupils to leave Fire Oaks since the advent our revolutionary new approach to sex education and, along with the usual parental consternation and bereavement at such a parting there was also, within the committee, the unspoken dread that our liberal means of instruction on the baser instincts of the human animal might not find approval outside the confines of our rather sequestered township. But when worry about our views and practices being accepted concern a city such as Los Angeles where morals and inane banter about ideas and virtue get engulfed and stirred around in a stew of so many divergent and ungainly truths, notions and beliefs, worry becomes superfluous. So, when the young lady returned for the winter holidays with news no worse than a 3.2 grade point average for that semester, we were all duly relieved and spent no more time on what seemed to be an unwarranted concern.

            We were foolish in this attitude, though, for not every college-bound student goes to UCLA or Berkeley or the University of Chicago or NYU or similar big city establishments where professors and students alike condone any action or ideas so as it does no harm. In such places the only consideration is to academic excellence. So long as your grades are at least adequately maintained you may preach any form of religion or unpopular dissent that you wish. But when you attend Oregon State University in Corvallis, however, and you’re your class and soulmate happens to be the daughter of that town’s mayor and she is known to be the sort of person who is easily “grossed out,” you do not expound on the relevance of sex education in the how-to mode as practiced in Fire Oaks. That was exactly what one young man, in the fervor of describing his first sexual encounter to this easily disgusted debutante, unthinkingly did.

            “But how could a person do such a thing?” she asked after finally coming to a full understanding of the practitioner’s role. “I mean, it seems so damned cheap, letting a kid take advantage of you that way….”

            “The advantage isn’t taken,” explained the young man, rather bemused at his girlfriend’s fearful disbelief. “The advantage, as you call it, is freely given and is, in fact, an integral part of the….”

            “But the girls,” twitted the mayor’s daughter. “Letting themselves be taken by some dirty old man….”

            “Practitioners are not dirty old men,” the fellow interrupted haughtily. “They are teachers, people who the students look up to with respect for their – ahm – extracurricular  work. For a young girl having sex for the first time with a man whom she respects and admires would be quite a thrill for her, I should imagine.”

            “Well, then,” said the fellow’s snobbish date, not wishing to hear any more about the matter. “I must say that I don’t think that I very much care for the school system your town has there.”  Neither did her father when she brought the matter to his attention.

            Word got around and then the worst came in a greater torrent than any of us on the committee ever expected. There were statements, addresses and proclamations made from podiums, desk-tops and makeshift bully pulpits. Letters and postcards – all being of the grossly judgmental variety – were sent to the State Capitol in Eugene as well as to the Fire Oaks Town
Hall where the committee met in order to pore over the deluge of negative publicity and sulk.

            The newspapers, of course, were swift in giving space to the breaking story in a most generous display of ink and pejorative rhetoric.


            “FIRE OAKS TEEN ORGY….”


            “…TO THE TUNE OF ‘PUPPY LOVE’….”

            An official note from the office of the Governor arrived at our offices this morning. In essence it said that an official statement from the committee would do much to help quell these nasty rumors that are so rapidly spreading and that we should please say that all this was not so.

            We had no reply to make.


            “Could you repeat that again, please,” I said. “I don’t believe I understood your question.”

            “I said,” said the reporter from The Oregonian instantly. “Do you actually believe that this travesty of a program that you and your cohorts have instituted has any real moral justification whatsoever?”

            I stood at the podium gazing across the house lit auditorium at the faces of journalists whose job it was to bring the objective truth to the public via paper, radio and television. Tell me, they were saying, what can we get from you that will give us a long-reaching story that will keep the public buying our newspapers and magazines and turning tour stations for the latest reports?

            “Moral justification?” I repeated the woman’s last words nasally. “Is there any moral justification in hiding the truth from our children, in forcing them to find out about sex for themselves? We do that, you know, by making it a crime for the young to know how to go about making the person either he or she loves to feel pleasure in what should be the act of love. We have done that by making it illegal for minors to purchase contraceptives which are in great supply  and barring them from seeing the act of love depicted, however erroneously, on the screen or from reading about it books and magazines. They do anyway, you know.  Adolescents are geniuses in getting around that sort of thing but because of laws and parental authority they are forced to be surreptitious about their natural curiosity about their bodies and their hunger for sex. Sneakiness breeds the notion that that which one is being sneaky about must be dirty. We even have dirty names for our genitalia. A penis has become either a cock, a prick, a wang or a dick among other things while a vagina has taken on the words cunt, pussy, beaver and slit, to name but a few.  Tits, boobs, knockers and hooters are in equally common usage when speaking of a woman’s breasts. We hear little of love making or sexual intercourse but instead of fucking, screwing, shtupping and burying the baloney. Snickers and blushes are common among young boys as they speak of copping feels and finger fucking in the back seats of cars or of beating meat and jacking off until they get their rocks off or shoot their wad. They don’t have orgasms any more, have you noticed? No more sperm but cum, spooj and jizzum all over the place. Dirty business, this sex. You’ve got to hide it from the kids. But they know all about it and take it in the same light as do their parents, as a base, animalistic thing that isn’t spoken about except in slang terms that reduce it all to filth.”

            And your program does away with all that?” came the sarcastic reply.

            “Perhaps,” I said. “I do know that about a year after the program was begun I noticed the use of swear words was quickly being replaced by more acceptable adjectives although ‘damn’ and ‘shit’ do crop up fairly often as expletives. I suppose that should have been expected, though.”

            “Perhaps your angelic charges are still using more vulgar forms of expression in private as before,” pointed out another reporter, drawing a smattering of titters from the rest of the audience.

            “I don’ think so,” I countered coolly. “You see, at the very beginning of the sex-ed program – when children are only in the sixth grade – they are questioned as to the words they have learned that describe their various ‘private parts.’ You would be astounded to learn the extent of the slang vocabulary that such young, seemingly innocent children have obtained by such an early age and we are speaking not of teenagers here but of eleven and twelve-year-olds. Then, having heard this marvelous array of nouns, verbs and such that the children use in association with the genitals and the variety of sexual activity, the teachers ask them why they don’t use the proper words for the primary and secondary sexual characteristics and the acts of love. They are silent, then, ladies and gentlemen, when they learn of the words penis, vagina, breasts, buttocks, anus and testicles. They have never or, at least only seldom, heard of these words before because their parents were too ashamed to mention them in their presence. And so they had to gain what little knowledge they could from other children who were equally as misinformed as they. They looked to their teachers in awe, then, ladies and gentlemen of the press, when they were told that there were words for the actions associated with sex as well, words like intercourse, fellatio, cunnilingus, masturbation and sodomy, Now, I tell you truthfully that we hear little of fucking, blow jobs and the like from the youngsters in Fire Oaks and only a small amount of these acts’ proper classifications. Why? Because they know all about it; they have done it and actually do it, I am sure, all with a clear conscience. It is all out of that closet full of mysteries where we have kept hidden all our guilt and disgust with our animal natures for so long. We tell our children that it is beautiful and right so long as there is love or at least great affection involved in these endeavors. And that is all, really, that needs to be said on the matter.”

            I got no applause for my little diatribe nor did I receive the stony silence that I had expected. A disquieting murmuring buzz hummed through the small auditorium as I fielded a final question from a man from the Los Angeles Times. He had a pasty, ill-defined face and wore thick lensed, black framed glassed.

            “Your point is well taken, sir,” he said, raising a stubby pencil to his rag edged note pad. “But tell me, save for the reduction in the feeling among the youth of Fire Oaks of sex being, as you put it, a dirty business, what concrete advantages does a program such as yours hold in store for, say, some other community considering instituting something similar?”

            I attempted to remain as close to the point and not digress too far as I explained, “Before our program was begun seven years ago Fire Oaks was experiencing an incredible wave of illegitimate births. This was one of the main factors that led to the town meeting that resulted in the drafting of the resolution to begin such a program as this one. Young, unwed mothers trundled down practically every street in town during their later months of pregnancy. All of them seemed, at the time, to wish to give birth to and keep their illegitimate sons and daughters but, due to economic and/or parental pressure…. Well, let me just say that our only orphanage was, at that time, full to overflowing. Today there are cribs and beds to spare. The illegitimate birth rate has dropped precipitously in these past seven years and….”

            “Due to your program’s stress on birth control, no doubt.”

            “Yes,” I said and that was my final answer to the gentleman from the L.A. Times. “Any more questions on the ‘concrete advantages’ of our program? I really can give you no better than I already have. The main advantage, as I see it, is the absence of guilt, fear and disgust which is so uncompromisingly associated with sex among the young and if it takes an experienced older person to show a child that there is nothing to fear or feel guilty about in the human body and in the act by demonstrating with the child the pleasure of the act…. Well, what harm has been done?”

            “What harm, indeed?” muttered a middle aged woman from the Denver Post in the front row. Her comment was delivered softly and dryly without emotion or any real inflection. A condonement or a condemnation, I could not tell but I nodded and shrugged in her direction in recognition. She perked up noticeably and sat up straighter in her seat than she had been and smiled primly back at me. I winked slyly at her, eliciting from her a curt nod, an even wider smile as she raised her hand, thumb and index finger meeting defining a circle as she returned my wink.

            That was all that I needed, that all of us on the Sex-Ed Committee needed at that moment even though the paper from Colorado did not possess the really big guns with which to shoot our program down if they so chose. But all this was only a beginning of sorts and the woman and I shared glances and little waves in an impromptu private sign language in a curious stage-to-audience, audience-to-stage tete-á-tete of sight as the press conference lumbered slowly along without us.

            “Over there,” I heard Director Homberson say as he pointed out a person in the audience. “The gentleman from the Phoenix Gazette, there near the aisle. A question, sir…? Yes?”

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