Being Camp Gyno Turned This Teen Into an Activist

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courtesy of the author

Katy (on right) with one of her camp “pupils."

During the summer of 2013 I taught my bunkmates at Camp Young Judaea that girls have more than two holes “down there.” This type of sharing is natural when you’re sharing a room with 12 girls for a month. Out of all of us, I was the first girl to get my period, and I didn’t care who knew. One girl had brought an anatomy book, and I poured through the section on the reproductive system to supplement my limited knowledge. I was our bunk’s own camp gyno, and relished the respect I got from it.

Not many good things came out of getting my period in fifth grade, but being able to help my friends learn about their bodies was pretty awesome. I remember flirting with becoming a professional sex educator at that moment, but discarded that idea in order to stick to my dream of being a lawyer. The thought briefly popped back into my head in freshman health class, where I was the only one who could label all the parts of both the penis and vagina.

Then, in the middle of last year, after Planned Parenthood was under intense scrutiny, I became obsessed with finding out all that I could about abortion and women’s health. I watched as lawmakers all across the country chipped away at Roe vs. Wade, and cringed as I learned about the direct correlation between teen pregnancy and abstinence-only education. This was when I started to realize just how important it is for young women to know about the inner-workings of their own bodies. Back at camp it was just something that was fun and didn’t seem all that important, but now I knew this was serious.

This summer I went on a trip to Israel with my camp, and I was shocked to learn that a lot of girls didn’t even know where their clitoris was. When girls think that just pulling out is safe contraception, or that your first time has to be painful I get really upset by how our society stigmatizes sex and sex education, often sweeping it all under the rug instead of educating people, especially young people. Nothing about intimacy is supposed to feel a certain way by the way–you get to choose what is right for you.

I want to be part of a change in the stigma around sex and sex education. While in Israel, I realized that I can make a difference. I can encourage people in my community to teach their students, siblings, sisters, and daughters, not only about contraception and anatomy, but also about safe relationships and how to deal with unsafe situations. I hope to lead this charge in the near future. My dream job now would be a lobbyist for a sexual health organization, or even a lawmaker pushing for better sex education laws, thus combining my interests in law and women’s health.

I think feminist activists can often be most effective when they focus on a specific cause or issue. For me that focus is on sexual health. It is so important for feminists to take on the fight for sex education because so many of our lawmakers today are working to prevent girls from learning about their bodies and sex in school. I hope someday that every girl has the ability to be the “camp gyno” like I was, and has the ability and desire to educate her friends and community.

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