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Introduction to Explore: Stories of Youth & Sexuality

This article was originally published in The Medium.

Growing up, I was a very sexually curious, open, and experimentative child. I had a sort of spirit surrounding it, an inquisitive drive to learn more about my own body, and the sexual world I had just recently discovered existed. Persistent and fearless in my adventurous, little could stop me from exploring. From deciphering foreign language sex-ed books to hosting a menstruation conference in my neighborhood as a 10-year-old I knew what I wanted to know and got creative with how I got to know it. I had such a positive attitude surrounding my sexuality, surrounding creating my own boundaries. I felt so deeply in control of my body and its pleasure from a really young age. But as I was growing up and pushing my understanding more, becoming more socially aware I grew out of that phase, and my view of my past experiences completely changed. I looked back at them with horror. I wondered why I did those things, I believed I had deviant desires, I was convinced that I couldn’t trust myself to make decisions regarding my body. I felt shame and embarrassment as more and more of these childhood memories flooded in, the guilt was overwhelming. I questioned my own sanity and my sexuality because of them. The psychological toll of pushing these stories as far from my mind as I could was enormous. I didn’t know how to deal with it. I felt paralyzed by the idea that I experimented with girls my age, shocked. The fact that I carried on playing and asking questions seemed out of line to me. Why would a normal regular girl like me have such deeply disgusting ideas and memories? It was so unbearable to think back.

Later on, in high school, I had friends sit across from me and relay their own, eerily similar experiences back to me. I watched them squirm as they mustered the courage to speak about these encounters aloud. I could sense that it was the first time these words had left their mouths, heck, the first time these thoughts had left their subconscious. I would nod and lean into them, passing no judgment. I expected these moments to be cathartic since you know, I wasn’t the only one. But sitting in the patch of wet grass of that football field, cuddling up to that blanket in that hotel terrace pool, and sitting on that desk of the empty English classroom my reaction was perplexity. Is this like a phase everyone just goes through and no one talks about it or am I missing something? Well turns out this is a well-known fact. Something that the psychology community has encompassed, years after Sigmund Freud’s ideas of the psychosexual stages (and whatever the Little Hans case study was) was popularized. Evolutionary biologists are in on it as well, not only does their field acknowledge these experiences but it even provides an explanation. Turns out as mammals we aren’t born with the knowledge of sex, simply the desire for it, and through pre-pubescent experiences, we learn about sexuality. Male monkeys learn how to thrust through demonstrations from their mothers. Natives of the Trobriand Islands have ‘Bukumatula’ huts in which adolescents are encouraged to experiment with multiple partners. The Yolngu tribe let young children emulate sexual movements in public and parents would allow young children to watch them have sex through the bushes. Apparently, learning sex is normal and natural and serves as an important function, those who don’t engage their curiosities often attempt femoral or anal sex simply not knowing about the existence of vaginal penetration. This also happens to be a well-kept secret in western culture.

This truth has already been unveiled by biological life science and social science and I hope with this project we are able to bring this topic front and center to non-fiction. An artistic response to certain anxieties and insecurities surrounding our childhood trial and error. I hope the stories submitted bring a sense of peace to those wrestling with their own accounts, just like they did to me. I hope the narration transforms your perspectives as they did mine. In short, the idea for this anthology came about from my own frustrations and lack of knowledge. I hope this collection of stories shows the universality of these experiences and encourages you to recollect and bask in the ever more accepting tone of these stories. I hope the uplifting tone and narrative encourages acceptance.

I now pass the baton on to you. I encourage you to submit stories anonymously. The more diverse this project gets the deeper we can get. Do you have something that comes to mind for this project? To find out more, check out exploreanthology.com. We’d love to read about your childhood explorations. Join us.

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