Wednesday, May 15, 2013

Embrace the Sex, Religions!

Recently I read a really fantastic article/personal story that I think everyone who was raised in, is being raised in, or is raising children in a religious-minded home should read and consider:

I won't claim to be an expert on religions - I'm nowhere near that. I was, however, raised in a strict, Southern, conservative, very religious home. When I was in elementary school, I started reading Sweet Valley Twins. To this day, I remember being confused by a part in one of those books where the family slept in on Sunday, had breakfast, read the paper, toodled about... but didn't go to church. What.

Doesn't everyone go to church? I thought. Isn't that what Sundays are about? We went Sunday morning for classes and a nice long "worship service." Sunday lunch was a big affair, then usually there were naps, and then it was back to church for evening services (no class). Sunday morning involved dressing up - and for me, as a girl, this meant dresses/skirts. Sunday night was a more casual affair with jeans, but never, ever shorts. Wednesday nights were like Sunday nights, except we usually had class followed by a short service. This was my life: church 3 times a week, every week, for over 17 years.

Once I was old enough to be in the "youth group," I was going to those activities and basically, that was my social life. All God, all the time. I didn't fight it - I couldn't. I questioned it, I wasn't sure I believed in it, I wanted to know what else was out there... but I obeyed my parents and did the best I could and ended up at a Christian university and married to a preacher's son and all that rot.

But sex! You want to know about sex!

So did I. My sex ed was pretty much "don't do it until you're married." Being the closeted heathen I kind of was, I did plenty of things that weren't, technically, sex. I even almost gave up my virginity on senior prom night like a good little cliché, but both my virgin boyfriend and I chickened out in the hotel.

The problem with all of this lack of education about sex and guilt about sex and lack of sex is that it breaks people. Sexual urges are part of us, but let's face it: sex can be dangerous. It's like being given a welding torch at puberty but not being told how to safely handle it. Nobody would do that to their kid, right? I hope? Hello? Wait, maybe I'm supposed to compare this to a pet python or something... too obvious?

Kids who are simply told "don't have sex" don't learn about safe sex. Sex becomes something forbidden, and for some people, this guilt remains even after marriage. Girls don't learn they can say "no" - yes, even to their husbands. Seriously, I cannot even wrap my head around the myriad of possible psychological damages that must result from spending your formative years being told nothing about a major part of yourself except that you shouldn't do it, unless you're married. The end.

My junior year of college I was in an "advanced" Bible course. I was the only female; there were about 10 of us in the class total. All the guys were Bible or youth ministry majors, and all were either engaged or already married. I should also point out that only a few of these guys were old enough to legally drink (not that they could - this particular religion/university is a no-drinking-no-dancing-no-instruments-in-church variety).

You get married young and have it drilled into you that you cannot get divorced, no matter what, sorry... there's going to be a lot of unhappy marriages. My brother and I are both divorced because we finally just bucked it, but yes, we both got married right after college. It was what you do. I'd already been having (unsafe) sex (religion never did quite suit me), but for most of the religious kids, either this is the way they get to have sex, or this is how they deal with the guilt of having sex - "I have slept with this person, now I must marry him/her so it's okay."

I ended up losing my virginity when I was just shy of 19. I was seeing a boy who was also seeing someone else, someone I knew. It was all very much on the up-and-up, but I hated it. I've never been good at sharing; I'm definitely not mentally or emotionally built for polyamory. One night, I remember feeling like if I gave him this, he would have to like me better. Surely he would stop seeing the other girl and choose me.

It was not fun. It was not beautiful, or touching, or meaningful. It was painful and the next day, when I asked if he still liked the other girl, he said yes (of course). He was honest, I'll give him that. And I was stupid, I'll own up to that. But should I have waited until marriage? What if I had, and then my wedding night felt like that? Painful, unpleasant, emotionless... no passion, no chemistry... at least at 19, I wasn't bound to that guy in any way. We only slept together twice more after that, over the course of a few months, and it never got better for me. I can't even fathom trying to put up with that sort of sex for my entire adult life.

I'm getting rambley. I do that. You may have noticed. I'm also distracted by a conversation with a friend about strip clubs and stereotypical bachelor/ette parties and all that bullshit that I hate a lot (but not because of religion), and it's for another time.

I do know some people who waited, and they are still completely happy in their marriages. They tell me their sex life is great, and I pretty much have to believe them because I am a lot of things but a voyeur is not one of them. I think those people are lucky, and I'm happy for them... but I can't help thinking they're exceptions. 

So I'd like to hear what you people think. Were you raised with a ban on premarital sex? Or were you raised in an open communication, sex-positive home? Somewhere in between? If you have kids, or if you're planning to, how do you think you'll raise them?


  1. There was a big ban on premarital sex when I was living with the parents. It didn't help that two of the girls I grew up with got pregnant right around the end of their senior year. My parents basically said don't get a girl pregnant or you'll be kicked out. There was never a safe sex talk.

    I don't remember a birds and bees talk at all. It also didn't help that church re-enforced the whole don't have sex thing. Wait till marriage was the only advice they had only to be backed with have kids and bring them to church.

    It's not so much I wish the parents would have said "Do whoever you want but just remember to wear a condom" but more at least have a discussion about it. That probably leads into feelings of not being able to talk to my parents about most things because I don't want to hear their judgmental stance on things.

    I'm starting to wander off topic, but my point is I wish my parents didn't make sex such an evil thing. We're not having kids, but I would want my kids to have a healthy view of sex so they can enjoy it and be safe.

    1. I think my birds and bees talk involved some old books from the 50s, but I'm not sure. I was pretty young.

      You're right, there should be a balance between "DON'T DO IT, IT'S BAD" and "do whatever you want, here's condoms, wheee!" I think open and honest discussion is the really important part. I too hide things from my parents because I know they wouldn't approve.

    2. Open and honest discussions about things isn't my parents strong suit. It's more guarded and slight of hand.