Our contributor Katherine Chen, who is a sophomore English major at Princeton University (check out her personal site here), is penning a series of confessions for EMandLO.com collectively called “The Virgin Diaries.” Here’s her first installment:
At ten years old, I was an early receiver of Mother Nature’s red-ribbon gift for women. I was wearing light purple bellbottoms that day and catching caterpillars during recess. All of a sudden, I felt something warm rush down between my legs. By the time I reached the nurse’s office, I had a pink bottom like those baboons you see on the Discovery Channel.
Everyone seemed to know what was going on except for me. Girls giggled. Boys pointed and explained to others that I wasn’t a virgin anymore. The nurse, instead of remaining calm and coherent, freaked out and called my mother while handing me a pad. Clueless, I ripped it open and stared at it. Being an intensely disciplined student, I considered it impolite to interrupt the nurse and ask her what I was supposed to do with this big cotton sticker. By the time she hung up the phone, I had stuck it to the arm of a chair and walked to the other end of the room.
When I got home that afternoon, my mother handed me a book, instructing me that it was about sex and I was to read every word carefully before asking her any questions. My eyes glanced over a glossy paperback with cartoon illustrations and whirling fonts on the cover. A girl was dancing under the title, wearing nothing but a white bra and matching panties. I felt a bit sick.
The book, of course, explained nothing at all. The majority of its pages were devoted to explaining the science behind the female menstrual cycle, which not only grossed me out but would forever imprint in my mind the idea that sex, blood, pain, and cramps were one and the same thing.
I never did have a sit-down with either of my parents about sex. No meticulously planned lecture on the birds and the bees. Not even a general warning about boys and what happened when both ends of the gender spectrum got together and “did it.” So I remained severely deluded, not knowing what was going on with my body and my budding breasts.
And then one day during fourth grade, I was sitting in the cafeteria, chewing a smoked turkey sandwich, when I overheard a conversation from the table behind me. A few boys from the fifth grade were smirking over their chips and nuggets. I knew this was going to be good.
“You mean, you saw them having sex? Where?”
“On the Internet! My brother showed me.”
“How did you find it?”
“Oh, it’s so easy. Just type p-o-r-n. Porn.”
And so began my very adult sex education.
To be continued…