The Normalization of Sex and Drugs in Teenage Life

Have you ever taken the rice purity test? Some people like to take it at the beginning of their time at college and at the end to see how their score has changed. At the beginning of the year, my entire friend group took it. I got 29. 29 is a low score. The lower your score, the more shit you’ve done.

As you can probably imagine, getting a score that low made me realize pretty quickly that my high school years were not exactly “sheltered.” My score was the lowest out of my entire friend group, a friend group that was also made up of mostly men.

High school for me was probably not that dissimilar from the overall negative experience most people have. Getting up at six in the morning to drive across a lake to get to school with a musical theater kid in one seat and an aspiring rapper in the other was obviously an odd experience but not one that couldn’t be easily explained. Elle* was a complete and utter theater nerd who couldn’t stop talking about Legally Blonde, but who was sweet and always had something nice to say. Steven* was a homie who could freestyle beautifully but was constantly struggling to figure out how to manage his soul-crushing depression.

And then there was me, the kid who refused not to talk about the shit that bothered me and gave very little fucks about the way that the world saw me by my senior year. This mishmash of personalities worked, somehow. 

Those car rides perfectly summed up the extremities of personal experiences with drugs and sex. Steven was constantly on something: he had to take xanax just to go to class, he adored getting high, and by the end of the year he always looked a bit faded. He had about a million sex stories (usually from freshman year) and they all kinda made us both laugh at twisted relationships, since we’d both been in them. Elle never did drugs and never wanted to, and she always tried not to judge people who went out and raged because she knew that was their choice to make. She was just focused on her future, which was admirable. She had one boyfriend in high school who she loved very much and they waited to have sex till they had been dating for at least a year, after which time she rarely gave us details because she wanted to have her privacy.  

I suppose I was lying somewhere in the middle. I’d had sex my junior year and lots of it, all with the same person. I fucked with weed and alcohol but not to an extreme because my parents were alcoholics and my brother had an addiction of his own. But I realized quickly when I came to college that my relationship with drugs and sex was not normal. Especially after talking to my friends about when they had started drinking and smoking.

My hometown was an epicenter for drug use. People start getting fucked up their freshman year or (in my case) earlier. The idea that someone would come to college without having a drunk story was crazy to me. I was surprised at how many of my friends had never gotten drunk before college. Or if they had, it was only minimally and they only had done it their junior or senior years. When my friend asked me how many times I had had sex I was confused because how the fuck was I supposed to keep count when I was having sex basically every day. I had sex with people mostly for their benefit, so I’d had a lot of sex. The idea of being able to quantify it is crazy to me. My current boyfriend once asked me how many people I had hooked up with and I counted fifteen, but I realized later that I had miscounted, forgotten someone.​

During my senior year of high school people had sex in the elevator, drug deals were made with freshman in the hallway, and my freshman buddies friends started coming to school xaned out. But this was all whatever, you know? “Let’s take Oxy (which is just more expensive heroin) and watch the football game.”

So why does this matter? Who cares, right?

Rich kid drug culture is based upon three things: stress, access, and neglect. Kids are buried under expectation of grades and the ability to excel but there a few, if any, resources for mental illness and the problems associated with it. After a weekend where I got so high I couldn’t feel the inside of my mouth, I saw a sign on the door of my doctors office that said that 70 percent of kids in my hometown didn’t want to smoke weed. I wasn’t sure who had done that study, but you can sure as hell know that that was not true. The erasure of mental illness fuels the need to smoke and drink which is then erased as an issue from the public eye. And when you’re a rich kid whose parents give you money instead of spending time with you, you get to get fucked up with endless funds. I’m sure many people at Kenyon are familiar. ​

In October, I got a text from my mom telling me Steven had tried to kill himself while on shrooms. While I wasn’t surprised, I was upset. There had been clear warning signs, and a couple of times Elle had told me that she was worried. But I always told her it wasn’t our business. I had been trying to get my parents to stop drinking for years and the weight of another person’s addiction was just too much. I had to let it go.

When you come out of a rich kid drug culture, you come out on of two ways: addicted to something and unable to stop, or psychologically damaged from the constant worry of your friends dying.

My friends at college and I often have trouble understanding each other, for this reason. I come from a background of alcohol where I had to learn how to hold my own, and how to take care of myself without the help of adults. Sometimes when I’m at home, I drive around for hours, sober, so I don’t have to go back to my house where drunk people will be. People who come from backgrounds where substances aren’t an issue don’t necessarily understand all the fears that I have. I often don’t think of friendships past a year in the future because I don’t believe they’ll last past that. Someone always went to rehab or started getting high too much or fell in with shady shit, and if they didn’t then one of their friends had. I was becoming too much for them.

Safe drug and sex culture where mental illnesses are dealt with and stress is alleviated can be good for people, I think. But I don’t think the toxicity of this type of lifestyle can continue, at least not if people like Steven, who are talented and beautiful, want to keep living. I’m tired of my friends dying. I’m tired of my more lower class friends falling into the same traps. We need to start talking about drug culture in a way where we don’t ignore mental health anymore.     


*Names have been changed for the sake of anonymity


Image Credit: Feature, 1, 2, 3