3.7.16 | Becca Andrews
In 2006, when I was 14 and all tangled red hair and too much eyeliner and rampant insecurities, my ninth-grade health teacher, a sarcastic guy in his 40s, opened class one day with a single statement: "Ladies, everything can be avoided if you'll just keep your legs closed." Then he turned the class over to two strangers for the rest of the week, a man and a woman from a sex education organization now called Life Choices.
As teenage girls living in Crockett County, Tennessee—a cluster of five tiny towns strung together by a quiet highway, where the culture revolves around the harvesting of cotton, Friday night lights, and Sunday sermons—my friends and I knew the consequences of sex: ruined reputations, questioned faith, and the most unthinkable of all, pregnancy. We had heard the whispering in the hallways; we had read the accusations scribbled on the bathroom stalls.
One day during the weeklong sex ed class, the female instructor made a show of tearing a long piece of tape from a dispenser. She held it for us to see, taut between her fingers, and pointed out how transparent and clean and sticky it was. Then she handed it to the girl in the first row and told her to attach it to her skin and pull it off. "It won't hurt," she promised. The girl did as she was told, and then the piece of tape was passed around for each of us to follow suit. When it got to me, I gingerly stuck it on my left forearm, smoothing it out on my skin. After I peeled it off, I looked at the particles of dirt and dead cells and hair that now clung to the tape. I wrinkled my nose and passed it along.