Homeschooling Made Education Sexy. Like… TOO Sexy: Ephraim’s Story

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Series disclaimer: HA’s “Let’s Talk About Sex (Ed)” series contains frank, honest, and uncensored conversations about sexuality and sex education. It is intended for mature audiences.

Pseudonym note: The author’s name has been changed to ensure anonymity. “Ephraim” is a pseudonym.

*****

I first discovered porn in the library.

By “porn,” though I don’t mean porn porn. I mean porn like Supreme Court Justice Potter Stewart meant porn: “you know it when you see it.”

Well, I saw it, and I knew it.

How did I know it? Well, I was 15 and got a boner in the library.

That’s how I knew it.

“How on earth did a 15-year-old kid find porn in a public library in the early 90’s?” you might ask. Well, see, it wasn’t really porn that gave me a boner. Education gave me a boner.

I got a boner from a book about sex education.

That’s the funny part of the story. Now let’s go back to the beginning.

I was taught nothing about sex or human anatomy up until that fateful day. My parents were fundamentalist Christians, they homeschooled me to shield me from the corrupting influences of the world (read: sex education in public schools), and they emphasized modesty and purity on a regular basis. Everyone I interacted with, from homeschool park days to homeschool co-op meetings to homeschool Shakespeare productions, was similarly into modesty and purity. Josh Harris was our patron saint… and probably our holy pin-up boy, since I got the feeling most of the girls I knew thought he was hot but never dared to say so.

Consequently, everything about sex and sexuality and hormones and puberty was shrouded in a veil of mystery and taboo. Like, why was I growing hair in odd places? Why did the girls always speak in hushed tones once a month? No one would talk about these things. They were off-limits. They were dirty.

Taboo.

My family often went to the library to find free literature to read for homeschooling. We’d get history books, historical fiction, etc. Anything our mom approved of. Sometimes I’d be allowed to check out some Hardy Boys books or a Choose-Your-Own-Adventure book.

During one visit at the library, however, I stumbled across the Sex Ed for Children section.

Oops.

I don’t remember the title of the book. But the book was about sex. And bodies. And…

…and omg it had pictures.

Cartoonish pictures, of course. But oh wow there were pictures of naked bodies. Like there was a penis. And a vagina. And a diagram explaining menstruation. And something about an “egg.”

I… I felt like I had stumbled across the dirtiest thing I had ever read (apart from certain Bible verses, of course, because we all know there are some really X-rated Bible verses out there. Emissions like donkeys, anyone?).

Anyways. I found this book. And everything I ever wanted to know as a kid about sex and bodies was there. Out in the open.

And I got hard.

It’s kinda embarrassing to think about to this day. (Ok, it’s really embarrassing.) It’s weird and uncomfortable. But I wanted to tell it today because I’ve thought long and hard (no pun intended) about what happened and something struck me the other day:

The reason why something so non-sexual like education about the human body and natural changes it undergoes was interpreted as sexual by me was because that very education was treated as taboo.

My family and homeschooling community literally turned education into something dirty. Into a fetish. They unintentionally fetishized knowledge.

So when I had to (secretly, mind you, so I wouldn’t get caught) educate myself, I felt like it was something bad, something naughty. Seriously, how messed up is that? I was raised in such a way that educating myself about my body felt naughty.

Sometimes I think about that fact and it puts me in a rage. Other times it just makes me laugh. Really, most of the times it makes me laugh.

I was homeschooled and homeschooling made education sexy. But not in a good way. In a too sexy way.

Here’s to growing up?

True Love Waits?: Lilith’s Story

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Series disclaimer: HA’s “Let’s Talk About Sex (Ed)” series contains frank, honest, and uncensored conversations about sexuality and sex education. It is intended for mature audiences.

Pseudonym note: The author’s name has been changed to ensure anonymity. “Lilith” is a pseudonym.

*****

I had the bare minimum sex education growing up—my mom gave me one brief, frank talk about sex, I read some Christian children and teen books on the subject, and I went to a  teen dating class at my church that emphasized, of course, abstinence. In high school, I dated the pastor’s kid for a year, and he waited patiently until my 16th birthday to give me my first kiss (my mom’s mandate). My boyfriend and I only alluded to sex once the whole time we dated.

It wasn’t until college that I began to truly understand the mechanics of sex and sexual anatomy.

At age 18, a psychology textbook introduced me to the word clitoris, and I immediately proceeded to look for mine. At 21, I discovered I had been using tampons incorrectly for nine years (no wonder they were so uncomfortable and didn’t always work!). Shortly after, one of my male friends asked me if I had ever had an orgasm, to which I replied “I don’t know.” I was even more embarrassed when one of my male classmates commented abruptly over lunch, “You’re a virgin, aren’t you?” I finally started looking for answers to my sex questions through Google so I wouldn’t feel so ignorant.

Through these searches I realized that my notions of sex positions and the “motions” of sex – for lack of a better word – were utterly wrong.

At age 22, I started dating my future husband, Matt (HA note: name changed). Even though we were both Christians who valued abstinence, we talked about sex openly. Other guys had humiliated me by pointing out my ignorance, but Matt never made me feel stupid – perhaps because he was a virgin, too. As Christians, we were always told that having sex before marriage would ruin our sex lives once we got married. So, when Matt and I finally gave in to our sexual urges three years later, we felt immense guilt. Before this incident, we had already talked about getting married, but now we wanted to bump up the date so we wouldn’t be “sinning.” We confessed our sexual sins to our pastor and told him our idea of getting married soon, and he told us that was a viable option.

My parents, however, were resistant to the idea, because they wanted me to finish my master’s degree first.

I was confused and angry, because they seemed to be contradicting what they had always taught me: by telling me to postpone marriage, it was as if they were telling me that my education was more important than my morality. (To be fair to my parents, this is how I was feeling, and not necessarily what they believed.)

What I just described is an unfortunate dilemma that I imagine many young Christian adults and their parents face. Because of the demands of college, parents and their children rationalize that marriage should occur after college. At the same time, delaying marriage means delaying sex. Although many young Christian adults earnestly want to wait, their biological urges make it very difficult for them to do so. Our bodies are not designed to postpone sex until we are in our mid- to late-twenties.

Because of my parent’s wishes, Matt and I delayed our wedding until after graduation. In the meantime, we continued to have sex, though we no longer confessed this to our pastor nor our parents. Eventually, we lost feelings of guilt and began to question how ‘sinful’ our actions really were. Matt and I truly loved each other, and we were figuring out sex together. Months later, when we finally got married, our wedding night wasn’t any less special because we had already had sex. In fact, it was satisfying because we knew what we were doing. That same year, for many reasons, we left the church and are no longer Christians.

In closing, I was poorly informed about sex while growing up. This didn’t hurt me much when I was a teenager, because I was homeschooled and not around many other teens or “temptations” anyway. Once I started college, though, I was ridiculed for my ignorance and unknowingly put myself in risky situations. Early on, I should have been taught not only about sexual organs, STDs and contraceptives, but also about the risks of sexual predators and date rape – which, fortunately, I never experienced but could easily have.

I have conflicting feelings about the “True Love Waits” doctrine that homeschooled Christian teens are taught.

On one hand, I’m glad that it encouraged Matt and I to postpone sex for as long as we did –  we were both mature enough to experience it safely and thoughtfully, and we couldn’t judge each other because neither of us had “done it” before. However, in some ways the abstinence doctrine did do some emotional damage: when Matt and I were expressing love to each other before we were married, our Christian consciences were telling us that we were doing something bad and harmful. Because of these convictions, we were really hard on ourselves and experienced a lot of unnecessary guilt – so much so that we broke up for a few months in order not to “sin.”

Ironically, the guilt and the breakup were actually more harmful to our relationship than the premarital sex was.

IBLP Board Places Bill Gothard on “Administrative Leave”

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By R.L. Stollar, HA Community Coordinator

WORLD Magazine has just announced that Bill Gothard, founder of the Institute in Basic Life Principles (IBLP) and the Advanced Training Institute homeschool curriculum, was placed on “administrative leave” by IBLP’s board of directors.

Warren Cole Smith for WORLD stated this evening that Gothard will be on leave “while the board investigates claims that he years ago engaged in sexual harassment and other misconduct.” Allegations and evidence have surfaced recently about how Bill Gothard has sexually harassed and molested over 30 young woman, including children, for decades.

According to Smith, IBLP board chairman Billy Boring said that, “After completion of the review the board will respond at an appropriate time, and in a biblical manner.” Until the investigation is completed, however, Gothard will cease participation in “the operations of the ministry.”

As of 6:50 pm PST, IBLP’s website, Facebook, and Twitter have no statement on the matter.

A Good Girl’s Sex Education: Eden’s Story

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Series disclaimer: HA’s “Let’s Talk About Sex (Ed)” series contains frank, honest, and uncensored conversations about sexuality and sex education. It is intended for mature audiences.

Pseudonym note: The author’s name has been changed to ensure anonymity. “Eden” is a pseudonym.

Trigger warnings: the following story contains descriptions of grooming for and sexual abuse.

*****

I was eleven, and it was summer, so I had been running around outside with my siblings. I was wearing a loose, bright orange t-shirt. My mother looked intently at my chest with its tiny breast buds and said, “Your nipples are showing through.”

She said it in a hard, cold whisper, so I knew I should be ashamed.

I hadn’t noticed any changes, but I practiced hunching my shoulders so my shirts would hang as straight as possible. A few months later, she ushered me into her bedroom. I rarely went in, so it felt odd to be sitting on the edge of her bed as she closed the door. She brought out two odd little half-shirts that were pink and white with flowers. “These are training bras,” she said, and she seemed excited to be presenting them to me. I was confused. What was a bra, and why must I wear such a weird uncomfortable garment?

I wore them because I was a good girl.

The same year, my mother approached me with another surprise: information about monthly bleedings women experienced with strict instructions not to tell anyone else and to tell her immediately if I experienced it. I had nearly forgotten by the time my menarche appeared in all its resplendent red. I was not excited- I was angry. This was not what I wanted. My mother showed me where she kept the sanitary pads and promised to keep it stocked, and in doing so, revealed that women’s periods seemed to be synced. In that small comment, I had found solace: I would know when my mother was on her period so I could be as sweet as possible during those times.

I was thirteen when my mother came into the restroom while I was taking my bath. This was not unusual as she would often wash my hair and bathe me despite my double-digit age. This time, however, she brought something new with her- a razor. She soaped and shaved my armpits, and when she was done, she said “There, smooth as a baby’s bottom.” Why my armpits must be smooth while my brothers showed off their armpit hair was beyond me.   

I was not a stupid child. Adult women seemed to have breasts, and adult men not, but that never seemed like a significant fact to me, and certainly not one that would impact my own body. I rarely saw any girls around my age so I only expected to grow tall like my oldest brothers.

I had no concept of puberty or a future.

I hated this transition I didn’t expect: I hated it when my brothers close to my age would tease me about being a girl; I hated it when my dad would comment that I looked like an older girl in an approving tone; and I hated it when he would hug me so tightly that I was aware that my little breasts pressed against his belly. My mother scolded me for being shy of such contact. “It’s not Sexual,” she said, and the invocation of the powerful word shocked me into silence.

I withdrew more.

I was fourteen when I first realized there was a big secret to be learned. My parents would speak in whispers about people. They would drop their voices when explaining something briefly and mysteriously. They would turn down the volume and stand in front of the TV screen during movie time. Sometimes, a word would appear. It was always significant.

I heard it most on the conservative talk radio shows my parents would listen to in the car. The male hosts would rant about men and women making a Choice, walking into hotel rooms, stripping off their clothing, and getting into bed. Their words burned into my mind, and I catalogued all the facts. Sex was something men and women did in bed together, and it resulted in babies, and it was dirty and filthy and shameful. I regretted learning what I had; just knowing about it corrupted me by association. I pushed it as far from my mind as possible.

“Would you like to talk about sex?” he typed.

Someone with whom to discuss this mystery and to laugh about all the secrecy. Yes. “First I will kiss you.” What was this? It started with just the conversations. I invented persuasive reasons to make it stop. I wrote down notes on the points from Joshua Harris’s I Kissed Dating Good-bye.

It didn’t stop.

It progressed to blurry pictures taken in the dark, one more button undone each month. I hated it; I felt so numb and dirty and defiled. I was a good girl, and this was something only a husband should do, so therefore he must become my husband. Every time a part of me rebelled, he threatened suicide again, and surely it was better to sacrifice oneself than to be responsible for a death. He sent a few pictures of his penis. I only looked once. I had seen artistic representations of male genitalia before in pictures of the Sistine Chapel and Michelangelo’s David, and none of it prepared me for that moment of horror.

My education was nearly complete.

I was eighteen and going through Apologia’s The Human Body. I would curl up in corners while reading my textbooks, and the habit had the benefit that I could skip to more interesting sections without worrying about people peering over my shoulder at the diagrams. I had already read the final chapter in secretive snatches when I was informed that it was not required reading. But bless Dr. Jay Wile, I had learned about clitorises and vaginal mucus and male refractory periods.

My sex education may have been complete, but the silence was not.

I experienced debilitating menstrual cramps, yet I had to maintain the charade to my siblings that periods did not exist. My adult brothers could not be allowed to know. If I did not grit my teeth and pretend, there were my mother’s sharp words to keep me from spilling the secret.

I was a good girl: innocent and perpetually clueless. I had repressed anything remotely sexual so that I never had a crush all those years. Not one. I did not dare turn to internet search engines for answers for fear that Porn might come up, and I did not dare turn to my parents because of their shaming silence- a silence I was made complicit in.

I was the perfect victim.

No Blurred Lines: Melissa’s Thoughts

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Series disclaimer: HA’s “Let’s Talk About Sex (Ed)” series contains frank, honest, and uncensored conversations about sexuality and sex education. It is intended for mature audiences.

HA note: The following is reprinted with permission from Melissa’s blog Permission to Live. It was originally published on February 25, 2014. Also by Melissa on HA: “Homeschooled and Kept Ignorant, But Still Queer.”

*****

We were picking up toys in the living room, and the radio switched to Robin Thicke’s song “blurred lines.” After a minute I walked over and changed the station, MS Action stopped her be-bopping and asked “Why’d you turn off that song mom? It’s good for dancing.”

I thought about it, “It is a good beat for dancing isn’t it, I just don’t really like the words in that song.”

“Oh, why don’t you like the words mom?” My 7 year old persisted.

Well, he sings about doing stuff to people that they don’t want him to do, and… he thinks it’s OK.”  I tried to explain.

“That’s not OK!” piped up 5 year old MS Drama.” “You shouldn’t do things to people that they don’t want you to do.”

“Definitely nobody should marry him.” MS Action added soberly.

*****

I found myself smiling even an hour later, excited to find that even without using the actual word “consent” my children understood its concept and explained it all by themselves.

I had never heard the word “consent” before I was married.

I wasn’t really taught much of the concept either. Being a child limits your choices and autonomy as it is, growing up fundamentalist Christian limits them even more. A child is under the authority of their parents, and the parent’s word is final. You can be punished for stepping out of line. You learn not to ask so much what you want or desire, but to ask what others expect from you.

I would wager that no child desires to be spanked, but physical autonomy is constantly violated in a setting where children are punished. Saying no, and having the capacity to put up boundaries to protect your physical body and have those boundaries respected would be laughable in home where parents expect obedience from their children and enforce it physically. Many children are not allowed the power of saying no and having their no respected.

When I began my journey as a parent, respecting my child was basically a foreign concept to me, so my oldest went 3 years into life consistently getting the message that her thoughts and feelings and desires were subservient to mine at all times. And yet 4 years later, having no real understanding of intimate adult relationships, she immediately stated no one should marry a person who does not respect their “no”.

I cannot express how exciting that is to me. It means that as new as I am to this, I am demonstrating respect to my children.

Consent. Even in the context of sexual relationships, I reached marriage having no real understanding of what that meant.

In my Christian context, you did not have sex outside of marriage, period. And in marriage you were obligated to give your body to your spouse, and not deprive them, whether you felt like it or not. Early in my marriage, I remember being afraid to say no to a sexual advance from my spouse, not because of fear of my gentle and kind-hearted spouse, but because I did not want to displease god, or drive my husband to an affair or pornography by denying “needed” sexual release. In a world where victims of rape are often blamed for “tempting” their rapist, I truly believed that I was responsible for other people’s sexuality, through how modestly I dressed, and how actively I responded to my spouse’s sexual advances. The discovery that each person has the right to think what they think, and feel what they feel, and give or deny consent with the expectation that those boundaries would be respected was truly a life-changing experience for me.

Of course this is an ongoing discussion with my kids, something we will continue to learn together.

My hope is that as my children grow, and eventually get into personal relationships themselves that statement from today will stick with them. Someone who does or says things to you that you don’t want them to isn’t worth pursuing a relationship with.

It really is that simple.

A Shamed Sexuality: Gracie’s Story

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Series disclaimer: HA’s “Let’s Talk About Sex (Ed)” series contains frank, honest, and uncensored conversations about sexuality and sex education. It is intended for mature audiences.

Pseudonym note: The author’s name has been changed to ensure anonymity. “Gracie” is a pseudonym.

Trigger warnings: the following story contains descriptions of sexual harassment and emotional abuse relating to sexuality.

*****

“Will you have sex with me?”

So much hung on that question. I was in love with him. I wanted to be with him more than I could put into words. I said yes before I could allow myself to really look at the situation.

My sex education was never given to me. My mother gave me “The Big Sex Talk” without ever explaining sex. It wasn’t till I was sixteen or seventeen, and had started going to public school, that I figured out was sex was and how women get pregnant. Seventeen. I would hear things from the kids at school, words or phrases I knew were vulgar, and I would slowly piece together their meanings. I didn’t know what birth control was or why you would ever need it. I spent my high school years hiding my lack of knowledge, discreetly looking up definitions online, trying not to look like the freak I felt I so obviously was.

I entered my first year of college as an emotionally and sexually repressed woman who felt nothing but shame from her body, a body that she knew little to nothing about. The results proved to be detrimental.

The first rude awakening came during a football game, in a busy stadium crowded by over 60,000 people. I was cornered by two large men who made sexual comments at me, tried to get me to sit with them, and groped and grabbed at me. It was all over in just a few moments and they disappeared into the crowd. I spent the next several days terrified that they would walk into the restaurant I worked in or run into me on campus. I had no one I could talk to about it. I was afraid to call my parents, afraid they’d make me come home.

So I bottled it up and labeled it with more shame.

I don’t know how many panics attacks I had that week.

Then came the boy. He was attractive, funny, adventurous, and had a way of making me drop everything for him. But he didn’t love me. In fact, he was verbally and emotionally manipulative and abusive. He would dangle his “love” over my head and after 9 months of following him around, I would have done anything to hear that he loved me.

I come from a large and chaotic household where emotions were never expressed. I can’t remember ever feeling loved or welcome at home. My high school boyfriend was so wrapped up in being the “good godly young man” and staying “pure-minded” that he broke up with me because he was afraid to find me attractive, lest I ruin his relationship with the Lord. Sex was never discussed. Sexuality might as well have been a curse word. The only thing I had ever felt sexually was shame.

But here he was, asking me to have sex with him. As my abuser so clearly explained, over a text message, he would be delighted to be my boyfriend, to love me, if I only agree to have sex with him.

And I said yes.

Then came that night; that horrible, horrific night. He looked at my undressed self and he turned away with disgust. Suddenly I was cheap he said. It was too easy to get me to sleep with him. Had I gained weight? Was I not taking care of myself?

I still hear his violent words running on a loop through my mind. Even though I walked away from everything that was connected to him or that year, I have found that walking away from those memories is almost impossible.

Therapy was the first time I was told that my having a desire to share an intimate and sexual relationship with the man I loved wasn’t a bad or shameful thing. It’s called having sexuality. Being a human. Every human has sexuality and I can’t fault myself for wanting to explore mine.

I wish that abstinence wasn’t taught so aggressively to me. I was trained to hide away my sexuality and never let anyone know it’s there. I was told that I was responsible if a boy around me “stumbled” and had an “impure thought.” That’s a lot of pressure and shame to put on a child. Now, as an adult, I’m having to teach myself to celebrate my sexuality and not shame myself in it. It’s a slow learning process.

Telling my story is helpful. Therapy is helpful. Naming my abuser for what he was is helpful. All of this is very painful, stressful, difficult, but very helpful.

And very hopeful.

How I Educated Myself About Sex: Holly’s Story

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Series disclaimer: HA’s “Let’s Talk About Sex (Ed)” series contains frank, honest, and uncensored conversations about sexuality and sex education. It is intended for mature audiences.

Pseudonym note: The author’s name has been changed to ensure anonymity. “Holly” is a pseudonym. Also by Holly on HA: “Memories of EXCEL” and “Seeing Shades of Blue.”

*****

As I reflect on my experience with sex education, there are probably 5 or 6 stories I could write, but they don’t all fit together into one narrative. I learned about sex in little bits and pieces, and got strange mixed messages that never taught me about consent or the possibility of pleasure. I knew some things I shouldn’t have, but didn’t connect them to sex, and other things I should have known I didn’t know, and found out too late. But that isn’t my story today.

Today I am going to tell you about how I decided to teach myself about sex.

When I was about 9 or 10, my mom told me the basics of how babies were made. In retrospect it was very basic. I remember laughing nervously afterwards and saying “Is that all? You did that four times?” Since we were immersed in purity culture, sex was not discussed in a positive light in our home. The topic was generally avoided or discussed as something dirty, so I didn’t get any more information other than “avoid sex,” “stay pure,” and “dress modestly to help keep boys from having lust problems.”

The older I became the more I was expected to keep myself away from any discernible discussion about or perception of sexuality. However, since I did not understand what sexuality was, it became difficult for me. I knew the basics, but what was I supposed to do about all of it? My family kept me away from boys, covered me in modest clothing, and allowed me only “appropriate” books and videos. None of my friends seemed to know any more than I did, and in the homeschool world it would have been taboo to ask them anyway. When, at 17 years old, I realized that, in order to go on a certain trip, it would be best if I bought tampons, my mother could not explain to me how they worked, nor could my friends. I had to read the package instructions in detail and figure it out.

I was shocked to find out exactly what was going on. The vagina was a totally separate thing?!

Things changed when I went to college. Even though I was at a very conservative school, where young women were expected to be good Christian virgins, I was a real standout. It was obvious I had no clue what was going on with the opposite sex. I could talk to men just fine as long as the topic was neutral, and once I got to a store and bought normal clothes I looked pretty good, but if someone asked me out… well, that is where things went downhill. My suitemates, who were a pretty naïve bunch in their own right, had to quickly school me in the ways of the world, and in the process had to chase off a few creepy seniors whom I thought were just being “friendly.” The general impression was that I was completely clueless, and here I was, in a college environment, with men actually noticing me. I had only a faint idea what men wanted to do.

My project became taking charge of my own sexuality.

I didn’t really know what that supposed sexuality was, but after a couple of years of confusion, I needed to do something different. I made an appointment on my own for the gynecologist, went by myself, and she even told me I didn’t have to have an exam for another year. She explained a lot. I got birth control just for the heck of it. I started nursing school, and decided to read the part of my books on women’s health ahead of time, because I was tired of not knowing about the health of my reproductive system.

This is when my life started changing fast.

All the things I had been taught started falling away, because I was in school with real people. I was in nursing school now, not at a Christian school, either, and people didn’t fit into tidy little boxes. My closest friend in nursing school was gay, and I didn’t spend any time thinking about the things my homeschool group taught me about that. The one fundamentalist woman in nursing school was deceitful and mean, and she claimed to be having sex with the guy in our class who claimed to be supporting himself by dating several wealthy women. He claimed to be having sex with the fundamentalist also, but said he didn’t charge her; he just did it because he liked to make her lose her religion. The guy in our class who was openly Christian was scornful of the “professional boyfriend” and tried to witness to my friend who was gay. I found myself looking at the class as people who could either be defined by the ways they had sex or by their other attributes as well.

I decided that I saw so much more to my classmates than just their sexual identities.

I cared about them as people. I still didn’t understand sex personally, but I was getting the picture from my textbooks, from hearing my classmates’ conversations, and from lectures. It was a big deal, but it wasn’t the only deal.

As the years went on, I wish I could say that I figured things out in a healthy progression and met someone who was understanding and allowed me to experience sex in a positive way. I cannot. That is a different story.

What I can say is that now I know a lot about sex. I ended up working at a series of jobs in which I learned a lot about sex, and eventually took extra training for a job in public health in which I talked about sex quite a lot. At this point in my life I’ve also had plenty of sex, some bad, and a lot of it very good. More information would not have hurt me. I’m certain that it would have helped me very much. Even with everything I’ve read, even with everything I’ve heard, no one told me what certain words meant, what consent was, how to negotiate a situation in which two people might have different sexual expectations, what things could happen besides “baby-making” sex.

I figured it out, but I really, really wish I had figured it out earlier.

I thought about writing a more strictly informative post, but for many reasons I was unable to at this time. If anyone who has been raised in homeschool purity culture has any serious questions about sex, I would be happy to help point you in the right direction.

Coming March 1: Swan Children Magazine

From Swan Children Magazine:

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Art without apologies.
Coming March 1.

*****

The Swan Children is an online art gallery and magazine founded to curate and showcase the creative work produced by artists of homeschooled, Quiverfull, and conservative Christian upbringing.

*****

We are the Swan Children and we look after our own. We have inherited the kingdom and we’re singing for our lives – on street corners, in attics, in spare bedrooms, in the shower, at the family dinner table.

The Swan Children publishes drawings, paintings, photographs, music, poetry, stories, dance, and anything else that enchants us on a bimonthly schedule. We accept submissions on a rolling basis.

There are no rules here.

We want to show you something.

www.swanchildrenmag.com

More info at Wine and Marble.

PHC Alumni Association Issues Statement to PHC Board on Sexual Assault Cases

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By R.L. Stollar, HA Community

Patrick Henry College’s Alumni Association (PHCAA), a volunteer-led self-governed membership organization that provides service to PHC alumni, issued an official statement over the weekend to the college’s Board, Faculty, and Staff concerning the college’s handling of sexual cases on its campus. PHCAA said it condemned all acts of sexual abuse and harassment and “categorically rejected” any form of victim-blaming. Without commenting on the particulars of the recently publicized sexual assault cases in Kiera Feldman’s piece in the New Republic, PHCAA stated that (1) it is a fact that students have experienced sexual mistreatment and (2) the college needs to provide better victim care.

PHCAA urged the college to take three steps:

1. Maintain transparency in every part of the independent audit process

2. Provide more avenues for victim care

3. Educate current students regarding sexual offenses

According to PHCAA’s statement, the college has “already hired an independent firm to audit its policies and practices toward sexual harassment and sexual assault.” However, the alumni association is requesting the college be “far beyond reproach” by also doing “an independent review of the New Republic incidents, and those propounded by any other past allegations of sexual assault, either in this audit or a separate one.”

PHCAA made no request for the resignation of Sandra Corbitt (an action urged by SNAP Network), the college’s dean who was the focus of much of the New Republic piece and recent public outrage due to allegations about victim-blaming and obstruction of justice.

You can view the full text of the Patrick Henry College Alumni Association’s statement as a PDF here.

My Body, My Temple: Beth’s Story

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Series disclaimer: HA’s “Let’s Talk About Sex (Ed)” series contains frank, honest, and uncensored conversations about sexuality and sex education. It is intended for mature audiences.

Pseudonym note: The author’s name has been changed to ensure anonymity. “Beth” is a pseudonym.

*****

My first experience with sexual education was that American Girl book, “The Care and Keeping of You.”

My mom stapled together the pages that showed how to put in a tampon, because the illustration shows a girl’s vulva. I was maybe ten years old and very excited to go bra-shopping, so I didn’t really care.

Next, she gave us a cartoonishly-illustrated book that was ostensibly about sexuality but really spent the first three quarters explaining why Darwin was wrong and abortion was murder. Our world was irrevocably broken and we must pray. The last chapter put it into perspective: men and women were crafted to “fit together,” and anything beyond that was sinfully deviant, in league with graffiti and secular science textbooks.

And that was it. I first realized that penises could enter vaginas when I read a Lucius and Narcissa Malfoy X-rated fanfiction at the age of 16. My parents, bless their hearts, were trusting in their daughters and did not bother to block the internet; I think it never occurred to them the depraved depths we were capable of sinking. I had to google how to masturbate. I was 17.

You must understand: my parents were pretty liberal. They let us read Harry Potter.

We watched PG-13 rated movies, even R-rated ones so long as the R was for violence. We went to museums and saw naked Greek statues all the time. They did not block our internet access, and by the time I was 15, I was allowed to buy one-size-too-big jeans from the juniors department. I was allowed to speak to boys- although this point was moot; I knew maybe three families total with teenage boys in them. I still managed to crush on one. The heart is so desperately wicked.

No, I think that to my parents, the idea of conceptualizing their daughters as sexual beings was as outlandish as suggesting we were pod people. It was irrelevant and pointedly ignored, until I turned 18 and my mom mentioned that I could, if I wanted, find a boyfriend. You know that story about the elephant that is tied to a fence post, and so long as the string is there, even without a post, the big creature will just stand there meekly and wait? That was my sexuality. I had to fantasize about rape because I felt too sinful when I imagined initiating the sex act.

I was also mortally afraid of pregnancy. I had a grasp of biology just sufficient to terrify me; I would stare in the mirror, willing myself not to get pregnant from sitting on a toilet seat. I went to Disney World at 14 and worried for weeks about going in the hot tub. What if, I thought, I got pregnant from the swimming pool or from a rape, and I had to go to church all pregnant? I’d have to put a placard around my neck or on my back reminding people that I was a victim and not a whore. So they would not be cruel to me, or whisper behind my back.

Teenage girls are basically walking, exposed nerves, at least in middle-class America. I was more exposed, more raw, because I thought of sex as a Thing men did to you, and unless you were married (I doubted I’d find a husband, I was too plain) a terrible tragedy. I knew three girls in our small group who were raped by their boyfriends even though they were trying to save sex as a present for their husbands. I was afraid and suspicious of men, but I also wished someone would catcall me or assault me so I knew I was worthy of violation.

I was incapable of conceiving a world in which I could make decisions about my body with full knowledge and consent.

My parents did not mean to do this to me. They only wanted me to grow up free of gender and sex politics, free of lust and abusive boyfriends, until I was a Grown Woman and ready to find an eligible husband. But it was not only them. It was the ignorance of my friends. It was the churches I grew up in, with youth groups that spoke endlessly about purity rings and pro-life politics. It was the sermons about marriage, Brio and Boundless magazine, Elsie Dinsmore and Vision Forum catalogs and homeschool conferences. I read the stories of abuse on HA and I am hardly surprised; this culture cultivates it, and you’d think it was intentional.

The next part of my story will probably sound flippant and ridiculous to you, because it sounds, well, kind of silly to me when I remember it. But I was watching a performance of All’s Well that Ends Well at the Delacorte Theater, summer 2011. Your virginity, your old virginity, is like one of our French wither’d pears: it looks ill, it eats drily. In the play, Helena decides she really wants to have a man, so she can do it, and then guess what? She gets herself a man. Get thee a good husband, and use him as he uses thee.

That was all it took.

I asked a boy out- it was a really disgusting first kiss. But I did not let it deter me. I was twenty when I met my current boyfriend, and I will leave it at that. There was a lot of fear on my end when I wanted to stay over at his apartment for a visit. I felt that I was betraying my family. That every person was now privy to my Sex Life because they knew I was going to be sleeping over.

But I wanted to, so I did it anyway.

If I were to have a teen daughter, even if she was in public school, I’d send her to Scarleteen.

I do not think the solution to my teenage terror was a nice sit-down with my mom about the wonders of the yoni! But knowledge was all I needed. I think that very conservative Christians do not necessarily value this perspective, but I feel that my identity as a sexual being does not begin or end with the sex I have. It is my identity, tied up in my womanhood. It is a way of treating my temple the way it should be treated, kindly and with consideration, compassion, and full intent.