They say there’s no grey area. That yes means yes, and more emphatically that no means no. But there is a space between a direct request for sex and an absolute rejection of it. Danielle Evans takes us to this space with Erica and Jasmine in Virgins, the first of 8 short stories in a collection entitled Before You Suffocate Your Own Fool Self.
Erica and Jasmine are teenagers; they are in the most awkward phase of life in which most attempts to display maturity come across as childish. In other words, they are kids trying to be grown. While Erica often resigns to being a follower, Jasmine takes the lead: she dresses tackily in attempt to be grown-woman sexy, she hangs out at a local bar though she is underage, and in the four months prior to us meeting her, she exchanged her V-card for a promise of a relationship. As Erica follows in each of Jasmine’s footsteps, I can’t help but to have flashbacks of my own attempts at being grown. Awful clothing choices. Using someone else’s ID to go to an 18 and up club. And a strong desire to “lose” my virginity and gain the sexual experience required to please the man of my dreams. All the things I thought made one an adult. But this is what happens when you’re running on very little confidence and absolutely no sex education.
What should have been my sex education in high school was more like Scared Straight: The Sex Edition. In eleventh grade a guest instructor shared a story about a girl getting pregnant as a result of non-penetrative sex (she omitted the fact that this is extremely rare); and to this day, due to some graphic images we were shown in our ninth grade health class, one of my biggest fears is that my eye will become infected with Herpes.
Perhaps if I’d learn about sex from a perspective of pleasure and responsibility, I would have been better off. I’ve never actually put myself in a position where I was at risk for eye-Herpes but I put myself in other risky situations in an attempt to gain this arbitrary level of experience with sex. It doesn’t take meeting a stranger at a club or online for there to be some level of risk involved with sex. For me, it was the inability to get out of that grey area and learn what I truly desired, rather than what society told me about women’s desire, and then to communicate those desires to my partner. The ways in which I thought I was being grown, I now see as a reflection of an immature sexuality.
Sex in the grey area is not as ugly as a sexually transmitted infection in a visible area, but it’s not pretty either. I’m not sure if this unprettiness is completely avoidable but perhaps if we start to have honest conversations about sex, younger girls won’t be stuck with false ideas of sex. You know, those ideas that combine the imagery of Sex and the City with random music videos and layer it all with the fear tactics of public school sex education? We all have experiences of abstinence, celibacy, uncommunicated desires, peer pressure, and complete enjoyment that need to be shared if not for our own reflection but for the sake of young girls, like Erica and Jasmine, blindly following in our footsteps.