In my first year of high school, I was assigned to read a book with a subplot where a girl has pity sex with a boy because he’s a virgin, and whose plot and characters did not make nearly as lasting an impression as the rape/incest joke I can remember almost word for word. In my second year of high school, I was assigned to read a book where I saw some of my own sexuality represented in literature for the first time, as a key part of a dystopian regime, and where the protagonist contemplates becoming a rapist out of irritation with an evil prude. In my third year of high school, I was assigned to read the friggin Scarlet Letter, a book which could not possibly be more melodramatically obsessed with how awful the Puritans are — not for being racist, or misogynist, or any of the other things that the book gleefully embraces, but for being such darn prudes. In my fourth year of high school, I was assigned to read another book where one of the main characters contemplates becoming a rapist because of an evil prude, a character whom one of my classmates described as an “All-American Hero” and who is overtly celebrated in the book.
You know, sometimes, I feel like how messed up I am is way out of proportion to my actual life experience, but when I get to thinking about the kind of things I had to read and hear as a teen kid, I kinda have to wonder how I didn’t turn out worse.