HA note: The author’s name has been changed to ensure anonymity. “Abel” is a pseudonym.
Growing up in my homeschool world, I heard constantly from everyone around me about the importance of modesty and purity. Women were supposed to dress up like Victorian-aged puritans because men are so susceptible to lust and we just can’t control ourselves. I never understood this. But I accepted it because everyone else around me seemed to and I never felt I had the right to question it. If I tried to question it, wouldn’t that just be the sexual freak inside me trying to fight God?
Oh. Yeah. I kinda got ahead of myself.
There’s a sexual freak inside of me. Or, well, there’s a sexual freak inside of every male. According to my culture, all males are sexual freaks waiting to happen.
We’re like ticking time bombs of atomic hormones.
You don’t want to let those time bombs out until marriage. And it’s really easy to let them out. That’s why women should all dress so carefully. If a man happens to see a woman readjusting her bra strap, all hell could break loose and men could turn into savage beasts. There is a rapist inside of all men, including me.
I never thought there was a rapist inside of me. I never felt a desire to force myself onto a woman when I accidentally saw a bra strap peaking out of a woman’s denim jumper. But I still felt sick to my stomach when I caught myself looking one second too long at that bra strap. I felt that indicated my inherent dirtiness. I felt nothing but pure disgust for my body. I felt God staring at me from that bra strap, as if he was about to turn me into a pillar of salt, just like he turned Lot’s wife into salt for looking back at Sodom.
I’d stay awake at night, begging God to forgive me.
I’m surprised there’s not a whole generation of homeschooled males that have fetishes about bra straps.
But really, what I took to heart from all this talk about how obsessed men were with sex was not just that there was a rapist inside of me. It was that apparently I had a broken rapist inside of me. Because, honestly, I never felt so overwhelmed by semi-exposed skin that I couldn’t control myself. I spent years thinking there was something wrong with me. Men were supposed to “stumble” when they saw a midriff, or a shoulder, or too much leg. But I never “stumbled” like that — meaning, I never saw a midriff and went home and masturbated about it.
So I decided when I was sixteen that I must be gay.
In retrospect, that only made me feel worse.
Because men never made me “stumble,” either.
Because I’m not gay.
I was actually straight. And as far as straight people go, I was actually normal, too. Apparently normal people — straight or gay or whatever you are — don’t obsess about sex as much as homeschooling parents do.
I was conditioned by all these myths that pervade homeschooling that males are so overwhelmed by sex that they can’t exercise any semblance of self-control. But you know what? We can. And we’re not only hurting women by saying that women are responsible for mens’ thoughts. We’re also hurting men by making us all out to be monsters with uncontrollable sexual urges.
Rape is a horrible thing that should be opposed by everyone. Normal human sexuality is completely different. And I am sad that I grew up in a world that saw no problems with blurring the lines between the two.
It took me years to figure that out. What I used to think was me being gay eventually became me wondering if I just had a really low libido. But then I went to the doctor and found out, no, my libido is fine, too.
Apparently my problem was that I’m not a stereotype manufactured out of thin air by the I Kissed Dating Goodbye courtship cult.
But after everything I’ve gone through, that’s a problem I am ok living with.
Thank you! As a girl I’ve always had my own set of frustrations with some of these teachings, but I’ve also thought that they were completely unfair to men, because they discredits a man’s ability to control himself, and they provide men with a very, very inaccurate picture of sexuality. I’m glad you figured out that you were normal.
I really never thought about what the purity culture must be like from a young man’s point of view. Thanks so much for sharing with us- nice to hear from the other side of things.
It’s a relief seeing guys writing about these issues now too! I was definitely messed up by these teachings but, for all the reasons listed above, I think my brothers had it far, far worse. It’s great to see guys who are coming out the other side and becoming comfortable with themselves.
A lot of thoughts are running through my mind. What upsets me the most about your story is that this teaching takes something that is as normal as noticing a person of the opposite sex and makes kids think they are some sort of sexual freak. You internalized the “problem” when there was no problem. I think we’ll be reading many more variations of stories like yours, sadly, but your story will surely help others realize they are not crazy. Thank you for sharing something so personal.
Wow, I can totally see this. Then on the flip side, I have a guy friend who is just the opposite and blames women every time he gets “turned on.”
Home schooled fundamentalists DO obsess about sex. A lot.
It was so nice to realize “Whoa….I don’t have to worry about it anymore.” Suddenly it wasn’t a big deal.
This is so great. “Fear of sex” was a defining theme of my childhood as well. That worldview has since shattered, and I’ll be picking out the shards for the rest of my life. Self-disgust is so incredibly damaging. Thank you for your insights.
I am pretty sure there actually is a whole generation of homeschooled males that have bra strap fetishes though, real talk.
I found the article interesting in one point: at least hormones were acknowledged. Coming up in the late 60s, early 70s they were not considered relevant. If we male teens got aroused, it was entirely our fault. Either we were looking at something we shouldn’t or we were actively engaging in “adultery in the heart,” I.e. Lusfull fantasy. If we were ever visibly erect, we were shamed. If we had wet dreams we were scolded, and if we (God forbid) masturbated, we underwent counseling, and deliverance from demons of lust and perversion. I heard of one congregation in another city where physical beatings were meted out for masturbating. The mindset was none of that had anything to do with hormones. Lust you can control, hormones you cannot. But we were shamed for not controlling lust better. And hence the insistence on how the girls dressed and acted. To a guy that is always on the edge, anything can set him off. And since we had 2300 years of assuming women had no sexual drive or desires, that new information discovered in the early 1900s had not been fully assimilated, and perhaps it is still that way.
Had there been better understanding of the hormonal side, it might have been more tolerable for both guys and girls.