How Dolly Parton Learned About the Birds and the Bees: ‘We Were Always Experimenting’

Dolly Parton has always been a sex-positive celebrity. She’s never felt the need to apologize for her sensuality. But how did the Queen of Country come to learn about the facts of life in such a shameless manner? From her older cousins, of course.

Dolly Parton in 1988. She's wearing a black blouse, big, teased hair, and an open-mouthed smile on her face. She's in front of a black background.
Dolly Parton | Bob D’Amico/Walt Disney Television via Getty Images

Dolly Parton’s mother said very little about sex

Young Dolly had plenty of questions about sex growing up. But her mother never went into detail.

“Momma always told us early that God was responsible for people havin’ babies,” she told Playboy Magazine in 1978, according to the book Dolly on Dolly: Interviews and Encounters with Dolly Parton. “I don’t even know how I learned it. I learned real early. I think I probably knew it before Momma did. [Laughs] She leaned when she was about 15 and I don’t think she knew what was goin’ on until she done had four kids.”

Parton went on to say that she was so “open-minded” and curious about the subject that she just kept asking until someone answered her questions.

“If somebody wouldn’t tell me, I’d ask the first person I thought I could ask,” she said.

Where Dolly Parton learned about the facts of life

Parton went to a one-room school in a barn. She says that’s where she got all of her questions answered. There, and from her older cousins.

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“It’s somethin’ I learned in the barn,” she said, laughing. “I probably shouldn’t say this, but it’s just the truth: We were always just findin’ out things on our own. We had uncles and cousins that were maybe two or three years older than us that knew a lot of stuff. When they would come to visit us, they’d teach us all kinds of meanness or tell us about this or that. And soon as we got a chance, we’d try it.”

The “Jolene” singer says she and her friends and siblings were all “real curious.”

“A lot of people won’t admit it, but I just always had an open mind about sex,” she said. “We all did. It was not a vulgar thing. We didn’t know what we were doin’, we just knew we weren’t supposed to let Momma and Daddy know it.”

‘I always loved sex’

The “9 to 5” singer’s parents never really spoke to her about the birds and the bees.

“We just never did have a bunch of hang-ups,” she said. “Momma never said, ‘Oh, don’t do this, you’ll go to hell.’ She didn’t say do it, either. She didn’t say. Daddy would have probably blistered our rear ends if he’d caught us foolin’ around. We would just play doctor and nurse, just explore and experiment.”

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Parton’s attitude toward sex has always been a positive one, free from taboo and shame.

“I always loved sex,” she said. “I never had a bad experience with it. I was just very emotional. I felt that I could show my emotion just like I show my emotion with words. If I felt I wanted to share an emotion, then I did. To me, sex was not dirty. It was somethin’ very intimate and very real. I don’t ever remember bein’ afraid of it.”