In fifth grade I received mandatory “sex-ed” at school. We sat, squirming with suspense in a dark musty room, as numbers relating promiscuity to high school dropouts and poverty glowed on a teleprompter. Every single contraception method was portrayed as ineffective — abstinence was the only safe and respectable option. The message delivered in that room: sex is a dangerous drug and the biggest looming threat to a young girl’s value. Sex was something that was taken from you, something you had to give up when the right time came, but it was never for you.
Over the years, abstinence was drilled into our heads in different ways. On one occasion, card-sized pieces of colored paper, pens, and lamination plastic were handed out, the promise to keep our purity, portrayed as an innocent art project. Right above the line for our signatures were the simple terms of our commitment: to remain chaste until we reached the altar. The “chastity card,” as they called it, was meant to be kept in our wallets as a constant reminder that if we were to break this vow, we’d be soiled and unworthy of true love.
At home, conversations about sex weren’t any better because they were prohibited. My parents tried their best to pretend sex didn’t exist, and even at twenty-one, my mother was appalled to find condoms in my dresser and my father felt deeply offended when, in his presence, I uttered the words “contraceptive pills” to a nurse before going into surgery.
On the weekends, I reveled in a parallel universe. I was on the verge of my first kiss, and only beginning to understand the ins and outs of sex when Medellín, my birth-town (and the city that years later would become the place with the most reggaetón singers in Latin America besides Puerto Rico), was booming with new albums by Don Omar, Ivy Queen, Wisin y Yandel, and Daddy Yankee.
The initially stigmatized genre originated in Panama and consolidated in Puerto Rico, rooted in a sensual and danceable Caribbean rhythm, took over the city in what felt like seconds. The early songs of La Factoria, Luny Tunes, and Nicky Jam were the soundtrack to my adolescence. I came of age during a time no one even knew how to spell the word “reggaeton,” but we knew we loved it.
At minitecas, underage supposedly alcohol-free parties usually held at country clubs and…