Dear (high school) readers,
This is not a review, these won’t be words of judgment, this piece has got no intentions writing about “Sex Education“, the British Netflix series aired on January 11 2019. I won’t even mention the characters’ names location or dynamics. Well, actually I feel some dynamics should be mentioned in order to understand what I would like to say to you.
“Sex Education” made me think of high school. Because, yes it is set in a high school. The characters are very stereotypical, although there’s a solid presence of the LGBTQ community and a poor representation of the POC community. Apart from that, I’d like to focus on the high school environment. I get it. You’re in high school, you’re probably between the ages of 13 and 18. Great, that’s the time when your body changes, you start getting to know how the world acts unfair towards you, and you’re planning many escapes from that hell that you call “school” or “home” or “parents”. Or maybe you’re just living the best time of your life. You wanna experiment everything. YOLO.
Otis, the protagonist of the series, finds a way to get out of his comfort zone and make discoveries about himself and his body in such a short frame time. I recognized myself in Otis, but… my personal sexual discovery took so much more time. I get it, it’s a series, but let me tell you my experience. I bet there’s someone out there who’s struggling, due to the fact that he or she cannot identify themselves in any tv or book character that has to do with sex topics.
Whatever emotions you might have these years, you are going to have to deal with the topic of sex.
Differently from other countries, Italian schools don’t usually provide any sex education classes. When it comes to such topic, students are self-taught and the only teachers are your own experience and older people – friends, siblings, and sometimes parents.
I was a virgin all my high school years. I didn’t feel ashamed of it. My first kiss was at 18 and I’ve never had a boyfriend. Many of my friends had their first partners (casual or committed) and yes, sometimes I felt I was missing stuff. I didn’t know what sexual pleasure was. I wasn’t curious to know how big a penis is, what masturbation is, or what is it like to have sex in the back of a night club. I wasn’t disgusted by all of this either. I just wasn’t interested. Nevertheless, all I could feel those years was a sort of pressure. I had developed a FOMO and I was always asking “when will I ever be interested in knowing this stuff?”, “when will I be attractive?”, “what does it mean to be attractive?”.
Living in a Latino household can be tricky. Sometimes those stereotypes where the father or the mother (or both parents in some cases) do not want you to date anyone or they will make you feel uncomfortable expressing your feelings to a boy (or girl) are true. I was always afraid my father would say something about a boy I would like to date. Why? I just felt that it was impossible for me to bring home or hold hands with a boy. Sleep with him? Have sex? What? Is that even a thing?!
Lots of questions were in my mind and the only way I dealt with sex was just by observing. Not all of my friends have ever touched a condom. Some of us smoke, some of us had sex, some of us just kissed, some of us had nothing of all of this. I would listen to my friends’ stories, heartbreaks, delusions, experiences, which they used to share with me alone or in a group of other girls (or boys too). I would talk with my best friends all the time about this stuff. But in my heart, I knew that sex and love were different. And yet many of my friends would confuse those two things. They would say “I love you” so fast or without knowing that person for long enough… but I couldn’t say anything nor express any suggestion because I had “never been in love”, “never had sex”, “never been with a boy alone”, “never been liked by a boy”. True, I had no boobs. I was not the tallest, my hair was not straight… I only had a typical Brazilian silhouette that boys would look at but then forget, because I had a baby face, I was pure… I am pure.
But listen to me, dear high schooler. If you’re reading this, if you got the chance to see those tv series or teen movies where even the ugliest character gets to kiss the cutest boy or girl at school, and if you wish to be understood, I’ll say: take your time.
I took the time to set my standards and even when they seemed so high, I kept they firm. Did I get the chance to kiss a boy? Tons of them, but I only kissed one when the time called. Not because I felt rushed by society. Did I want to wait for the right time to make love instead of trying casual sex? Yes, and I did not regret it. I felt pressured by the culture, but yes, I had my kind of sex education. I would learn a lot through movies, people’s stories, and my parents’ advice. But mostly, through my sensibility and emotional interest.
And yes, I know how can be hard to live in a world where your actions are misunderstood, taken for granted, or targeted as childish. But your sensibility will take you to places you never thought you could get. Your friends will make their own decisions and you should respect them, and if you support them even better. But you do you for yourself. You will benefit from your being “unfit”.
I’m writing this because I wish I could read something like this when I was in high school. I’ve always wished to know what it is really like to have high standards and if it was worth the wait. I’ve been always curious to know if even just one person in this world was having my same thought.
Probably this person won’t exist. But what if you’re reading these words are that person? Well, if you’re that person I’m telling you: you’re not alone, you’re making such a brave choice, but the moment you’re going to live will be remarkable. You’re not behind. You’re you. Damn, how beautiful is that. No, you might not feel the beauty now. Yes, you might feel the beauty in a couple of years from now. Keep it strong. High school is not life, it’s just a tiny part of it.
Oh, life after high school is so much more… live! With or without sex, so much richer! Regardless! You’re not alone!