My Pussy is More of a Britney Spears Than a Kate Upton

 

 

Rediscovering my sexuality after getting diagnosed with herpes.

___

It was the first week of 2019 and I was laying on my boyfriend’s couch with my legs splayed open, trying to get a better look at my vagina.

With my legs in the air, I balanced my iPhone between my feet, using its flash to shed some light on my “situation.” I winced. I was inspecting my vagina in an attempt to find the source of the pain I had been experiencing for nearly two days. It was a pain that felt entirely foreign to me, and which, despite my best efforts, had amplified.

Every time I went to the bathroom, it burned. Even the slightest touch left me reeling. Neither sitting nor standing nor walking offered any relief, and though I tried to push my hypochondriacal tendencies aside, I couldn’t shake the feeling that something was actually wrong.

Looking intently at my vagina, I noticed two small sores near its opening. They weren’t menacing, exactly, but they were certainly shocking, and they were indicative of a problem I wasn’t yet ready to come to terms with. Everything else looked swollen and red and entirely unlike the vagina I had known and loved — I was stunned.

I quickly booked the next available appointment at the nearest gynecologist, and the following morning my fears were confirmed: “Looks like a classic case of genital herpes,” she said.

Happy fucking New Year.

Over the next few days, the sores began to multiply as the virus took effect, and my vagina morphed into something completely alien that I could no longer recognize as my own. I became fixated on examining this strange new vulva and mentally cataloging all of the changes it underwent. Had the pain not served as a reminder that my genitals and I were connected, I would have felt like a third-party observer — like someone who becomes entranced by a car wreck, but who doesn’t bear the emotional repercussions because they don’t know anyone involved. While I no longer felt a personal connection to my pussy, I didn’t have the option to forego the emotional repercussions. The pain kept me tethered to my new reality– a reminder that, on some level, this was my fault, and I would have to take ownership of the pussy that lay before me.

Maybe it’s vanity, or maybe it’s a well-fed ego, but the physical changes to my vagina seemed to take a larger toll on my mental health than the sores did.

Sure the pain was intense, but the dysphoria I experienced upon looking down at my vagina was difficult to reconcile. My “porn star pussy,” as one ex had dubbed it, had always been a point of pride for me. To me, she was attractive: discrete, symmetrical, and perhaps a bit mysterious. The sort of pussy that never feared having sex with the lights on or being naked in a women’s locker room. The sort of pussy that never felt inclined to Google “is my vagina normal?” I always thought that if my pussy were a celebrity, she would be Kate Upton — obvious hot girl with girl-next-door charm.

And what about everything we’d been through together?

She had been a loyal and adventurous comrade through many o’ late night romps. She had been patient when dozens of men failed to find (or even look for) her clitoris. She had endured razor burns and amateur bikini waxes, periods that felt more like hemorrhages, G-strings that hugged her a little too tightly, and an endless slew of incorrectly inserted tampons. Hell, she was even a survivor of sexual assault.

But here she was, bruised by a little bout of herpes. I wasn’t sure if I was disappointed in her for going down without a fight, or me for putting her in this situation in the first place. I felt no synchronicity between myself and the part of my body with which it had always been the easiest to connect.

As the days passed, I worried that I had lost my porn star pussy forever. That sex would never be enjoyable again, and that even when the sores healed, things would always be “different.”

To add insult to injury, the pain seemed only to worsen. I created a contraption out of a sliced up water bottle just to prevent pee from cascading over my sores every time I used the bathroom. It was one of those things that felt embarrassing, even when I was the only one there to witness it.

Amidst all of the pain and embarrassment, I tried to keep moving forward. I found solace in oversharing, in telling my friends about my herpes and my experience. I quickly discovered that, for me, herpes was like the opposite of Tinker Bell; the more attention I paid it, the weaker it became. I started incorporating herpes jokes into my Sunday night stand-up shtick, knowing that 1 in 6 audience members could probably relate. Even if they couldn’t, I was putting a face on the “Hot Girls With Herpes” movement, and I felt a strange sort of bravery for doing so.

Before contracting herpes I had always assumed that getting an incurable STI would be the end of life as I knew it. Herpes, especially, seemed incredibly daunting. It is the go-to STI for scaring teens into abstinence and warning women about the dangers of being “too slutty.”

I distinctly remember sitting in my high school health class as dozens of students screamed in horror when a 3×5 foot projection of genital herpes lit up the chalkboard. I was convinced that anyone who contracted it would become a social pariah. However, once I became infected with herpes, it didn’t seem all that life-altering. Sure it was ugly and painful, but it certainly didn’t result in my societal isolation. In fact, several of my friends had been quietly living with genital herpes for years, and were more than happy to share their tips of the trade. Herpes, as I discovered, is far more menacing when shrouded in mystery than it is on the flesh.

After about two weeks, the sores began to heal.

I watched in amazement as my porn star pussy made her triumphant return to the spotlight; her resilience was uncanny. I almost felt foolish for doubting her. What had seemed like irreversible damage had faded away to reveal the precise pussy I had always recognized as my own, but this time, she was stronger. I realized that her celebrity persona wasn’t Kate Upton after all — Kate simply lacked the depth of my pussy. She was more like Britney Spears: a divorced mother of two who overcame an addiction problem and reclaimed her place on the throne, hot as ever.

Of course, I would never overcome herpes entirely, but knowing that my pussy and I could withstand its wrath, fostered a deeper connection between us. My dysphoria turned into a re-centering, and I felt confident that my mental revival had catalyzed my physical one.

I often categorize my life into a series of “before and after”s. Who I was and who I became resulting from my experiences — things like living abroad, my parents’ divorce, and my first real heartbreak — each landmark an era of becoming that has changed me irreversibly. I assumed getting herpes would be another one of those “before and after”s, that I would look back on herpes-free Jessie and feel that, in some consequential way, I was different. That my vagina, my sexuality, and my personal connection to both could never feel quite as strong.


Instead, contracting herpes became an exercise in my ability to remain unchanged — to reconsider the idea that having an STI made me any less sexy, funny, desirable, smart, or womanly. That the aesthetic value of my vagina was indicative of my sexual prowess. That my personhood could, in any way, be shaken by the presence of a few open sores. Herpes was a bold reminder that I was placing too much stock in others’ perceptions of my desirability, and that this mindset, more so than my herpes, was making me sick.

Contracting herpes made me realize that perhaps a porn star pussy is not a pussy after all, but a commitment to coexisting peacefully with the most unlovable parts of yourself. And I think that’s something worth spreading.

 

First photo by Eileen Kelly, the following two by Dina Veloric. 

My Ex Cyberbullied Me

When my ex and I broke up after a tumultuous relationship, I was seventeen and navigating my first weeks of college. Despite being continents apart and distracted from my new life, he was inescapable: photos plagued my phone, memories were strewn all over social media.

Images can be removed and messages can be deleted, yet his online presence haunted me as I was doing my utmost to move on.

It started with rather typical posts featuring depressing captions that someone would publish when they feel the hardship that comes with a break-up. However, things quickly escalated and I had no control over the impulsive sentimental narratives he was crafting to gain sympathy from others.

Scrolling, I felt helpless as a stained image of me was designed. I was painted as the evil ex in the eyes of anyone from his university who had never met me and was willing to believe his version of events.

The hardest part of it all was that these words were typed by someone I trusted, someone I thought would never intentionally try to hurt me. I suddenly didn’t know who the person I’d dated for the last year was. The way everything ensued after the break-up was beginning to taint the good memories I had of us.

While I don’t tend to spend a lot of time worrying about strangers’ opinions of me, this phenomenon forced me to experience firsthand the scary extent to which anyone can spread unverified facts through social media.

As he was blaming me for his panic attacks on his Instagram, he was also regularly sending me countless derogatory texts, saying he hoped that I’d “rot in hell”, and other harsh or death-related messages. While blocking was an option, that still didn’t stop his frenzied posts — posts that often got deleted as quickly as they were published.

I unfollowed him, but my friends still often notified me whenever something alluding to me was posted.

This lack of closure made me write dozens of letters I ultimately never sent him, many back-and-forths on whether the things he’d said about me were worth confronting. There was a petty part of my brain that fantasized about posting all the ‘receipts’ of the toxicity I went through with him — instead, I poured my emotions into my personal growth.

Then, suddenly, his online chronicles stopped.

He reached out to me, apologized, and we talked things through. After everything he put me through online, I wish I could say that I hated speaking to him, but I didn’t. I still felt affection for him even after it all. He made me understand that he was going through really hard times, and I understood that his posts served as (unhealthy) coping mechanisms. I even invested a couple of days helping him with his breakdowns. After the conversation, I thought we were on good terms. I thought the agitation would stop — that is, until I saw on my birthday, a few weeks later a post reading: “Happy birthday bitch hope it’s your last.”

This is when my brain finally understood how manipulative he was. Just like the way he put rose-colored glasses on me throughout our relationship, he was never going to stop caring about his pride and fabricating whatever story he wanted others to believe for his own sake.

However, there is an upside to all of this.

Seeing this side of him magnified reassured me of the path I was on in my own life. While I could not honestly say that I have completely forgiven him for his toxic behavior, I know that I am halfway there, and I still wish the best for him. The experience reminded me that the judgment of people who do not know me, doesn’t matter.

A tip to anyone who is currently in the middle of a break-up: as tempting as it may be, avoid publicizing your relationship or break-up online. Focus on your own mental wellbeing instead.

 

 

Gif by Barbara Pozzi. Photos (in order of appearance) by Kama Snow and Isabelle Abbott. 

 

No Labels

I think I first noticed it when I was 11 years old.

The Sims computer game was my religion. I created families. I killed families. I made my first elementary school crush, and made him marry my Sim-self. I learned every cheat code, and got every expansion pack over the course of several years. I learned how to make couples have sex, and despite not being able to see any details apart from rustling covers and tiny fireworks, it gave me a feeling, a pressure, deep inside my stomach.

The Sims taught me a lot about adulthood, such as the importance of a smoke detector, and why you have to check your mail every day to make sure you pay your bills on time. I also learned that if you wanted to get another $10,000 for a hot tub, you’d have to make a family move in with you and then murder them. But most importantly, I learned that two women could love each other.

One day my mother found me making two female sims cuddle on the bed. She wouldn’t let me play again for two weeks. I didn’t know what to say to make her less concerned — would she have punished me if my Sims happened to be a man and woman? How could I explain to her that, just because I loved watching two women together romantically, I didn’t want that for myself?

I had always been a curious child. Being the youngest of three, I was exposed to a sort of PG-13 lifestyle. I remember watching Grease for the first time, couples making out in the back of their baby blue Chevrolet — it was exciting. I was fascinated by the idea of bodies, particularly bodies being together. I was obsessed with what little I knew about sex, and I thought that penises — whatever they were — were hilarious. I assumed I was supposed to like boys, so I did. Turns out I liked girls first, in a way I wouldn’t be able to understand for a long time.

Nick and I were Facetiming for what must have been the fifth day in a row. I was 13 years old and thought that staying up until 2AM talking on the phone to a boy was the epitome of “grown-up.” We chatted while I scrolled through my Tumblr. Out of nowhere, I stumbled upon a short blurry GIF of two women, naked… together.

I let it play out maybe five or ten times. Then I clicked on the blog, revealing an endless stream of photos and videos. Nothing was blurred — nothing was left to the imagination, yet my imagination was running wild.

Nick was still talking, his laugh brought me back to reality. I was short of breath. I had completely forgotten that I wasn’t alone. After a string of half-ass excuses, I hung up, giving myself a moment to take in what was in front of me. The light from the screen lit up my face, and the darkness, which hid the rest of my body, felt comforting.

My parents were asleep, and carried by this new feeling, I was unashamed. The wooden chair in front of the computer was big enough for two of me. It was painted bright green and sanded back on the edges by my mother. Its structure held me up while I sank into it, my head tilted as not to break eye contact with these women, who looked at each other as if nothing else in the world mattered. And to me, nothing else in the world mattered.

I practiced every night, late enough so I wouldn’t have to worry about disruption, but early enough that I had time to figure out what the fuck I was doing. What the fuck was I doing? After I had my first orgasm, the shame brought me back to reality.

I typed…

“Does watching lesbian porn make me gay?” Enter. 

 

I scrolled until I found the source that told me what I wanted to hear. I think it read something like: ‘Not necessarily, it just means penises and men aren’t something you’re attracted to.’

 

“Straight porn” Enter. Click. Exit.

 

Okay, so I’m not gay — I just don’t like penises.

In the shower, I thought, Don’t panic Caroline, it’s going to be fine. This is just going to be a secret you’re going to have to keep for the rest of your life.

Go figure.

In high school, I’d get drunk with my best friend and all I could think about was kissing her. I hoped she wanted to kiss me, too. It happened once in the back of our friend’s car while he was doing donuts in a parking lot, but she was so drunk and the cops came and made us go home — which probably overshadowed her memory the next day. We never spoke about it after that.

One afternoon, we were sitting outside when she asked me if I was interested in dating women. I was so embarrassed I spent 20 minutes tripping over my words trying to explain that, No! I was not attracted to women, but because I believe in sexual fluidity, and I wouldn’t be opposed if the situation came to be.

To this day, I’ve only ever dated men. I’ve only ever been with men. In high school, I wore push up bras and lacey underwear. I pretended I wanted to suck their dicks. I kissed them the way Cosmopolitan told me to. I couldn’t open my eyes, because if I had, then I would have laughed. Men and their sexuality was laughable to me. So rigid, so expressionless. No passion, no response — it made me feel nothing. Their fingers made me feel nothing, and their dicks were so one dimensional. I gave my body to boys because I wanted to be liked and I wanted to feel beautiful and I didn’t want to be gay, because being gay was absolutely terrifying.

I didn’t love dick for a long time. I didn’t love dick until I started to love myself, and I’m not sure whether or not that’s a coincidence. It didn’t matter though, I would still let them inside of me and I still pretended to moan. At the time, I couldn’t possibly imagine dating a woman. Men were easy to understand, and it was easy to make them like me and I had a textbook of dating vernacular already established. What language did women speak? And more importantly, how could I learn it?

I came out as bisexual to a handful of people during my freshman year of college, a year into my last relationship. It feels good to say, even though I hardly say it to anyone. 

I watch straight porn now. My experience with men has become more than just an experience I think I’m supposed to have. The dick that I engage with engages with me too. But there is always something inherent within this sex that holds me back from pure, unapologetic sexual pleasure… a feeling that my pleasure comes second to men, their comfort above mine. Although, lesbian porn will always be special to me. It showed me selfless pleasure, and it showed me selfish pleasure — it was the first pleasure that I didn’t owe to a man.

Sometimes I’m insecure. What kind of bisexual only dates men? How could you possibly be attracted to women if you’ve never had sex with one?

I find it easier to just not acknowledge my sexuality than to answer their questions.

 

Photos by Lia Madeline

 

Chasing That High

*The following may be is triggering to those affected by substance abuse/addiction. 

 

Five. That’s the number of pills I had left.

I stared at the baggy, shocked by how many that meant I had taken that day. I must have miscounted, and somehow, the second time I opened the bag, five more pills would surely appear right before my eyes. But this was not the case.

I shoved the bag into my pocket as my girlfriend walked in and asked if I was ready to go. We had planned on going to a friend’s party later that night — something we both always looked forward to. She knew about the drugs, or at least what I decided to tell her. To her, I was simply a guy who liked to get high once in a while. She had no idea as to the extent of my addiction — the toll that it took on me emotionally, physically, and even on our own relationship.

After spending the night drinking at our friend’s house, we decided to Uber to hers. Feeling the positive momentum of the night, we started hooking up as we sprawled out across her oversized fluffy bed. I could tell she wanted to have sex, and I did too. But instead of relishing in that reality, I felt a wave of fear wash over my mind.

How many pills had I taken that day? Would I even be able to get hard? Would I enjoy myself at all?

This was the part of my drug use that I had to constantly hide. How it left me feeling so aroused, but barely able to get hard. Sometimes I couldn’t even cum. I would go at it for two hours hoping and hoping that I’d finally be able to finish, only to end up having to fake an orgasm. The drugs were stealing from me the thing I valued most: connecting with her in one of the most intimate ways I knew how.

I briefly considered giving them up and returning fully to the girl I loved, before a flurry of fear and self-doubt quickly pushed all hope of quitting far away. I knew I could never truly give myself to her while I was high, and I constantly lived with that guilt.

Half of me tried to blame her accepting nature for my addiction — as if I would quit the second she told me to, absolving me of all responsibility for my actions. Deep down I knew this couldn’t go on forever. One day we went up to San Francisco during Christmas break to spend the day shopping and eating. I couldn’t have been happier. Everything was decorated beautifully. I was getting to experience it all with the girl I loved the most. It looked like something out of a movie. Yet I still found myself sneaking away for a moment to slip my hand into my pocket, fish out a pill, and quickly swallow — no water needed. I was an expert by now.

The guilt I always felt was quickly replaced by shame. I had everything I ever wanted in the world right in front of me, but I still felt the need to get high. Even worse, I knew that no matter how much we both enjoyed each other’s company that day or any other day, the experience would never culminate in the deeply passionate sex I used to know.

I wish I could say the problems I experienced ended with the physical, but that was just the beginning.

After a while I found myself needing more and more pills to feel as good as I used to from one (you all know how the story goes). Whenever I didn’t have enough to keep me high, I would look at her with pure contempt whenever she spoke. When I was craving, everything about the girl I supposedly loved left me with a feeling of rage, my mind preoccupied with how I was going to get that next pill. I’d lie almost constantly, making excuses to leave her so I could pick up. I would go to the bathroom sometimes twice during one meal. Eventually, everything came to a boiling point.

I experienced a rare moment of clarity and decided that it wasn’t fair to either of us for this to continue. I promised myself that that was the last time I would allow a substance to get in the way of what was probably the best thing that had ever happened to me.

The following two weeks were hard, but as I felt myself being purged of all the drugs, I knew my decision was the right one. When I looked at my girlfriend, that rush of endorphins that was once so familiar returned and I was filled with a euphoria that no drug could ever come close to producing.

Our sex life became full of the passionate vigor that I always wished for, and my body finally felt clean and free. I realized that the high I had been chasing was right in front of me the whole time, and it blew everything else out of the water.

As cliché as it may sound, love can be a drug, and without it, I fear I would have never been able to break free from my addiction.

 

 

Photos by Haley Hasen

 

 

Don’t Let Your Gynecologist Slut-Shame You

I used to have stress dreams about going to the gynecologist that left me sweating and anxious when I woke up.

The vulnerability that comes with revealing literally the most private parts of myself to a stranger made my dread feel relatively reasonable. That fear feels especially heightened when you factor in the physical discomfort of having a cold, metal speculum shoved inside of your body as your vagina is cranked open using other unfamiliar objects.

When I first experienced bleeding during sex, I brushed it off. But when it happened again with a different partner, I began to panic. “It’s probably nothing,” I’d lie to myself as I tried to stifle my increasing trepidation. The Internet, as usual, didn’t help to calm my nerves.

“YOU HAVE CANCER!!!” screamed every WebMD-esque article. My fruitless searching yielded no better results, only offering me a vast range of possibilities from sexually transmitted infections, to menopause, to polyps, to faulty birth control, to just plain old vaginal trauma.

Finally, after serious urging from my friends — and a tearful phone call to my mom — I admitted that maybe this was something worth getting checked out by a professional. This was for my own peace of mind, if nothing else.

The gynecology department at my university’s student health center would not even see patients under the age of 21 unless they were experiencing a medical abnormality or emergency, which I found puzzling. My general practitioner had always told me that it was important to see a gynecologist for annual exams upon becoming sexually active, which was something that I had been guilty of stalling. Of all places, shouldn’t a university be encouraging students to take ownership and responsibility of their reproductive health?

Making an emergency appointment proved no easier. In the two-and-a-half weeks leading up to spring break, only two appointments were available, so I swallowed my apprehension and jumped at the chance to take the first possible spot.

A quick Google search of my doctor’s name yielded eyebrow-raising results: a one-star rating on a third-party website. But with over 40 years of experience in the field, I was certain that she had seen my problem before and could at least give me the mental placidity I craved before I began my final exams.

Instead, I walked out of Student Health feeling confused, unsatisfied, and ashamed of my life choices.

I sat on the table and waited for my doctor for what felt like an eternity. Naked from the waist down, covered only with a flimsy sheet, my clothes sat crumpled on the floor like a sign of surrender. My mind raced, and I nervously fidgeted with my hands, wondering what I was supposed to do. Was I supposed to lie down and count the dots on the ceiling? Or was I meant to sit up, conscious of my terrible posture and my bare ass on the too-crunchy paper?

My meeting with the doctor began fairly standard, but my first inkling that this appointment would be futile came when I brought up my personal suspected causes of the bleeding. “I was wondering about the possibility of endometriosis causing this bleeding? I’ve never been diagnosed, but my mom had it, and I’ve been taking birth control to ease my really painful periods for–”

“The pill is the best method for dealing with endometriosis, so you probably shouldn’t change what you’ve been doing,” she interrupted.

Having my questions basically discontinued by the doctor wasn’t the worst part of my appointment, while pondering my chart, she turned to me and said, “You know, I don’t like you having this many partners in such a short amount of time.”

I was stunned. As I lay there, scared, splayed open and vulnerable, this doctor had the audacity to criticize me for having safe, consensual sex with two different people in a span of two weeks. And, frankly, let’s be honest. It’s college. Crazier sexcapades have surely happened.

While a doctor’s concern for a patient’s health and safety is always reasonable and appreciated, I felt as though this comment crossed a line of professionalism. Her judgment regarding the frequency of my partners — in spite of the fact that I explicitly stated that I had used condoms in both encounters — read as preachy, not professional.

As young people begin to take agency of their reproductive health, the last thing we want or need in a daunting situation is a doctor who openly shames us for our expression of sexuality. I was disheartened to have left my first gynecologist appointment — something that already had me wracked with nerves — feeling ashamed and unheard when I should have left feeling comforted and supported.

Sermons about promiscuity that go far beyond the boundaries of the job descriptions of medical professionals are, sadly, nothing new.

While there isn’t data at the ready specifying the percentage of women who have experienced slut-shaming by their doctors, medical professionals often overstep beyond unbiased patient care into personal lectures about moral conduct. Countless young women have reportedly encountered health care professionals who will not prescribe them birth control because they deem them too young, too promiscuous — or simply unworthy due to some unrelated, subjectively implemented standard.

It is not the job of a gynecologist (or any doctor, for that matter) to judge a patient who is lying physically and emotionally bare before them. It is their job to offer as much help as possible. And, in my case, my doctor not only shut down my questions and refused to answer them, but she also made me feel unable to be wholly honest about my sexual history and activity.

Being candid and truthful with healthcare professionals is one of the most vital parts of seeking treatment. As young women set out on the quest to maintain good reproductive health, the last thing we need is to be shamed, invalidated, or questioned for wanting to practice safe, consensual sex — and for pursuing the healthcare that comes in conjunction with that. Experiencing a negative impression from my first-ever gynecologist appointment will surely leave a lasting mark, and I wonder how many other women at my university (and beyond) have had similar experiences?

Shame will not likely amend our lifestyle choices, but it will affect how much we tell our doctors and even how willing we are to schedule additional visits when facing a medical crisis. And, that’s where the real danger lurks.  

 

 

First two photos by Maizy Shepherd and last photo by Kama Snow

 

I Talked To My Mom About Abortion

 

On January 22nd of 1973, a 25-year-old named Norma McCorvey was informed by the Supreme Court of the United States that her right to an abortion was protected under the Fourteenth Amendment. Norma was better known by the legal pseudonym Jane Roe, and her case, Roe v. Wade, would go on to become one of the most significant and controversial cases in Supreme Court history.

In 1973, my mom was 15 years old and living with her parents and seven older siblings in a small town in Rhode Island. She attended high school and played flute in the marching band. Forty-six years later, she and I sat down to talk about abortion.

 

Was abortion a topic that was ever discussed in your house?

Mom: It wasn’t discussed but I think, being raised in a very Catholic household, there was unspoken opposition to it. On the other hand, my parents were very socially conservative but liberal in the idea that the government should provide support for people who need it. I think as far as faith-based beliefs go, they probably came down on the anti-abortion/anti-Roe v. Wade side, but we didn’t have conversations around the dinner table about it.

 

What did you have conversations around the dinner table about?

It was a lot of noise and talking. My father would sometimes tell jokes. That was always fun. I do have a memory of something from junior high school — I must’ve been in ninth grade. This is going to kind of surprise you given my firm support of it now, but in English class and we had to do some kind of report, a persuasive essay or something about a current topic. I chose abortion and I was against it. I had all of these pictures that I’d found in a magazine and cut out and passed around the classroom and I talked about how immoral it was.

 

What made you decide to take that stance?

Like I said it wasn’t something that was discussed in our house openly, but my parents got publications like Catholic Digest and Columbia Magazine — which was a Catholic men’s magazine. So at that time it was all about Roe v. Wade.

We’d go to church every Sunday, and I’m sure it was mentioned in church, so that was it. That was the opinion. I was swimming in that pond. Everybody around me believed that [abortion was wrong]. There was a high percentage of Catholics in Woonsocket at the time. Maybe the demographic has changed, but everybody I knew was Catholic. I guess without even thinking about it, I must’ve assumed everybody felt this way. I wasn’t giving it much critical thought.

 

Do you have any memories of hearing about Roe v. Wade on the news?

It wasn’t something I was paying attention to — I mean obviously I was just a kid – but I do have a vague memory of it. And I don’t remember feeling any particular way about Roe v. Wade, specifically.

 

I learned what abortion was at age ten, and I remember being confused because I didn’t know if it was good or bad. The world is so black and white when you’re a kid, so at the time I was thinking,“Do they kill the babies? Is that what that is?” But pretty soon I realized that that wasn’t the case. Learning about fetal development was helpful for me and over the years I gained more perspective. But even to this day you rarely actually hear the word “abortion” on TV or in movies. You always hear “I took care of it” or something like that. It’s not unlike the way people talk about death. Rarely do you hear people say “so and so died” it’s always “so and so passed away” or “so and so passed on” and it’s a similar scenario with abortion. It’s never “so and so had an abortion” it’s “so and so took care of it”, “so and so got rid of it.” 

Yeah, there are lots of euphemisms for it — “terminated the pregnancy.”

 

I wonder if the use of euphemisms like that was part of what led us to have misconstrued beliefs when we were younger.

Euphemisms and misnomers like “pro-life.”

 

The use of the term “pro-life” really frustrates me because if one side is [referred to as] pro-life, that implies that the other side is anti-life. I think the use of this euphemism only makes the chasm between the two sides bigger.

And I don’t think the “pro-life” movement is any more pro-life than those of us who believe in the right to choose, in someone’s right to have agency over their own body. But I agree, it’s a way of setting those who are pro-life or anti-choice apart and give them a feeling or belief that they’re morally superior.

 

When you listen to pro-life/anti-choice politicians — people like Senator McConnell, Justice Kavanaugh, people like Trump — speak about abortion, are there things you wish they could understand?

I think their opposition is mostly disingenuous. I think most of them — because most of them are men — take that [anti-choice] stance because it puts them in a stronger position politically. It speaks to a block of voters who they think will help them continue to hold onto their power. What do I wish they understood? What it really feels like to be in that position. To be in a position where, for whatever reason, you are pregnant and not by choice — what that really feels like.

 

Have you seen public opinions of abortion change over the years? Or the way abortion is being represented in the media?

I think so. Over the years, I think a majority of adults have grown up not having to question whether or not someone who needed to make that choice could make it. Recently there’s been much more support for [someone’s right to access an abortion]. As your generation — the post-Baby Boom generations reach adulthood, there are more of those kinds of human rights. I think it’s becoming more and more [incorporated into] the fabric of our culture, and I think that’s what really scares the white Evangelical Christian conservatives — loss of [their] grip on our culture.

 

Has someone close to you ever gotten an abortion? A friend, a family member?

Actually, yes. When I was in high school a friend of mine did.

 

Was this friend also in high school?

Yes, she was a grade behind me. It was obviously not a planned pregnancy and she, like me, grew up in a very Catholic household.

I remember her telling me after the fact that she had gotten an abortion. The father wasn’t somebody she was in a relationship with, it was just another kid that we went to high school with. Luckily, she was able to make that choice, so I guess it was after 1973.

 

And was there access in your area?

It could’ve been that she had to go to Massachusetts… I don’t know any of the details. I don’t think her parents knew.

 

How did you feel when she told you? Do you remember what you said?

I remember expressing support and care for her. I remember feeling how hard it must’ve been for her to go through [with it] and just feeling good that she was able to take care of it — “take care of it”, huh — and [thinking] now her life is back to normal. Of course it wasn’t, but I didn’t know that.

 

It seems like you made a pretty big leap [then] from ninth grade when you did that report. 

I hadn’t thought about it but yeah… that’s a big change in a few years, isn’t it?

 

Do you think it’s because it became personal when it happened to a friend of yours?

Yeah, I probably didn’t give it much thought at all in between the ninth grade report I did and when a friend had to go through that. You’re right. I think knowing someone who had to make that decision made it real, and I was able to be sympathetic.

 

I know from some of our previous conversations that your school’s sex ed program was, to put it gently, lacking. Was there any talk of what to do in the case of an unwanted pregnancy?

No. That wasn’t part of the curriculum at all. There definitely were girls in my high school who were pregnant. There were quite a few pregnant students, maybe because access to birth control wasn’t as easy to get as it is now?

 

Correct me if I’m wrong, but I suppose it wasn’t all that unusual to have children around that age, because I remember once looking through your yearbook and all the seniors would write a little bit about what their plans were for after graduation, and a lot of them said they were getting married.

That’s true. I couldn’t tell you a percentage, but there was a bigger number of students who weren’t planning to go to college than were. So without that four year transition, the leap into adulthood right after high school was very real. It was still a bit of a scandal for girls, but not for boys. Can I ask you a question?

 

Of course.

You asked me earlier about the change that I’ve seen over the years. I’m wondering what your perspective is on attitudes toward the right to choose. Do you feel hopeful that it’s gonna continue on that path? Or are you fearful that there’ll be some backsliding?

 

I am fearful, largely because of the Supreme Court. I don’t think they’re going to overturn Roe v. Wade, but I do think they’re going to gut [funding towards upholding] it. The fact that they recently blocked the Louisiana abortion law [threatening to restrict] access, gives me hope — but it also makes me more nervous. It makes me feel as though they’re stalling. There’s a ticking clock now that Kavanaugh is a justice. I feel detached from it to a certain extent, because I’m not at a high risk for unwanted pregnancy, but I have a sister who could end up pregnant and not want to be pregnant, and I want her to be able to make the choice for herself. I want to know she’ll be safe.

I agree with you but I also have — this is going to sound kinda cheesy — but I really have a lot of hope for your generation. You are all, as a group, much more accepting and progressive and open than we were —  are. And you care a whole lot more and you believe.

This is getting beyond the scope of our conversation here, but you believe that climate change is real and you believe that trans people should be treated like anyone else and you believe that LGBTQ+ people should have the same right to love and be loved as hetero, cis people. I have hope that the world is going to be a more open and accepting place than it is now as you all age into leading. It’s happening already. I’m excited to have you guys fix the crappy mess that my generation has made of it all.

 

I think you’re the first Baby Boomer to ever admit that Baby Boomers fucked up the world for millennials, because I believe they did.

I don’t think I’m the only one who believes that.

 

You’re the first one I’ve ever heard admit it though, so thanks for that.

You’re welcome. And I apologize.

 

 

First two photos by Madeline Jo Pease and the third by Sofia Amburgey.

When It’s Your Fault

Cheating, lying, verbal abuse, repeat.

It’s easy to see the flaws in the way another person treats you when you are constantly feeling heartbroken. But is it as simple to see the same flaws within yourself?

Many of us can pinpoint a specific relationship where our partner treated us with disrespect and an overall lack of compassion. That’s the story of my life — at least, for the first few teenage relationships. I started dating my best friend in August of 2017. Let’s call him Ronny.

We were already incredibly close (we were best friends for years prior). Skipping the awkward “firsts” was unique for me because I was used to dating people who weren’t close friends. Ronny and I had this connection that was almost uncanny and irrefutable. We did everything with each other from driving to school to taking joint vacations — our time together was sacred to me, but I didn’t always treat it as such.

It’s hard to take responsibility, and it’s even harder to take criticism.

When he brought it to my attention that I was crossing a line with other guys, I denied it for months. I wasn’t cheating or lying per se, but I was acting towards other guys in a way that I should have only acted towards Ronny. I eventually accepted the responsibility (somewhat reluctantly at the time, if I’m being quite honest). However, months later, similar issues arose and all of them had to with my faults.

Why am I being ridiculed? Don’t attack me, the only person with whom you’ll ever have this extraordinary sort of bond! I would think these words to myself regularly, even though I slowly came to understand that the issues we were having were due to my failures as a girlfriend. Contentment in our relationship ebbed and flowed for months until college came around.

Ah, college.

Do we stay together or break up? The “mature” decision seemed to be to break up — so we did. Neither of us actually wanted that, but we thought it had to happen. The agony of leaving my best friend and boyfriend destroyed me. Not being in the same state made our communication ambiguous and challenging, we decided to “break up” (and by “break up” I mean we continued to talk as if we were together). 

Even in college, there would be certain things that I was too nervous to share with him. So what did I do? I didn’t share them. We were technically separated, but as corny as it sounds, in our hearts we couldn’t truly be. This relationship had always been a possessive one. We both wanted each other so much that we’d often step on each other’s toes about what the other was doing, who we were talking to, and so on. But why blame him? How can I blame him?

I was the reason we clashed so frequently. He would be angry or hurt from something I had done, and I wouldn’t take responsibility or even apologize for my actions. Was this an effect of my upbringing? Or my past relationships? Or my lack of awareness about how to treat someone who truly was the best of the best? It’s hard to tell what made us lash out so regularly for sometimes minor problems. I know now that most of these fights were because of my failure to recognize what I had done wrong.

I would lie to Ronny.

I lied about small things, big things — you name it. I lied to him not because I didn’t love him or because I didn’t want to be honest with him. I lied to him because I thought that the person I wanted the most might think differently of me if I told the truth. Or, maybe even worse, it would create a downward spiral of fighting off and on for days.

I was dishonest about things that other people might see as minuscule. Maybe some of those things were insignificant. Maybe other people would see that my lies weren’t intended to be menacing — I was only trying to protect my image. But, the bottom line was that no matter my reasoning, I was treating him disrespectfully, crookedly, and unlovingly.

I needed Ronny’s image of me to be pristine, but the way I went about that was immoral and unfair. He treated me like something irreplaceable, a prize that he was so lucky to have won, and I did not always reciprocate that. He wanted me and only me, and I wanted the same, but I didn’t prove that to him. I didn’t do my personal best to treat Ronny in a way that he deserved. And I wish that I had.

I wish I could go back and manipulate my actions (or lack thereof) so that he could trust me and believe me and not lose touch with me. I want so many things from and with him, but it’s too late for wishful thinking. 

So, what happens when it’s you? What happens when the only things you know of love are cheating and abuse and then you find yourself doing those exact things? It’s hard to acknowledge and accept that you treated someone in a way that, in previous relationships, ripped you to shreds from the inside out. Profuse apologies and broken promises never truly resolve these types of conflicts — dropping everything for that person usually doesn’t, either. And then, it’s over. “Ronny” gets too fed up with your bullshit and it’s done.

I wish that I had known then the solution for what to do when it is your fault. It’s tough to navigate the next steps to prove that, despite your bad behavior, you still love your partner.

Whether it’s been your fault before, you’ve never had a romantic partner, or it’s never been your fault — take a deep breath. Take a look at the situation at hand from both perspectives before resulting to denial or anger. Appreciate the good in the other person — ask yourself why you’ve done what you’ve done to them. Do you love them still? Are you losing interest? Is this a truly worthwhile relationship? If not, be honest about your emotions.

If none of those things are true, then change.

Don’t change your makeup or your outfit or every little aspect of your personality. Take criticism when they’re due and change. Change the things about yourself that make it so hard for you to maintain a healthy relationship. Change for the better — I wish I would have done that.

 

 

Photos (in order of appearance) by Jess FarranNoelle Lucchesi, and Sam Avelar

 

 

A Valentine’s Day Game

Save an Uber, Ride a Cowboy is a column exploring queer millennial sex culture. The stories presented here are based on true events. Identities have been changed to protect the privacy and reputation of those involved.

 

Sean leaned back on the couch, still in the new fur coat he had just finished showing off. Given that it only cost him $20 from L Train Vintage, Reed wasn’t too impressed. “So where’s your man tonight, mama?” Sean asked.

It was Valentine’s day, and Reed was sharing his chocolate with Sean, someone he most definitely would not share anything else with because they were both just friends and just bottoms.

“He wanted to sleep early tonight, claims he’s busy with work and all,” Reed popped a chocolate in his mouth but kept talking, he couldn’t shut up when it came to Scott.

“I’m not mad. We had planned to hang today, but I’m trying to play it cool. You gotta be patient when you’re fishing in a big one. And I’m reeling him all the way in…” Reed was still motioning a fishing reel when Sean showed him his phone.

“Well, it looks like he’s gone fishing too, sis.”

Sean was on Grindr, as usual, and the profile he was showing Reed made no sense considering Scott had shown Reed only a week ago that he had deleted the app which Reed interpreted as a declaration of love. But there was Scott’s picture, the one with his arm wrapped across his body to make his bicep look bigger.

Fuming, Reed pulled up his own account to find Scott. “This makes no sense. He literally showed me he deleted both Grindr AND Tinder.” Reed launched into a recounting of the coffee shop date they were on when it happened. It was raining in Cobble Hill and Laura Linney was at a table by the window as it all went down.

“I mean…  it did seem a bit performative, because even then he insisted on not being in a monogamous relationship.” At the time Reed had decided not to delete his various dating apps until Scott wanted to be monogamous. Scott seemed fine with it, but now Reed was realizing he couldn’t find him on the app.

“Holy shit, he blocked me,” exclaimed Reed, ellicting only a snort from Sean. Both boys decided to message Scott, Reed via text and Sean via Grindr.

Right away Sean got a response. “Ohhh girrrlll, he already messaged me.” Reed leaped onto the couch beside him.

“He said he just wants a quick fuck before bed.” But then Reed’s phone chimed with a different story. According to his text, Scott wasn’t feeling good and going to sleep soon.

Reed panicked. He was flailing at this dream job and struggling in his classes as well. Through all of it, a cute boy felt like the only thing Reed really had going for him. If he didn’t have Scott what would he do?

Sean wasn’t exactly the kind of friend Reed could lean on with these troubles — none of his friends were for that matter. It’s this isolation that made the thought of losing someone Reed had pinned all of his hope on unbearable.

Reed didn’t know what to do, but his mind was honed in on Scott now. There was no way he could just sit and gossip with Sean the rest of the night. In a few minutes the boys had donned jackets, Sean trading his fur for more practical denim, and headed out the door. The city wasn’t too cold for February, and the nearly full moon made them feel restless — restless enough to pop on over to Scott’s and see what he was really up to.

“He has a giant open window to his room you can see into from the street,” Reed said laying out his plan, “we can sit at the 7/11 across from his apartment and see who he decides to spend Valentine’s with.” To Sean’s disgust Reed started smoking a cigarette (Juuls had yet to be created, and he liked to do something while he walked). Sean considered going home but 9-something felt too early, plus he secretly enjoyed watching this train wreck unfold.

The boys continued to pour over Scott’s Grindr messages while they moved. Sean was typing whatever Reed told him to when he suggested, “maybe you should see if he’ll fuck you.”

Sean was floored. “What the fuck. Isn’t he into BDSM and shit? I’m not trying to mess with all that.” (Reed suddenly regretted telling Sean about that time Scott playfully requested to fist him.)

“No, he won’t do anything to crazy with you if he doesn’t know you,” Reed pleaded, “I haven’t shown him a picture of you so he wouldn’t even know that we know each other.”

“Girl, why the fuck do you want me to fuck your man?” Sean was incredulous, but Scott was hot and it had been a while since he had any good action.

“Better you than some random, right?” Reed shrugged. “And this way, I’ll have definite proof he fucked someone else, so I can call him on his lies when he denies it.” The boys went back and forth like this for a few blocks, Sean vacillating between indignation and consideration.

Soon they were at the Scott’s building, but Sean still wasn’t convinced that he wanted to include himself in this drama. The window to Scott’s room on the fourth floor was still unblocked, providing them a view of Scott on his bed.Reed was getting frantic thinking a boy might have already gone in without them seeing.

“Girl, just do it! You know he’s hot. He has a great dick. And you were on Grindr anyways…” Reed continued to push Sean, feeling the terror of losing control of yet another aspect of his life.

After a few more minutes of pushing, and a few more Grindr messages, Sean relented: he would give Scott a blowjob.

Reed watched his friend cross the street, on his way to suck off his sort-of-boyfriend. Excitement replaced his initial panic. He hated Scott now — if he wanted to play games, Reed would play dirty. He saw no other way. If he was going to lose Scott, he would make sure it was his choice. He would have the control.

From the other side of the block, Reed watched Scott pin up the quilt that served as a window curtain while trying to push down what was beginning to feel like regret. More than anything, he just wished it was him up there. Reed had tried so hard to be what Scott wanted, memorizing his favorite Vine references, biting his tongue when Scott criticized a movie he liked, and letting Scott bite him even though he wasn’t into it.

Instead of watching the giant windows of Scott’s “modern” apartment building, one of those hideous brick blocks rented out exclusively by Nooklyn to the gentrifying crowd, Reed went in the gas station to grab a snack. He couldn’t even enjoy his 7/11 hotdog thinking about how out of control this situation felt. Already he knew he shouldn’t have pushed Sean onto Scott like that.

What was the point? Reed was so scared of being alone, but all he seemed capable of was scaring people away. Reed wasn’t sure how to climb out of this spiral, but soon Scott would wise up and jump ship. (Because, of course getting your friend to blow your man isn’t the way to keep him.)

Sean would soon move home — just for a few months to save money, he promises. And Reed would look for a new guy to unload his emotional baggage on and hinge his happiness to.

 

 

All art by Jared Freschman. 

 

Euphemia on Sex Ed, Kink, and Butt Plugs

 

 

RoleModel is an interview series highlighting badass individuals. 

 

When we first start having sex, it is easy to believe that fast and rough sex is good sex — blind to the spectrum of experiences. Certified pleasure educator Euphemia Russell wants people to explore their bodies through science, communication, and body autonomy.

In fact, they want to see a cultural shift of how society views it. Russell founded the website and blog I Wish You Knew as a platform to share information to assist people wanting to navigate their bodies with a new light — whatever that looks like for each individual. From the classic latex to the more niche kinks, this self-proclaimed dork wants to find what pleases you.

I had the pleasure of talking to the 30 year-old San Francisco resident about kinkiness, pleasure as a tool for health, and their upcoming workshops — including a butt plug dance party in Oakland. 

 

Can you start by describing your work?

Russell: I am a pleasure educator who started my own business I Wish You Knew. It is a platform to share practical information with adults on how they can explore their pleasure, bodies and communication. I also do workshops, blogs, consultations, and soon online courses.

 

Why did you start I Wish You Knew?

I came and spent six months in San Francisco, I realized there are so many amazing people making a core vocation out of sex and pleasure education for adults. I was like hell yeah I want to do that.

 

Growing up in Australia, what were the challenges you faced in expressing your sexuality?

The sex education I got was mostly scare tactics and heteronormative. Focusing on penis, vagina penetration. A lot was about reproduction and there was nothing about pleasure. There was never actually any talk about how sex is supposed to be fun.

 

How would you like to see sex education changed?

I would like to see it being sex positive. Celebrating whatever people’s needs, wants, and identities are. It could be having no wish to have sex and supporting them to do that. Or people who are potentially really slutty and celebrating that too. For young people what I would really like to see is them understanding their bodies and autonomy.

That is why I talk about pleasure autonomy, the nervous system and understanding the science behind pleasure. A lot of it is cultivated through experience. So encouraging people to explore what feels good in a way which doesn’t encourage shame, unless that is something they are into.

 

How can pleasure be a tool to better a person’s health?

I talk about how pleasure is health. In our society it is seen as an indulgence or distraction. Talking about the nervous system — if you move from the fight or flight state, which is the sympathetic state we are so often stuck in and shifting to the parasympathetic state, which is like rest and digest. This is when your anal sphincters relax, and when your immune system kicks in, when you are able to digest food and you start lubricating. Being in that state is good for your health, and gives you time to regenerate. There needs to be a big cultural shift. Having pleasure in your life is not a distraction, it can be a tool for your physical and mental health.

 

On your site you say, “It’s not about ‘being good at sex or spicing up your sex life.’ It’s about body autonomy.’” Can you talk about what you mean by body autonomy?

First and foremost your body is your body. You decide exactly what you want to do with it. It is no one else’s, you don’t owe anyone else your body. It is knowing what you want, need, and desire. Then having a relationship with your body so you can feel connected to the subtleties, nuances and what feels good, instead of rationalizing situations just in your mind.

 

So you have been teaching sex education in schools around San Francisco. What subjects make up the curriculum?

We teach much more beyond STIs, birth control and reproduction. We teach puberty to eight and nine years old, so hopefully before they go through puberty they actually know what is happening. Then we build up each year to 15-year-olds. We go into healthy relationships talking about sexual harassment, assault and rape, and understanding how to look after yourself online — porn consumption and sexting. We also talk about the basics of pleasure and information around health.

 

I think sex education now is completely lacking discourse around digital communication.  

Yes, there is a whole other realm of how to look after yourself. It is a hard time to be growing up.

 

So you also run adult kink workshops?

I do three fundamental workshops at the moment. One is the ‘Kinky science of pleasure’, one is ‘Know your sexy parts’ — which is about pleasure anatomy. The third is ‘Know your fantasy and desires.’

 

Define what a kink is?

I don’t love the word kink, because sex is weird for everyone — there is no normal. But basically kink is the less common practices or fantasies, desires that people have, which maybe are not as known or accepted. I think kink has become a fashionable aesthetic, but it is a narrow representation. For example, black, red, leather and latex. But it can look literally any way. And it is the same with sex. Pleasure and sex can look literally any way. It doesn’t have to be a particular way, it’s not prescriptive.

 

For someone who might be interested in attending, can you give a sneak description of your upcoming kink workshop in California?

The ‘Kinky science of pleasure’ will be about going through waves to regulate your body, getting into your parasympathetic state of your nervous system. Then tips for magnifying your pleasure that aren’t considered common. It ranges from impact play to spanking to various different toys and technique. It is for all bodies and genders.

Then I have butt plug dance party that is happening in Oakland in March, and an impact play workshop in Santa Cruz.

 

What does the butt plug dance party entail?

Well a lot of people think it’s pretty kooky, but it’s basically a way to get people into their bodies during my workshops without any nudity or hooking up. When you get a ticket you are sent a  video on how to choose a butt plug for your body, how to use it safely and pleasurably, then ways you can magnifying this pleasure. If you live here you can come along to the actual dance party.

Basically it will be a room full of a 100 people dancing around. The DJ is playing butt songs. It is dorky and fun, but people also get to explore what it feels like to wear a butt plug and it can be super pleasurable. It’s actually the cutest party ever.

 

 

Tickets to Euphemia’s upcoming workshops in California can be found here.

You can follow them on Instagram at @sex.iwishyouknew and visit their website www.iwishyouknew.net.

 

Photos by Shannon May Powell.

 

The Erasure of Teen Sexuality in Film

Teenagers fuck, right?

This seems like a universal truth. Our adolescence is a critical period of sexual discovery, experimentation, and foundational growth. The experiences we have throughout our youth inform the way we will perceive our own bodies, romantic relationships, and intimacy later in life. So why do movies about teenagers get it so monumentally, hilariously wrong?

There is a dichotomy in films that handle teen subjects. Sometimes, the characters are presented as sexless, chaste automatons. Movies like Love, Simon and To All the Boys I’ve Loved Before take this approach. Whatever sexual behavior or intimacy depicted in films like these is marginal and brief. Haphazard make outs and uncomfortable first kisses are offered up as if to allude to the fact that, yes, these kids do indeed fuck — or at least, will at some point. But, they stop just short of ever depicting any genuine expression of sexual intent or behavior.

Why does this happen?

On one hand, depicting underage sexual behavior will more likely than not leave your teen-oriented film with an R rating, thus limiting its reach and scope of audience. Most sixteen-year-olds won’t even be able to legally see the film. On the other hand, America has a habit of brushing its legions of horny teens under the rug. In his (amazing) essay, “Afternoon of the Sex Children”, culture critic Mark Greif pinpoints the general attitude with which teen sexuality is treated by the adult arbiters of American culture: “…yet in public we want to believe that children are not prepared for sex as we are, do not understand it, and have a special, fragile, glassy truth inside them that will be endangered by premature use — as if the pearls of highest value for us, our chase after sex, our truth of ‘sexuality,’ should not also be the treasure for them.” This is where the cognitive dissonance lies.

In public, moralists shun honest and wholly natural explorations of teen sexuality as being pornographic or shameful. Yet, in private, these same moralists fondly look back upon their own youthful experiences as part of the greater tapestry of their adult sexual development. These experiences can only be enjoyed and appreciated once adulthood has been reached and the taboo has been lifted. But the fact of the matter is, teens are having sex before being able to contextualize these experiences in a lifetime’s worth of sexual encounters. Thus, in an effort to appease both the moralists and the wider culture, filmmakers attach figurative chastity belts to their teen protagonists.

The other method used to depict teen sexuality is equally misinformed. The kids found in these films are deranged, maniacal sex freaks looking to get off anywhere and in any manner they can. Boys are presented as frothing-at-the-mouth perverts hellbent on “punching their v-card” or getting head. Girls are Greek nymphs, running from their pursuers with perky, voluptuous breasts and perfectly manicured vaginas in tow. Some examples of this approach can be found in films like American Pie, Not Another Teen Movie, and Superbad. While they may be fundamentally more honest than the spayed-and-neutered approach previously discussed, these films also fail to paint an honest and relatable picture of teen sexuality.

Did we all, more than likely, spend a lot of time thinking about sex as adolescents? Yes (most of us do as adults, too).

Did we all behave in the way presented in films like these? Mostly, no.

This approach to the presentation of teen sexuality is unhelpful because it is generally unrelatable for countless kids and can set unrealistic expectations regarding our high school sexual development. It’s a carnal caricature of youth that most people simply don’t and can’t relate to.

None of the films I’ve discussed here are necessarily bad films (maybe Love, Simon — but that’s a topic for another piece). They simply portray sexuality in a mythic way that does not speak to the way sexuality exists today for most of America’s teens. I want to see movies that show sex and intimacy in all its configurations. Teen sex needs to be portrayed as what it is. At different times and all at once, it can be awkward, passionate, life-changing, boring, uncomfortable, painful, freeing. It can be awkward makeouts, clandestine car-hookups, or intimate firsts in bed. Sex can lead us to better understand ourselves and others — and it can lead us into trouble. Sex is not good or evil. Sex is sex.

But teen sex is still sex. So, let’s start treating it as such.

 

First two photos by Haley Hasan, and the third by Brianna Saenz.