Most people think they know a lot more about sex than they actually do.
For example, I bet you do not know about the Birds and the Bees.
You may be able to tell me, the Birds and the Bees is a metaphor, used with children, to talk about sex.
And, if you know how to do a Google search, you may even be able to tell me the Birds and the Bees origin is unclear, with some experts giving Samuel Taylor Coleridge credit, when he referred to the two species in the context of love in his 1825 collection Work Without Hope:
All nature seems at work…The bees are stirring — birds are on the wing…and I the while, the sole unbusy thing, not honey make, nor pair, nor build, nor sing.
Whereas other experts give credit to John Evelyn for the origin of the Birds and the Bees, when he wrote in his sixteenth century diary:
That stupendous canopy of Corinthian brasse; it consists of four wreath’d columns — incircl’d with vines, on which hang little cherubs, birds, and bees.
But I am not interested in your Google searching skills, if you really know about the Birds and the Bees, you should be able to answer three simple questions about this metaphor:
1. What do the Birds represent in this metaphor?
2. What do the Bees represent in this metaphor?
3. What does the Relationship between the Birds and the Bees represent in this metaphor?
What are your answers?
As I said, if you are like most people, you think you know a lot more about sex than you actually do, so you probably do not have answers to these “simple” questions.
Most people do know the Birds and the Bees are a metaphor used to explain sex to children, but what exactly this metaphor represents, few people know.
You are about to be one of these few people.
1. What do the Birds represent in the Birds and The Bees?
Birds lay eggs and Eggs are synonymous with ova. Women have ova. Thus, Birds represent women.
2. What do the Bees represent in the Birds and The Bees? Bees pollinate flowers and Pollen is analogous to sperm. Men have sperm. Thus, Bees represent men.
3. What does the Relationship between the Birds and Bees represent? Birds and their eggs having a relationship with Bees and their pollen represents women and their ova having coital sex with men and their sperm for reproduction.
How does it feel to be one of the few that know exactly what the Birds and the Bees represent?
Philosophers call metaphors like the Birds and the Bees, complex arguments, because their meanings are based on overlapping premises and these premises have assumptions.
Here is where it gets weird.
Children’s brains are incapable of understanding complex arguments.
Let me repeat that, children’s brains are incapable of understanding complex arguments. So, when the Birds and the Bees’ metaphor is used with children, it confuses them about sex, reproduction, and women’s & men’s roles in sexual relationships.
And without accurate sources of information, this confusion will serve as the foundation for children’s understanding about their own and other’s sexuality.
To see exactly what this confusion looks like and how it develops, let’s go inside Little Johnny’s mind, as he asks his father about sex…
Little Johnny: Daddy, where do babies come from?
Little Johnny’s Father: Well little Johnny, let me tell you about the Birds and the Bees…
While father is “talking,” let’s make a list of all the things Little Johnny would already have to know, in order to understand what his father is talking about.
Little Johnny would have to know:
Birds have the capacity to lay eggs.
Only female birds have the capacity to lay eggs.
Female birds laying eggs is kinda like women, but women’s eggs are called ova and women have about one million ova, which are not laid, but instead within the women’s ovaries.
Bees have the capacity to pollinate plants.
When bees collect pollen from the flower of a plant, some pollen from the male reproductive organ of the flower sticks to the hairs of the bees’ bodies. When the bees visit another flower, some of this pollen is rubbed off onto the female reproductive organ of the flower. When this happens, fertilization is possible.
The pollen stuck to bees’ bodies is kinda like men, but men’s pollen is called sperm and isn’t stuck to their bodies, but is instead within the epididymites of men’s testicles and is transferred within an ejaculate containing about 100 million other sperm cells when men become excited.
Little Johnny’s Father: …and that’s where babies come from.
Little Johnny: So, let me get this straight Daddy, human babies come from Birds, Bees, and Flowers pollinating one another? Is this some eccentric form of bestiality?
Moral of the story, if you want to screw children up for the rest of their lives, when it comes to relationships, sex, and sexuality, use metaphors to teach them about sex.
How about Little Johnny’s father answered Little Johnny’s question in a different way…?
Little Johnny: Daddy, where do babies come from?
Little Johnny’s Father: Well Little Johnny, babies come from coital sex. Coital sex is when a man and a woman, consensually decide to put the man’s penis into the woman’s vagina.
Little Johnny: So, let me get this straight Daddy, babies come from women and men mutually wanting to have sex with one another?
Moral of the story, if you want children to understand themselves and others; and be empowered by relationships, sex, and sexuality, teach them about sex without using metaphors, mysteries, and myths.
Cohnitz, D. (2019). An Introduction to the Philosophy of Logic. University Printing House: Cambridge, United Kingdom.
Hashimoto, K. D., Salazar, C. J., Centeno, E., Dominguez, J. A., Evans, A. M., & Lucas, D. R. (2020). Do you know what you think you know? Paper to be presented at the annual meeting of the Southwestern Psychological Association, Frisco, Texas. (Conference canceled due to COVID-19)
Kelleher, K. (2000). Birds Do It, Bees Do It, but Why’d We Say That? Los Angeles Times, https://www.latimes.com/archives/la-xpm-2000-sep-04-cl-15141-story.html
Krahé, B., Scheinberger-Olwig, R. & Kolpin, S. (2000). Ambiguous Communication of Sexual Intentions as a Risk Marker of Sexual Aggression. Sex Roles 42, 313–337.
Matthews, D. (2017). Call children’s private body parts what they are. Psychology Today, https://www.psychologytoday.com/us/blog/going-beyond-intelligence/201703/call-children-s-private-body-parts-what-they-are
Piaget, J., & Inhelder, B. (1973). Memory and Intelligence. London: Routledge and Kegan Paul.
Dr. Don Lucas, Ph.D. is a Professor of Psychology and head of the Psychology Department at Northwest Vista College in San Antonio Texas. He loves psychology, teaching, and research.
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