By Sophia Tranquillo
10th grade, Whetstone High School, OH

With lines from "‘The Talk:’ These Teens From Rural Utah Are Filling ‘The Gaps’ in Sex Ed" by Becky Jacobs and Jesse Ryan, a Pulitzer Center reporting project

Content warning: This poem contains themes of sexual assault.

A thin layer of tissue covering the body.
Something too many are focused on censoring.
I don't think these teens understand the gravity of what they're doing.
As in something people never taught me about
Such as its beauty,
Its grace,
Or the desire for it.
A topic so sensitive that no one told me to protect it until it was too late.
It’s sort of like, ‘Don’t talk about it; don’t say anything.’”
Spoken of so little no one taught me boundaries,
Or consent.
As in something I didn’t know needed protection
As in something I learned about from the wrong person
We don’t understand boundaries.
As in he didn’t understand mine
As in I didn’t say no clear enough
As in my clothes gave consent better than my own mouth
As in my body is not mine
Help people who have been sexually assaulted find ways to break
the cycles of rape culture and victim-blaming.
Such as the memories of people giving me looks in the hallway
Or how I was a liar and I wanted it
Or how I was just playing hard to get
Or how they would say they wanted nothing to do with it but then call me a liar.
Rape is an underreported crime.
As in a sexual act I never wanted
But it was sexual
So we must censor it,
Hide it, don't let anyone know,
Pretend it never happened.
As in don’t ruin my life by trying to ruin his.
As in something he stole from me
Something he took from me
Something he stamped with handprints against my will.
Something too many are focused on censoring.
A thin layer of tissue covering the body.

Sophia Tranquillo is a rising 11th grader attending Whetstone High School and Fort Hayes Career Center. She is heavily devoted to her creativity in art and music along with focusing hard on her school work. She loves to draw and paint along with playing the cello in her school orchestra. Sophia is honored to be able to share the importance of consent in her writing while still keeping her work emotional.

Read more winning entries from the 2023 Fighting Words Poetry Contest.