Written by Joy and Chaya
Warning: Explicit Content Below
I am a relatively conservative person. Even though I am very active with Broadway shows, my tastes tend to veer more towards the innocent rather than the vulgar. Most of my friends and family know this, which is why when I went crazy over Spring Awakening most of them were more than a little surprised.
For a little background on Spring Awakening you can see our review here: To put it simply, it’s not a very clean, child-friendly musical. It’s known to be controversial and covers topics such as rape, incest, molestation, sex, and homosexuality just to name a few. It’s a coming of age musical about very sheltered, deaf, young adults.
It was only after having seen the show multiple times since its September opening, combined with one very long car ride, that I had my epiphany. Up until that point, even I couldn’t really understand why I was so drawn to the show. The truth is this show strikes directly home for me. I grew up in a very religiously conservative household, going to an extremely orthodox school and essentially was sheltered to the point of suffocation in my upbringing. This is not to place the blame with my parents, rather in the society in which I was brought up that made it okay.
It’s not normal to remove the reproductive and anatomical pages from the textbook, and further, not to replace them with some other type of knowledge exacerbates the abnormality. There’s nothing inappropriate with knowing how your body works. I feel that my school, certain members of my community, and many sects of the society I belong to, disagree.
At the start of the show, Wendla, a teenager, asks her mother where babies come from. The mother answers that they come from the love between a husband and wife. Which is a perfectly reasonable explanation for some parents to give their five year old children. Not so to a fifteen year old. Which is why a few scenes later, Wendla finds herself pregnant. Even worse, she doesn’t even know it. Even worse, this could have happened to any number of my classmates.
I didn’t receive a sexual education. I didn’t learn about rape and molestation. I know people who have grown up being molested, and instead of going to authorities, they’re sent off to other states and countries so they won’t be shamed. This is NOT okay. When I was young I was told everything I would need to know would be told to me before I got married. As in first engaged, to a fiancé, who I was supposed to eventually have sex with. God forbid the engagement breaks because then I’m no longer innocent.
A lot of people learn things from their friends or books or televisions. Unfortunately many books romanticize rape, tv is not reality, (especially when in my community many people don’t watch it) and friends can come up with such bright ideas as turning the condom inside out, or peeing before and right after sex to keep from getting pregnant. I was never a big reader and it’s only recently that I actually started enjoying books, so for me, and for all the other girls like me, we were left without any kind of resource.
It took me almost three decades and a Broadway show to even realize what kind of an education I missed out on. That’s messed up. I’m lucky and blessed that nothing has ever happened to me, but I personally know people who have not been so lucky. It’s not right to make the victim pay for the crimes of the perpetrator, all because people are scared to desensitize or “deflower” the minds of innocent teenagers. It’s not fair to send our children out into the world expecting them to fend for themselves without giving them the proper tools.
Yes maybe there’s a good way and bad way to disseminate the knowledge, but the total sheltering of an individual is not the answer. It leads to confusion and problems and questions with no answers. It leads to the situations you hear about in newspapers and nighttime news. To get kicked out of a school because you were seen speaking with a member of the opposite sex is not a solution, it’s a forbidden fruit. It’s a tease and a temptation and we don’t even get an explanation as to why it could be a problem in the first place. Instead of rational explanations we get defenestration.
I am not a teacher, or a parent or a religious leader. I am simply a product of the environment I grew up in and I feel cheated. I commiserate and empathize with the characters of Spring Awakening. I see my classmates and friends and myself on that stage. I have learned along with the characters and just as they come to the realization that life isn’t just what they’ve been taught, so have I. Even the conceit of having deaf characters plays into the concept of sheltering an individual so much you’ve closed their ears to a pointless incomprehension to the world around them. Deafness or religion or being conservative is not a lack of capacity to understand, it simply requires different tools to teach.