Poland, 2004. “Puberty,” I read in my middle-school biology textbook, “is a time of overwhelming and confusing sexual desires. To manage the impulses of this perilous life-stage, we recommend filling your schedule with as many extracurriculars as possible. That way, you’ll fall asleep as soon as your head touches the pillow, safe from temptation.”1
The textbook was mistaken; no number of extracurriculars was enough. Facedown on my bed in the dead of night, I was never too exhausted to feel my body. The more forbidden it was, the louder the call, and so I let myself believe my body’s fiction: that this was only pleasure, that what felt so good couldn’t be so wrong. That in the privacy of my bedroom, I could do whatever I pleased; no one would ever know, so no one would get hurt. Against the evidence of every past experience, my body urged that this road was heading somewhere beautiful, towards bliss greater even than what I felt now.
I loved this imaginary world while it lasted, and so I stretched out the act until I could no longer hold it, until the final contraction brought me back to the real world, until with that final gasp I would realize: I had sinned again.
My body made promises it never kept; orgasm always meant shame.
Come Sunday, I’d page through the booklets preparing for confession. “Am I pure in thoughts, desires, acts?” Even the thought of dirty thoughts beckoned with a tempting finger.
I’d take a deep breath and resolve to confess my sins. Like any good Catholic, I believed that that if you honestly show contrition, confess to a sin, and do penance, all will be forgiven. Just reach out your hand, and receive the keys to heaven. Don’t, and hell beckons.
My dirty mind was too shameful to admit; my hand only ever reached in one direction. Each week, I chose hell over confession. Each week, I desecrated the Holy Wafer with my sinner’s tongue.
When I lost my religion, I kept the shame. I couldn’t even bring myself to admit to masturbating on an anonymous survey.
The first person to help me unravel a few of the threads binding arousal to shame was my high school sex-ed teacher. She was funny, assertive, beloved by the students – and claimed the deadly sin which kept me up at night was perfectly normal.
Until I met this teacher, school and religion had been systematically garbling and undermining my body’s beautiful messages. I hope future generations of Poles won’t have to undergo such brainwashing.
Unhappily, things seem to be going in precisely the wrong direction.
In the proposed Polish “Stop Pedophilia” bill, “anyone who promotes or approves the undertaking by a minor of sexual intercourse or other sexual activity” would face a penalty of up to two years of jailtime. If the bill passes, the only teacher who ever eased my terror at my evil habit would risk imprisonment.
The petition proposing the bill is signed by 263 000 people and backed by the Polish Pro-Life Foundation. It was first put before the Polish parliament in October 2019 and sent to committee for further work this April.
What sort of people would support such regressive legislation? I turn to Google for answers. On sites promoting the bill,2 I read that in Germany, preschool-aged children are encouraged to regularly masturbate. (Parents are instructed not to intervene.) By the time they are teenagers, students are habituated to group anal sex. Poland is beginning to follow suit.
And who is behind this madness? Western corporations who want to addict future generations of Poles to sex, enslaving them to their own desires.
Oh, and don’t forget the pedophiles, who invented “progressive” sexual education in the first place. Take the legendary Kinsey: he apparently instructed pedophiles in rape, telling them how to measure children’s sexual responses using a stopwatch. Later, in Berlin, Helmut Kentler, who promoted the idea of “sexual diversity,” gave known pedophiles custody over orphans. Supported by Berlin authorities, the experiment went on from the 60s until 2003.3
51% of Polish voters recently re-elected the right-wing incumbent, whose party, in addition to being vehemently homophobic, supported the bill. How can so many people be so wrong?
Well, maybe their own sex ed was just as bad as mine. And that includes the progressive teachers. Remember how I said that my high-school teacher normalized masturbation? It wasn’t that simple.
Eyes glinting with mischievous amusement, she informed us that a student from another class had come to her to confess.
“I masturbated,” he whispered. “How bad is that?”
“How many times?” she asked.
“My mind filled with dirty possibilities,” she confided in us. “Once per day? Once per hour? Half hour?”
We laugh – and that’s the end of the story. No Q&A, no further explanation.
I went away from that class understanding that to masturbate once was okay. Beyond that, I had no clue. Apparently, there was a number past which depravity lay. And were the rules different for girls? Weren’t boys supposed to have a higher sex drive? If there was a boy in the other class who masturbated only once, was something fundamentally wrong with me?
I ached to ask her, but knew I couldn’t – not without being turned into a hilarious anecdote for the other class.
How did my teacher exhibit such a profound failure of empathy? How did she not entertain the possibility that this class contained teenagers just as confused as that boy?
Possibly, she was reacting to the same taboo that the Stop Pedophilia bill is trying to pass into law. Perhaps she formulated her lesson entirely in humorous implicatures for the sake of plausible deniability. But my money’s on a different explanation: despite evidence to the contrary, she had simply assumed that all of us students were already little liberals. After all, good = liberal, and surely we were good.
For the conservative, the sex-ed teacher is a depraved pedophile in the pocket of Big Sex, who is absolutely not a member of your parish. For the liberal, the conservative is a deprived bigot who, in collusion with pedophile priests, drinks the blood of women and sexual minorities and who is most certainly not a member of your sex-ed class. Stereotypes hurt everyone.
When a nun taught me sex ed, masturbation was cause for shame. When a liberal did, I was simply taught another type of shame: at having been ashamed in the first place.
No one wants to carry double shame. Perhaps the rise of political polarization has something to do with this fact.
The video opens with ominous, belligerent music. With his heavily lined face, cropped hair, and deep scowl, the leader of this prayer circle is not someone I’d care to meet in a dark alleyway.
“We’re here to pray. To pray in the intention of sexually used children. To pray in the intention of depraved children. Children who are depraved in order to be sexually used. But we’re also praying for the depravers. It’s a horrible thing, to damage the psyche and the life of children.”
So it is.
 Paraphrase based on memory.
 I don’t want to link to them, but they’re in the top five search results for “stop pedofilii.” The video mentioned in the last paragraph is on one of these.
 This last part is absolutely true!…
In Part II, I talk about how bad Poland’s current sex ed curriculum is.
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