The youth-written stories in Represent give inspiration and information to teens in foster care while offering staff insight into those teens’ struggles.

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Sex: Learning Without Doing
Nadishia Forbes

When I was a little kid-6, 7, probably even 8 years old-sex was a mystery. I was a child with a big imagination and I used to think that a girl could get pregnant after kissing a boy.

Later, when I was 9, 10 and 11, I was enlightened by my friends, who told me sex was allowing a boy to stick his penis into your vagina.

Of course, with this information came the school rumors of little boys and girls having sex in the bushes, in the classroom, behind the building and wherever else they could think of.

Even though we thought sex was nasty and were obviously embarrassed by it (we made up a bunch of other names for it like "dogu dogu"), we also found it mysterious and interesting. We assumed it was one of the things adults did for fun, like kissing and drinking beer, but we wanted to know more.

I Wanted to Know More

I was living in Jamaica back then and, because of the grade I was in, I didn't get any sex education. The only grown-up person who used to talk to me about sex was my grandmother's stepdaughter. She would tell my cousin and me not to have sex and she would give us a little information about menstruation, but not enough to be much help.

When I had just turned 13, I came to New York to live with my grandmother. During my first two years here, she talked to me about boys and sex no more than two or three times. What she had to say was either confusing or negative, so I didn't gain much from our discussions.

What she was clear about was that I couldn't go to parties, date or have boyfriends. She explained that if I did those things, something could happen to me that I might later regret.

Boys = Pregnancy

My grandmother needn't have worried about me. I definitely wasn't interested in having sex at that point. Most of the older women in my life, including my grandmother, had gotten pregnant while they were in their teens.

That fact, along with my grandmother's lectures, made me subconsciously believe that if you have any type of relationship-even a friendship-with a boy, you will eventually get pregnant or become a slut.

Besides that, I am a Christian and having sex outside of marriage is supposed to be sinful and dirty.

Probably because of my grandmother's influence, I started my teens feeling nervous and uncomfortable around boys. But, like any teenager, I was also curious and wanting to know about sex. My body was changing and I was having a lot of crushes, even though I didn't act on them.

Book Learning

I also had a lot of questions about my body and about sex. Nobody had even told me exactly what my period was.

At the library one day when I was 14, I saw a book that had the word "period" written on it. I was eager to learn more about menstruation, so I read it. I found it very interesting; it helped me to understand what my body was going through.

The more I read, the more I wanted to know. I read about periods, puberty and sex. One time I saw a book with a bunch of naked people of all sizes in it. I couldn't believe they had a book like that in the children's section of the library.

The book talked about having sex, what the man does and what the woman does. It even had a picture of a naked couple under the sheets. I was surprised and a little shocked, but curiosity and excitement took over. As I read the book, I felt like a bandit stealing forbidden and hidden secrets.

My Friends' Experiences

From books, I learned a lot of the facts about sex, pregnancy and STDs, but I still had questions about what the actual experience was like. I would ask my uncle's 18-year-old girlfriend and my 15-year-old friend about what it was like when they lost their virginity. "Did it hurt?" and "At what age did you lose it?" were my main questions. One girl told me that having sex felt like menstrual cramps; another told me it hurt at first but felt better later.

None of this information made me eager to try it myself, so all through junior high, I continued avoiding all boys. I was very shy and nervous when talking to them. I didn't have them as boyfriends and I didn't have them as friends.

I didn't want to be seen with guys, especially at church, where people might think that my wild, teenage hormones were on the loose and conclude that I was having sex.

Time to Get a Boyfriend

Then, when I started high school, I decided it was time to get myself a boyfriend. Sex wasn't in my plans. The idea of having sex was still quite scary.

But everyone else seemed to have a boyfriend and they would show off about it, so I wanted one too. I wanted to know what it was like to be in a relationship.

image by Shaun Bryan

One day when I going to class I noticed that this boy kept looking at me. Thinking he was cute and this could be my chance to get a boyfriend, I called him over.

This was really brave for someone as shy as me, but my determination enabled me to overcome my anxiety. We started going out that day.

We didn't have much in common and, besides his looks, there wasn't anything I liked about him. Going out with someone I didn't like was a mistake. When we kissed for the first time, it felt disgusting. I wasn't attracted to him at all, which is why it was easy to say no when he asked me to have sex with him.

My curiosity was replaced with fear and disgust. We had only been going out for two weeks when he tried to talk me into it. I got mad and went home and didn't speak to him again.

An Exciting, Scary Kiss

I finally met someone I was attracted to about a year later, when I was almost 16. He was in my Spanish class and I started hanging out with him. One day, we went down into his basement and talked. After a while, he asked for a kiss. I was nervous but I wrapped my arms around his neck and kissed him. Then he drew me closer to him.

It was all very exciting, but then he went into the corner of the basement and said, "Come here." I got scared, quickly made up an excuse, and left.

We kissed one time after that but I decided I definitely couldn't handle even the thought of sex, let alone sex itself.

After that, I lost interest in boys for a while. I had no crushes and I was quite busy maturing and learning. Then I met this guy named Dave at church. He was a tall, broad-shouldered, good-looking guy. A lot of times, I would see him looking at me.

Stay Out of My Bedroom

One day at church, I had a conversation with him and he seemed kind of stuck up and conceited. When they put some anointing oil on his forehead (a common thing in apostolic churches), he wiped it off. He was that concerned about his looks. But I wanted to give him a chance, so I gave him my phone number.

Some time later he called and I had fun talking to him. I told him I liked him and he told me how good I looked in my tight skirt. He also kept insisting on coming over to my house and asking me if I had my own room.

I started getting suspicious and thinking, "The only reason why a guy would be so eager to get to my room is if he was hoping to have sex." So I said, "My grandmother wouldn't want you in the house." He said, "Come over here" and I said, "I can't." He gave up for the moment, but the next time he called, he started asking to come over to my house again.

I Want a Guy I Can Talk To

Dave asked if I had a boyfriend. I said, "No." He asked why and I told him that all boys seemed to want is sex. He said that a couple doesn't have to have sex, but if he truly believed that, why didn't he seem to like me for my mind?

At the time he started calling me, I was a little depressed and I had problems both at school and with my parents. But when I tried to tell Dave about my problems, he wasn't any help at all. I was looking for someone to talk to, someone who would care about me and understand me and I knew he wasn't able to provide that.

I'm 18 now and I still haven't had sex. And I still don't feel ready. I think that going out and getting a lot of information about sex during my early teens has helped me to postpone doing it. I got to understand that sex can be a wonderful or a dangerous experience.

Grandma's Influence

My grandmother tried to influence me by only telling me about the dangerous part and maybe that made me more frightened of boys than I needed to be. Maybe it was because she was nervous when she talked to me about sex, but I never understood what she was saying, all I knew was that she didn't want me to do it.

I wish she could have just been straight with me and said, "Even though I don't want you to have sex because of its dangers, it's your decision. Even if you choose not to have sex, it will be a little hard to resist sometimes because you're maturing into a woman and you're gonna have feelings that you may not understand. Just be careful and you can come to me whenever you have questions."

It's lucky that I'm one of those people who actually enjoys reading. I was able to learn a lot about sex from books. If I hadn't known the facts, I probably would have had sex already because of my curiosity, without knowing the risks. But with knowledge comes the wisdom to make the right choices.

Curious, but Willing to Wait

When I started dating, I was able to keep my head. I want my first time to be special and I could see that none of the guys I have known in my life deserved to be a participant in such a precious moment, one that I will always remember.

I want to share it with someone who truly respects and cares for me. I believe if someone really loves me, he will do what's good for me and consider my needs before his and not be so concerned about "getting some."

It would really be nice to have my husband do the honor of satisfying my curiosity, although waiting till marriage, which could be seven or 10 years from now, does seem like a long time.

But as long as I can avoid having sex, why not? I have heard a lot of the older women I know saying how much they regret having had sex when they did. I am sure that later in life, I am going to be very glad I made this decision.

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