11 Grown-Ups Describe Learning the Birds and the Bees in a Sentence

It’s a special hug. Under a blanket!


Learning about sex might be the quintessential rite of passage. The moment we understand the frankly off-putting way babies are made is the moment all our imaginary friends are replaced with the beginnings of our first wrinkles. It’s our collective loss of innocence! Our common entry-point into knowing shit. It’s step one on the road to being a big cranky kid who’s sexually frustrated and rude to their mom.

It’s also hilarious. Because sex is super weird and I still think it’s super weird even after all these years. Having to explain it to a kid sounds horrifying, particularly because — as evidenced above — they’ll probably never forget it. I asked 11 grown-up kids from team MR and beyond to tell me about how their birds and bees went down and collected them in the above slideshow.

No spoilers, but the number of video tapes involved genuinely surprised me. Where was my tape!? Did you have a tape? Tell us your story in the comments!

Collage by Emily Zirimis.

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  • Sam

    I grew up with a single dad who had no idea what to do with a girl. After school one day, he came up to me with a couple of books about sex and pregnancy. We exchanged a look and he said, “here ya go,” and walked away.

    Any time sex was mentioned after that, it was usually followed by a “keep extra Plan B in the medicine cabinet upstairs.”

  • Anna

    Mine was much more traumatizing! Of course I had some idea about it, but the video tape my friend and I found under her brother’s bed went way beyond my wildest imagination. So, there was a tape, but it wasn’t really educational. It made me believe that sex is something some people may actually do (for whatever reasons), but not the normal ones and especially not my parents.

  • Andrea Raymer

    My friend group in 3rd grade discussed it. Though I feel like I had a vague idea earlier than that. My mom sat me down in 5th grade I think to give me “the talk” on a Friday night that she wouldn’t let me have a sleepover. I was really pissed about it because I would have rather had my friend come over that night.

  • Rose Leger

    During recess in second grade, a group of us children were discussing what sex was. I vividly remember one boy stating, very matter-of-fact, that you need to have sex to get your license. It’s on there, so I guess he was right.

    • Harling Ross


  • Love this

    – Natalie

  • Julia Hogikyan

    As soon as my mom told me i went to my 4th grade classroom and told all my friends and then i got in trouble with my teacher/a lot of moms

  • Court E. Thompson

    I think I found my mom’s copy of The Joys of Sex when I was 8 or so. Then I got the “talk” when I was 12, but only the Catholic version: “There’s sperm and an egg, and THERE WON’T BE ANY SPERM UNTIL YOU’RE MARRIED.”

    I also remember intense discussions of what a virgin was at the 3rd grade lunch table because only a virgin could light the black flame candle. We needed to know.

    • Allegra

      I accidentally first read that your *mom* found *your* copy of The Joys of Sex when you were 8, and I was like WHAT…

      • Court E. Thompson

        Bahahaha! I mean, I’m pretty sure she found out where I stashed it after I found it…..

  • Mary

    I can’t remember!! I have an older brother, so I think it came in bits and pieces. Then in 5th grade they separated the girls and boys for a viewing of The Miracle of Life, which communicated loud and clear how the deal is done.

  • Devangi Purohit

    My parents came from the school of thought where if you ignore your child’s questions they were likely to stop asking. My response to this (at the age of 11) was to pick up the Oxford dictionary and look up “sexual intercourse”. After having been utterly horrified for a grand total of about 2 minutes, I proceeded to find both my parents and proclaim my knowledge of what sex was – followed by an explanation of how I was conceived. We still don’t discuss sex, unless it’s my mother telling me to “behave [my]self”.

  • Sarah

    I was in the third grade and a boy told me that parents had to get naked together to make a baby. I was horrified. So, I asked my mom about it, she got out a Mayo Clinic anatomy book and proceeded to give me a very anatomic (she studied nursing once upon a time) spiel of sexy time and baby makin’. I remember just being stoked to learn that I had organs inside of me that looked more or less like the head of an animal with weird ears.

  • There was this fat book called Decamerone and noone cared what I read…that is all I remember now.

  • Natasha

    I remember being very young, maybe five or six, and my dad explaining very scientifically and matter-of-factly what happens when a sperm and egg meet, how embryos form and pregnancies develop. But I don’t think I knew the mechanics of what sex actually entailed until somewhere in 3rd or 4th grade; probably more from friends and books and movies than from a ‘talk’ from my parents. Oh, and then I started stealing looks at my mom’s Cosmo mags.

  • em

    I think my cousin told me about it when I was like 6 but for some reason it didn’t really register, and then about a year later we had recently moved across the country so my mom let me use her cell phone to call my best friend. After I was done talking I walked down the hall (this was at like 1 in the afternoon) to my parents room and the door was closed but I heard them laughing (a rare sound since they were in the process of a pretty nasty divorce) so I opened the door to find my mom topless and riding my dad and then all the pieces clicked. I vaguely remember going for a walk in the woods and my mom chasing me down to tell me it was normal (and I was like, duh mom, I know that already). When I was 11, every night over dinner my mom would tell me never to give oral sex to a guy because they didn’t wipe after they peed. And then when I was 17 my weird stepmom (who wasn’t too much older than me) tried to give me the sex talk and I basically told her to fuck off (in nicer terms) since my virginity was long gone at that point.

  • Kelly

    In primary school, around second or third grade, we were shown a video of a dog giving birth to a litter.. And that was our introduction to having babies.

  • I am actively trying to remember and I don’t… must have been one of those conversations with my parents that I’ve blocked, awkwardness is traumatising :/

  • Lexi

    Yeah… I didn’t really figure out what sex was until I was 13. My parents were always very open to talking about it but I just didn’t want to listen. I knew sex= babies, but I didn’t really understand the in between. Let’s just say I thought a condom was like a tampon. 😨

  • Jolie

    My parents weren’t particularly conservative, but I never got a talk from them about the birds and the bees. When I was around 7, I started to infer that sex was A Thing from books, movies, etc., but still had never really wondered where babies came from.

    One day, my best friend came over my house for a playdate and told me straight up that her cousin had told her that grown-ups had sex and that’s how babies were made. I don’t think she even discussed the penetration part of sex, just that the people doing it were “naked in bed.” My parents never got along and were basically about to get divorced, so I’d never seen them being affectionate towards one another and was horrified at the thought that they’d seen each other naked. I just DID NOT believe that my parents could have ever done something so intimate.

    So I ran down the stairs screaming, “MOM??? DID YOU AND DAD HAVE SEX?”

  • Rachel Elizabeth

    My mom gave me a book which I swear to god was illustrated by the guy who did Arthur, or at least someone who drew very similarly – picture aardvark and rabbit people hybrids explaining to you the ways of the sexual world. When the Arthur meme came back around this summer all those memories came back.