Pizza and Pregnancy Tests
by J.M. Bates
My friend confided in me that she might be pregnant. She was absolutely terrified. At first, I was surprised that she came to me with her serious issue. She wasn't my best friend; in fact, far from it. She often seemed to really dislike me, often calling me "boring" and like "an old lady" in front of our other friends. However, she said I was the only one she could trust not to tell anyone else about her possible pregnancy.
I tried my best to comfort her. I took her out for pizza in an attempt to cheer her up a little, but she could hardly talk or eat due to her high stress. She looked like she was on the verge of tears the entire time. I had no idea what to say to her; she was occupied by her thoughts anyway. We later went to a store together and I told her that I'd buy her anything she needed. She picked out a box of at-home pregnancy tests, the kind where you pee on a stick. That box of multiple tests was expensive to purchase. I thought to myself that her boyfriend should be the one buying it instead of me. Where was that deadbeat, anyway? My friend was going through hell and her boyfriend probably had no idea what was going on. I bought the tests for her from an elderly cashier who looked at me disapprovingly.
Back at my friend's house, I remember watching her face as she waited for her test results, the plastic urine-dotted strips all lined up alongside each other by the bathroom sink. Her wild anxiety merged with disappointment and dread as each test yielded a positive result.
This event happened sixteen years ago. My friend and I were both twelve years old at the time.
I didn't have sexual health education at my school until I was seventeen years old. By that time, multiple girls in my class (including my friend) had already become pregnant and dropped out of school. A few boys in my class were teased for impregnating girls who attended other schools.
The sexual health education we did eventually receive at our school was dismal. Outdated textbooks depicted cross-section diagrams of human genitalia and stock photographs of wholesome teenagers with 80's haircuts. The texts heavily involved hygiene and diseases, with recurrent life advice focusing on abstinence. We were never taught about condoms or other contraceptives, nor about consent or safe sex. Our teachers seemed clueless and embarrassed to be there, with a different teacher each week. I was given the impression that this class was dumped on unwilling teachers to perform, possibly determined by choosing out of a hat or by a spreadsheet on the principal's computer. I recall one flustered football coach give our class this vague advice: "If you don't want it [sex], just cross your arms and… yeah." On another occasion, an entire class period was wasted on a discussion about the conspiracy theory of the government inventing AIDS.
The girls in my class that had already become pregnant and dropped out of school most likely would not have benefited from this particular sexual health education class if it had been provided earlier to them. I would say the same about the male classmates who got their female partners pregnant. These individuals most likely would have learned nothing from this class, just like the rest of us. If the class had instead been medically-accurate, current, and included information about contraceptives and safe sex, then maybe fewer students would have become pregnant or impregnated others.
The entire time I was in this terrible sexual education class, I kept thinking to myself, "This is bullshit!" I was getting a lot of sexual health information from the internet at the time, and it was a lot more current and sex-positive than what I was being taught in school. I didn't watch porn, a popular source of disinformation about sex, because pornography in general scared me. Instead, I found myself migrating to feminist and sex-positive online communities, blogs, and websites. Even feminist sex shops with websites online gave useful information. I learned important things from these multiple sources, such as only using water-based lubricant with latex contraceptives, and that HPV could be transmitted between partners even while using condoms and dental dams. I also learned what a dental dam was.
All in all, it was nice to educate myself in privacy from sources that were medically accurate and sex-positive. It changed my life for the better. My overall attitude towards life was improved, because I became more aware and also less plagued by guilt and shame about my needs. I had many other friends confide in me about their pregnancies, abortions, and diseases. I always did my best to provide sources of medically-accurate information as well as a non-judgemental and understanding shoulder to lean on. I look forward to the day when medically-accurate, age-appropriate sexual health education becomes mainstream in the United States. Until then, I'm going to keep e-mailing politicians to put comprehensive sex ed bills through. I will also continue to buy pizza and pregnancy tests for my friends in need.
About the Author
J.M. Bates is an atheist feminist living in the Chicago area. Race, gender, sexuality, income, and youth issues are part of her main focus. She has written for Fuck Yeah Feminists, Examiner, MOOT, Elevate Difference, and Starpulse.