Below the Belt
By Georgia Knapp
Sex is everywhere. On
television, in songs, perfume commercials, and interstate billboards. Even if you’re not looking for it, sex is there.
Everywhere, that is, except the South. Yes sir, the South does not have sex. They procreate, sure. The Duggars are certainly
a prime example of that. But just plain old sex? Nope. We do not do that.
In Georgia, abstinence
is taught from the 6th grade throughout high school. I’m sorry, not taught – preached. Beginning in 6th grade
all the students of Glynn Middle School had to take a Health class once a school year. In this class we would learn about
birth, eating disorders, how not to cough on people, and to not take drugs. These were your typical boring lectures with bad
videos from the 1980s. It wasn’t until Abstinence Day that things would get really exciting. This was the day our teacher
was replaced by Robin Jones.
Robin Jones is an abstinence
legend in the state of Georgia. I’m quite certain more people know his name than the name of the current governor. When
he is not preaching abstinence to young adults, Robin Jones works at the Safeway House, a Christian center for teens who feel
they cannot go home for one reason or another.
“I am having the
BEST sex in my life!” Robin Jones would proclaim as soon as the class was quiet. “I am having the most AMAZING
sex EVER. And do you know why?” As we got older we stopped responding. His lecture never varied from year to year. “I
am having the best sex ever because I waited until I was married to have sex. I am having the best sex ever with my wife because
I waited for her.” Robin Jones would then use various metaphors of how you would be “used and dirty” if
you did not save yourself for marriage. His favorite was a bucket of fried chicken versus a white paper napkin. Jones would
don a blond wig and pretend to flirt with the boys in the room. He would go to their desk, lounge across their small tabletop,
sit on their laps, and giggle incessantly. With each new boy Jones would pull out a piece of chicken from his bucket, pretend
to eat it, toss it back into the container and then wipe his hands off with the napkin. He would typically do this with about
four to five boys before presenting the now grimy and nearly translucent napkin to the class. “Do you want to touch
this?” he asked. We shook our heads ‘no’. “Then neither will the man or woman you want to marry.”
Having sufficiently scared
us from ever wanting to hold hands with someone less we become disgusting chicken grease napkins, Jones would then bring out
the big gun: Spunky the Sperm. Spunky was a basketball wrapped in a white sheet. The sheet was tied snugly around Spunky’s
round bouncy head – which had a giant happy face drawn on it – and the rest of the sheet was fashioned into his
long white tail. Jones used the tail to throw Spunky around the room, bounce him from desk to desk and toss him at unsuspecting
students. The message? Spunky is tricky and Spunky cannot be controlled. Condoms did not stop Spunky, that was for sure (and
birth control pills were never mentioned in these classes). Condoms can keep Spunky at bay, but all it takes is one little
Spunky and one little latex hole and bam! You are used goods, a high school dropout, and a future welfare recipient. Your
parents were not going to help you. Jones made that very clear. You would never get married. Your friends would disown you
and you could completely forget about the father of Baby Spunky. The Safeway House would take you in, though. They never explained
what would happen after you had the baby, but while you were pregnant Robin Jones’s Safeway House would be there for
you when everyone else had kicked you out.
When you think about it:
this was pretty scary stuff. Have sex and risk your entire world disappearing? I don’t even want to get into the graphic
detail they used for STDs, but let’s just say that they sounded akin to leprosy. They had scared all the girls into
abstinence with Spunky the Sperm and the boys with horror stories of Civil War Era gonorrhea treatment.
I lived and grew up in
the South, but I am not from the South. To truly be Southern you must be the second generation to have been born and raised
in the South. My parents are from Jersey and Chicago. Bible Belt morals were shoved down my throat at school, but at home
my mother told me: “Test drive the car before you buy it.” I saw Spunky for what he really was: abstinence propaganda.
It wasn’t until
I went to college in Michigan that I realized these classes were not a common US subject. My friends talked about learning
to put condoms on bananas in high school. I told them about Spunky and their jaws dropped. So ingrained in Southern society
I just assumed this was typical American curriculum. Then again we were one of the only states to post ‘In God We Trust’
signs in every room and hallway in public schools. Separation between Church and State is a real gray area below the Mason-Dixon
Line, which, ironically, is a very definite line.
Did these scare tactics
work, though? Spunky the Sperm, greasy napkins, ancient STD treatments – it’s pretty obvious that these classes
were not meant to educate students, but to terrify us into never even rounding second base until you met your significant
other at the altar and signed a housing lease together. Some of my friends took Jones’s advice to the extreme: one guy
planned on not having his first kiss until a minister said, “You may now kiss the bride.” Another friend broke
up with his girlfriend and told me it was because she was “too progressive.”
“You mean she wants
to vote?” I asked, not really sure what he meant by ‘too progressive.’
“She wanted to make
out,” he said. “I don’t do that before marriage.”
Then there were my girlfriends
who at the end of senior year found themselves with a baby in their arms or one soon on the way. In my graduating class of
367 students I believe that about a quarter have children and only a handful are married. Obviously they were either out sick
every Abstinence Day or Spunky didn’t have the right effect Jones was going for. Maybe it was the big happy face drawn
on his head.
One of my best friends
from high school was a guy who was Southern in every aspect of the word. He had the gentile Southern drawl, a deer head mounted
in his bedroom, his family had lived in Georgia since The War (meaning, the Civil War), and he slept with a shotgun under
his bed. If it weren’t for his love of musicals and odd liberal tendencies, I’m not really sure how we ever would
have become friends. One night we were walking the beach while we were both home from college. Somehow the topic of abstinence
came up and he told me he would never do anything below the neck with a girl until he was married. I was floored. “But
that’s where all the fun is!” I protested. “Not even just above the waist??” A 20-something year old
boy who just wanted to kiss? Not possible.
Much to my friend’s
dismay, I continued to bring this subject up for the next two years. We would talk online from our respective colleges or
I would call him at some ungodly hour after having had a little too much fun at a cast party. “Jack,” I would
say, “have you made out with anyone yet?” He would say no and try to change the topic. That poor boy. I would
press the subject over and over and defend my actions by saying, “I just don’t want you to miss out on all of
this! I don’t want you to end up with a nun!”
Shortly after I graduated
college, Jack blindsided me on one of our beach walks with yet another startling proclamation. He liked me. He had liked me
for a long time and had been waiting for the right moment to say something, but since I was always asking him when he was
going to find a girl to date and then telling him about every guy I was dating – well that opportune timing never
came up. But now the moment was perfect. I had just run over my cat, the guy I was dating told me it was the “stupid
cat’s fault,” and that swiftly ended our relationship. I guess you could say I was still shell-shocked from all
of that and there was Jack with his sweet little accent and Southern gentleman charm. So I said, “Why not.”
The next morning I remembered
his ‘below the neck rule.’ Oh crap. How am I supposed to test drive the car, which is a very important aspect
when choosing a car, when the car basically won’t start?
Luckily, the engine wasn’t
completely dead. It just took a bit of coaxing and a jump start and then it revved up fine.
Suck it, Spunky.
Georgia Knapp is a 2010 graduate of
Kalamazoo College in Kalamazoo, Michigan. This past year she worked as an Artistic Administration intern at Lifeline Theatre
in Chicago's Rogers Park. While there she became involved in Lifeline's Storytelling Project, a live performance writing group,
where she found the inspiration to finally write about Spunky. She is still living in Chicago, working for various theaters
and writing an advice column for a Chicago-based ezine.