SEXplorations: Unwrapping #MeToo, Patriarchy, Sex, Power & Responsibility – (A Series)

Home Training

Well the first thing I want to say is, this series is probably going to start a lot of shit! Not because of any attempts on my part to be provocative. But because subject matter, content, questions, comments and considerations will rarely if ever be politically correct. This lack of PC, however, is not a diss, nor am I insensitive nor paternal.  Rather, it’s to cut through the bullshit and have adult conversations regarding some of the most prolifically vital yet intractable social topics being dealt with today.

I can’t speak for other cultures around the world. But when it comes to America; sex, sexuality, sex education, and things associated, we have struggled and failed to unpack and extract them in a way that promotes knowledge of sex and self. When it comes to the sexual/self, what starts out as innate natural curiosity and search for discovery (as a child) is later jacked up from the outside by judgment, mischief, moral treaties and shame. After adding culture, media, and peer pressure to the mix, we try to find our sexual identities. Well good luck with that!

Let’s start with the sex education I received at a young age. The conversations I heard in my household were tantamount to, “Don’t bring no babies up in here!” I remember my then step father making some back handed comments about me ‘fucking.’ He told me he was going to buy me some ‘rubbers.’ I was between 12 – 13 at the time.  I’d heard of rubbers. I knew they had something to do with sex but I had no idea how they worked or why.

I remember a girlfriend who was far more ‘advanced‘ than I was. I say advanced because around the way she was known ‘fast.’ (Fast: Adj. Hood Term (2018 Edition) – a female who is eager to smash) She tried to introduce me to intercourse. After some kissing she laid on the floor, then pulled off her pants and panties. Stuck and spellbound I simply looked. She motioned me to follow suit. I did. But I had no idea what to do next. It’s not as if I wasn’t excited. But I didn’t know the ‘mechanics’ of how this was supposed to go. I put it on there but not in there. She was frustrated, I was disappointed. I walked out the door the same way I walked in… a virgin! But I did take some souvenirs home with me. While ‘making out’ she sucked on my neck. No one had ever done that before. All I knew was that it felt really really good. I didn’t know till I got home that my neck had red marks all over it. Standing in front of the bathroom mirror, my eyes were as big as silver dollars. My heart was beating like crazy as I thought to myself, “What the f#@! my momma can’t see this! I looked for something to hide the evidence. I settled on a red paisley bandanna. Picture me walking around with this thing tied to my neck as if I was some faux cowboy… in the HOUSE!

If you are wondering what happened next, the answer is nothing initially. No one in my family said a word about it. That is until a few weeks later. Sitting my my mother’s room she asked me if I was ‘having sex yet.’ Aghast and embarrassed, I said , Nawwww momma!” I knew that sex was something physically intimate between people. I didn’t know exactly what, but I knew I hadn’t done it yet.  I admitted to the kissing. And that’s when she said, “Is that what you were doing when you got all those suck marks on your neck?” This moment could have been the very first Southwest Airlines commercial themed, “Wanna get away?” You could have bought me for a penny!  I mumbled something like, “Errrr, Uhhh…”

Apparently the hankey didn’t hide the hickeys!

Compared to my peers in school, I was probably a bit of an L7 when I was a kid. I was bright, inquisitive and idealistic. I was also naive, and at times gullible. If I had been schooled on the basics and nuances of sex and sexuality I was the kind of kid that was mature enough to handle that. But that wasn’t the case. All I got from that conversation with my mother was embarrassment and shame. She missed an opportunity to shape my sexual perceptions and mindset in her image. As a strong and wise black woman, imagine what a difference that could have made on this young man.

Moving forward, the only tools I had when it came to sex were my imagination, music, and TV/movies in an attempt to get a grip. Because of shame and lack of information, sex for me, while intriguing and mysterious, was also naughty; something to hide in secrecy.

Enter adulthood! I get married out of high school and of course there are sexual experiences. I searched for my sexual identity by trial and error, following someone else’s lead. By ‘sexual identity’ I mean answering these important questions:

  • Beyond physical pleasure should sex have an emotional component? If so, how much so?
  • Is there a difference between a sexual need and a sexual desire? (Nature vs Nurture?)
  • Is there a right and a wrong way to do it? What does it mean to be ‘good in bed?’
  • How do you communicate with your partner about what you want and how? Talk dirty or nice?”
  • What do you do if find yourself sexually attracted to a person who is not your partner?
  • What does sexual freedom and liberation look like internally?

Now, we’ve all had different experiences coming up. Some details may differ and some may be similar. Then there is the dynamic of how boys are taught sexual codes and values vs girls. The reality of having to figure sex out on your own by trial and error is the rule rather than the exception. With that said, should we be surprised to be in the shape we are in as a culture and society? Most of our early experiences start with the blind leading the blind. And that’s if you’re lucky. Otherwise there is potential for a power dynamic that could be exploited resulting in emotional distress, trauma and abuse. Such could have long lasting if not generational damage.

So what is my goal?

I have some strong opinions, but my hope is to encourage dialogue and share ideas regarding these matters. If I have anything to teach, I certainly hope to learn more through the experiences, ideas and thoughts of others.  I really hope people will open up, be honest and share. A healthy and loving exchange of ideas can make us better. If successful we can set a new trend marking an easier path for those coming after us.

For this to work we have to have a set of ground rules.

  • Honesty and sincerity are a must in order to move the conversation forward. Keep it real all the way around.
  • Try to have an open mind. As I said, I hope to learn something. I may start off standing on a point. If you believe I’m wrong, let’s reason together about specifics and nuances.
  • Be vulnerable. I know that’s hard. It’s hard for me. Telling that story about the hickeys at 13 is still highly embarrassing. And I’m 51!
  • There will be no sacred cows. What do I mean by that? Well I am totally pro the #MeToo movement, for example. That does not mean the movement is beyond critique. We should be able to handle some back and forth on potential hot topics like adults.

With that said… let’s get started! How would you answer the above questions regarding sexual identity? Would you add more questions? Feel free to comment via the blog comments section, Facebook or Twitter. For cohesiveness, admin may add comments from social media to the blog comments section.

“Intelligence is the ability to adapt to change. The greatest enemy of knowledge is not ignorance, it is the illusion of knowledge. – Stephen Hawking 

 

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Of Parenting, Fatherhood and Grace

It was June 5, 2010.  My son Christian had just graduated from East Paulding High School in Dallas, Georgia.  The ceremony, held outdoors at the athletic field was hot, crowded and awesome.  It seemed like more than a thousand graduates.  Caps and gowns covered nearly the entire field.

 Soon after the festivities, I told my son Alex (one year younger than the older graduate), “Just think, this will be you next year.  And you will be wearing the white robe and sitting in the front where the honor students sit.”  Alex said, “Well dad I don’t know about that.”  I assured him that there would be no doubt. 

 Alex is my fourth of 5th biological children.  And it seemed as each one began to grow up, I became a better father and a better teacher.  I don’t know if I helped my two elder daughters at school much at all, other than to offer encouragement and help with a homework assignment or three.  Not that I wasn’t interested.  I went to parent teacher conferences, showed up at whatever activity they were doing, and followed up on all of their progress.  They were motivated young women in regards to their primary education. 

 Charelle

 Charelle, for instance, was always a “Five-Tool” type of player. (To borrow a sports analogy)  She was excellent in math, science, english, reading, art; you name it.  I recall checking on her progress with her teachers in high school.  One teacher in particular looked at me and said, “You’re Charelle’s father right?  Don’t bother wasting your time.  Nothing I can tell you about this girl.  She’s got it!”  In addition, she was tremendously popular too; something I never was in any level of schooling.

Chrystal, talented in her own right, I recall being especially great at art.  My biggest challenge with her was fighting over what items she created that I could keep for myself after the art exhibits.  I wanted them all.  She was also popular and was able to hang with literally any crowd and thrive.  Something I also could not do at her age.

Back to Christian, he was always a decent student.  But he seemed to thrive more on the creative.  He could get an A in any given class if he wanted to; if he was interested enough.  What was really impressive about the time of his graduation is that his journey was featured in a local newspaper detailing what it took for him to graduate overcoming many obstacles.  Oh and did I mention, he too was very popular among peers.

 Chrystal

By the time I had any clue of what I was doing to help with my kid’s education; since Charelle and Chrystal were already accomplished, my focus was on Alex and Christian during their latter school years.  While I wasn’t sharpest knife in the drawer and half of the work they did was way past my expertise, I focused on what I was good at.  Simplifying the process and helping them to see the big picture of life lessons and personal accountability.  These are what I would offer them: 

  • By the end of the first week of school, you should know exactly what it takes to get an A out of each class you take.  If you don’t know by the end of the first week, ask.

  • I honestly could give a damn about whether you make an A or a D.  The issue is to never ever cheat yourself.  Never be lazy or content.  If you got an A only because of your ability but did not maximize your efforts in the class, it doesn’t do anything for you in the long run.  But if you got a D and worked your ass off, you can be proud of it.  Only YOU know the difference.  And that’s the person who counts.  Just be excellent and let the results speak for themselves.  This is what being a leader and not a follower is all about.  Be a leader!

  • Some teachers are great, and some suck.  Those that suck still have the pen that you will be graded with.  That grade will follow you.  So you must learn to make the best of those classes as well, if for no other reason than to get your grade and get the hell out.  Teachers are like bosses and co-workers.  Even with the ones that suck, you still have to learn to work with them to be successful in life.

Christian

Thus were the abiding principals I would hammer home regardless of the situation or circumstance.  Every year we would have long conversations revolving around these somehow. I tried to capture their imaginations.  I wanted my sons to envision themselves as adult men in life, not just boys in school.  Most times I couldn’t tell what they thought of it.  And I didn’t spend too much time wondering.  I felt I did my job and gave them what I had.  Ultimately they had to decide for themselves.

Then it happened on May 30th 2011.  I’m back at East Paulding for Alex’s graduation.  The ceremony had just wrapped up. There were several hundred students, parents and family members walking on the field taking pictures and celebrating.  Alex seemed as pleased as I was to soak up this moment.  Then he pulled me to the side and offered this to old dad. 

“Hey!  Remember what you told me last year?  You said that I was going to wear the white robe, sit in the front and be an honors graduate.” 

“Yes I do remember,” I told him.

“You also said no matter what you do, always be excellent. I can’t believe I graduated with honors.  It was hard work man.  But I did.  I always listened to you, though I know most years I didn’t act like it.” 

We both laughed.

That moment for me was one of significance because it dawned on me not only how important it is for fathers to be in their children’s lives, but how important I was to my children.  That through all of the struggles, mistakes, and second guessing I’ve done as a man and a father, my presence and support in my children’s lives makes a difference.  Then I wondered what would have happened if I had not been there.  What if I never taught my sons to be leaders and not followers?  Wow, my job has been important.

I have four adult children from ages 18-24 and they are all in college.  I give them way more credit for making their own breaks and striving for their own goals than anything I’ve done for them.  I give credit to their mothers who were there day in and day out.  I’m very proud of them all.  With each of them as well as the ones still coming up, my focus is always to train them to be adults on their own making their own contributions.  I consider myself very blessed to be a part of their lives and being able to witness their transformations.

Alex

The Blossoming Butterfly, Part 2

proud-dad

Part II 

It was June of this year.  School was out and my sons were to arrive from Atlanta and live with me for the summer.  Of course they wanted to see their sister and she wanted to see them as well.  I hadn’t seen my daughter in almost a year.  When they arrived they stayed at her house first because I was very busy working and preparing to give my other daughter away in marriage.  The original time I was given to expect the boys was changed by a week with one days notice.  The older sis was happy to have her brothers.  Once things settled for me I had to pick them up from her home.  Of course I had no idea where she lived.  I got the address and arrived to pick them up.

It was also the first time I saw my grandson just over 4 months old.  I only had a texted photo of him from his great-aunt.  When I saw my daughter we were both polite and courteous, though I could feel her apprehension as I surveyed her new home.  I truly felt like an outsider.  Still I made some small talk and added some jokes to loosen things up.  I let her know that she could see her brothers whenever she wanted to, and if she needed a babysitter, I was game.  This was only my 54th request for babysitting – but what the heck right?  

After several months passed, finally I got an opportunity to keep my grandchildren for an evening.  Even overnight!  I was blessed to keep them on my granddaughter’s 3rd birthday.   My daughter was so glad to get a break.  She called to check on them that night.  She expressed how tired she was, how her boyfriend wasn’t helping out as much, and how much she was about to go crazy.  She sounded loose, at ease.  She talked about things about her personal life… things she would normally never tell me.

What is this happening?  Is she opening up?  

I assured her that I understood.  And that there are times when a girl needs a break. I said that life is tough, and if she doesn’t learn how to balance things out and take care of her spirit, she will burn out with the responsibilities and cares of the world.  I said, “Girl look, when you need to get out, if you can’t do it on your own call your dad? Shoot you’re 21 now.  I don’t have to take you to Applebee’s.  I can take you to Café’ Eau at the Chase Park Plaza!”  (One of my favorite watering holes) She laughed and said, “I don’t know what that is.. but it sounds good to me!  I’m ready to go!”  We laughed. She said she was so appreciative that I took her kids for her, and that she really needed to hear that I was there for her.  (Something I had said for years but for the first time she heard me.  She then said, “You know daddy, we have had our times you know.”  (talking about the estrangement between us)  Then she got quiet.  And I then said, “But you know what?  That is all in the past.  It’s all about what we do from here.  I look forward to being an important part of your life, as well I need you in mine.  “Yea daddy that’s cool.  I am glad you said that.” 

Since then things have been very positive.  She went from unemployment to gaining two jobs quickly.  We talk about more things now.  Not just the common stuff.  Adult stuff that she thinks and goes through.  She even talks some about her “not so cool” relationship which before was totally off limits.  Its like for the first time since she was kid, she looks at me like the daddy she needs.  Except now its as an adult not as a little kid.

The other day she sent me a text message. “Daddy, can you pick me up from work today?”  We worked out the times and from there I squeezed her in between work and a meeting I had to attend that evening.  We picked up the kids from the babysitters.  My granddaughter, who knows me well now in her surprise to see me yelled, “Hi PAW PAW!”  The older lady who keeps the children said to me, “Your daughter is really sweet.” 

I got them home and went about my business.  On the way to her house she went on and on about how appreciative she was about me picking her up.  Back in the day, hell I was “supposed to do that.”  But she was so genuine.  It was like she was a new person.  She even texted me later that night cause she knew I was in a hurry.  “Did you make it to your meeting on time?”  

A few days before she sent me another text.  Talking about how she was going to be getting her stuff together and for me to just watch.  She was going to be blossoming before my eyes.  Ha!  To quote Sarah Palin, “You bet she is.”  I can tell she is a new woman. It brings tears to my eyes just writing this.  Oh that she would know that I love her so and that nothing compares to her in her daddy’s eyes.  I think I’m starting to get my daughter back.  And I am thankful for that!   

mom-and-son

Charelle… I love you, Daddi (that’s how she spelled it when she wrote me notes as a kid)

*Above: Charelle after graduating high school with dad and her daughter Chariah

*Below: Charelle pictured with her son Cameron.  A grown ass woman!

 

The Blossoming Butterfly, Part 1

charelle-962

Parenting is a tough job.  To be a single parent is even tougher.  And if you are the parents of a child who had to experience a divorce between the first role models he/she ever had, it’s that much more challenging for the child growing up.   

Let me say up front, that there is probably nothing more devastating to a child directly or indirectly than to witness the breakup of their parents.  I regret that my children experienced that pain – and though I know for sure that my ex-wife and I were not meant to last forever, still I regret the affect it had on my children – especially my oldest daughter.  It has taken my first born most of her years to cope with and struggle in finding her identity and get a glimpse of her potential.  It also put a terrible strain on our relationship.

A major part of the reason for this (outside of the normal pains of divorce which would have been enough) is because she was given a lot of negative and at times false information about me from her mother.  She painted a picture of me that my daughter could not seem to shake regardless of what she saw with her own eyes.  Even as she witnessed me coming through to aid her mother and her brothers (my two sons) above and beyond child support, whether it was monetarily, morally etc. it wasn’t enough to take the villain tag off of my head.  Eventually she started keeping her distance in her mid teen years.  I understood that to be a growing up thing and I didn’t push her.  But after she got involved with her first love interest, soon after she pretty much decided she didn’t need me.  

As much as it hurt, I always made it clear to her that I was there for her no matter what.  And that I love her more than life itself.  Things got worse instead of better.  She got further and further away – resentful for some reason and I found I was always the one reaching out trying to prove myself with no positive feedback from her.  One day we had a big argument on the phone.  She went “adult” on me and said some horrible things.  It was the most disrespectful she had ever been.  I remember being so angry and hurt, that I called my mother screaming into the phone.  Mom actually ordered me to pull the car over till I calmed down, because she feared for my personal safety.  Speaking of safety, I remember thinking to myself that if she were not pregnant at the time, she would have gotten an old fashioned East St. Louis project beating for acting like she was grown and forgetting who the hell her daddy was!  I remember going ‘Godfather’ and telling my mother, “That’s it!  If we never talk again thats up to her!  I will never reach out again!  I am done…FINISHED!”  

Well my mom in all her wisdom explained that I couldn’t do that.  “You can’t disown your kids son.  You just can’t do it no matter what they say.”  She and those close around me said that my daughter will come back.  That she will come to herself after experiencing some hard times in life.  At that time I should be there ready.  Whew… I could never imagine that happening. 

Oh there were troubles alright. Sometimes there were fights with the boyfriend – me having to track him down for her car, house keys and cell phone.  Sometimes he was such a jerk I wanted to kill him.  Flat out!  But no matter what I did to help, I never got a thank you, kiss my ass or anything from her.  I would think, “Surely she saw what I just did right? I was Super Dad!  I just saved the day for all man-kind.”  NOPE!  She just got further and further away.  She had child one and two and neither of them would recognize me from T.I.  I pretty much gave up the fight and decided that I would love her unconditionally, and hope one day I could be a grandfather to my grandchildren.    

To be continued…

* Picture: My daughter age 9