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Teacher Lesson Return to "I Was Scared but I Wanted Experience"
I Was Scared but I Wanted Experience
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Lesson for “My Sex Story: I Was Scared to Do It, But I Wanted the Experience”

F. Scott Fitzgerald said that, “The test of a first-rate intelligence is the ability to hold two opposed ideas in the mind at the same time, and still retain the ability to function.” By that standard, the writer of “My Sex Story: I Was Scared to Do It, But I Wanted the Experience” is an intelligent young woman. This story is about her struggle to manage mixed motivations and mixed feelings. The writer wants to get married as a virgin, but she also feels immature because she hasn’t had sex yet. The writer wants to meet someone, fall in love, and then have an intimate relationship, but she has sex first, and the love follows. The writer wants to be loyal to her mother, but she also wants to grow up and assert her independence. This story embodies many of the conflicting emotions and contradictory messages that young women face as they individuate, seek intimate relationships, and decide how to explore and express their sexuality.

That makes it a wonderful piece to teach because almost any girl can find a part of herself in the story (and boys can learn what girls are thinking and feeling). The fear of sex. The desire for sex. The desire for intimacy, and confusion about how sex fits in. The comfort and security of being a child. The lure of becoming an adult. Boldness and insecurity.

Following are two lessons you could use with this story:

1. Reading and discussion: Students respond to the major themes.

2. Essay writing: Using the story as a catalyst to have students enter this month’s writing contest.

Reading and Discussion Exercise

The multiple themes make it easy to use this article as a catalyst for discussion with one question: What stands out for you in the story?

If you have teens read this story silently, or read it aloud as a class, and ask that single question, you will prompt a vigorous discussion, in which the teens themselves will debate many issues related to sex and relationships. You (and they) will be surprised to see the range of views in the classroom.

In thinking about the story, you may want to note a few things. For example, despite the seeming recklessness of “the bet,” about who among her best friends will have sex first, the writer is actually quite cautious. The first time she arranges to have sex, she sets things up so that she can easily back out, and she does. An entire year goes by before she tries again, at age 17. And, in the end, she actually wins the bet, so her friends are even more cautious than she is. While this story is about having sex, it clearly affirms the choice of waiting. You might ask the class, “When Sasha and Jasmine heard about the writer’s experience, do you think they are glad they have waited?”

Other questions you might ask your students:

—What do the students think is the main reason the writer decides to have sex? (E.g., Does she feel peer pressure? Does she want to feel grown up? Does she want to get a guy? Does she want the physical pleasure?)

—Near the end of the story, the writer says she thinks she and her boyfriend would have had a better relationship if they had just kissed that first night, instead of having sex. Do you agree? Why or why not?

—Some people (adults especially) would say the writer was stupid and reckless to make the bet. Do you think the writer is reckless? Cautious? Both? Why?

—The writer says, “Having sex just for the experience seemed easier than trying to get into a relationship. I thought that maybe I could detach myself from the emotional part of sex so I wouldn’t get hurt if we broke up.” What do your students think of this approach toward sex? Can it be separated from emotions? Should it be?

—With Ralph, the writer starts out kissing, and was on the brink of sex when she was saved by the bell. With Chris, kissing leads straight to sex. Is kissing an invitation to have sex? Should it lead straight to sex in a relationship? Or should there be something in between?

—Ask students to look at the illustration. What does it say about the story?
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[Other Teacher Resources]
(NYC-2003-03-03)

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