Birthday sex.


The words are cutting through the sleepy haze of an early Sunday morning like an icebreaker ploughing through a frozen sea. Birthday sex? Oh, dear. Here we go again.

About five years ago, we got the boy child a CD player for his birthday. He was just starting to get into music, switching the TV onto the music stations and demanding we turn on the radio on the way to school. He would walk around practising dance moves and singing little snatches of the songs he heard most often. It was cute. We decided to encourage it.

It's all fun and games until the five-year-old starts grabbing his crotch.

It’s all fun and games until the five-year-old starts grabbing his crotch.

We got him a CD to go along with his new player. We chose one of those compilations of current hits, called “Now 5876” or something. We reckoned it would have at least some songs that he recognised, and would have a wide enough variety of styles to keep his tastes fairly broad.

Sorted. He disappeared into his room to listen to his “beats”, while Mrs 23thorns and I sat back and enjoyed one of those moments that parents of five-year-olds so rarely experience; moments when you are not comforting or shouting or managing or just picking things up and putting them away. We gave each other a high five and congratulated ourselves on quite how well we were doing at this whole parenting thing.

It couldn’t last. A day or two later, he invited us through to his room to listen to his favourite “beats”. He popped in his CD, cranked up the volume, and there it was “BIRTHDAY SEX! BIRTHDAY SEX!” Yup. By far the catchiest tune on “Now 5876” was a tune where the singer mumbles incoherently along to the beat for a minute or so before everything else stops and he chants, slowly and clearly “BIRTHDAY SEX! BIRTHDAY SEX!” Oops.

“What,” asked the boy as the driving beat faded into a silence pregnant with menace, “is birthday sex?” I looked anxiously over at Mrs 23thorns. “You”, I explained to her, using only the wordless, ancient and unacknowledged language of parents everywhere, made up mostly of eyebrow raises, frowns, tiny nods and headshakes, “can deal with this one.”

Look! A birthday sex cake!

Look! A birthday sex cake!

We agreed fairly early on that the best way of dealing with these sorts of questions was to be honest, clear and clinical.

“What are those dogs doing, Mom?”

“Well, they’re mating. That’s where puppies come from. The daddy dog plants a seed in the mommy dog’s womb, and that seed grows into a puppy in her tummy. When it gets big enough, she will give birth to it.”


This is, of course, one of those agreements where I go along with Mrs 23thorns because I am scared of her. Personally, I think it would be both more fun and more beneficial to lie.

“What are those dogs doing, Dad?”

“Leapfrog, son. They aren’t very good, though, are they? I think that one at the back might have hip dysplasia. But you have to admire him. He seems to be trying very hard.”

“So where do puppies come from, then?”

“The Netherlands.”

They also make cheese and wooden shoes.

They also make cheese and wooden shoes.

So how is this beneficial? Well, you can be damn sure that if, the first time the boy finds himself in a compromising situation with a young lady, he places both hands firmly on the small of her back and leaps over her like a gazelle before spinning round with his chest puffed out like a bantam and says “Hips like steel, baby. Hips like steel”, he will get a bit of a reputation and teen pregnancy will not be an issue in our household. But no. Mrs 23thorns wants honesty.

She straightened her back, squared her shoulders, and took a deep breath before kneeling down to place herself on the same level as the boy. Gently, she placed a motherly hand on his shoulder, and looked him straight in the eye.

“Sax.” She said. “He’s saying “birthday sax”. The song is about how this guy got a saxophone for his birthday.”

I raised a rather quizzical eyebrow in her direction. She glowed a rather fetching pink colour, but refused to meet my eye. Hah! Honesty, hmmm?

I was, of course, being a little unfair. Honesty is the best policy, and children can cope with the truth about procreation just fine. If he had asked about sex, we would have had it all covered. But he hadn’t. He’d asked about birthday sex. That is a bridge too far.

Look! This one has a biblical quote on it!

Look! This one has a biblical quote on it!

The CD mysteriously disappeared into a hidden drawer and was replaced with one full of songs about happy hippopotami. Until it was found by she from whom nothing remains hidden. Yup. The five-year-old girl child found it.

I must be getting old before my time. I’m far too young to be grumbling about “the music you young people are listening to”. But it’s nasty. Why is this stuff all over the radio and the TV?

I sat down rather innocently with the boy the other day to watch some TV. He’s ten now. But he still likes his “beats”. I was in for a treat.

I should have seen what was coming when the VJ (are they still called that?) announced with a perfectly straight face that “Nicki Minaj sure knows how to make it clap”, but I didn’t know what he meant. I still don’t. But I now have some rather disturbing ideas.

A video came on. It all started off innocently enough. The good Ms Minaj was loitering about halfway up a jungle tree with some friends in bikinis. As one does. The music started to build. And then it happened.

“MY ANACONDA DON’T!” shouted a lusty and enthusiastic young man.

“MY ANACONDA DON’T!” Ms Minaj and friends started doing a couple of rather suggestive warm-up exercises. I began to feel a vague sense of apprehension. Your what now?


"'Scuse me, Ma'am. Do you have any buns?"

“‘Scuse me, Ma’am. Do you have any buns?”


I looked around desperately for the remote. Our TV remote is a little like the yeti; a vaguely plausible entity that is supposedly spotted every few months by questionable witnesses, but for which there is very little concrete evidence.

I rose to go and change the channel on the TV at the same time as looking around for Mrs 23thorns to come through and be honest, clear, and clinical about reptilian sexual metaphors. She was nowhere to be found.

Oh, well. I prepared instead a dishonest, clear and clinical little speech about the proper care and curious dietary requirements of the world’s largest snake, but before I got to either it or the TV, the good Ms Minaj stepped forward, pouted at the camera, and, in a clear, mock-prissy voice, destroyed my chances of side-stepping the issue at hand.

“Oh. My. Gosh.” She said. “Look at her butt!”

I did. I cannot lie. My only defence is that I did so not out of prurience but out of slack-jawed fascination. Ms Minaj is a healthily proportioned young woman. She grabbed hold of a perfectly innocent looking chair with both hands, leant forward, pointed her rather prominent fundament at the sky, and proceeded to put it through a workout that would have seen lesser women hospitalised.

I believe the scientific term for that is the "badonk".

I believe the scientific term for that is the “badonk”.

It was like watching two manatees wrestling inside a sleeping bag. It shook.

“MY ANACONDA DON’T!” Oh, dear. He was back.

It wobbled. It quaked. It swayed from side to side, as hypnotic as a dancing cobra.


It jiggled. It dipped. It soared. It separated into two perfect hemispheres, each with a mind of its own, rotating in opposite directions.


I was transfixed. Mesmerised. I didn’t know the human body could do things like that. Mine can’t. Not without getting itself placed on some sort of police watch list. The VJ was right. Ms Minaj can make it clap. I’m pretty sure she can, with a little application and some incense, make it start its own religion.

“Oh. My. Gosh. Look at her butt!” Indeed. But I couldn’t. There was a ten-year old sitting next to me who was probably deeply concerned about the unfortunate anaconda at this point, and was sure to be looking for some answers.

I completed my interrupted dash for the TV just as Ms Minaj started to compare a boy named Troy to the Eiffel tower. Favourably. I turned to look at the now surely emotionally damaged child curled up on the couch in a foetal position, sucking his thumb and muttering “It’s alive. It has a mind and a soul of its own. The clapping! So much clapping!”

Just make it stop.

Just make it stop.

No such luck. He was staring distractedly down at a bundle of brightly coloured elastics wrapped around his finger. He glanced up at me. “Can we turn it over to Nickelodeon?” he asked, before looking back down at his rapidly swelling finger. It was turning a rather fetching blue colour.

I’m not quite ready to see myself as an old curmudgeon. I’m only forty one. I’m not ready to write angry letters to parenting magazines or bang on about how children are being damaged by stumbling across the knowledge that our species procreates while listening to the radio. But I find this all a little tricky.

Children aren’t damaged by the knowledge of sex. If they were, we wouldn’t be allowed to take them to farms, and all the monkeys down at the zoo would have pants on. Sex itself isn’t damaging. It’s the reason we are all here. It’s not dirty or corruptive or ugly. It can be wonderful and fun and funny, and so much more than that. But. It can also tear the world apart if it is approached without the right amount of respect.

And that, I suppose, is what bothers me about this stuff. It’s disrespectful. It’s crass. It’s coarse. There is no wit to it. It’s not clever. And it is not, despite the frantic efforts of Ms Minaj and her fundament, sexy. You need a bit of clever for sexy to work properly. Or a bit of class.

Neither of which is pictured here...

Neither of which is pictured here…

It’s as if half of the entertainment industry has decided to focus solely on grabbing the attention of thirteen-year-old boys. That is not a lofty goal. And how the hell am I supposed to have an adult conversation about something if it’s pitched at a level that makes Beavis and Butthead seem sophisticated.

I have no objection to people being fun or funny about sex. We all think about it all of the time anyway; I see no harm in people making light of it. I just wish they wouldn’t ambush my five-year-old with “BIRTHDAY SEX!” at 6 on a Sunday morning. I’m not ready for that before my first cup of coffee. She’s not ready to even talk about it until she’s at least 35.

And leave my boy alone, too. He might be ready to discuss this stuff, but I’m not. I’m still working my way through the whole “the birds and the bees” talk. There is no room in there for bun-hungry anacondas.

It’s not really the sex that bothers me at all. It’s that the kingmakers of the entertainment world have taken the crass, the coarse and the witless and packaged it as the coolest stuff in the world. Present a ten-year old boy with Eminem and Einstein and I would be vaguely concerned if he developed a sudden interest in relativity. It would mean he was weird.

But that means our ten year old boys are aspiring to be as cool as that guy up on the TV with the belt allergy who just managed, in a two minute video, to call women bitches and whores, and gay people faggots, and make the idea of lurking around on street corners selling drugs to children sound like some sort of rite of passage you had to pass through in order to become the coolest thing in the world. A pimp. Yay.

Stay in school, kids, and you can be whatever you want to be.

Stay in school, kids, and you can be whatever you want to be.

The world is moving too fast. My parents sat us down and told us blushingly about what happened when a boy and a girl really liked each other (it started with getting married…). I could do that. No such luck. I’m going to have to sit my son down and explain what happens when a “ho” backs it up on a pimp and then drops it down low and makes it clap. I don’t want to. But I have to, before he brings a girl home and introduces her as “his bitch”, and everyone ends up having a very long day indeed.

It goes one step further. The “N” word. Yup. That one. I get it. It’s an ugly word that carries the suffering and prejudice of generations with it. And the black people who use it are taking it back. They are disarming it. They are standing up and throwing it back in the faces of those who would use it to push them down. It’s an ingenious way to deal with ignorance and hate.

But. My boy is ten. And he is a born free. Born frees are what we call the generation born after the fall of apartheid ‘round here. It is, perhaps, a little presumptuous to call a white kid that, but in my son’s case it is true. On his birthday, we took him and his friends out to see a movie. It was him, three black kids, an Indian, and a Korean. It felt like we were walking into the set-up of an old-fashioned joke. It’s a wonderful thing to see. He is genuinely colour-blind, and if that isn’t freedom, I don’t know what is.

But. Soon, if not already, his black friends are going to start using the greeting they see being used by cool people in movies and songs everywhere. “My n*****r”.

Not my boy, though. He’s the wrong colour. Which is as it should be. But he won’t know why not. He’s too young. He is smart enough to get that he is not allowed to say that, no matter how cool Kanye West may make it sound, but he is not ready to understand why. He is not ready to properly feel the weight of his people’s history, the weight of all the hate and the casual arrogance and the damage and the junk science and the subversion of religion into a twisted justification of prejudice and the “whites only” park benches and the separate homelands and the hate. He will just, in his young mind, not be allowed to be cool.

It's too soon for him to start never forgetting.

It’s too soon for him to start never forgetting.

It does no good to moan about these things. They are everywhere. We cannot escape. Iggy Azalea will be making it clap on the Disney Channel. Eminem will be rapping about “his bitch” on the radio on the way to school. Snoop Dogg will be saying hello to his n****r at the movies. Nicki Minaj will keep on violating unsuspecting pieces of furniture. We live in the world as it is, not as we wish it to be. We will just have to find a way to deal with them.

Baby steps. First, I will go and get myself a cup of coffee. Then I will sit my little girl down and tell her about the shiny new saxophone that nice man got for his birthday. And then I will hide the CD and be sad for just a little while.

I'm sure he also got a cake.

I’m sure he also got a cake.

26 thoughts on “Birthday sex.

  1. Spy Garden says:

    That Song of Solomon cake HAHAHhahaha. Disney’s the worst. That Taylor Swift Shake it Off video is the best. I snapped a picture of my boy-child getting a first look at some live hip-hop MTV-style dancing (a local children’s dance studio performing) at this small neighborhood classic car show. He had a confused and slightly panicked look on his face and looked at us and said, “Wait, is this really happening right now?” I laughed and said “Yes, yes it is….well…people like different things.” I’m not saying there is not a time and place for Nicki Minaj or Ke$ha. (I was actually thinking of changing my blog name to $py G hahahajk) But, the crunking and gyrating seems a bit incongruous with snow cones and classic cars. Thigh high patent leather boots at noon? On a 10 year old? I mean, there were older people around, people who probably had friends called “skip” and “buddy” when they were kids and said things like “shucks” and “gee willikers”. I totally get that dancing is an art form. I love to dance. And will freely dance, just maybe not in broad daylight in booty shorts when kids in strollers and great-grandparents are watching. The form of expression: it is a timing/audience thing for sure and sometimes NC-17! haha

  2. mariekeates says:

    Being honest with kids is great as a theory, in practice it gets a little tough at times though. My boys were brought up in a very multicultural city, it’s a port so tend to be a city of all nations at least when the ships are in. They have friends of every race and colour and that’s how it should be. Here though the race problem has turned full circle in some areas and there are those who bandy the word racist about whenever they don’t get their own way. It seems there can be no balance until everyone is truly colour and race blind.

  3. I think the language surrounding sex has changed too. The world doesn’t seem to have sex or make love anymore. We have a shag, a bonk a f***, a screw, a pork, etc. And to my horror, the derogatory terms associated with womens parts are far more commonly used including that awful c word. No wonder women are bitches, and ho’s, men are dawgs and all the rest of that trashy talk.

    Gods, am I getting old too!

    As for telling the kids, having chickens here helped. When the roosters were riding the hens my eldest, then 4, asked me what they were doing. I told him the truth – something along the lines of planting a seed to fertilise the eggs which the hens could sit on to make babies. Precious darling then asked, “Is that what Daddy did to you to make babies?”. Um, something like that but without all the screaming, fighting between the multiple males and violent ripping out of neck feathers. Blush!

  4. narf77 says:

    I spy with my little eye, parents clinging tenaciously to that fine line between honesty and the terror that honesty brings with it. When the son and heir was six, he asked where babies came from. I, being an inexperienced parent (who now knows that they come from gypsy prams outside the front of Tesco) sucked it up and explained the birds and the bees in somewhat graphic detail to a quiet and most absorbed audience. I got to the end of my science lesson and looked at him and said “and that, is where babies come from”…I was quite proud of myself having never once been the recipient of a birds and bees story and having to work out myself where all of those excess bits went (much like flat packs from Ikea…) sometimes with little success…and he stood there for a bit…and I will never forget what he said next…

    “That is DISGUSTING and I am NEVER going to ever do that!”…

    Sex education and birth control talks done and dusted…”tick”

    I know where our remote controls (we have more than one) are at all times. Firmly welded to Stevie-boys hands and never shall they be parted.

    I can’t even say that you are getting old Mr 23Thorns and that rite of passage that our kids have to go through is echoed at this end by the realisation that the world is going too bloody fast and it needs to just slow down a bit and show a bit of respect because it IS going too bloody fast! Only 40 years ago the only computers were on the telly and they were HUGE. Now you can get one the size of postage stamp that tells your heart to move. Phones were wall bound and things had space and place where now everything is portable, even Ms Minaj who I just headed off to look at images of (not saying I didn’t believe your picture Mr 23Thorns but “c’mon, that rump is HUGE and I just thought that you may have gotten very good at Photoshopping…) and her rump is the least of your problems if the images I saw are anything to go by…best hope your feminine child doesn’t decide that she wants to go as Ms Minaj to her next fancy dress party…

    And so we parents of the 21st Century go on…shell shocked and flabbergasted as our parents before us were but overtaken by the technology that gives our children more access to that world that we were sheltered from when we were kids. Call me old, but I quite liked learning about anacondas from Mr Attenborough and not from MTV…

  5. Oh what a laugh amid the serious stuff as always 🙂

  6. Too much fun! My mother, when I caught my parents in the act at the age of 4, yelled out that they were making … puppies!

    • 23thorns says:

      🙂 You must have seemed like a bit of a curiosity when you started sex ed classes at school.

      • I was an odd kid anyway. Too shy for my own good. My dad after he remarried brought out the “Where did I come from” cartoon books of the 70’s and had us all (3 boys and me) read it to him. Then he and mom put the Kama Sutra full photographic version on the coffee table for everyone’s perusal. To say I was fully and completely embarrassed would be a drastic understatement.

  7. Linne says:

    I forgot to say: I like what you say about sex very much; you are so right! I have no idea why we have people intent on lowering everything to the lowest common denominator; when I was young, before tv, the books seemed to hold before me higher goals to aim for and even the hope of attaining them. ~ Linne

  8. Linne says:

    As I was reading, what came into my mind was Sidney Poitier, singing “Amen” and in my mind I sang along . . . I feel for everyone with young children these days. I kept our family off the grid for most of the first few years and the culture still got to them (well, they had to have friends and those kids were not at all off the grid), but in spite of it all they have grown into men who think for themselves and are not fooled by the idiot marketing machines. For which I am extremely thankful. Now my grandkidlets are being raised with no cable (the tv is only for movies from the library), but the family does listen to CBC radio, mostly the talk shows and documentaries. Who knows how those kids will fit in later on? The eldest girl goes to school, as she needs the extra social life and stimulation, but the others are home-schooled. We’ll see, I guess.

    On the plus side, those idiots gave you a huge mass of fodder for this post, which made me laugh and even cry a bit. Thanks a lot for that! ~ Linne

  9. Heather says:

    Don’t be surprised if you get a sax for your birthday, after all of these hints have been dropped …

  10. I love this. It’s brilliant and true and sad and honest and kind of scary, actually, when you think of the meaning behind all of the words so casually thrown out at us every single damned day, and where those words might lead us. What I especially love is this: “You need a bit of clever for sexy to work properly. Or a bit of class.” OMG, I wish I had said that myself.
    Also love: “They are disarming it. They are standing up and throwing it back in the faces of those who would use it to push them down. It’s an ingenious way to deal with ignorance and hate.” Yes, yes, yes!
    Thanks for writing this, and for adding a bit of heavy thought to my day.

    • 23thorns says:

      I think this all crept up on us while we weren’t watching. Bit by bit, we let things pass because, on their own, they didn’t seem to matter. But here we are, in a world where it is perfectly normal to have people waving their buttocks at us and shouting about their genitals.

  11. What you say about how sex/life/relationships are portrayed in modern music and media is so true. It worries me actually, and makes me glad that I don’t have a young family now, who I have to explain all these things to!

  12. mollytopia says:

    Oh I love this post so much! Especially “there is no room in there for bun-hungry anacondas” and “before he brings a girl home and introduces her as “his bitch”, and everyone ends up having a very long day indeed.” I’m in the same boat with my 10yo – not sure how to explain all these pop culture nuances (I’m being so generous there). Thanks for sharing!

  13. Wonderful commentary on the current entertainment industry. You made me laugh and then you made me cry. We’ve come far but have a long way to go. Let’s keep taking those baby steps.

    Thanks for sharing! My day has been improved by your words.

  14. Dalo 2013 says:

    This is a fantastic post…a hilarious read as always and there is no escaping the “value” of what the world & media brings to the attention of us all, and how the minds of the children lap it up 🙂 But seeing how the youths I know are handling it all, feel fortunate that parenting still trumps all ~ and as you say it is all baby steps. Enjoy your exhausting ride…

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