“This is what passes for sex education?” I whisper to Tara as the teacher at the front of the room equates ‘safe’ kisses to peaches. It’s pathetic and an uncomfortable heat is pouring through me, making sweat break out on my temples and I can feel it collecting in my bra.
“Yeah, I’m pretty sure everyone in this room is way beyond that particular fruit.” Tara says in a way that implies she’s saying a hell of a lot more than commentary on the lesson plan.
Um, okay. I get it. You’re having sex, or sex adjacent activities, with my best friend.
Super glad I know that, and that he chose not to tell me.
I give her a small laugh to cover up the fact that I’m having a hard time not creating a mental picture of the two of them and keeping my lunch down at the same time.
My laugh draws the eyes of the gym teacher turned sex expert, Ms. Collins.
She hates me because I don’t like to run. And, according to her, if I applied myself I could be very athletic.
Well, screw her and her athletic.
The only running I like is the kind that ends with a jump into Lake Whatcom in the summer. The only other running I’m even willing to do is if I’m late for work. I just know she’s going to make me answer some asinine question.
“Marigold, can you guess what kind of kiss comes after the prolonged contact involved with a prune kiss?” Ms. Collins asks, and it’s clear she thinks I won’t be able to guess her ridiculous names for kissing.
“Alfalfa. Because there’s no way to say it without using your tongue.” The class laughs in response, because even though we’re all juniors, we may as well be twelve years old on days like today when they treat us like we're too young to understand. And, shockingly, I’m right.
What genius thought these different names for kisses would be beneficial to teach to a room full of, mostly, sexually active teenagers?
As it is, we still get the anatomy lessons in groups split up by gender and the only information we get about sex is that if we do it, we’ll get STIs and die. Why don’t they teach us about condoms and consent instead of this drivel?
I’m officially stewing.
This class doesn’t help me. Nothing in this class so far has even addressed pregnancy at all. I can smell the panic sweat heating up the small of my back and I’m pissed this is the curriculum, as if we’re six years old and any kind of porn humans have ever thought up isn’t a click away on the internet.
Ms. Collins is waxing philosophical about the importance of waiting for 'prolonged' contact because it can easily get hormones flowing and lead to 'other things.'
My brain snaps, and my hard and fast rule about flying under the radar in front of the teachers gets thrown out the window by my hand shooting into the air.
“When you – oh. Marigold?” Ms. Collins asks.
“Her name is Goldie,” Tara says next to me, and I nod to her in thanks.
“Goldie, do you have a question?” Ms. Collins tries again.
“A few.” I feel all the eyes of the class on me; it isn’t helping the heat pouring through my body, but it’s too late to turn back now. I grab onto my anger as a lifeline to get me through what I need to say.
“Why aren’t we talking about the lack of gray in matters of consent? How it’s actually really hot to ask for consent? Why aren’t we practicing putting condoms on bananas? Why aren’t we learning that the pull-out method is not a method for anything but getting pregnant? Why aren’t we learning about each other’s parts? Like where the clitoris is and what exactly is pre-cum? I mean, are there sperm in it? Where to get free testing for STDs, like at Planned Parenthood? Or even basic facts, like girls don’t pee out of the same place they bleed from, and we can’t hold the blood, otherwise we would never have periods because they suck. Why don’t we cover anything outside of the cis-hetero aspects of sex ed? We know how to kiss. But sex is a part of life, and we sure aren’t learning about it in any real way. Why?”
My tirade is met with utter silence.
The faces of people around me are like a freeze frame of shock in a comic book. Ms. Collins looks like I just murdered a puppy in front of her.
But Tara is smiling. A huge grin is spreading across her face and she throws her hand into the air at the same time she starts firing off questions to Ms. Collins, not waiting to be called on.
“And why aren’t we learning about how normal masturbation is for boys and girls, or how unrealistic and harmful some porn can be? A lot of it is fine, but a lot of it is abusive and violent, and isn’t that messing with people’s perceptions about sex? Shouldn’t someone be warning us about the bad kind and helping us find the good kind?” Tara asks.
A damn good question.
But Ms. Collins is broken. Her mouth is stuck on open and close and there’s a weird wheeze coming out of her throat.
I wonder if she’s hoping she can get through the period without answering anything.
Not that it matters.
As the melee spreads, hands wave in the air all over the room. Some shout lewd jokes, but many, so many, are real questions from students who see a crack in the door and are shouldering their way through.
I don’t think this will be contained to this single class period.
Poor Ms. Collins. Her head is whipping back and forth, eyes darting from student to student.
She’s probably been using the same lesson plan for twenty years and never thought she would have to update or change it. She probably thought this would be an awkward, but brief, course she could fly right through.
I don’t care. We deserve real answers.
Maybe if we had that kind of curriculum, the kind that includes warnings about pulling out, I wouldn’t have an abortion scheduled for the week after school gets out.