On the Intersection Between Teenage Sexuality and the Objectivity of Women Across Races, an Excerpt
By Amina Castronovo
Discussed: sexual content
The following multimedia piece analyzes a girl’s friendship with a boy at school, one that shows her that taking ownership of her sexual desires should be done without shame.
Despite my best efforts to avoid him, I became quite close with a boy at my school named Vlad; a scrawny, Russian twelve year old who constantly talked about sex. This friendship was mysterious to others as well as to myself. To me he was the Boogeyman of childhood innocence—an innocence that I had thrown away by losing my virginity earlier that year. How ironic. I had committed the act, but for some reason talking about it, especially with someone who would praise me for it, scared the shit out of me.
He and I were never attracted to each other, yet we enjoyed discussing the topic of sex on the regular. I had never experienced such a connection before because I had been conditioned to believe that sex is always sexual. My conversations with Vlad opened my eyes to see that sex is just a part of life. People can experience it, write about it, long for it, prepare for it, learn about it, and in the case of Vlad and I, debate about it. He consistently argued that sex can be used for physical pleasure, and I fervently rebutted his contention with reasons of love and tenderness. We both scoffed at each other, but I was soon to understand the validity of his statement.
One day after school he said he needed to go to the drugstore, and when I asked why he replied with a smirky grin and: “I need condoms.” Oh god, that word. Didn’t he know better than to utter it out loud? What made me even more uncomfortable was the ominisicity of his words. What did he need those things for? Was he having sex? He had never mentioned that there was someone else. Did he expect us to have sex and this was he way of asking me? Or, the most gruesome of the options, did he want them as a tool as he… did the dirty to himself? None of these questions were answered as we stepped into the Duane Reade drugstore next to our school. I darted my head back and forth to see if anyone we knew was inside. My heart was pulsing as he picked out the “perfect” type of condoms, holding two different boxes in his hands. Just there, standing openly in the aisle.
“Banana or strawberry?”
My horrified look said it all.
“You’re right, banana.”
As we stood in line I had never wanted to crawl into a hole more in my life. I kept shifting my backpack between my shoulders, and I could practically hear my owl-themed pencil case screeching at me through the fabric. The man standing behind us seemed to be piercing me and my lack of virginity with his eyes as if he was the conservative messiah, there to tear down the “open for business” sign hanging on a string from my vagina. Of course, as we waited Vlad picked up some skittles from the counter because nothing says, “I’m an awkward little guy who’s about to bang this depressed bisexual,” quite like a plastic bag full of rainbow colored crap. I waited anxiously for the cashier to say something as she rang us up. We were twelve year olds buying condoms for god’s sake! But no. She looked us straight in the eyes and asked if we were paying cash or card. A receipt had never printed for so long before.
If adolescents were taught to take ownership of their sexuality perhaps there would be less conformity into racist and sexist stereotypes. Black and white women are human and thus they have the inherent right to express themselves sexually however they see fit. This expression can be passionate and overwhelming, or timid and slow, or anything in between. That should be the first lesson students learn in Sex Ed. Let’s stop pretending that teens are not privy to one of the most wonderful aspects of life. We’re teenagers, experiencing life is what we do! Teenagers are going to have sex. They’re going to masturbate. They’re going to go condom shopping, because they can. And that’s good. So, to all of the teens out there: Find your something. It could be a Vladimir, an object, a book, or a website—something that replaces shame with exploration. You don’t have to do anything, just observe the ways your body reacts to the liberation of sex. Looking back now, perhaps all he wanted was to put on a show for me, but I’m glad I watched. My experience with him taught me one of the most valuable lessons for a young woman to absorb: there’s nothing wrong with wanting to feel another person or yourself. Vlad taught me that, and I hope that wherever he is, he’s making himself very happy.
This piece is rooted in autobiographical experience and my personal interpretation of how girls are taught to hide the discovery of their sexuality. To illustrate the process and the mood of the experience visually, I included a series of photos that accompany my writing. I used light in the photos as a way to utilize dimensions other than color. By using this technique, I hoped to illuminate how a part of life that is seemingly so black and white actually exhibits more depth than society recognizes.
Amina is a junior in high school in Manhattan. She is a Field Advisor for Our Climate, a core member of the DOE’s Sustainability Youth Leadership Council, a member of the Climate and Resilience Education Task Force’s Youth Steering Committee, and a co-leader of her school’s environmental club. Amina is also a lobby lead with New York Youth Climate Leaders and part of New York Renews’ Media Strike Team. She is a mentee at Girls Write Now, and she has been published in multiple publications. Amina has started an internship with Councilman Mark Levine’s campaign for Manhattan Borough President.