"So Annie, I have an awkward question for you. Is it weird to have sex with pubic hair?"
Nancy was not awkward as she asked this question. She could not wait to hear the answer.
I said no.
"Alright, well, Annie have you had sex?"
She was a little nervous asking me this question. Utimately curiosity trumped timidity.
"I have not." I replied.
All of the girls sitting in our little circle drinking their juice and eating their chewy bars gasped.
"How old are you!?" Nancy replied. She essentially jumped from her seat. The idea of being a virgin past the age of 20 was entirely absurd. She is determined to have sex by 9th grade. She is currently an 8th grader. I asked why.
and I replied, "Well, why have you chosen 9th grade to be the time when you want to have sex?"
My frankness with this subject was more awkward to them then the actual questions they were discussing. Their homework for health class was a giant packet of papers filled with diagrams of penises and vaginas and birth control options. I know because they all ask me to help them identify the hymen and the vas deferens on the fill-in-the-blank worksheets.
The fact that I used the word such as orgasm*, vagina, and penis in a normal conversation (aka not a health teacher looking at a powerpoint presentation in class) was an entirely new experience.
Nancy rolls her eyes at me. "Fine, I'll have sex in 11th grade."
Jane Austen married off some of her heroines at of 17 or 18. Elizabeth Bennet was 20 when she married Mr. Darsey. According to the U.S. Census Bureau the average age of brides between 1947 to 1972 was 20. (This statistic is based on Current Population Survey data.) In other parts of the world, as one could assume, the average age of brides are significantly lower. For example, 76% of girls in Niger are married before the age of 18. Yes, you could argue everything I just said is about marriage and not about sex.
But this is still about young girls having sex. Marriage or not. Shouldn't that be part of the point?
I always suggest that you take statistics with a grain of salt, but humor me here.
We are appalled that girls want to have sex at an early age. But should we be?
Haven't we taught the young via movies, music, and even the most genuine teacher/adult conversations about how kids need to be able to express who they are however they choose? Hasn't Ms. Frizzle taught the best of us that mistakes are a good thing? (So we need not fear the consequences of our actions.)
We watch shows like Glee and The OC and we turn a blind eye to the fact that everyone is having sex and getting pregnant. Well, that's just the norm, we say.
Alright, but why?
And, (in Nancy case and in most of the responses I've had with my girls), how come the question, "why do you want to have sex at x grade negates a genuine response?
My point in all of this, I guess, is that Nancy's question and response made absolute sense. We have designed our culture to view youth as the climax of a human life. The wonder years. The glory days.
Adults lust after the idea of youth. Hell, even us recent-post-college kids feel the need to travel and explore and find meaning because we are so afraid that our chance of self-discovery will pass us by. (I know, a bit harsh.) Some people try to revert to youth: get plastic surgery, fake tan, dye hair, apply to be on the Bachelor/ette.
Others seek out the young instead of trying to be it again. Cougars. Robbing the Cradle, if you will. Porn. (You hardly ever see old ladies with saggy breasts featured in Maxim.)
Being a young or attaining a youth is the ultimate prize.
Yet when a 13 year old girl wants to have sex, or does have sex (especially with an older person) we frown in disgust, shame, and deep sadness.
Culturally speaking, does it shock you that what we lust after and what we deem as evil overlap in age?
*One of my girls asked me if she could turn her clitoris "off" so she wouldn't get an orgasm. Because, of course, that would be too weird.