To Be Desired

Sex education in school was all for the giggles and excitement of discussing the thing we were all curious about, knew nothing about, and learned not to talk about. I learned that boys and girls are separate, should learn different things (by being placed in different classrooms), and that sex involved the mysterious interaction of boy parts and girl parts, but nothing else.

I learned that I wanted to be desired. I was “pretty”. Being desired was desirable for every girl in my class. So being desired was what sex was about. This drive to be desired meant I needed to work to be desired. I needed to be what they wanted me to be.

The shitty sex ed I received (in and outside of school) taught me that women’s worth came from our desirability to men, that women should prioritize other people’s comfort over our own, that there’s nothing worse than a woman who’s needy. It took me a long time to understand the way I’d internalized those messages, and to do a better job of seeing through the men who exploited them. 

I ended up being groomed by a supervisor 10 years older than me when I was 16…afterall, he desired me, and that was all I was supposed to be looking for. Had I received comprehensive and inclusive information about sex, maybe I would have learned about how to navigate desire and tell the difference between a healthy relationship and an unhealthy one. I wish I learned about relationship dynamics and respect and getting YOUR needs met. I wonder if I learned those things, I perhaps would have had the self-efficacy and skills needed to navigate being pursued by a much older man. I would have had the tools necessary to care less about being the object of one’s desire. At the time, I thought I was an “empowered woman” who was desirable; I was achieving the goal. I now look back and see that it was really just manipulative, violating, and exploitive. That’s why it is so important to equip kids with the skills and knowledge they need to navigate sex, desire, and relationships.