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The Real Inspiration For That Netflix Show

, , , , | Learning | April 25, 2022

This is the story about someone who I’ll call my friend for convenience, though honestly, I’m not sure I deserve to call him that. I’d known him since elementary school, but he was always just a bit different. I never heard that he was neurodiverse or anything; he just didn’t try to fit in. He spoke with a very mild speech impediment and was always sticking his nose in a book, even walking through the halls reading, somehow not running into anyone in the crowded halls while doing it.

He flat-out said, on more than one occasion, that he thought all of us were doing lots of foolish things just to fit in and he wasn’t going to do something that didn’t make sense to him just to seem normal.

Needless to say, he was never the most popular person in school, and as such, I’m ashamed to admit that I also somewhat shunned him at first. But one year, he ended up sitting next to me in one of our classes and in the cafeteria, so I got to know him better and found out he could be quite funny and enjoyable to hang out with. Sadly, I was too worried about popularity to properly call him my friend back then.

This story starts in health class, where we were getting your standard abstinence-only sex-ed spiel. During one of the last days, I remember thinking the teacher was rushing through class a bit more than usual, not giving as much time for questions and such. I didn’t know why until the end of the class when she asked if anyone had questions and immediately called on my friend.

My friend stood up.

Friend: *Very quickly* “Teachers here aren’t allowed to teach about birth control, but that doesn’t stop students!”

He then went into what was clearly a well-practiced, rapid tallying-off of the most important details about birth control in the short time left in class, ending with:

Friend: “I can explain more during lunch if anyone wants to know, and I also have condoms that I will provide to anyone to asks for them.”

While never officially saying so, he pretty strongly implied that he had already arranged things with our teacher to have enough time in class to go over everything.

Since I sat near him at lunch, I saw people coming to him for questions. At first, they all seemed to be there out of perverse curiosity and as a joke rather than wanting actual information, but my friend ignored their humor and gave them real information. Eventually, word got around and he got some more serious people showing up. Mostly, they were just there for the free condoms, but any time he gave them to someone new, he insisted on giving them “the talk” first.

His talk wasn’t just about the use of birth control but also stressing consent and saying that anyone who would bully someone into sex when they weren’t ready or having unsafe sex clearly didn’t care about that person’s emotional well-being and, as such, was not a good person and didn’t deserve to have sex with, or even be dating, the person they were pressuring. My friend even offered some advice on how to go about sex in a manner that would please everyone, though he rarely was taken up on this.

Oddest of all, though, was that my friend vocally declared himself to be a virgin and committed to staying a virgin for at least the rest of that year, with his repeating both claims and promises the subsequent year. He explained that while he was trying to ensure those that chose to have sex did it safely, he also didn’t want anyone to feel like they had to have sex to fit in, and he figured letting people know he was a virgin and he didn’t mind that fact may help lower the pressure on others to lose their virginity.

Of course, some mocked him for this, and more than once it was implied that his information was useless because, “What does a virgin know about sex?” His response was that he knew how to use Google and ask wiser adults, that it didn’t take a genius to understand the basic use of birth control, and the fact that there were so many unplanned pregnancies in teens demonstrated that having sex clearly wasn’t enough to make one an expert on birth control.

There was one memorable time later in the year when two men who had jokingly harassed my friend a little in the past for his sex-ed campaign were being a bit more persistent, telling him he was a virgin because no one would ever have sex with him. He eventually got fed up with it and pointed out that he was now well known as a man who not only knew how to have safe sex but also advocated consent and ensuring that a woman gets plenty of pleasure from the act, and that can be tempting to quite a few women. The fact that he was a sworn virgin was just more tempting to certain women, as if he was playing hard to get, and he had frankly gotten more than a few implicit offers to help “remedy” his virgin status whenever he decided he was ready. He then went on to point out that those women were polite enough to accept a no and understood the importance of consent, unlike certain individuals.

Eventually, rules were passed about not congregating around lunch tables that weren’t assigned to you, ostensibly to avoid cluttering the cafeteria, but they seemed to be selectively enforced only when someone came to my friend for information or condoms.

Almost immediately after this, my friend came to me with an odd request.

Friend: “Can you put a bowl of candy above your locker? I’ll provide the bowl, the candy, and a little note asking people to please only take two per day. All you have to do is put it out.”

Me: “Why?”

Friend: “I’ll let you know soon enough. It isn’t anything bad, and it might even amuse you.”

I was confused, but still, free candy is tempting, so I agreed. He had one or two others also put out free candy.

It was two weeks later that the reason for his madness became clear when he put out his own bowl — filled with condoms instead of candy.

Apparently, the principal of the school was very unhappy about the open discussion and supposed “encouragement” of sex. He had tried to get my friend to stop without success.  He had even called [Friend]’s parents only to find out that they fully supported him; they were the ones driving him to a free clinic to get all the condoms he was passing out! The whole “no congregating in the cafeteria” rule was an attempt to indirectly curtail my friend while skirting the issue with free speech.

And, as my friend suspected, the moment he put out the condom bowl, he was dragged back into the principal’s office to be asked to stop doing it.

To this, he pled freedom of speech. He pointed out that they had no problem with bowls of free stuff being put out since they said nothing about the candy, so obviously, they were just trying to shut down his sharing condoms. He threatened that his family would sue if they tried to stop him from distributing condoms. Honestly, he wasn’t sure if they could win such a case, but they would make the fight very public, going to the news and all, which would ultimately leave the school and principal looking pretty terrible regardless of the final legal ruling.

It apparently worked because the free condom bowl stayed out and the school stopped trying to silence him so blatantly. Though, sadly, he stopped providing me with free candy once his point had been made.

I still can’t say my friend was popular in the traditional sense, but he did become very well known in school. He may not do things the “normal” way, but I have to say I approved of his way of doing things, even if the principal apparently hated him for it.

This story is part of our Halfway-Through-2022 roundup!

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