Since the closing of the Survivor Council, The FOC* that I was working with and I have continued to work with the kids who were a part of the after school program for two or three days a week. Most days it's just three girls who are nine, twelve, and twelve. Other days, one of the girls’ thirteen and fifteen year-old brothers come along. Last week we somehow got on the conversation of sex, I think because one of the girls (twelve, mind you) mentioned that her ex-boyfriend broke up with his new girlfriend because she wouldn’t come over to his house. This boy is fifteen, and the new girl (new ex girl?) is twelve. FOC responded that he probably wanted her to come over to have sex, and that he would have wanted her to do the same if they hadn’t broken up. She went on to talk about how she grew up having mostly male friends and how they always talked about how they wanted to marry virgins even though they were having sex with their current girlfriends, and how men don’t respect women who sleep around, but will always want and respect a woman who waits until she’s married.
I stayed silent through this conversation, because all I could think of saying is PLEASE FOR THE LOVE OF GOD NO FUCKING!!!!!!!!!!!!, and … something bothered me about her assertions, but I couldn’t put my finger on it until several days later. My approach with talking about sex with the kids is that 1: We definitely should do it, because looking at their families, if we leave it up to their parents they’ll all have babies before they’re sixteen. 2: We should be honest, because lying doesn’t teach them anything. And getting to the problem that I was having, 3: We should be realistic with what we tell them.
I realized that I don’t think that what she said was a very realistic way to approach sex with preteens, the same way that I think (and statistics support) that abstinence-only education in schools is completely unrealistic and doesn’t work. Obviously, these girls shouldn’t be having sex at their ages, but not because no man will ever want to marry them if they do. They shouldn’t be having sex because they are not physically, emotionally, and mentally mature enough to handle sex and the consequences of having sex, and that doesn’t just mean pregnancy or diseases. They aren’t mature enough to handle being told “I love you” and being left the morning after. They aren’t mature enough to handle a guy telling all of his friends that he had you, and all of those guys trying to get with you next and all of the girls calling you a slut. They aren’t mature enough to deal with this “sexting” nonsense. And they’re not even mature enough to deal with the best thing that they could find – a little puppy love.
But realistically, they all will probably be having sex before they’re sixteen, and I think giving them reasons within themselves to slow down is better than giving them reasons that involve what others think of them. Realistically, they are going to want to have sex, as soon as they meet a boy they like enough. People want to pretend that girls and women have no sex drive of their own, and it's all contingent on what they’re willing to “give” a man (and what he’s reciprocating with). Teenage girls are horny, too, trust me, I was one less than ten years ago. So what are they going to think when they start getting that good feeling when they kiss boys? That something must be wrong with them? That they’re bad, because good girls have no problems keeping their legs shut? I hate it when people reduce female sexuality to whether men think we should or shouldn’t be having sex: we’re either virgins, or we’re whores.
Now, I know that from the hood in NOLA to the white ‘burbs where FOC grew up, there are a lot of men who do divide women into those two camps. But, in my opinion, men who can only think of women in these terms are the kind of immature men who never develop a close and intimate relationship with a woman, even if they marry. If their only options are men like that, they should move out of New Orleans when they graduate and explore the world some, find out what kind of what kind of woman they want to be before they discover what kind of man they want.
I was twelve when I stopped thinking that my first would be the man that I marry. I thought, well, if sex is as fun as it looks on TV and in the movies, I may want to do it with more then just one man. When I was sixteen, I decided that my first would have to be someone who I was in love with and had been dating for at least six months, just to make sure that he wasn’t using me. I was about twenty when I realized that I didn’t even need for he and I to be in love because, frankly, I probably wouldn’t be able to wait six months or whatever anyway. And last year, I discovered that all I really wanted from men was respect. More would be awesome, but I was tired of holding out for … what? The sex shouldn’t be about the guy; him getting something from me, as though I’m not getting anything. Sex should be about what I want, and me wanting it. So my first time was about a month ago, with a guy who isn’t a boyfriend and has now moved to another state. We aren’t in love, but we definitely have a mutual respect, and I know that he cares a lot about me. I feel no guilt, no shame, no fear. And just because I’m not a virgin anymore, doesn’t make me a whore.
*FOC = Former Organizing Coordinator