I learned about sex for the first time in the first grade from a classmate of mine named Angela. Her mother had fake boobs, lots of boyfriends and wore low riders. The kind Britney Spears and Jessica Simpson always had on in their music videos. I quickly told my older sister of my brand new and impressive knowledge and told her to keep it a secret. After dinner, my mother confronted me in my room.
“Alex,” she said, “your sister told me you learned about something new today?”
“Bitch.” I thought. Angela had taught me some new words too. I nodded uncomfortably.
“Can you tell me what you learned?” She prodded.
So I told her what Angela had taught me, that when a man and a woman stood in a shower naked together and washed each other’s hair, it was called sex. She closed her eyes and shook her head. “Okay, well honey, that’s not true.” She got up and left the room. A little while later she told me about boy parts and girl parts but we never actually talked about their functions and purposes. We actually never talked about “it” at all and I started to learn about sex from words I looked up in the dictionary, on the internet, or heard from friends.
If we could take a look back at my 2006 Google history searches (with “does the penis pee in the vagina?” as my most popular search) you’d get why the 9th grade was, for me, a complete culture shock. I’d spent the past 12 years of my life in Catholic School only to be released into the world of hardcore, no knee-length plaid skirts, no Jesus, no prayer: public school. My knowledge of the public school system stemmed from TV shows like “One Tree Hill” and “Degrassi” or my own imaginings: make-out sessions in bathrooms, fights in the cafeteria, kids from bad neighborhoods selling drugs, kids from good neighborhoods taking them. I couldn’t wait.
Before my first day, my mom sat me down for a “talk”.
“Princess,” she began, “when you start school you’re going to be around a lot of kids who were not raised the way you were. You’ll be around kids who swear, who don’t believe in God and girls who... are experienced... who like other girls... Boys will try to kiss you.”
I couldn’t wait for the experienced girls to be my friends and show me their ways. For the boys to kiss me in empty hallways by my locker where’d they’d rip my clothes off.
“Don’t let the boys do that,” she said ringing her hands,“do you know what mouth sores are?”
My first high school dance was a ‘60s themed one called Polyester Paradise. As I walked into the dark gymnasium lit by disco balls, I nearly tripped over the heels of my plastic white go-gos from what I saw: hundreds of boys rubbing their crotches on hundreds of girls. Sex! But with clothes on. A friend, who went to public school all her of life called it “grinding”. She grabbed my hand and dragged me towards the dance floor. I let her do it to me from behind.
Though I hated keeping them secret, it was exciting for me to learn about the things my parents never talked to me about. Still, these growing curiosities did not surmount my crippling fear of God and his ominous abilities. Any time I needed a Hail Mary for a good grade, or more time on a yearbook deadline, I swore to God I’d be a good girl and postpone the moment I’d let a guy touch my boobs to one more year. I wasn’t betting on my horrible row with puberty.
Imagine if you will, She-Hulk during this tender moment of adolescence. Now imagine her way less cool, super awkward cousin that everyone would encourage to stick to studying because better years were ahead. Acne, small boobs, the most irregular periods, corse hair shooting out of my legs, armpits and what you will imagine. That was me.
By the time I was close to graduating high school I’d never done anything with a guy except kiss one after track practice. It went something like this: me behind the bleachers like I’d always imagined. Him, telling me not to tell a single soul... which was not what I had imagined. After, I went home and thanked God for my first kiss, I scrubbed my mouth raw with toothpaste and antibiotic soap. I promised him one more year of no boob touching as long as I didn’t get mouth sores.
My first real sexual experience happened the summer before I graduated high school. Like most women who experience a violation to their own body, it wasn’t something I had ever desired. For months and years after, I couldn’t stop wondering why God would ever put me in such a situation. Why, if my virginity was so important, would he allow someone to try and take it from me without my permission?
Ultimately, a new thought came into my mind, something I’d never really allowed myself to think about out of fear: what if everything my mother believed and had taught me about God wasn’t real? The idea revolutionized every reasoning and outlook I’d ever had. It wasn’t until years later when I was in college that I gathered the courage to allow myself to embrace a different approach to the beliefs that had been instilled in me. It was my reformation. I completely changed the way I applied God to my life.
It was scary but also freeing. I’d suddenly felt like I had gained complete control over my own body. Eventually, I decided to have sex with someone for the first time, and I never thought of mouth sores or an immaculate conception as a possible punishment.
It’s bizarre how closely intertwined religion and sex have always been for me, but so clear how it’s not at all coincidental. When I was in the 8th grade and preparing to leave Catholic school my teachers discussed both sex and purity with us in the classroom. At thirteen, before I’d ever even had a romantic or sexual interaction with someone, I was asked to sign a paper promising to stay “pure” until I married. Though I now see the affects religion can so often have on people around the world that extend vastly beyond the tribulations of my own life— I truly don’t know where I am when it comes to “God”. Some days I know there’s no way that a god could exist in our world. Some days I find myself praying for a parking spot. Mainly, I think like most people, I'm just trying to make sense of the everyday. I take comfort in knowing that I’m not the only one roaming the same path of uncertainty and take satisfaction in knowing the value of doubt. It opens my mind to the experiences and beliefs of others and stretches it beyond the tenets of my beliefs. It drives me forward.
My mother remains steadfastly certain that this is a phase I’m going through, that I’ll come around with my faith eventually. But until then I think I’ll try to get by being happy with having lots of boyfriends and wearing my super low riders—that is, whenever they make their come back.