Monday, March 18, 2013

Amish Sex Education

To some this post is a sensitive subject.  

I was reading an Amish fiction book. The author wrote her characters talking about "pregnancy." Maybe in some Orders but not across the board, I thought and emailed the author. She assured me she vetted some Amish and they spoke about such things. So I
asked Josh, "When you were growing up, did you ever hear the word pregnancy?"

"No," he answered. "If we saw a woman with a big belly we tried to figure it out." 

I asked
our son-in-law Harvey and received the same answer. "You mean even if you had a married sister who was expecting, your parents didn't tell you she was going to have a baby?"

"No," said Harvey. "They didn't speak of such things."
 

So when one of my ex-Amish groups kicked around the following questions, I thought I'd post their answers for you to read. It's meant to neither criticize nor complement the Amish, just to give information. The questions:
How much did your Amish parents tell you in the way of sex ed? At what age (if at all) did they talk with you?

Below, written in their own words, are answers from the ones who know best; the ones who grew up Amish.

           Ada
Nothing natta not a word. My daughter at age almost 15 knows everything I will not have a ignorant child in this matter.

J√∂hannes  Sex education when I was a kid, observing barnyard animals clued me in more then my parents ever told me.

Norma My grandparents would turn over in their graves, lol. I was given a sweet, little Mennonite book that was informative, but i was very happy for a bit more info i got from a book i read on my own before i got married. It would have been a little much, lol.

Rebecca nothing from my parents, just from books that I read. I taught my girls about sex when they were around 12 yrs old, they were homeschooled so they didn't have the influence of public sex ed, I taught them that it is a God-given gift for married couples.

Esther my mom was pretty open with us girls...if we had a question about the birds & the bees she would answer in a straight-forward way;didn't elaborate,but answered what we asked.Dad & the boys? don't know how he handled that,although,I do remember whenever a cow would be birthing we all got to watch. 

Levi N Emma  Nothing....By that I got the impression it's dirty and shameful....now step in marriage and try to see it Gods way!( damaging).

Esther My mother did some, but she was nervous about it. I didn't grow up Amish though.

Ada Heck we weren't evens allowed to talk about periods. It was just plum silly.

Esther I do remember a story my dad used to tell with his sermons sometimes. There was a 5 yr old little girl that approached her mother about where babies come from. The mother told the little girl that the stork brings the babies. The little girl went all the way to her great-great grandmother. The mother's answer was always the same. Finally the little girl walked away shaking her head & the mother asked, "What's wrong, Susie?". Susie says, "We haven't had a normal birth in 5 generations!"

Will Exactly what Johannes said, sex was not a thing that was ever mentioned growing up. I got my sex Ed from animals at home. Lol

Ada When I was like 13, I was at the neighbors and watching their dog having puppys and Dad came over and bout had a conniption fit cause I was not supposed to be watching such a thing. I thought, oh my yea I might just go to hell now.

Mary Ann my mom never taught me anything about my body or sex i learned everything from books i snuck out of dads office i decided i dont think i want my kids to learn that way my son is 3 almost 4 and i am already teaching him that no one is allowed to touch his privates at first i thought i was strating to young but i wud rather be safe then have regrets

Dorothy Agreed I educated em young my own and any that I met just having left. In addition the girls I also instructed if he drives a bitty car without a back seat steer clear and no

Norma  It is for the fact that means he only has room for him and his man bag and no room for you he is a complete waste of time so don't go thinking again lol

Lester On my own on that one.

Wilma Nada at home, zero. But we just gave our son and daughter purity rings. We went out to eat and made it a special night.

Joe Sounds like we was purdy much all on our own.

Rosa Mom didn't tell me a thing. Wasn't allowed to sit in the class room when they showed a movie on sex education. I had to sit in the hallway. I remember that very well. Got my first period before I knew anything was happening. After that all I was told was" halt dich frei fuhn mansleit" [Brenda's note: keep yourself free from men] What did that mean to an innocent young girl that knew nothing?

Rosa We were also given a little book that pretty much said nothing. I found mom's baby books because the subject was so closed at our house that I knew better than ask. Some of the rumors that passed around the neighborhood and school were ridiculous. When we grew up a little, mom talked to us about self protection in dating relationships which I often remembered when dating.

Sharon I was given a little book about a girl growing up, pretty basic stuff. Not really sex just periods. I did get sex ed in school though. I cant imagine learning nothing or having any clue going into teen years and then having 1st experiences. That would frighten the heck outta me to say the least and make me a very misserable person I would think.

Betty  No parent education here, just self education lol. Actually when I got my period I was told I'm not dying and given a booklet explaining it in a very vague way. Think it was called "to a girl of 10"? Sound familiar to some of you? lol It was part of a series and was handed another one the day before my wedding, don't remember what it said just very vague again.

Verna I remember my Mom sitting down with me and explaining what it's all about. If I had questions she would answer me. And our daughter is only four months old but we're definitely teaching her young!

Rebecca So, no wonder Amish guys act like animals....

Samuel what I learned myself was what I knew they don,t teach anything. 

Paul As a kid, I was taught nothing on the subject. The Amish contributed to my "education" only by teaching me to read. A neighbor had a loosly guarded collection of books and magazines (complete with pics) on the subject. The rest is history. 

There ya have it dear readers. What's your reaction? Got comments? Leave 'em below. ~Brenda

(C)Copyright, 2013, Brenda Nixon.
***
9/17/14 Update - Thanks for reading. What is 21,084? The number of times this post has been read!
Stay in the loop, get each new post in your email inbox or on iPhone by typing your email address on the right column of my homepage & submit.

27 comments:

  1. Not uncommon for children born in the 40's or 50's to have similar experiences.

    ReplyDelete
  2. I remember not understanding why my sister didn't have to help with the chores sometimes. Mom gave me the little book that explained a little about the Period, and why she shouldn't do heavy lifting or go swimming at that time. Dad never told me anything.

    ReplyDelete
  3. I have had the honor of taking some of my Amish friends to the hospital to have their babies. One time, I stopped by to tell the new grandparents that their grandchild had been born (the friends had asked me to do this) and I was 'shushed' in front of the younger ones. That was 4 years ago. I haven't been 'shhhhed' in front of the younger ones since :)

    ReplyDelete
  4. One other interesting note: right before we headed out to take my friends to the hospital, they asked me if they had time to pray. We got down on our knees and the husband prayed for wisdom, courage, peace, and the Spirit to show him how to be the best husband and father he could be to his wife and new child. I was so touched by the humble request and the awareness he had of the Spirit. I will take that memory and that emotion with me forever.

    Of interesting note: it was not a silent, rote prayer, but a heartfelt plea to the man's Heavenly Father.

    ReplyDelete
  5. Thanks for your comment Barbara. A Yoder, I appreciate you sharing. Fact is women can lift, swim, and take baths while on their period. Blue Eyes, you always have interesting additions to my blog post. I can hardly believe that sharing good news about a grandchild being born was cause for "shushing." Human life and human sexuality are welcomed and normal.
    With my one daughter an RN, we are comfortable talking about the body and its functions. Our son-in-law - who grew up Amish - is probably learning more about his body than he wanted to. LOL

    ReplyDelete
  6. Brenda, I enjoy reading all of your blogs! keep up the good work!
    Diane H

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Thank you Diane - glad you enjoy! So many people like true stories so I thought I'd share from our experiences of those who've enriched our lives.

      Delete
  7. When is the book going to be out?
    Thanks

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Hi Jane, that's a question to ask a publisher. As I'd mentioned in an earlier post it's an uphill challenge to find a publisher that wants to do non-fiction Amish books with all the craze for Amish Romance.
      I do have one publisher looking over my book proposal . . . hopefully I'll have a book out in a year. Stay tuned.

      Delete
  8. My friend & former producer with The Parent's Plate radio show on toginet.com asked me to post her comments...

    "here's my post you can add to your blog. Barbara, I think you are correct with the 'generation factor.' My mother 'strategically' placed a little book on my book shelf in my bedroom. At first I thought it was a mistake on her part to put that in there, but I sneakily read it when I knew they were both asleep. I remember feeling so nervous and naughty reading it behind her back. Now that I'm older... I realized that it was not a mistake.
    Where our kids started becoming curious around the age of 8-10, we didn't feel that they were old enough to learn many details (we homeschooled them as well)so we talked about it being a very beautiful gift that God had given for married people. But outside of marriage it would be a very ugly thing. Their curiosity was settled for the time being." ~ Jill Martin

    ReplyDelete
  9. I grew up Amish and all the above has been my experience.

    ReplyDelete
  10. I didn't grow up Amish, and my mother passed away when I was very young(almost 5 yr. old.) but, I did have a step mom and when ever I asked a question pertaining to some one having a baby "out of wedlock" the answer I got was, "kids were to be seen and not heard". Don't ask questions, or etc... when my older sister started her period, I was like 10 and she was like 13, I didn't know a thing until she(step-sis) finally told me,,, and of course there was the school thing of some sex talk in gym class or a just girls only meeting... I also did not know Much about having sex, some but not all, of course I am not Amish.....

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Thanks Anonymous - yours is a very common experience. I'm continuing to hear similar stories (although not posted here) and about father's who'd prefer to "look straight ahead in the buggy" rather than answer a son's sex question. Even the remotest reference, like to a baby coming, was taboo. To me this makes it more of a curiosity when kids don't get their questions answered. And I believe it's the PARENTS' right & responsibility to offer sex education . . . not the schools & not peers.
      Rose, appreciate your comment. Please keep coming back or better yet, you can follow by email so each blog post goes to your inbox.

      Delete
  11. my grandfather was shocked when people used the word pregnant. But in our German Baptist community it is common now.

    ReplyDelete
  12. I had a similar experience, Brenda. When I got my period for the first time, my mother gave me a pamphlet and told me to read about it. I did so and never really had a discussion about it with her until many years later.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Haha, Sharon, I can imagine your grandfather pulling back at the sound of the word. I think generations ago it was a "woman" thing; men - even husbands - didn't bother to use the words or be emotionally involved. Occasionally, today I hear men my age say, "woman's surgery" when referring to a hysterectomy.

      Barbara, yeah you returned! I respect people being sexually discrete - think there should be more in the media - but there comes a point in families when girls & teens must be educated about their body and human sexuality. It's a shame to only guess at what's happening to this complex machine that God so beautifully and wonderfully made. :-)

      Delete
  13. Interesting! I'm not Amish, but my story sounds like theirs: when I was 10, my Mom had a baby, so I asked her how women get pregnant. She looked away very sheepishly and told me the man gives the woman a seed. Of course, I pictured this in a very literal way! Anything else I learned was from word of mouth, books, and health class in school, NOT from my Mom!

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Oh my, thanks for sharing Anne. I wonder if, as a child, you were confused if your dad gave an apple, orange, or flower seed and then how could a baby come from that :-)

      Delete
  14. About 25 years ago, when I was first married, we visited my husband's mother's family at Christmas (not Amish). His cousin's wife was very obviously pregnant, but our side was unaware of this. When my sister-in-law walked in, she said, "Wow, Kris, I didn't know you were pregnant!" Our aunt shushed her, whispering, "We're not talking about that." My sister-in-law said, "What? Doesn't she know she's pregnant?"
    BTW, when my mom was little and first saw a pregnant woman, someone told her she swallowed a watermelon seed. She was afraid to swallow watermelon seeds for years!

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Haha, thanks for sharing Carole. That could be a reason to tell kids not to swallow watermelon seeds.
      My older daughter is a nurse, plus I brought up my girls to discuss anything with me, so we talk quite candid about sex and pregnancy.

      Delete
  15. I was born in an Amish community but my parents left when I was a preschooler...my parent's shunning was very difficult for years but eventually we found a great friendship with our families...but still had to abide by many rules.

    They are more open, in the communities I am around often, about pregnancies, but not as open as the English. When my parents were younger and still amish and probably even now in certain circles they would say in dutch "she is so" or "she is that way"...meaning she's pregnant w/o using the word.

    As an Amish Historical Fiction writer (new writer w/ Howard Books) these details are especially important. Your blog is interesting...I will have to check back. ;-)

    ReplyDelete
  16. I mean to say I was born in an Amish FAMILY...not community. duh ;-) I am proud to say that I speak PA Dutch fluently and speak it daily!

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Welcome Elizabeth! I'm sorry to hear about your parents' shunning but we know the practice is common. I'm familiar with the bann and shunning among the Amish. I am "black sheep" among some Ohio Amish because I help those who leave.

      Sounds like your parents & family reconciled. That's what I hope for Mosie, Josh, Harvey and the others who've left.

      Welcome to the writing world. I'm familiar with Howard and its history, and trust that you'll include facts & reality rather than the idealized image common in so many books. I believe readers deserve a fresh voice with candor among Amish fiction writers. Best wishes.

      Delete
  17. last year we visited an amish family that had taken our logs and made some slab lumber for us. while my husband was finishing up with loading the lumber, i went inside to visit with the mom of the family. at the time they and 9 children. while chatting about what she was baking, i noticed that she was larger than our last visit. i asked if she was pregnant (probably very rude of me thinking back on it)and she had an expression of total panic as she looked around the room. turned out they had not told their children she was expecting #10. again, in my blunt manner, i said "you mean you will just show up one day with another child?" and she said yes. a few days later i felt just awful at making her uncomfortable in her own home. i heard months later that they had another boy so i mailed her a card with a handmade fleece blanket as a gift.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. The word "pregnant" probably threw the mom in an embarrassed tizzy but, you didn't know and didn't intend to be rude. Non-Amish are used to speaking openly and matter-of-fact about these physical issues, I'm sure you didn't think twice about saying it to her.
      It was thoughtful - and probably a tactful deed - to send her a card and handmade fleece blanket for the new baby. Take no offense if she didn't or doesn't write back; the Amish I've written to never reply to me.
      A couple years ago, I read an Amish fiction and the author wrote of the Amish characters talking about a pregnancy. I knew that wouldn't be an open conversation among Amish, and contacted my skilled colleague to educate and encourage her to be more accurate in her characters. It's so easy for us - as authors and readers - to apply our English (non-Amish) cultural norms onto their culture but, integrity demands that we write accurately about another culture even if it is a fiction book.

      Delete
  18. I was never told anything if I asked I was told to be quiet. I am not amish, I was just always not allowed to be around boys growing up an at 19 I was sitting in my front yard with a boy we were about a foot apart an my mother yelled at me to move away because what would the neighbors say seeing me sitting so close to a boy. growing up around my mother was awful. I was open with my daughter and granddaughter I didn't want them growing up like me. I read all about the amish I enjoy the stories and have learned so much about God and how to be kind and to think good about people. I am 73 now an living alone an I feel so bad for the way some people yell and hit their kids especially the little one. I will continue to always be there is a person or child needs someone to talk with.

    ReplyDelete