Veronica Schwarz (born in 1939) recalls her mother’s unusually frank sex talk, and then her early sexual experiences when she was a primary school teacher in Brisbane in the early 1960s.
My mother sat me down at the age of twelve or something, or younger—eleven—told me all about menstruation and sexual intercourse and having babies. And I thought, ‘All right, well we’ve done that now.’ I had no further interest. Well, I didn’t. I didn’t need to go off and explore it. But I have not come across anyone else in my age bracket whose mother told them anything.
I met this guy one weekend at the Gold Coast. He wanted to see me again and we spent time together. Then I told him I was going to go overseas and he—as I found out later—he was quite a ladies’ man and — womaniser is probably more the term. I think it offended his sense of his attractiveness for me to say I was going to leave him and go overseas. He asked me to marry him and I said yes — Stupid (sighs). I didn’t expect it at all—no. Took me totally by surprise. Anyway, I said yes and I cancelled my trip—so I was twenty-three at the time.
Once I’d said yes and cancelled my trip, he just cooled down pretty much immediately. I felt that was strange and odd, and I just felt that he was withdrawing from me. So in the end I just separated from him. It was only after that that I found he had actually three of us on the go at the same time! (laughs) One of whom ended up in an asylum with a nervous breakdown and the other one got pregnant so I think I got out of it quite lightly.
Katie Holmes: So did you have a sense of being in love with him?
Yes, I was very, very attracted to him, and he was gentle, and he could say all the right things and put on such a good front. It was really weird. The first time we had sex he was so drunk he didn’t know what he was doing. He didn’t realise I was a virgin— and I wasn’t too sure what he’d done, ’cause when he stopped I said, ‘Am I still a virgin?’ (laughs) God help us! Anyway, no, it wasn’t very satisfactory!
Did it get better?
No! (laughs) No. He did drink a lot which is not all that good for a man’s potency.
I’d had several boyfriends before this and some of them had wanted to have sex. I suppose I thought it was what you did when you got married. Although my mother had never said that, but by God, there was a lot of stuff in the women’s magazines telling you how you ought to behave and how you ought to make a man feel good, and how you were to downplay your intelligence, and blah, blah, blah. It was all around you that you were expected to get married, and probably not work.
So I fell into this relationship with this guy pretty much because I’d said no to a couple of other guys and I thought, ‘Well God, I can’t keep saying no all my life, can I?’ I think there was a large element of that in it—more than love, as you asked me before, did I love him? You might notice I answered, ‘I was attracted to him’, and that certainly isn’t love. I’ve experienced love since then and that certainly wasn’t it. M’mm.
That was another thing that used to surprise me, the way boys and men would want to leap on me—they’d never say, ‘Is this a good time of month?’ or anything. Just want to leap on me, and in those days Australian men did not take responsibility for condoms or contraception. It wasn’t until I got to Europe that I found that men actually used condoms. It wasn’t something Australian men thought about.
Credit: Veronica Schwarz interviewed by Katie Holmes in the Australian generations oral history project, ORAL TRC 6300/161, National Library of Australia. Recorded on 22 and 25 March 2013 in Brookfield, Victoria.