THE TEEN EXPERIENCE: Cameron & Evie College Freshmen

Love! <3 

Evie and I have been dating for over a year and a half, but it seems like a whole lot longer. We’re writing this together, curled up in my dorm room in Providence, Rhode Island. Even though we go to different schools our dorms are only 5 minutes apart, and we make time to see each other everyday. We technically went on our first date freshman year of high school. It went… poorly. I got so nervous I threw up. This sounds really bad but it wasn’t as bad as it sounds, I promise. Evie could not have possibly handled the situation better, but I was still mortified. Unsurprisingly, we didn't really talk much after that.

Fast forward two years, and we found ourselves in the same friend group. We started hooking up in the spring of junior year, meeting at the beach halfway between our houses. This simple beginning became a fun and healthy relationship that has helped us both grow more than we ever imagined. 

We pretty much do everything together. We spend lots of time with one another, just being in the same place but working on our own homework or doing our own thing. But we also make art together, go to concerts and other fun things. We wrote and illustrated a children's book together for our senior year art class and dressed up as one another during halloween senior year and won the costume contest. Although not an entirely original idea, it worked very well because we have very contrasting styles and interests. Even though we love each other and function as a unit, we are still very different people. The term opposites attract really comes to mind while  writing this. 

These differences have helped us grow in many ways because they’re learning opportunities. Would Evie go to a rap concert if she wasn’t dating me? Nah probably not. Would I go to a chorus performance if I wasn't dating Evie? nah probably not. Although the is a pretty generic example it can be applied to all of our contrasting interests, of which there are many. One of the most important for me has been Evie’s influence on my school work. Her good study habits and love of school really helped me change my perspective on school, ultimately helping raise my high school GPA. Another one of our differences is how we handle stress and make plans. I would consider myself the type to just go with the flow, I don’t really need a destination or a plan. Evie likes making plans and sometimes gets stressed when we don’t have a plan. But just like she’s helped me with school work and study habits, I’ve helped her with feeling less stressed and more chill. We have different friend groups and go to different schools, but we’ve found a way for our differences make us closer. More than anything, we are honest and talk about how we feel. Open communication is everything to a good relationship. 

This kind of love is the only thing either of us want. It makes us happy and helps us to grow and become stronger people. As a couple, we’re usually the outlier in both our high school and college friend groups that are so immersed in hook up culture. There are so many different kinds of relationships that can bring people joy, and we’ve found ours <3 



Every quarter I will share questions from our anonymous question link that reveal what students really want to know but may be afraid to ask. This month:

Why is there so much expected from kids our age?
What is the difference between sympathy and empathy?
How can you tell if someone is romantically interested in or just wants to be "friends?"
Is anal sex natural?
Why is it more difficult for girls to orgasm than guys?


Growing up, I always felt different.  Watching my friends begin to experience attraction towards each other, and proceed to explore that attraction with other kids, made me feel separate from the group.  I had the same curiosities but no outlet to express them.  That sense of “other” continued into high school as those around me began to crush, flirt, hook up, date, and all the while talked about who crushed, flirted, hooked up and dated with whom.  Within the realm of sexuality I felt separate from my community.  In fact I felt completely alone.  I turned to TV, movies and the internet for solace.  Sometimes I sought solidarity, but more often I sought escape.  I escaped into the TV lives of high school characters, whose lives seemed glamorous and fun when compared to my own.  Television and movies provided the space for me to turn away from my often times annoying sense of difference. 

            Though I escaped into other worlds often, I also knew not to let my own high school experience pass me by.  I went to parties, and for the most they were enjoyable.  Enjoyable, though also exhausting.  They constantly reminded me of the differences I felt so strongly in myself yet worked to hide from others.  I would always scan the room for possible issues that may arise.  Which girls could be looking my way, whose looks I might have to deflect?  What excuse would I use if someone told me a friend of theirs thought I was cute?  How would my dancing be perceived by the people around me?  How highly pitched could my laugh resonate around a room without it sounding too gay?  All of this running through my head while attempting to maintain an appropriate external expression of pleasure, no matter the anxiety I may have felt internally. 

            Like many people I know, I didn’t have penetrative sex in high school.  But I also didn’t give or receive oral sex, kiss, hold hands with or touch someone I felt attraction towards, or made it known that I thought someone was cute.  None of this happened until I was 18, the summer after graduation.  And when it happened, it all happened at once.  The first person I ever openly admitted attraction towards was also the first I had sex with.  He also happened to be a man I met through a dating app and had known for only a brief time.  For a while this caused me a lot of shame, for it seemed like my first encounter story differed so greatly from those of my peers, the ones I had spent hours debriefing about in high school.  However, despite any shame I felt, the worst part about my first time was how amazing it was.  Amazing, yet to be kept to myself.  I was not out to my friends at the time, and so this wonderful experience had to remain within the confines of my own mind. 

            Far from a fairytale story, my first sexual experience was overwhelmingly positive and enjoyable.  I met the guy the week before at coffee. I felt comfortable with him. We hit it off, and decided to meet up at my house.  I was upfront with him about my inexperience, which he neither fetishized nor shamed me for.  I was slightly nervous in the moment because of how my first time was unfolding so unlike any movie I’d seen or story I’d heard in the past.  But I soon came to appreciate the differences between the facade of first times and my own first time.  Whereas most teen movies show the character’s first time happening in a setting like a party, I was in an environment in which I felt completely comfortable.  Unlike many of my friends, I was totally sober at the time and felt clear-headed.  Rather than put pressure on me to know what I was doing, my partner guided me gently and consensually.  The person I chose to first have sex with may have not known me well as a person outside of a sexual context, but because of my high school health class I went into it confidently that at the very least it would be safe and consensual because those were the priorities I communicated.  The sex we ended up having was communicative, mutually pleasurable, respectful, intimate and fun.  And to this day that is exactly the sex that I seek.  I have never had sex drunk, unsafely, or with someone I felt uncomfortable communicating with. 

            I feel lucky to be able to say that my sexual experiences so far have all been positive, and that I now can talk openly and honestly about them.  I finally let go of the shame I felt for hooking up with people I met through apps because I knew I had the tools to ensure that I stayed safe and have mutual comfort prioritized.  Just like how an experience that mimics social standards doesn’t translate directly to enjoyment, an experience that differs from the norm doesn’t have to result in disaster.  The context within which I meet my partners is not what matters.  What matters is being an advocate for myself and my safety, never shying away from saying no to anything or anyone that feels wrong, asking for and giving consent, and allowing myself to enjoy whatever feels right to both my partner and I.  For a long time I felt left out of the world of sex, and wished that I had gotten the chance to explore more in high school.  Now looking back, I appreciate the time I got to spend maturing and growing outside of the hookup culture, because I know I will never take the privilege of sex for granted. 


Every quarter I will share questions from our anonymous question link that reveal what students really want to know but may be afraid to ask. This month:

How do I get my parents to stop fighting in front of me?
What if my friend's parent wants me to tell them what my friend's been doing, and to keep it a secret from my friend?
What is the media's effect on people's sexuality?
What does a positive relationship with sex look like?
Is the only way to find my sexuality through experimenting sexually?

THE TEEN EXPERIENCE: Rising College Junior

Looking back to high school, I can clearly see how poorly timed this boy was. In a
period when I was feeling unprecedentedly small, the flirting and attention he
brought seemed to relieve my isolation; being noticed was a potent but superficial
feeling. However, this boy did not only exist as a remedial fantasy, and eventually, I
could no longer ignore that high school came with expectations of what young men
and women do together. One night, I found myself slightly drunk in an upstairs room
of a random classmate’s house. And as I kissed that boy, every alarm in my body
rang with a siren that told me that this was not what I wanted. So I stopped. I told
him no.

And after I rolled off of him, and slinked my way out of the room, nothing about it
felt unique or empowering. At the time, I thought it would be my social downfall, but
ultimately, even with the charm of being noticed, I knew my boundaries– what I
wanted, and how I wanted to feel. In the few conversations that this moment from
high school has ever come up, people seem to be surprised by my self-awareness
and my ability to say no. Sadly, others have found this “no” to be impressive, and
through these brief moments of hindsight, I have learned to see the value of Shafia’s

Shafia’s honest, inclusive, and engaging lessons helped me to understand my
sexuality on a holistic level. Every day in class, we deconstructed the warped
expectations and pressures surrounding sex, and in their place, I was given the
opportunity and tools to develop my own boundaries defined by my own terms. The
scenarios, games, and discussions in class did not give me the words to say “no” that
night, so much as they showed me that I deserved and was capable of making my
sexual experiences healthy, safe, and fun.

These principles I built in Shafia’s class have proven to be a valuable tools in
navigating the ever-evolving process of understanding my sexuality. In a culture
where sex carries disproportionate social weight, there is a certain freedom that
comes from the ability to have my own relationship to sex, and for me, this freedom
has given me confidence in my ability to consent; knowing the power of my “no” has
allowed me to explore how it feels to say “yes.” As I have changed in my years since
that night in high school, so too have my boundaries, and as I gain more positive
experiences, these boundaries will continue to adapt. However, what will remain are
the lessons learned from Shafia that taught me to see my sexuality as it uniquely
relates to my own life.


Every quarter I will share questions from our anonymous question link that reveal what students really want to know but may be afraid to ask. This month:

How do I know I won't be judged for relating to a topic we are discussing in class?
How do you know what size condoms to buy?
What differentiates a romantic relationship from a platonic one? Is it only physical attraction that separates it?
Is it disrespectful to family members to not come out to them because you are not sure or you don't feel your sexuality defines you?
What language do I use to ask for consent? What if they say no? How should I respond?

THE TEEN EXPERIENCE: Madison, Rising College Freshman

The first day of freshman orientation might as well be judgement day. If you wear some running shorts and a t-shirt, you don’t care enough. If you wear a tank and some new jean shorts, you care too much. Better wear makeup to look presentable, but not too much or you’ll be deemed “extra.” There is a middle ground that everyone fights to find, but can’t because it doesn’t actually exist. Regardless of what you wear, seemingly every other kid passes judgement. So of course, the night before orientation, I sat in my room trying to piece together an appropriate outfit for the next day. I settled upon some blue jean shorts and an olive green t-shirt from h&m. This was my version of the sought after “middle ground.”

For most girls at my school, freshman year seemed to go a little like this: wear cute clothes (without trying too hard), make lots of new friends (whether they’re real or not, nobody cares), do well in school (to set up your next chapter), and get the attention of an older boy (preferably a sophomore). At the time, these steps seemed so important. If you followed them you’d be set, and if you didn’t you’d be lost. So we did. It was fun, but it was absolutely exhausting. Monday through Friday was all about getting through the week without sweating in P.E., or tripping and eating the floor in the forum between classes. Friday and Saturday were for getting dinner or going swimming with friends. Sunday was for homework. Then start all over Monday. Freshman year, I developed into a social animal.

Sophomore year was a little bit different, with a little more emphasis on doing well in school, and a little less on the clothes. Friends and boys seemed just as important as they used to. It became a competition as to who took the most classes and who got to the ACT/SAT tutor first. If you didn’t have a tutor by the spring of that year, you might as well be screwed for the college process (which was a total joke, we were 15). The school week was more about who was in the library and who wasn’t. Even if you didn’t have much work, you would sit in the library on your computer to at least look like you gave a crap about your future (I was one of those kids). This year, I thought that I had developed maturity.

Junior year continued on the same path. School grew to be more important than clothes, friends, and even boys at times. The number of A’s on a report card and the score on a standardized test were the most important piece of the puzzle. Memorize the right answers rather than how to get them and you’ll be just fine. My curiosity was pushing daisies. I was lucky enough to have parents who cared enough about school and grades to give a gentle push without being on my back all of the time. The only thing they truly cared about was my best effort. Unfortunately, that was not the case for most of my friends. While their parents were riding them about grades and scores, my parents weren’t, so I decided to take care of that myself. Below a 90 was not the end of the world, but it wasn’t good. I worked myself harder than I ever had before and developed a work ethic that impresses me today.

Senior year carried out that same work ethic for the first semester of the year. I applied to the schools I had most interest in early and was lucky enough to get in, saving me hours of more applications to fill out for regular time. I worked the hardest I ever had in my life and it paid off. My parents were proud and I was proud. I was finally able to sit back and relax for a minute. Because of the nature that I had worked through junior year and the first bit of senior year, it felt weird to take a night off every once in a while. I was able to see my friends without stressing about what I should have been working on instead. Finally I was able to find myself and put time into what mattered to me, so I took two independent studies at school (one on addressing sexual assault and consent, and one on refugee resettlement). Senior year was all about finding and understanding myself and my friends. Every single one of us had different things (and hard things) going on in our minds and at home. During this time, I developed a sense of empathy.

From all of what you just read, you could assume that I had a terrible high school experience and that I just love to complain. Neither of those thoughts ring true. I had a pretty wonderful high school experience. I made the best of friends who I will keep for the rest of my existence. I developed a strong work ethic that will serve me well in the years to come. But most importantly, I got to know myself; I developed a strong self-awareness that has benefitted me greatly. I grew into a (mostly) confident young woman with an idea of what I’d like to leave in my wake, and for that, I will be forever grateful.


Every quarter I will share questions from our anonymous question link that reveal what students really want to know but may be afraid to ask. This month:

If both people are equally drunk then who is responsible for asking for consent?
How do I meet people if I'm not into hooking up?
How do people prove harassment with nudes if they are sent on snapchat?
If you can get STDs in your mouth is there a way to protect yourself?
How do I tell my partner what I want sexually without sounding aggressive?

THE TEEN EXPERIENCE: Rising College Sophomore GIRL

I’ve always been acutely aware of two things in my life: 1. I am a brown multiracial woman and 2. I am fat. Now before I start, I hope you, the person reading this, understands that I call myself fat with pride. It is a fact, and frankly I’ve become too tired of carrying around the shame this small three-letter word holds. Now that that’s clear, I can get started.

Being brown and fat in a society like today’s is hard. You can be brown and thin. That’s manageable. But brown and fat? Man, sometimes I feel doubly screwed. Things are changing though. Big female and male models are taking up more space. It’s exciting, but also alarming. Alarming because again I see that there is marketing being done to project the “right” kind of fat. This fat is toned. Has a relatively flat stomach. This fat is not my body. And it hurts. Is this body desirable? Can I even make it desirable? Quick answers: yes and yes.

I’ve had two boyfriends; both of who were in the later years of the nineteen I’ve been living. While I’d love to say that before them I was secure in my belief of my self-worth and desirability, that’d be a lie. I knew I was a smart, kind, attractive and outgoing person, but to have someone else (especially someone of the opposite sex) acknowledge those traits made it more real. Why that was the truth is in and of itself an entirely other conversation. I learned a lot from them both. I learned what I need in a relationship, what works/doesn’t work etc. I also learned (after our breakups) that I was attractive before they asked me out and that I would continue to be so after. Like a quote that I found and adore, “You not finding me attractive is not going stop me from being attractive.” Big revelation number one: I am an inherently beautiful person and that beauty is not contingent on anyone. Big revelation number two: sex shouldn’t make you self-conscious.

My second boyfriend and I had been dating a few months when we decided to have sex. We were both virgins. Yes, I was a freshman in college and still a virgin. Totally normal and completely not embarrassing. I won’t get into the detail, but to sum it up in one word, I’d say “fun.” It was fun. We laughed, communicated our needs, embraced the awkward mishaps of getting to know the other person’s body, and most of all I felt comfortable and safe. I didn’t think about my body at all. Wasn’t scared that my tummy rolls or stretch marks on my breast and hips would scare him away. I didn’t want to, as a matter of fact, I didn’t even think about, hiding myself from him and that was part of my big revelation number two. Me, a brown, fat woman, was capable of experiencing this level of intimacy – I was worthy of it. And when done right, I had no reason to care about the shape of my body. Even though we broke up, I cherish that moment we shared, and use it to build my expectations of all my future sexual experiences.

Knowing and practicing that my body is worthy of love are two very different things. I, of course, will have days when I don’t feel attractive. When I’ll cover myself up from the world, but that’s okay. For as many days that I find myself feeling ashamed of my body, I will celebrate it and show it off to the world. This brown fat body is worthy of being seen, of being cherished, and of being proud.