I still remember her. Her huge looming presence standing in front of the class. She was a hulk of a white woman. Her full size frame was topped with a head crowned with an afro- like perm that went bad. She was Sister Marita. I was in the 8th Grade at Bishop Baumgartner Junior High School. The class was Sex Education. The year was 1974.
Sister Marita was part of the Franciscan Order. They were pretty liberal. They didn’t wear the traditional habits that nuns wear. I mean it was their choice. She wore this necklace around her neck that distinguished her as a nun.
She had a reputation in our school as being a firm and strict teacher. She taught science and math. In her class there was such a thing as a stupid question…especially if you did not study or did your homework. We all sweated it out when it came to her tests or exams. You just did not mess with Marita.
The school decided that year it was necessary to teach sex education. I did not know how that got pass the diocese but here we were looking at the portable movie screen, in front of the blackboard, which displayed a cross section of the male sex organ in full erection. It looked like one of those anatomy diagrams of the circulatory systems.
Standing next to the diagram was Sister Marita with a large stick pointing to the different parts of the diagram and giving the correct terminology of each section of the organ. I remember some kind of nauseous feeling emerging from inside the pit of my stomach when I saw Sister Marita pointing at a penis and talking about it.
I never knew nuns knew about sex, especially Marita. I thought all she knew about were things like Algebra and ionic bonding.
She was very serious about our discussions and was very clear that there was not to be any giggling or joking. You should have seen what happened when some of the girls let out a couple of giggles when Marita changed slides from a diagram of a cross section of a flaccid male organ to one with an erect male organ. I do not know how long those girls stayed in detention. I bet they never laughed at a penis ever again.
We were also given a series of books to read . Some of the books were very clinical. Other books were semi-erotic and focused more on behavior. We were told that ( especially directed to the boys) if during the readings, we felt “uncomfortable” that we were free to take a break and walk outside the classroom. Oh yeah, like we were going to basically admit in front of the class that we got a boner. It was Junior High, for God’s sakes!. Boy, these nuns were naive!
The second phase of our sex education was to have the boys separated out from the girls to have a discussion with one of our male teachers. We did. I am simply going to call him, Mr. X. The purpose of the meeting was to allow free and open discussion about sex with just the guys around. Well, it turned out to be very open.
Mr. X was a very progressive teacher, so he immediately started talking about his sex life with his wife in detail, in hopes of making us feel comfortable talking about sex with him.
His frankness had the opposite effect. He must have thought we were more experienced then we actually were because he talked about things that we had never imagined before.
I mean my friends and I were still at the levels of sex discussions were we thought that if you masturbate too much you will get callouses in your hand. Mr. X was talking about all kinds of sexual pleasuring with a woman. What made it worse was that we all knew his wife. After that discussion, we could never look her in the eyes again. All we could think about was the graphic detail that Mr. X described about his sexual activity with her.
Also, I was already struggling with same sex attraction and none of it was discussed there. I remember feeling quite alone.
We also had to write a paper for the class. I wrote a paper on venereal disease. It was the most disgusting thing that I ever researched. Before that, my papers had been about George Washington and the planet Mars. I even had to draw diagrams about the STD’s.
I received an A+++ on that paper by Sister Marita. That was like winning the Gold medal in the Olympics. I still keep that paper in storage up to this day.
When the sex education class ended, this girl named Lisa and I received the highest grades of the course. I learned a lot about sex but nothing about my sexuality back in the 8th grade. God bless Sister Marita for trying.