The Birds and the Bees:

A lunchtime conversation I had reminded me of something I noted a couple of years ago: Aren't you glad that your parents didn't explain sex to you by really telling you about the birds and the bees? "Now, daughter, think of yourself as a bee. There's a 99.99% chance that you'll never get any, and instead of developing an extensive reproductive system, you'll get to have a stinger and a venom pouch. But there's a tiny chance that you'll be a queen bee, which means you'll be really huge, and all these male bees will have sex with you."

"Son, you have to find the queen, the one all the other boys want to mate with. Then you'll have sex with her, and your penis will fall off and stay in her body. Then you'll die. Oh, before you have sex with her, make sure you take the other guy's penis out of her first."

"No wait, daughter, actually, think of yourself as a bird. That means you've got a single cloaca, through which your urine, feces, and eggs go out, and the male's semen comes in. Just remember that, and you'll be OK."

Good thing I learned about sex through the "S" volume of the encyclopedia instead.

Justin (mail):
I think you've gone to dinner with Kozinski one too many times :-P.

2.17.2006 5:14pm
Pine (mail):
I remember it as Volume R, for Reproduction.

Yes, seriously.
2.17.2006 5:16pm
llamasex (mail) (www):
Somewhere in here there is a joke about your wife buying you "C" volume of the encyclopedia.
2.17.2006 5:21pm
JJV (mail):
Jeez, I thought it was the pollination thing. Glad you weren't around.
2.17.2006 5:29pm
Clayton E. Cramer (mail) (www):
I think my parents were too repressed to have this conversation. Instead, I would come after school and find encyclopedias open to appropriate pages, knowing that I could no more walk by an open book without reading it than I could stop breathing.
2.17.2006 5:46pm
Robert Racansky:
I just read the encyclopedia for the articles...
2.17.2006 6:12pm
Le Messurier (mail):
What a disappointing way to learn aboout sex! By reading about it. What the heck was wrong with going to the drive in movie with a date and starting out with a little suck face? Advanced lessons were received on a more or less regular basis from then on. And no page-turning to figure out what to do next!

In the 50's THAT was the real American way!
2.17.2006 6:49pm
Chico's Bail Bonds (mail):
The scary thing is that I'm not sure that this whole business about learning it from the encyclopedia is only a joke.
2.17.2006 6:53pm
Eugene Volokh (www):
Well, there's learning and there's learning. I should say that I wasn't joking as to the book learning.
2.17.2006 7:52pm
Porkchop (mail):
Any other beekeepers here?

Actually, it's even worse -- even if you become a queen, the odds are that an earlier hatched queen will kill you in your cell. If you manage to get out of the hive to mate, you may not be able to find your way back after mating. If you do get back you will be laying eggs at the command of the workers who actually run the colony -- a queen is just an egg-laying machine for the colony.

If you're a drone, and you don't mate, you just get shoved out of the hive to die when it gets cold. Freeze to death, starve, or have your endophallus ripped off -- quite a choice, eh, guys?

Even worse, for both queen and drone, they may never actually mate -- there's a big market for fertilized queens that have been artificially inseminated, so the apiarist traps the drones, removes their semen vesicles, and inseminates the queen with what amounts to a tiny, tiny turkey baster -- it's no fun for anyone, including the beekeeper.

Life's not so hot for the workers, either.

The number one rule of beekeeping is DON'T ANTHROPOMORPHIZE BEES. They are lively, complicated little critters, but they are just livestock.

I'll stop now, but I'm available to take your questions. I'll be here all weekend. ;-)
2.17.2006 7:57pm
Could be worse, you could be a penis fencing flatworm. The loser get pregnant.
2.17.2006 8:49pm
Kieran Jadiker-Smith (mail):
After Mom and Dad explained that whole your-penis-will-fall-off-and-then-you'll-die thing, I went right down to my nearest homosexual recruiting office and signed up. Sure, I encountered some ostracism, but I got money for college, a uniform, and a deep discount on musical theater CDs at the PX.
2.17.2006 9:03pm
Beerslurpy (mail) (www):
Anatomical diagrams for the win. Penthouse with lesbians also. And NYC public access cable at night.

Though the last bit could leave you emotionally scarred and homophobic if you tuned in during the wrong hour.
2.17.2006 10:33pm
bornyesterday (mail) (www):
I think the closest thing to the sex talk that I got from my father was, "Don't be stupid."

But then I'm a product of 1980s-90s public schooling.
2.18.2006 2:18pm
Maureen Dowd (mail):
"There's a 99.99% chance that you'll never get any, and instead of developing an extensive reproductive system, you'll get to have a stinger and a venom pouch."

Tell me about it.

2.18.2006 2:23pm
E (mail):
Actually, I think Marsupials have it best. Other than the whole giving birth to a lizardoid premie and licking your tummy until it climbs into your pouch and then it using you like an old '78 Volvo for the next few years and... Anyway, the pouch idea would be great, especially if it came with a zipper.
2.18.2006 10:22pm
karrde (mail) (www):
Strange....I think my father called it the "Facts of Life" talk, or some such.

Thing is, he used as a resource a book written by a family psychologist and best-selling author. The book was titled "Preparing for Adolescence", the author was Dr. James Dobson.

Say what you will about his social/political views, he gave a reasonable fact-based introduction to puberty and the general details of sexual intercourse. He also gave a short discussion of the possible emotional tangles involved in sexual activity in an uncommitted relationship, and a medical description of the more common STD's.

I guess using a book like that as a reference gave my dad a different role, too. We could pretend that we were learning stuff together, rather than me listening to him.
2.20.2006 12:57pm