My interest in sex began at the age of seven with stories of the Immaculate Conception and the Virgin Birth. I had no clear notion of what a virgin or a conception was, but I suspected they had some connection to adultery which, for a seven-year-old, was the most confusing commandment. It sounded like there was something sinful about just being a grown up.

The nuns were not concerned about correcting our misconceptions. It was beneficial to keep us manacled by ignorant fear, always worried about accidentally committing a mortal sin. When we tried to maneuver a nun into providing details, our curiosity was squashed by the standard non-response of the Catholic faith, “It’s a mystery”.

In third grade, the Tree of Knowledge of Good and Evil took root in our classroom in the form of a Webster’s Dictionary and the Encyclopedia Britannica. I spent hours of uninterrupted research, bent over the pages, looking like a model student. Virgin, conception, intercourse, masturbation, one word led to another and sometimes with surprising results. Take ejaculation, for example. As a ten-year-old girl in a Catholic grade school, I had been ejaculating fervently for the past five years, redeeming souls from purgatory – Mother of Mercy, Pray for Us. Or so it seemed until I saw that Britannica defined “ejaculation” as a the ultimate male objective of sexual intercourse. Discovering this double entendre alerted me to a fundamental unwritten principle of Catholic morality, “Sinning is open to interpretation.”

In that era, the word sex was never uttered in a Catholic grade school. The phrase “wait until marriage” occasionally came up during religion class but never with any explanation of what we were waiting to do. The closest we ever got to a description of any sexual act was a vague reference to the Holy Ghost “coming down upon” the Virgin Mary to beget Christ. Having the Holy Ghost come down upon you without warning was a common concern among us Catholic school girls, especially since it seemed you wouldn’t even know it had happened until months later when a baby emerged.

In Catholic high school, sex became a minefield of adolescent urges, traversed through ignorant speculation. The Rhythm Method, the only church sanctioned contraception, involved detailed record keeping too complex even for adults. For fumbling, engorged teenagers, it was a fertility dance.

Wise guys who snorted with laughter at every mention of the word "rubber" were often victims of their own misconceptions. At the beginning of my sophomore year I sat behind a candidate for Homecoming King who bragged that “he might not touch bottom, but he sure could raise hell with the sides”. He’d wink an eye and nod toward the sizable circle embossing his back pocket. "Protection for that bloody period," he'd say like a well-prepared boy scout.

By Christmas that year, he was a married family man.