(The Root) — Eight years old was far too young for me to lose my virginity. And I certainly didn’t have the opportunity to lose it at that age. But if I could have, I would have. It was all I could think about, and it was all any of my teammates on my little league team talked about. Some were telling the truth about doing it, most were lying, but one thing was for certain: We thought it was normal.
When Chris Brown told the Guardian that he lost his virginity at the age of 8, I wasn’t shocked. His story sounded familiar: He was a kid having sex with a girl who was 14 or 15. That was how most of my friends, the ones we all considered lucky, usually lost it — with someone older who had an easier time getting out from under their parents watchful eye, usually because their folks worked nights or went out of town for the weekends. And when Brown said, “It’s different in the country,” I knew exactly what he meant. Even though my small town of Seaside, Calif., isn’t country, it’s still small like most country towns you’d find in the South.
What did shock me: the responses to Brown’s admission. “Why Is No One Talking About the Fact That Chris Brown Was Raped” read one headline. “Chris Brown Didn’t ‘Lose His Virginity at 8.’ He Was Raped” read another. No he wasn’t, I thought. Not if he said yes, and wait, what? Where I’m from that’s a rite of passage. “Rape” is a highly charged word, and the use of it here seemed to be over the top. But then I read the articles. And sure enough, everyone who used the word “rape” was right.
Chris Brown was raped. The law says so.
In Virginia, the state where Brown was raised, the age of consent is 18, which means Brown was a victim to someone else who was under the legal age of consenting herself. I was a little embarrassed by my lack of knowledge about not only the law, but how unhealthy and hazardous my mentality was back when I was 8. I thought about Brown’s revelation, and how he reportedly grinned and chuckled in the telling.
The saddest part in Brown’s story is that grin and chuckle. I heard it a lot growing up among my peers, as they told stories of having sex at 8, 9, 10, 11 and 12. My peers and I weren’t even teenagers when we were talking about sex, and sure, some of us were lying about what we did. But many of us weren’t — and all of us knew sex was way more fun than what our parents were telling us.
At my school, Ord Terrace Elementary, formal sex education took place in fifth grade. Everyone had to get their parents’ permission, which implied a certain forbidden element to what we were going to learn. It was a big deal, and I was excited, especially when our first exercise was to get into groups and write down all the slang terms we used to refer to male and female anatomy and acts of sex. That was the most fun assignment I had in elementary school.
But everything was a snore from there, mostly because everything we were being taught about sex were the most boring parts of it. They told us abstinence was the only way to ensure of not getting and STD and taught us how babies are made — but no one was talking to us about sexuality — and certainly not rape.
According to Jennifer Marsh, vice president of victim services at Rape, Abuse and Incest National Network, children need to be taught even younger than the age of 8 about their bodies and what to do if they’re participating in activities that make them uncomfortable. “That conversation needs to start as early as 3,” says Marsh. “It should be an ongoing conversation that evolves as the child grows older.”