I don’t think I’ve ever talked to anyone who has a positive memory of “the talk.” Most people I know were never even sat down for one. Those who did have it have been lucky enough to block out the memories to the desired fuzziness. I know of guys who were given a descriptive talk whose sisters were simply told not to.
And that’s just insanity.
My experience in this realm was particularly traumatic – a mix of way more information than any ten-year-old needs and some weirdly illustrated books that had to do with Adam and Eve making the first babies in paradise. My saving grace was The Care and Keeping of You, for which I lobbied because I was so scarred by the one talk I’d had and the bizarre children’s books far below my reading level that I’d been forced to read between Bible devotions.
Just as a note: I hid those two creepy books behind other books until I finally lost them, but I’m not ashamed to say that I kept The Care and Keeping of You somewhere in my room until I was through high school.
Anyway, for a long time, I just figured our Puritanical cultural values and the conservative Christian leanings shared by the people I knew was an isolated thing. But I went away to college, where the professor of my required health and wellness course was
oddly into talking about sexual health. After those horrible books, one supremely horrible talk, and countless reminders in Lutheran school to remain abstinent to please God – okay, there was one time one of my favorite teachers sat us down in home room the day before prom and simply said, “I know that you might be doing stuff tonight and you’re going to do what you want to do, so I’m not going to tell you not to. I’m just telling you to be smart and be safe.” – as my sexual education, I actually received an education about sex.
I know, how weird.
But seriously, it was intense and the professor was snarky. It’s the only class I ever took with my roommate and we spent nearly every night talking about the things we learned and the way we learned them. One of the people in the class was a sophomore, but had been at Berea for three years. Why? Well, she’d also managed to have two children in that time. When we started talking about birth control, the professor said, “NAME, pay attention to this!” Not the best way to go about it, but… everyone laughed.
She was very thorough.
We saw the pictures you hear about when people talk about sex-ed and the effects of sexually transmitted infections is totally horrific. However, what struck me the most then (as now) is how much shame we put upon those who contract such infections and diseases. So much shame that people avoid seeking medical treatment – often until it’s far too late to repair. What could be avoided with a simple round of antibiotics becomes life threatening. That is unacceptable.
She brought in a goody bag and we all passed around the different contraceptive choices that are available – from an old school cervical cap to a NuvaRing sealed in a bag. We talked about choices and timelines and being smart. We discussed sexuality and happiness and when sex is wrong (Hint: It’s when one of the parties doesn’t want to.). What struck me in this section is that everything is fallible except abstinence. Still, avoiding talking about contraception or “birth control,” as we often say, does nothing to help the people who fall from the grace of abstinence.
You see, there’s something broken in our system.
Not talking is not helpful. Being ashamed of our bodies is not helpful. Fearing talking about our bodies is not helpful. Saying a rape victim “asked for it” because of what he/she was doing/wearing is not helpful. Running away from our desires is not helpful. vilifying sexuality is not helpful.
Challenging the status quo?
That stupid health class I took four and a half years ago challenged the hell out of my status quo. It lessened the fear of talking about tampons and birth control pills and sex. It gave me the vocabulary to talk about all of the taboo sex stuff I’d heard rumored (and, again, a bit too much about when I was ten!) about. When it comes to the stuff no one talks about, talking is the only option.
That’s the point of being barely rebellious. Challenge the status quo. Hop on board for the ride. Understand every side and make up your own mind. Once you’ve done that, you’re on your way to accepting the fact that it’s okay to not always be in agreement with everyone you know and to no longer believe what you’ve been taught. This doesn’t mean you don’t love them or respect their opinions. It simply means you have formed your own.
With a bit of luck and a lot of love, you too will be loved, respected, and accepted for who you’ve become.
It’s a scary world out there. That’s why the next few Whatever Wednesdays will be dedicated to the stuff no one wants to talk about.
- February 4: The Truth About Sex
- February 11: Contraceptionist
- February 18: Pro-Options
- February 25: Let’s Talk
Don’t worry; this isn’t going to be a TMI-OMG-why-is-Yvonne-talking-about-her-life-like-this sort of thing. It’s about what I know and what I think everyone should know. And, though I’m no expert, I want to help you with that conversation with yourself, even if all I inspire you to do is use Google to find out more about the stuff you’ve heard about.
Throughout this little series, I’d really love to open up the discussion here on Barely Rebellious, so please comment as much as you want, send me emails, do whatever you can. I’m interested in getting feedback and getting to know you readers better.
You can thank BuzzFeed for the inspiration of this series.