Oh, how I loved “the talk” in eighth grade. The smell of Axe filled the room and I heard my peers giggling. A boy dressed in bright yellow Nike said, “I heard they tell us about popping cherries”
“Yeah I heard there’s blood everywhere!”
I sat uncomfortably in my seat, fixing my headscarf that I had just started wearing. I thought that I could become more religious and that God would protect me. But the next day, God did not protect me at all.
During “the talk” they told us practically irrelevant stories about waiting until marriage, as if that’s a reality for most people. As we were learning about STDs, I heard, “Ewww it’s gross if you get herpes.”
“Hahaha this class is AIDS”
I rolled my eyes at those fools and tried to learn something. What stood out to me was the lesson about consent: it’s making sure all parties are happily agreeing to do something. I didn’t think that would be a problem for me.
I had a boyfriend at the time, at least what an eighth grader considers a boyfriend. He would Facetime me every day and we’d fall asleep on the phone; I’d write him notes during school and he’d write back. “Do you want to have sex?” he asked one day. I politely told him I wanted to wait a few years, and he respected that. I thought he was the love of my life, but it wasn’t long before I’d lose my sense of innocence.
He lived with his cousin who was a close friend of mine. She called me over to hang out one day, so I happily went. We were cracking up, watching “Love and Hip-Hop” when my boyfriend came downstairs and dashed off with my shoe. “Give it back!” I said while giggling. Finally, he stopped teasing me and pushed me up against the wall. I felt his lips on mine, which usually gave me butterflies, but that day it made me feel sick. My neck was strained from avoiding kisses. Just when I thought I could slip away, he pushed me onto his unmade bed and straddled me. “This isn’t right; remember what you learned at school,” I told myself. But my body was frozen. Before I could process what was happening, I was naked except for my headscarf.
My friend came upstairs, saw us, and ran off in disgust. At last my boyfriend got off me and I didn’t care about anything but the fact that I was free from his touch. I rushed to pull on my skinny jeans and flannel, then I ran out of his room. My face was hot as I told my friend goodbye and left her house. She didn’t say anything back. Almost three years later she still doesn’t know the truth about what happened that day. I wish I had the courage to say something to him or her in the moment, but now it has passed. It took months to understand that things weren’t my fault; it took months to learn what consent really is, and what “the talk” really teaches. It has nothing to do with popping cherries.
I sent her this story shortly after it was written.