I do not believe in monogamy, even though I, myself, have never been non-monogamous. I see the men I am attracted to as intellectual equals first and possible sexual partners second. I have never desired two people at one time. And yet, I maintain that I do not believe in monogamy. Like you have, I have recently watched Beyoncé’s Lemonade numerous times and by the power of all that it is, I’ve been inspired to thought, action, self-love, female appreciation and hours of reckless dancing. My reactions to it have been widely expressed by others: black women are magic, pop platforms can be utilized for more than surface topics, love is excruciating, forgiveness is possible, but the one reaction I’ve had that I haven’t heard echoed anywhere else is the one I’m most conflicted about: Lemonade made me think to myself: it’s time women start accepting infidelity as a given, as a natural occurrence in a man’s experience; it’s time to stop shaming them for it, because it has nothing to do with us, it’s about their needs, and their needs aren’t wrong. Since having that reaction, I’ve been exploring that reaction.

I have never been cheated on, unless I’m counting my high school boyfriend who got drunk on a snowboarding trip and made out with Noel. I don’t count it because it barely affected me, I wasn’t in love, our relationship was new, and it was the age of making terrible decisions under the influence of vodka straight from the bottle hidden in the sock drawer.  I didn’t cry, I didn’t break up with him over it. I remember wondering if I should feel sad, because I didn’t. I haven’t formed my non-monogamous belief system due to past pain, I have formed it in anticipation of future pain.

Last year I read Loving What Is by Byron Katie, a book that teaches you how to chill out about all the things that are troubling you by flipping the expectations you put onto others back onto yourself. Katie agrees that the world is infuriatingly screwed up, but makes the point that we should not only be aware of that by now, we should accept it, for the sake of our own sanity. “Welcome to earth” she says to the guests asking questions at her lectures lamenting over death, loss, pain, infidelity. She teaches that we have no power over the world or the actions of others, but that we do have power over our thoughts about the world and the actions of others. Some of her points are harder to swallow than others, but a lot of them soothed me, above all, her take on infidelity. She iterates that instead of demonizing our loved ones for their sexual appetites that may not always be quenched by us, we’d be wise to understand their appetites, to honor them, to accept them, to appreciate them. This requires a removal of ego, that can only come with repeated practice of a step by step process that she calls “the work” until we are free enough to see that our partners needs are not about us, and if sex with multiple partners makes them happy, we should allow it, because “don’t we want them to be happy?”

I’m about to make some general statements, so please excuse my inability to include all types, but I have a history of being attracted to flamboyant and bombastic types; larger than life men with large appetites for all things, including excitement, attention, adoration and sex. It is foolish to try to change these men, so rather than try to remove characteristics from their being that may hurt me, I have chosen to allow them to be them, completely. I try to do this by telling them that I am totally okay with whatever their desires are but I would like to be made aware of them, if they wouldn’t mind. This has been difficult to navigate so far because they think it’s a trap, but it’s really not, I don’t think. I haven’t been given a chance to let it play out so that I can find out. So far, I have only been able to fantasize about what a life of polyamorous acceptance would feel like within a relationship and the pain it would save me from; I have only been able to fantasize about the pain that it could have saved Beyoncé from; I have only been able to believe that desisting claiming ownership over another person’s sexuality and desisting from making sexual exploration a crime is the only advanced way of dealing with this pitfall of romantic relationships, but then I read some tweets that challenged my “advanced” way of thinking.

Eric Dadourian, who frequently elevates the conversation via twitter, wrote in the aftermath of Lemonade:

“Been talking to Jay Z ALOT lately and I really feel like he is going to come out of this with a new understanding of what ‘masculinity’ means.”

“What I’ve been telling Jay Z over and over again via Skype is that he had a chance RN to destroy the old misogynist idea of masculinity.”

Now, I should tell you that for 21 years, I lived a Kimmy Schmidt style bunker existence, so while the nature vs nurture debate as it relates to human sexuality may be common well-known to most, it was enough of a foreign concept to me that these tweets made my eyes widened in a dozen swarming first-time questions about people viewing other people as sexual objects, people treating other people as sexual conquests, people collecting sexual experiences to feed the ego and whether those were natural byproducts of the force of sexual desire, or learned behaviors. I was taught, explicitly and repeatedly, that an uncontrollable sex drive was natural for men and that sooner or later, try as they might to deny it, men were going to ruin a few lives for a sexual experience. The culpability for men’s sexual behavior is routinely placed too heavily on women and in my house, it was explicitly placed on me. Beginning in childhood, I was taught how to avoid arousing older men, because it was my job to make sure that I didn’t. This started by wearing a shirt over my swimsuit at family camp and not wearing shorts that were shorter than my hands when my arms were straight down. As I got older, and became more of a sexual target, the restrictions became more severe. I wasn’t allowed to spend the night at a friend’s house if her dad lived in the home. I was trained how to scream if a man tried to climb into my sleeping bag. When I reached adolescence, my mom typed up a behavior contract that covered all the places I went and detailed my requirements in each. On the contract for my behavior in church, it was stated that I was not allowed to wear white pants (because either: my underwear would show through which was suggestive, or my underwear wouldn’t show through which would suggest that I wasn’t wearing any which was suggestive) I was not allowed to wear shirts that showed my midriff when “standing, bending over, raising my arms or kneeling, and I wasn’t allowed to wear clothing with messages that could be construed as relating to sexuality. This last rule required that I turn my work shirt from the tanning salon I was employed at and would often head straight to after Sunday service, inside out, because the salon’s slogan was “Tan Naked” and my mom told me that would encourage the men of the church to picture me naked, whether they wanted to or not. When my mom remarried, I was no longer allowed to wear a swimsuit at all. She began to take more serious measures to rid our household of anything that could be sexually tempting to my stepdad, like my copy of Rolling Stone with Britney Spears on the cover, which she took out of my room and put through the paper shredder. My conditioning was powerful, I believed that I was responsible for the thoughts and subsequent actions of the men around me and the messages still linger. Recently, I stopped myself from eating a Tootsie Pop during a conversation with someone’s husband because I told myself it would encourage inappropriate thoughts in him. I didn’t reconsider the absurdity of that thought process until the drive home, and then I thought more about how powerful conditioning is, especially when it begins in childhood, and then I began imagining some much needed changes and how to implement them.

I am an elementary school teacher; I have been for 12 years. Like any adult peering into the conversations of the generation after them, I have been routinely surprised about what children say about sex, and at what age. “They know more than I knew at their age” is never going to stop being true. Here is the problem though: sexual impulses and curiosity is beginning earlier in life due to exposure; they have have unlimited access to the most destructive sexual information available in the form of porn on their cell phones, and no formal, positive education to counter it. The documentary Sexy Baby by Jill Bauer and Ronna Gratus addresses this poignantly, in the digital age, most young people’s first introduction to what sex is with be via hardcore porn on a cell phone. 9 out of 10 children have seen porn before they’re 14. As an educator and a practical woman, I think about the public education system’s responsibility surrounding this all the time. Sex is a topic that will affect every single child’s life that we teach in profound ways, but there is still a taboo around whether or not we’re allowed to talk about it. If students are gaining access to harmful sexual content and developing harmful sexual behavior younger and younger, and they are, it is no longer appropriate to foolishly ignore it and respond with an exacerbated “they shouldn’t be!” and then avoid the conversation for 5 more years. As soon as a 3rd grader is sent to the office for shouting, “Your thighs are as thick as my big juicy dick!” the conversation about sexual conduct, safety, respect and positivity must begin. A child who is exposed to sex must receive guidance as soon as humanely possible. The lack of positive guidance at an age before the urges cloud the mind is the only social responsible way to approach the sexual climate we live in. Why isn’t a topic like positive sexual conduct, beyond how to do it and what STDs are, not a part of our general curriculum? One fear is that we don’t want to introduce children to sex because they shouldn’t be having it, but here’s the thing, we are not introducing children to sex, the internet is introducing children to sex and they are introducing it to each other while adults, those with the knowledge and past experience and wisdom gleaned from their own mistakes and trauma, remain removed from the conversation, allowing irreversible damage to be done.

I have read a lot of articles about this, women yelling “How about instead of teaching women how to protect themselves from rape, we teach the men not to rape!” And in the culmination of the Beyonce and Jay Z conversation, my own views on monogamy, my awareness of the sexual injustices perpetrated on women and men that seem to only be increasing in numbers, I asked myself that question, why aren’t we teaching men not to rape, in school, at a young age, before the desires and urges kick in without proper guidance on what to do with them? Why isn’t in-depth, all-encompassing sexual education part of the public school system? Because, and picture me shouting this from the window of a single flyer helicopter with these words written in the sky behind me, IT IS ABOUT FUCKING TIME.

Cohesive and relevant sex education is more relevant than ever before. Listen, I am a teacher of elementary-aged students and I have to use urban dictionary more often than I’d like to keep up with some of the things I hear on my campus. I will attribute this to technonolgy in a minute, because technonloy is a HUGE factor, but I’d also like to say that I got in trouble in 5th grade, so 20 years ago, for following the orders of a male classmate who told me to go tell a female classmate that she “gives away blow jobs for free” a phrase that I didn’t understand as I delivered it. Sex is one of the first things that kids are curious about. I was curious about it with very little access to the outside world. I saw things on TV and I knew I wanted to know about whatever it was they were doing. I made my Barbies have sex, I acted out what I thought sex was with my friends when we played house, I had what I thought sex was with my Raggedy Ann doll. Sex is powerful and the curiosity hits at an age that makes adults uncomfortable and they deal with that discomfort by giving vague explanations and telling kids they’re too young to have the thoughts they are having. But if they’re having them, they are not too young. The thoughts come when they come and they must be met with SWIFT guidance and a ton of information.

And it’s relevant younger than ever before. Watch the documentary Sexy Baby, everyone’s first experience with sex these days will be porn on their phones. Preteens are having sex and they’re having hurtful, scary, degrading, destructive sex because that’s what available to them. So, we’re letting that happen for like 5 years and then we’re talking to them about STD prevention? There are so many things missing. Again, this isn’t even about banning porn, because it’s enticing and it’s universal and it’s inescapable, but it is about GREATLY INCRESING the conversations about sex with kids. It is not inappropriate to do so, there is a DEMAND for it. At this point, it is entirely inappropriate and extremely dangerous NOT to teach kids about sex, even if they aren’t having it yet. Messages sink in slowly. We’ve gotta start now. They are BORN with this extremely powerful and dangerous tool and no rule book. The tool begs them to use it before they know how and so many uses are actually lethal in more ways than one. It’s no longer responsible or even acceptable to call sex taboo and send kids to the principals’ office for shouting “YOUR THIGHS ARE THINK LIKE MY BIG JUICY DICK” on the elementary school playground if we don’t have a plan to really truly reshape that headspace in that person that is already creating thoughts of that nature. Those kids need to be redirected from the message they’re getting from the sources they’re familiar with. That’s all they’re expressing, what they’ve been exposed to. We have to STRONGLY counter that message in our schools. Sex is LIFE and it’s everywhere and it’s destroying as many lives as its creating.

It is up to us to CHANGE THIS

I was fortunate to be on the receiving end of an extremely beautiful message from an extremely beautiful ex boyfriend recently, who reached out to tell me that our relationship stripped him of any lingering misogyny he was operating with before we dated. He now applies the love he felt for me to the world, understanding that the world deserved it from him, too. If a relationship, a type of education, can create such a powerful shift, couldn’t public education shift men’s conquest tendencies, too?

This isn’t about quelling desires, it’s about managing them. What if boys were taught, just as those all-encompasing urges began to rise up inside of them, exactly what they were not to do, under any circumstances, year after year, alongside the rest of the material they’re being stuffed with and tested on. Why isn’t that happening at the age that is becomes relevant? I was taught what not to do with MY sexautliy and those messages have asting impact to this day

Truth is they can help it but its really hard, just like it’s really hard for women to live up the expectations that society places on them but many of them put in constant daily work to do so. Just like how it’s hard to addicts to remain sober or for civilized human beings not to punch strangers in the face when ______

Its hard, but it’s possible, even more possible with training and conditioning and with what’s going on in society, its our job as educators. Sex will effect the lives of every single student we teach in PROFOUND ways. There is no reality in which it won’t, even students who abstain from sex, or who are biologically a sexual, their lives will be affected by the sexuality of others and the sexual politics of our society.