Junior high is a difficult age when even the slightest embarrassment can challenge a young man’s development of confidence in my, I mean his, adult years. An unintentional erection during gym class could make you what some would call “an inadequate sexual partner” or “Barry Bonerpants” well into your thirties.
Even with the cultural shift towards inclusion and acceptance, there has been very little discussion of the relentless bonershaming directed at seventh grade boys in Mr. Jameson’s 7th grade gym class twenty years ago.
By now we all know the dangers of bullying. The ensuing feelings of alienation can cause a wide range of long term consequences, such as waking up at 2 o’clock in the morning soaked in sweat screaming “My shorts are just bunched up!” This particular brand of bullying has always been hypocritical. Every boy in this age group experiences unexplained arousal. And if not, the fact that someone was the first to pop a rod should be a good thing, right? He should be celebrated, not mocked! That’s what I tried to tell them. “Them” of course being bullies who bully people. Not me, though. I was always cool.
The appropriate way to react if you notice an erection on one of your classmates at Kickemuit Middle School in Warren, Rhode Island during the fall of 1998 would be to say nothing and divert attention away from that fact. What you should not do is point at that student and shout, “Oh my God, that totally hypothetical and not real person has a boner!” This reaction is sure to set the victim down a path towards what their therapists will refer to as “The first step is acknowledging that this happened to you and then we can start to move past it.”
Bullying is not a joke.