Coco and the Mango
Diving back into the Sexual Autobiography, coming-of-age stories, and how to write your own
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I have an entire human being dancing inside my uterus. People have started saying things like, “You’re ready to pop!” This is not my favorite thing to imagine as a super pregnant lady, but it is true that my belly is huge and it appears to have no more room to grow. Miraculously it just keeps on getting bigger and perhaps will continue for a few more weeks. This piece that I’m sharing will be the last one from my Sexual Autobiography project for a while and I’d like to set you up to go on your own journey of exploration, should you choose. Be bold, be brave!
Let’s celebrate these sensual bodies, these curious minds, these lives full of possibility. I hope these snap shots of my life inspire you to study yourself and explore your own stories, without judgment. We hold so much in our bodies, in our posture, in the way we’ve learned to move through the world. This is a call to dive beneath our mundane habitual patterns and see what experiences have shaped each expression of human sexuality.
Not many of us got permission or encouragement to look at our lives through the lens of sexuality and question what we believe, how we behave, and why. This is an invitation for exploration and reflection so that we can know ourselves better and show up more fully for our lives and the lives of our children.
Below you’ll find some of my coming-of-age stories, mostly written when I was 19, and an example of the original assignment from college, a bunch of questions to inspire you to explore your sexual evolution through time. After this, I imagine in the next month I will go into a deep dive of birth and postpartum stories and we’ll continue to investigate the secret life of motherhood together. Don’t worry it will be fun! Or at least funny...
“Over time, it has become clear to me that the problem with sex in the West is essentially a problem with pleasure; not just sexual pleasure, but any kind of pleasure. Although the West is the world’s largest pleasure industry, pleasure is bad. Why? Because it is dangerous, or has been thought to be for a long time . . . Given these authoritative negative constructs of a universal human activity, it is no wonder that the Western world has been ashamed to have a body, much less to enjoy it.”
-Getting The Love You Want, Harville Hendrix, 1988
*These stories were mostly written when I was 19 and have been slightly edited. All names have been changed.
Birds and Bees
Right after getting my period for the first time, I also got my first boyfriend, Sam. We met at a friends’ house, where we stayed up all night flirting, having pillow fights and wrestling. I loved him instantly. I remember laying on his chest and feeling his heart beat. It was months before we kissed for the first time at his family farm, in his parents’ room, after I held my first chicken.
My girlfriends and I used to read dumb sexy magazines like Cosmo, to learn about sex and how to be a woman. One of these magazines warned us that sperm could pass through clothing and that we could not be too careful. I was terrified. Sam and I had wrestled, with all our clothes on, and my period was late. It seemed absolutely plausible that his sperm could have traveled through his underwear and pants, through my pants and underwear, up to my egg, and fertilized it.
I was definitely pregnant. I did the responsible thing. I called Sam and we discussed parenthood. My mom was traveling at the time, she traveled a lot, so I told my dad that I needed to go to the doctor and I could not tell him why. He said, “Ok,” and we went. The doctor asked about my sexual activity and I explained that I still felt that sex was very gross, and told her what I had read in the magazine. She laughed, took a urine sample, and asked a lot of questions about anorexia. As you may have guessed, the pregnancy test came back positive.
When Instant Messenger came out while I was in middle school, boys started to say much stranger things. Somehow the freedom of typing something and not being face to face allowed people, especially horny pubescent boys, to get even weirder. For those of you who don’t remember, this was the first way of communicating online by typing back and forth in these little boxes that popped up. I remember one boy asking me what it felt like to have big boobs. In response I asked him what it felt like to have a tiny penis. Another boy told me that he wanted to “eat me out.” I don’t think I fully understood what this meant but I knew that I didn’t want his penis in my mouth and that in all fairness, one probably comes with the other. Also we’d never kissed and I’d assumed kissing would be a precursor to any mouth-to-privates activities.
Behind the Curtain
My first job was at a video store. I was the only girl who worked there. I was fifteen, in high school, and a virgin. The guys who worked there were tattooed, pierced, and also worked as bouncers at bars in the city. Our video store had the largest porn selection in the county. The older guys I worked with thought it was hilarious to have me put the pornos back, since I was not yet old enough to go behind the black curtain in the back. I remember being a little bit terrified, and embarrassed because there were so many gross pictures, and older men browsing. Sometimes my friend’s fathers were back there.
I remember there was a whole series called “Fuck My Wife Please.” I thought it was strangely polite to have the “Please” at the end. As popular mainstream videos came out, their porn versions would follow. For example when the Da Vinci Code came out, the porn version “The Da Vinci Load” was next. The subtitle was “The Truth Always Cums Out.”
Sometimes men would bring back the porno discs and the covers were wet or sticky. This really freaked me out. They never made eye contact with me, when they returned these videos. They probably wished one of the men would come take the disc instead of a girl who was young enough to be their daughter.
In middle school I remember being at a girlfriend’s house with a bunch of people. My friend lived in an apartment complex and there was a pool, which I thought was awesome. She gathered all of us up and announced that she was going to give this boy a blow job, so we needed to go out to the pool and wait a while for her to get the job done. They weren’t even dating and they’d never kissed. She was the first girl in school, that we knew of, to do this and I think that was the main motivation.
I was terrified of having a penis in my mouth. I didn’t even want a tongue in my mouth. Physically I developed very early but it took a long time for me to come to terms with all the ins and outs of intimacy. I couldn’t wrap my mind around all the fluids and stickiness, or strange sounds I imagined were involved, like slugs slurping over each other.
I remember being out at the pool with all these kids, feeling scared and nervous for our friend. Would she get a disease? Would she get pregnant? Would they be boyfriend and girlfriend after? Would they kiss first? What if his penis went too far back, would she puke?
Then blow jobs went rampant! All the girls wanted to be the next one to be known to have done that, except me of course. There was a school dance coming up and all the cool kids told me that one of the cool boys had a crush on me and wanted to kiss me at the dance. He spiked the front of his hair up with gel and had braces. I also had braces and was afraid that if we kissed our braces would stick together and we’d have to go to the emergency room to be separated! I was also afraid that if we kissed he’d expect a blow job and I knew I did not want a penis in my mouth. I spent the whole dance avoiding this boy, while a couple girls gave some other boys blow jobs in the bathrooms. Then they bragged about what they had done, word got out and teachers found out so there was a big announcement sent out to all our parents about too much sexy stuff at school dances. I’m sure my parents were very worried since I seemed like the kind of girl that would be into that kind of thing, with my big boobs and a sensual nature. Little did they know I was still terrified of penis.’
For a long time I was curious about sex from afar. Partly I thought it was gross and I was such a sensitive kid that I couldn’t quite wrap my head around the sensuality of putting two bodies together. I remember sitting with a girlfriend one day, eating a mango, just taking bites around the pit. It was juicy, messy, and delicious. I remember getting so intoxicated by the sensuality of my face in the mango, that I started laughing and had to turn away for a private moment, just me and the mango. I realized that I was a little embarrassed to have my friend see me so completely enjoying this sumptuous fruit.
“We have been raised to fear the yes within ourselves, our deepest cravings. . . The fear of our desires keeps them suspect and indiscriminately powerful, for to suppress any truth is to give it strength beyond endurance.”
-Uses of The Erotic as Power, Audre Lorde, 1978
My first sex education class was in fifth grade. My best girlfriend at the time had a note from her mom excusing her from being there and I wondered why. The teacher told us about STD’s and the terrors of pregnancy. Then she put on a video with graphic close-ups of genitals with warts, blisters, and strange deformations. The take-away was sex is dangerous, pregnancy is painful and scary, and anyone who touches a penis or vagina will immediately be diseased and impregnated. This was the sex education at an elementary school in Marin County, California, one of the wealthiest parts of the U.S. with a very progressive demographic.
Also it was taught as part of the DARE program, so sex was lumped in with drugs, bullying, abuse and all the other bad things we were not supposed to do. We learned about drug over-doses in conjunction with sexually transmitted diseases and pregnancy, as if these were all related problems that every elementary school kid must know to fear as one big package of evil.
There was no talk whatsoever of healthy reproduction or why people like having sex so much in the first place. No discussion of pleasure, where the clitoris or g-spot are, how to keep one’s penis and prostate healthy or how to take care of a vagina. There wasn’t even any mention of masturbation or orgasm at all or potential positive outcomes of sexuality or pregnancy. Isn’t that how we all got here?
We did not discuss consensuality or how to be assertive, confident, and clear about what feels good for you and what doesn’t. Rape was mentioned but only in a way to conjure fear and not as a way to learn about how to take care of ourselves and be safe. Now I understand why my friend’s mom did not want her to learn about sex in this way. She was a goddess worshiper and taught her daughter about pleasure and how to take care of and love her body.
I only learned the scary stuff about sex and then was really scared and stressed out. By the time I felt ready to do it, I didn’t know how and threw it away at some silly moment to get it over with because I was expecting it to be painful and terrible (which it was) and that I would immediately get pregnant, diseased, and develop a drug addiction (which I did not).
We’ve got to stop educating kids in this way! The fear mongering is not working, except to cause kids to have lots of bad sex, unexpected pregnancies, and complicated births. We’ve got to raise kids to love their bodies and take care of themselves and each other in an informed healthy way. There must be some way to introduce the idea that sex, pregnancy, and birth can also be beautiful, wonderful and pleasurable. Maybe we don’t all need to feel guilty about being born, because Mommy and Daddy did something naughty that they should be ashamed of.
In high school I was kind of a “tomboy.” I cut off all the hair on my head and let all the other body hairs grow free. I wore baggy clothes, often pajama pants or blue scrubs given as a party gift at a Bat Mitzvah. Junior year I joined a backpacking program and met some of the greatest friends of my life. One day they took me up to a department store and dressed me up like a high-class hooker. I looked awesome with this tiny tight skirt and a one shouldered tank top with a big metal ring around my neck. One of my friends spilled her coffee drink and everyone ran out and left me all dressed up, but not before giving me the nickname “Coco.” I didn’t know this then, but Coco would forever be the name of my alter ego personality, the girl who came out when I was wild, untamable. It took a few years for her to manifest but once she got loose, it was hard to contain her.
“Love’s secrets remained buried within the most impenetrable treasure chest the world has ever known: a tangle of a hundred billion cells, whose innumerable electrical currents and chemical signals come together to create a single, living human brain.”
-A General Theory of Love, Lewis, Amini & Lannon, 2000
An Example of the Original Assignment:
Write Your Own Sexual Autobiography
*When we first began this project in college, we were given some contacts for therapists and school counselors in case it brought up anything more intense than we could handle. There were other options too, so kids who didn’t want to write could create an art piece, dance, or a short film that was representational or metaphorical. If this project doesn’t feel safe for you or you don’t have the support system in place that you need to dig this stuff up, please wait until you feel ready.
I consider myself to be a pretty stable healthy person and this project definitely brought up some edgy things for me, around self worth, shame, guilt, bad family stories . . . I also feel that my relationship to myself, my body, my sexuality, my partner, is dramatically better because of looking at my life in this way. I am much more comfortable talking about things that would have felt embarrassing or isolating before, that now feel like the keys to unlocking hidden places of pleasure that release more joy in my life than I knew was possible.
Prompts to get you started:
You don’t need to answer all of these or go in order. If other stories begin coming out, go for it! Just grab a pen and paper or type it out. Be bold and curious!
• What are your first memories of sexuality?
• How old were you when you realized sexuality existed?
• What did you know about your body? Where did you get this information?
• How physical was your family or community growing up?
• How much affection did you receive as a child?
• Were grown ups affectionate around you?
• What was your first kiss like?
• Describe your first menstruation or erection.
• Describe your first orgasm.
• What do you remember learning from TV, movies, music, internet, magazines . . .?
• What did your parents, guardians, or other adults tell you about sex?
• What did you learn in school?
• What were the first things kids told you about sex?
• Did you have positive or negative feelings about sex as a kid?
• Do you have positive or negative feelings about sex now?
• How do you feel about your body?
• What was puberty like?
• How do you feel about your penis or vagina?
• What names were you told to call penis’, vaginas, breasts, or butts?
• What were/are your ideas around virginity or what it means to be a virgin?
• What is your relationship to the ideas around premarital sex or promiscuity? Are these ideas the same for all genders?
• Describe your first time having sex.
• What is your relationship to masturbation?
• Describe your first memory of masturbating.
• What is your relationship to porn?
• When was the first time you saw porn?
• Describe your first crush, holding hands, what the dating scene was like growing up...
*There are countless questions we could ask. This is just a taste, to get the ball rolling.
Getting The Love You Want, Harville Hendrix, Harper Collins, New York, 1988
A General Theory of Love, Thomas Lewis, M.D., Fari Amini, M.D., and Richard Lannon M.D., Random House, New York, 2000
Sister Outsider, “The Uses of the Erotic as Power,” Audre Lorde, The Crossing Press, New York, 1978
Sexy as a Mother is a reader-supported publication. To receive new posts and support my work, consider becoming a free or paid subscriber.