I Was Ravished by a Man Wearing a Cape and No Shirt – Elaina G. Smith

I didn’t realize the precise mechanics of sex until I was 12 and found a book about it. This particular sex book sat in plain sight on my mom’s bookshelf next to the King James Bible, the New King James Bible, NIV Bible, Precious Moments Bible, Bible-based self-help books, and Biblical romance novels. The Joy of Christian Sex glared at me with its light pink cover. Filled with hearts circling the chapter numbers, it featured badly drawn adults with ‘70s hair and mustaches engaging in sex approved by Jesus™ in various positions. And anatomical drawings. The penis-in-vagina drawing blew my mind, as I thought that during sex the penis just sat outside the vagina and something happened and then 9 months later, voila, a baby. The fact that actual penetration was kind of important never occurred to me, even at 12.

So, thank you Joy of Christian Sex: you taught me the basic mechanics of sex when no one else would. Of course, it wasn’t until I started reading romance novels that I realized there was more to sex than a few moments of penetration resulting in babies—that there could even be some amount of pleasure, even for women.

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I should probably have begun this essay with “My first romance novel was…” but I can’t remember. Up until tenth grade, I read fantasy novels: hulking, beastly things that monopolized my attention. I read them on band trips, in study hall, at home, on buses, on car rides. I would make my mom drive me to the library, and I would return home with a pile to be read entirely within a week or two.

But as I edged into high school, I started reading fantasy with romance, and then romance with fantasy, and then I was that absurdly tall, oversized-sweatshirt-wearing kid, skulking about the bookshelves at the Daniel Boone Regional Library in Columbia, MO, hoping that no one I knew would see me pulling romance novels off the shelf.4

Although I don’t remember my first romance novel, I do remember the first sex scenes I ever read. I was 13. My friend Catherine and I had gone to the library that afternoon: I had checked out a fantasy novel, she had checked out two romances. I knew they were romance novels because the Daniel Boone Regional Library stuck big, reddish-orange heart stickers on the spine with ROMANCE in large letters.5

Catherine had fallen asleep reading one of my books. I picked up one of her novels, flipped through it and found myself reading a scene in which the man tells the woman that her breasts are beautiful and his cock is, of course, huge, and all I could think was, is this what sex is like? I flipped further into the book, as it was an anthology of short stories, and the last one included a virgin bride being deflowered by her new husband. 

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  4 This was before the e-book/e-reader, and I was a broke teenager. So the library was my only option.
5 Those fucking stickers were the bane of my existence. 

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Elaina G. Smith received her MFA from the University of Missouri-Kansas City and has been published in [PANK] and The Monarch Review. She was also the Managing Editor of the online literary magazine Revolution House. She currently lives on the Kansas side of Kansas City with her collection of cats.

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