Teaching Abstinence Without Teaching Consent is Dangerous

HA note: The following is reprinted with permission from Shaney Irene’s blog. It was originally published on October 9, 2015.

Today, Christian magazine WORLD News published an article about California requiring schools to teach consent in sex education classes. Although not stated explicitly, it’s pretty clear the author, Laura Edghill, is not too happy about this. Only one of the four quotes given in the article is positive, and more time is spent discussing the supposed downsides of the bill, rather than talking about why consent is an important topic to teach. It also demonstrates that WORLD has no idea what teaching consent actually means.

“But advocates for abstinence education say that while preparing students to protect themselves from sexual assault is important, the “affirmative consent” conversation is based on the flawed assumption that the best we can do for students is teach them risk reduction, rather than risk avoidance.”

WORLD has long been a proponent of abstinence-based sex education, so it’s safe to assume that their readers are going to agree with what the abstinence educators say.

But here’s the thing: Teaching consent is not about “risk reduction” vs. “risk avoidance.” Teaching abstinence without teaching consent actually puts kids MORE at risk for sexual assault. Teaching kids to only have sexual contact within marriage won’t stop predators from attempting sexual assault. But teaching kids consent will enable them to recognize what they’re experiencing as sexual assault or not.

I know too many women who grew up in conservative Christian environments who experienced sexual assault, but did not recognize it as such at the time. Why? Because they were never taught that once they said no, the other person was committing a crime. They were never taught that only yes means yes. So they carried guilt for years, assuming they were complicit in sexual sin (“I must have tempted him in some way,” or, “I must not have protested hard enough,”) until they came across the concept of consent and realized they had been assaulted.

“Sex is like boxing. If both people haven’t consented, one of them is committing a crime.”–John Oliver

The rich part of this is that WORLD has reported extensively on the issue of sexual abuse. But in reporting to their readers that teaching consent is “risk reduction” while teaching abstinence is “risk avoidance,” they’re giving parents false information and exposing children to even more risk of sexual abuse. Not one instance of sexual abuse has been prevented by telling people to only have sex inside of marriage.

Assuming abstinence-based sex education will prevent sexual abuse is as ludicrous as assuming saying, “Don’t drive while under the influence of alcohol,” will prevent someone from getting hit by a drunk driver.

And this is a HUGE problem within the church, as this article from Christianity Today’s Leadership Journal describes. The church today does not understand consent. It assumes that teaching that sexual contact outside of marriage is enough, but it’s not. We must teach our kids that their bodies belong to them, and no one else can touch them without their okay. Without teaching consent, abuse will continue to run rampant.

So WORLD magazine, you are part of the problem. If you want to prevent more sexual abuse within the church, you need to stop acting as if teaching consent is a bad thing. You can start by giving away copies of God Made All of Me, a book written to teach consent to young children, to your readers.

Sexual Coercion as Redemptive: Nancy Wilson on a Wife’s Sexual Duties

By R.L. Stollar, HA Community Coordinator

Content warning: discussion of child sexual abuse and marital abuse and rape.

Nancy Wilson is an advocate of Christian Patriarchy, an ideology popular within the Christian Homeschool Movement as well as the broader Reformed Fundamentalist culture out of which that movement sprang. Nancy is married to Doug Wilson, one of the founders of New Saint Andrews College, Greyfriars Hall (a ministerial training program), and the Association of Classical and Christian Schools and pastor of Christ Church in Moscow, Idaho. (Note: for the sake of clarity, future references to Doug Wilson will simply be Doug and future references to Nancy will be either Nancy or Wilson.) Doug’s 1991 book Recovering the Lost Tools of Learning is considered one of the seminal texts of the Classical Christian Education movement. Some would argue his book launched that movement, though that claim is historically myopic and ignores other seminal texts like Dorothy Sayers’s The Lost Tools of Learning. Both Doug and Nancy Wilson do, however, hold significant influence within the Classical Christian Education movement. Furthermore, even though the Wilsons prefer private Classical Christian schools to homeschooling, their teachings about both Classical Christian Education as well as Christian Patriarchy (and its subsequent traditional gender roles) have been popular and significant within the Christian Homeschool Movement.

Over the last few days, Doug and Christ Church have received mounting attention and criticism over the cases of Steven Sitler and Jamin C. Wight. Sitler is a homeschool alumnus who attended New Saint Andrews College as a student and Christ Church as a parishioner. Wight is also a homeschool alumnus who attended Greyfriars Hall. Both are convicted child molesters who molested children in Doug’s various academic and religious communities. (You can read a comprehensive timeline of events and evidential documentation of Sitler’s case here, though be warned that the court documents contain detailed descriptions of child sexual abuse.) And during both of their trials, Doug chose to sit on their sides of the courtroom rather than on the sides of their victims and the victims’ families. Furthermore, despite Sitler’s crimes, Doug — who served as Sitler’s counselor and petitioned Sitler’s judge for “measured and limited” civil penalties — continued to welcome Sitler in his church after his sentencing. And in spite of Doug becoming aware of Sitler’s history of sexual predation in March 2005 and Wight’s history of sexual predation in August 2005, it was not until December that Doug informed the families of Christ Church in general.

In response to the mounting attention and criticism, Doug wrote an open letter on behalf of himself and his fellow elders at Christ Church. His letter, which contained 1,853 words, was focused entirely on defending and justifying his and his church’s actions as well as dismissing detractors as promoting “false allegations” that “are simply slander.” Wilson positions himself and his church as martyrs in line with Jesus because they are being criticized for extending “grace” to Sitler, saying, “To be vilified for standing for grace is itself a grace.” Not a single sentence in the open letter was dedicated to expressing concern for, anguish or compassion over, empathy towards, or protection of the victims and their families. This is telling, “for the mouth speaks what the heart is full of” (Matthew 12:34).

In her 1997 book "The Fruit of Her Hands: Respect and the Christian Woman," Nancy Wilson articulates her and her husband's philosophy of marriage and sexuality as it pertains to Christian women.
In her 1997 book “The Fruit of Her Hands: Respect and the Christian Woman,” Nancy Wilson articulates her and her husband’s philosophy of marriage and sexuality as it pertains to Christian women.

In light of Doug’s open letter, it seems important and helpful to place that letter within the larger context of the Wilsons’ belief system concerning sexuality and sexual responsibilities within a Christian marriage. To that end we shall turn to Nancy Wilson’s 1997 book The Fruit of Her Hands: Respect and the Christian Woman. In this book Wilson articulates her and her husband’s philosophy of marriage and sexuality as it pertains to Christian women. Though the book is written entirely by Wilson herself, Doug wrote the book’s Foreword and in that he makes clear he fully endorses his wife’s ideas, saying, “As Christian women consider how they might stand as godly helpers to their husbands in this high calling, I can do nothing better than commend this book to them.” Furthermore, Doug admires that Nancy “has been writing on marriage and family for a number of years, and in reading her I have never had to wonder at hypocrisy. There has been none” (p. 11) Nancy Wilson practices what she preaches to others, and what she preaches to others is laid out in The Fruit of Her Hands.

Wilson begins her book with a dire proclamation. Quoting 2 Timothy 3:1, that “in the last days perilous times will come,” Wilson declares that American women have been “captivated by the lies promulgated by the modern world and have succumbed in many ways to the humanistic mindset” (13). “What are some of the lies she [American women] has been told?” Wilson asks. She then provides a list stereotypical for Christian Patriarchy adherents: couples do not want giant families, women act too much like men, and of course the belief system Christian Patriarchy most seethes against: feminism. But the two most relevant “lies” on Wilson’s list are: 1. “Marriage is partnership.” And 2. “The most important thing is to have a healthy self-image and to have your deepest needs met” (14). In other words, Wilson believes women are under captivity when they believe their marriage is a partnership rather than a dictatorship and when they believe a healthy and fulfilled sense of self is most important to having a successful marriage.

How do women become ensnared in these lies? Wilson argues that “this sort of thinking creep[s] into our households” for a number of reasons. The most notable are first, because “the media indoctrinate us daily”; and second, “by way of the latest feel-good psycho-babble,” and by this Wilson means counseling, psychology, and therapy. Wilson says that these resources are detrimental to a Christian wife for the following reasons: “Here she can talk about all of her needs and frustrations. Here she can learn how to cope with lack of fulfillment. Here she can learn how to get back on speaking terms with her husband and children” (15). In other words, when Christian wives have a separate, safe place apart from their husbands to privately process their needs and frustrations, to learn how to protect their inner selves, and to learn communication skills to heal relationships with their husbands and children — then women fall under captivity. This is because, to Wilson, having a separate, safe place apart from one’s husband to privately process matters ensnares women into thinking lies — namely, that their marriage is a partnership rather than a dictatorship and that a healthy and fulfilled sense of self is most important to having a successful marriage.

In contrast to the “humanistic mindset” that teaches women that marriage is a partnership and that a healthy and fulfilled sense of self is important, Wilson sets forth what she believes is the biblical mindset. This mindset is, of course, Christian Patriarchy, in which women are to submit to their husbands, show deference to their husbands’ decisions, and work hard to please their husbands emotionally and sexually. While the entire book is worth analyzing, this post will focus specifically on Wilson’s messages to women concerning their sexual relationship with their husbands. These messages are found in Chapter 7 of the book, “Lovemaking.”

Wilson commences with the declaration that sexuality within marriage is “a protection against sexual immorality” (87). Taking literally the Song of Solomon’s metaphor of the bride as a garden (Song of Solomon 4:12: “You are a garden locked up, my sister, my bride”), Wilson then compares a wife, her body, and her sexuality to a garden (and the wife’s husband to a “gardener”). Using a metaphor of a garden, Wilson’s language and images range from abstract to explicit to troubling. “The garden is a private place for only the husband and wife,” she writes. “It has a high wall around it called the marriage covenant” (89). A wife’s husband “is the garden tender, and the wife becomes a source of great joy and delight to the husband as he spends time in the garden he faithfully tends.”

While encouraging women to think of themselves as gardens, Wilson begins to guilt them. Women need to “take a more eager interest in making it a lovely garden that her husband delights to spend time in.” She warns women that untended gardens tend to not be enjoyed by visitors, whereas lovely gardens make visitors feel welcome. Wilson says wives must be like the latter: “You want your husband to feel that way when he visits you.” Thus a wife should not “resent her husband’s sexual advances as intrusive.”

Wilson then takes a turn towards the troubling. Using the garden metaphor for a woman and her body, Wilson strips away the agency of that woman and dismisses enthusiastic consent as important to relationships. Women who find their husband’s sexual advances as intrusive are “hanging a sign out on the garden wall that reads in large letters, ‘No trespassing.'” But, and this is the troubling part, “But of course a husband is never trespassing in his garden, though he can be made to feel as though he is an intruder” (89, emphasis added). With this one sentence Wilson completely disregards as possible the concept of marital rape. A husband can never be intruding on his wife’s body, because his wife’s body is his. Wilson then shifts blame on a wife who is being coerced into sex with her husband: while the husband’s sexual coercion is not sinful, the woman’s reluctance — which makes her husband “feel as though he is an intruder” — is sinful.

Wilson next considers legitimate reasons for a wife saying “No” to sex and dismisses them as illegitimate. For example, if a wife has no sexual desire: Wilson does not suggest that the woman learn about her body and her sexuality and find out how to communicate to her husband how he can better please her or help her feel sexually open with him. Rather, Wilson dismisses women as incapable of understanding their own bodies: “Our bodies are fearfully and wonderfully made. Who can understand them? Certainly we cannot understand ourselves very well” (93-4). So women just need to buck up and not “consult your feelings” as to do so is selfish. “Does your husband always ‘feel’ in the mood for a heart-to-heart chat?” she manipulatively reminds women.

Another legitimate reason for a wife saying “No” to sex that Wilson dismisses as illegitimate is a past history of sexual abuse. Women who “have had bad sexual experiences” and “have suffered at the hands of others sexually” need to simply (a) realize their own sinful role in their own abuse and (b) get over the abuse already and forgive their abusers:

“We are not to drag our past around like a ball and chain. We have been delivered from our past sins… If you have suffered at the hands of others sexually, you must extend forgiveness… Forgive those people in your past who wronged you sexually and do not allow their sin to ruin your life… How many times did Jesus say we should forgive those who sin against us? Countless times” (94).

Wilson rubs the final dash of salt into the wound by saying the following to these women who suffered abuse: “Don’t make your husband suffer for wrongs others committed” (95).

One might wonder why Wilson places such a high value on a wife being always ready to satisfy her husband sexually. This is because, as Wilson first established regarding sexuality within marriage, it is “a protection against sexual immorality” (87). Wives and their sexuality are a “potent instrument in God’s hand” (97). When a woman’s husband is “an unbeliever or a disobedient believer” — for example, if one finds one’s self married to, say, child molester Steven Sitler — Wilson encourages women that their being constantly submissive to their husband’s sexual demands, their being constantly submissive to their husbands’ sexual coercion, is something God uses to bring that unbeliever to conversion or that disobedient believer to repentance. Wilson writes,

“If you are married to an unbeliever or a disobedient believer, you must determine before God that you are going to attempt as best you can to fulfill all your obligations as a wife in a godly fashion. This means you must apply all the Word’s teachings on sex whether your husband does or not. Esther won over the king and was greatly used as a result… God can use the sexual relationship as one of the means of winning him back to obedience or winning him to Christ” (97).

In his open letter concerning Steven Sitler, Doug objects to certain detractors, saying, “We do not believe that marriage is an automatic ‘fix’ for the temptations to molest children” (emphasis in the original). This is true, but only in a limited sense. The Wilsons have never claimed that “godly” sexuality is a cure for a sexual disorder like nepiophilia or pedophilia or a protection against criminal activity like child molestation. However, they have claimed — as we just saw — that “godly” sexuality can be a productive tool in bringing a disobedient believer back to obedience to God. Doug reiterated this in a new blog post today:

“Do I think that marriage is an ‘automatic’ cure for the temptations of pedophilia? Of course not. Marriage is not an automatic cure for anything. But the apostle Paul does teach that marriage, approached rightly, is given by God as one of His assigned helps against immorality (1 Cor. 7:2)” (emphasis added).

Thus insofar as the Wilsons believe nepiophilia, pedophilia, and child molestation to be manifestations of disobedience to God, they do believe that Sitler’s wife’s sexuality can be “one of the means of winning him back to obedience or winning him to Christ” — which, in Sitler’s case, would take the specific form of forsaking nepophilia, pedophilia, and child molestation. Doug’s objection, therefore, is so deflective and hairsplitting it is insipid.

These messages that Nancy Wilson has taught and continues to teach — messages that her husband Doug endorses and also teaches — shed an important light on the developments arising out of Christ Church, New Saint Andrews College, and Greyfriars Hall. Though we may find the messages troubling, they help us better understand why Doug, Nancy, and the other members of their academic and religious communities in Moscow, Idaho seemed to have little to no problem with marrying a young, vulnerable woman off to a serial child molester after only their second date. In the Wilsons’ minds, giving Steven Sitler an outlet for his sexuality — giving him a woman who is taught that she cannot say no to her “gardener” who has full rights to her bodily “garden” — could begin a spiritually redemptive process that could bring the serial child molester into repentance and obedience to God. Even if that involved sexual coercion (what we would all consider marital abuse and rape), to the Wilsons that is not a problem. To the Wilsons there is no such thing as sexual coercion; there is only the sexual submission of a wife to her husband. This is the broader context in which to understand Doug’s infamous statement that, “The sexual act cannot be made into an egalitarian pleasuring party. A man penetrates, conquers, colonizes, plants. A woman receives, surrenders, accepts.”

To the Wilsons, marriage is not a partnership but a dictatorship. The husband, or patriarch, is the sexual dictator. That sexual dictatorship is divinely ordained and a woman’s body is ordained by God to serve as an instrument of redemption, her bodily rights sacrificed for a greater spiritual good.

And you know what’s even more troubling than the theology itself?

The fact that so many young women are being raised and taught in their homeschools around the U.S. to think that this is what God actually wants for them.

On Our Biology: Starshine’s Thoughts

CC image courtesy of Flickr, Macroscopic Solutions. Image links to source.
CC image courtesy of Flickr, Macroscopic Solutions. Image links to source.

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

The war that our parents waged was not just on our selfhood or security or sexuality—it was on our biology. Things we couldn’t change; physical survival and reproduction patterns that couldn’t be completely or permanently killed unless we died too.

We fought—some internally, some externally. Some broke. We’re still trying to find pieces of ourselves, pieces that our parents beat or rejected or threw away. Some we will find. Others seem gone forever.

But ultimately our parents failed. We are not what they planned for us to be. Our biology reacted and protected ourselves once we could and once we knew we could. They didn’t win, even if we carry evidence of their war for the rest of our lives.

We won. And we are free forever.

Biblical Erotica

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By Nicholas Ducote, HA Community Coordinator

What happens when you give a sexually repressed kid a Bible?

Many of our parents desperately wanted to protect us from what they saw as a culture of decadent sexual immorality. My parents’ generation grew up in the “Free Love Sixties.” While growing up, I often heard cautionary tales about that era.

Yet who would have thought that, if you isolate your children from sex in Hollywood movies, in all those “filthy TV shows,” and you don’t (or barely) teach them about sex, they will desperately seek out any information about it? It seems like a universal experience among homeschool alumni: digging through encyclopedias, dictionaries, and/or anatomy books. There are many stories about inadequate or damaging sexual education from fundamentalist parents.

But here’s the kicker: when a child’s only source of information about sexuality and sexual expression is the Bible, you get some… um… remarkable results.

Many young girls thought they could literally get pregnant by laying next to a man – that’s the King James Version for you.

One area of intense shame and guilt from my childhood is my strange attraction to the sexual stories in the Bible.  I always felt guilty because I would be aroused by sections of the Bible regarding violent sexual assaults (Rape of Tamar, dismembering of women in Judges). Upon reflection, I realized that almost all of the graphic sexual stories in the Bible describe a “sinful” encounter, a violent act, or something (like a harem of sex slaves) that modern society tells us is unacceptable. And that’s not even mentioning all the offensive and dehumanizing sexual rules in Leviticus and Deuteronomy.

With the exception of Song of Solomon, if a couple engaged in “edifying sex” there certainly wasn’t graphic detail – it was usually “he knew her” or “they lie together.” In almost every case, the more detail the more depraved the sexual act.

It might seem obvious that restricting your children’s sexual education to 4,000+ year old texts could produce some strange results. I spent a lot of time reading the Bible — indeed, every single page of it. Some of it was really boring, but out of nowhere you’d get a steamy sex story.

The Old Testament, despite its clever metaphors, is full of “adult content.”

Noah’s son uncovering his nakedness. Leah tricking Isaac into sleeping with him, then they were married. Angels getting threatened in Sodom. Request to gang-rape in Sodom. Chopping off a whole city’s foreskins. Lot’s daughters getting him drunk and having sex with him. Onan “spilling his seed” after having sex with his dead brother’s wife (who he just married). Judah’s dead sons’ wife dressed as a prostitute and negotiated pricey sex from Judah. Absalom raping his half-sister. David’s son Ammon raped his half-sister, and David’s daughter, Tamar. Then Absalom, Ammon’s half-brother and Tamar’s full-brother, killed Ammon. Then Absalom slept with all of David’s concubines.  David and Bathsheba.  The concubine in Judges being gang-raped and dismembered. Shechem raping Dinah, then some mass castration. Zimri was an Israelite having sex with a Midianite woman, Cozbi — which pissed off God to the point of sending a plague amongst Israelite men (many of whom were partying with other Midianite women). Pinchus killed them with his sword, ending the plague.

And they say network television is dirty? This reads like the series overview of Game of Thrones!

Not to mention the same-sex attraction overtones in the David-Jonathan stories. “They were so mega hot,” one woman confessed to me, as she casually remarked on her fantasies that sometimes involved them together. (This isn’t the place to tell me I’m wrong and give me your biblical interpretation. This article is about the minds of children being exposed to sexuality through the Bible)

The passages leave little to the imagination and they include very fleshed out narratives surrounding the assaults. When the Bible is the only erotica you allow your children to read, they can develop fantasies regarding rape, sexual slavery, harems, gang-rape, humiliation and concubinage, bondage, and incest.

Of course, BDSM practices a variety of ways to act out those fantasies safely. But you can sure bet those practices were never taught in Christian homeschooling circles! People who thought about/did those sorts of things were “dirty,” “nasty,” and “freaks”!

Little did our parents know, their repression caused their children’s mind to wander in that direction.

Ironically, many people explained that Song of Solomon (arguably the most sexually explicit book in the Bible) as a metaphor for God and Israel! The only part of the Bible that arguably celebrates seemingly consensual sexuality was desexualized! For others, they were wholly banned from reading Song of Solomon.

How common was this experience of the Bible as erotica?

What were your most embarrassingly erotic Bible verses?

Now to share some of the most “charged” passages:

[Lot’s daughters, Genesis (19) : 33 – 36.] And they made their father drink wine that night: and the firstborn went in, and lay with her father; and he perceived not when she lay down, nor when she arose. And it came to pass on the morrow, that the firstborn said unto the younger, Behold, I lay yesternight with my father: let us make him drink wine this night also; and go thou in, and lie with him, that we may preserve seed of our father. And they made their father drink wine that night also: and the younger arose, and lay with him; and he perceived not when she lay down, nor when she arose. Thus were both the daughters of Lot with child by their father.

[Onan, Genesis (38) : 8 – 9.] And Judah said unto Onan, Go in unto thy brother’s wife, and marry her, and raise up seed to thy brother. And Onan knew that the seed should not be his; and it came to pass, when he went in unto his brother’s wife, that he spilled it on the ground, lest that he should give seed to his brother.

[Judah and Tamar, Genesis (38) : 15 – 18.] When Judah saw her, he thought her to be an harlot; because she had covered her face. And he turned unto her by the way, and said, Go to, I pray thee, let me come in unto thee; (for he knew not that she was his daughter in law.) And she said, What wilt thou give me, that thou mayest come in unto me? And he said, I will send thee a kid from the flock. And she said, Wilt thou give me a pledge, till thou send it? And he said, What pledge shall I give thee? And she said, Thy signet, and thy bracelets, and thy staff that is in thine hand. And he gave it her, and came in unto her, and she conceived by him.

[Ammon and Tamar2 Samuel 13] And it came to pass after this, that Absalom the son of David had a fair sister, whose name was Tamar; and Amnon the son of David loved her. And Amnon was so vexed, that he fell sick for his sister Tamar; for she was a virgin; and Amnon thought it hard for him to do anything to her… And Jonadab said unto him, Lay thee down on thy bed, and make thyself sick: and when thy father cometh to see thee, say unto him, I pray thee, let my sister Tamar come, and give me meat, and dress the meat in my sight, that I may see it, and eat it at her hand. So Amnon lay down, and made himself sick: and when the king was come to see him, Amnon said unto the king, I pray thee, let Tamar my sister come, and make me a couple of cakes in my sight, that I may eat at her hand.

Then David sent home to Tamar, saying, Go now to thy brother Amnon’s house, and dress him meat. So Tamar went to her brother Amnon’s house; and he was laid down. And she took flour, and kneaded it, and made cakes in his sight, and did bake the cakes. And she took a pan, and poured them out before him; but he refused to eat. And Amnon said, Have out all men from me. And they went out every man from him. And Amnon said unto Tamar, Bring the meat into the chamber, that I may eat of thine hand. And Tamar took the cakes which she had made, and brought them into the chamber to Amnon her brother.

And when she had brought them unto him to eat, he took hold of her, and said unto her, Come lie with me, my sister. And she answered him, Nay, my brother, do not force me; for no such thing ought to be done in Israel: do not thou this folly. And I, whither shall I cause my shame to go? and as for thee, thou shalt be as one of the fools in Israel. Now therefore, I pray thee, speak unto the king; for he will not withhold me from thee. Howbeit he would not hearken unto her voice: but, being stronger than she, forced her, and lay with her. Then Amnon hated her exceedingly; so that the hatred wherewith he hated her was greater than the love wherewith he had loved her. And Amnon said unto her, Arise, be gone. And she said unto him, There is no cause: this evil in sending me away is greater than the other that thou didst unto me. But he would not hearken unto her… And Absalom her brother said unto her, Hath Amnon thy brother been with thee? but hold now thy peace, my sister: he is thy brother; regard not this thing. So Tamar remained desolate in her brother Absalom’s house.

[Ezekiel (23) : 5 – 8.] And Aholah played the harlot when she was mine; and she doted on her lovers, on the Assyrians her neighbours, Which were clothed with blue, captains and rulers, all of them desirable young men, horsemen riding upon horses. Thus she committed her whoredoms with them, with all them that were the chosen men of Assyria, and with all on whom she doted: with all their idols she defiled herself. Neither left she her whoredoms brought from Egypt: for in her youth they lay with her, and they bruised the breasts of her virginity, and poured their whoredom upon her… And when her sister Aholibah saw this, she was more corrupt in her inordinate love than she, and in her whoredoms more than her sister in her whoredoms. She doted upon the Assyrians her neighbours, captains and rulers clothed most gorgeously, horsemen riding upon horses, all of them desirable young men. Then I saw that she was defiled, that they took both one way, And that she increased her whoredoms: for when she saw men pourtrayed upon the wall, the images of the Chaldeans pourtrayed with vermilion, Girded with girdles upon their loins, exceeding in dyed attire upon their heads, all of them princes to look to, after the manner of the Babylonians of Chaldea, the land of their nativity: And as soon as she saw them with her eyes, she doted upon them, and sent messengers unto them into Chaldea. And the Babylonians came to her into the bed of love, and they defiled her with their whoredom, and she was polluted with them, and her mind was alienated from them. So she discovered her whoredoms, and discovered her nakedness: then my mind was alienated from her, like as my mind was alienated from her sister. Yet she multiplied her whoredoms, in calling to remembrance the days of her youth, wherein she had played the harlot in the land of Egypt. For she doted upon their paramours, whose flesh is as the flesh of asses, and whose issue is like the issue of horses. Thus thou calledst to remembrance the lewdness of thy youth, in bruising thy teats by the Egyptians for the paps of thy youth.

[Proverbs (7) : 7 – 22] And beheld among the simple ones, I discerned among the youths, a young man void of understanding, Passing through the street near her corner; and he went the way to her house, In the twilight, in the evening, in the black and dark night: And, behold, there met him a woman with the attire of an harlot, and subtil of heart. (She is loud and stubborn; her feet abide not in her house: Now is she without, now in the streets, and lieth in wait at every corner.) So she caught him, and kissed him, and with an impudent face said unto him, I have peace offerings with me; this day have I payed my vows. Therefore came I forth to meet thee, diligently to seek thy face, and I have found thee. I have decked my bed with coverings of tapestry, with carved works, with fine linen of Egypt. I have perfumed my bed with myrrh, aloes, and cinnamon. Come, let us take our fill of love until the morning: let us solace ourselves with loves. For the goodman is not at home, he is gone a long journey: He hath taken a bag of money with him, and will come home at the day appointed. With her much fair speech she caused him to yield, with the flattering of her lips she forced him. He goeth after her straightway, as an ox goeth to the slaughter, or as a fool to the correction of the stocks.

Homeschool Sex Machine: Book Review by Lana Hope

 

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HA note: The following is reprinted with permission from Lana Hope’s blog Wide Open Ground. It was originally published on July 23, 2014.

I recently read Homeschool Sex Machine: Babies, Bible Quiz, and the Clinton Years. Written by Matthew Pierce, a homeschool alumni who is preparing to homeschool his own children, this short book is one man’s memory of the more insaner aspects of the conservative Christian homeschool movement. When Matthew first emailed me about his book, I knew this was a book I should read.

I am glad I did.

Homeschool Sex Machine is short, well-written, and funny. I say funny. Some of the remarks Matthew heard from the adults in the homeschool or fundamentalist Christian are not really funny. But Matthew managed to pull it off where I could laugh at the absurdity of it all.

Matthew’s story was different in mine in many respects. He was old enough to remember Clinton being elected as president. I was too young to remember. He is a guy; I am a girl. The purity culture affected his ability to dance with a girl during a high school dance. He went to a Christian school at the very end of high school, and even got a normal job. In high school, I just babysit for homeschool families, never went to school, never got a job, and certainly was never allowed to dance or friend a guy.

But no two stories are the same, and that’s what makes Matthew’s story so good. It’s important to see how a subculture plays out in a different person’s life.

So much rang familiar, such as Matthew’s story of a girl named Esmeralda who gave him a Chris Rice CD. Chris Rice! Chris Rice was the first CD I got that was not classical or hymn music. My friend gave it to me for my 16th birthday, and I remember praying that my mom would not take it away.

Matthew’s mother made him return the CD to his friend, for different reasons, but he still returned it, having never listened to it. He did not explain to the girl why he did not listen to the music. How do you explain these rules to outsiders?

Matthew also writes about a track his parents left on his dresser for him to discover. The track told the story of a group of Christians who started a Christian rock band. The track said that all the band members died of drugs and aids and stuff. Because: rock music is comes from the devil.

Matthew also talks about how he was taught by adults in the community that social workers are not Christian friendly, and how he was taught that social workers will investigate homeschool families and ask questions such as:

‘why are you studying the Bible so much? Would you rather watch cartoons?’

I liked cartoons. I also liked the Bible.

Okay, I laughed, because I remember being terribly afraid of social workers, and of course, the social workers would think we were weird for not having a TV. But I always knew we were weird anyway. But we were proud of it, because WE WERE SMARTER THAN PUBLIC SCHOOLERS AND WERE CHRISTIAN WARRIERS. As Matthew writes:

My parents insisted that I keep going to the local homeschool meetings. On one of these gatherings, a guest speaker informed us that in 30 years, no one in America except the homeschoolers would know how to read or write. (This was because we were chosen.)

I quote from the book a lot more, but it would be far more fun if you read it yourself.

If you were homeschooled yourself, this is a book worth reading. If you grew up fundamentalist anything, it’s also worth reading.

If you know anyone who was homeschooled, or who grew up in a religious subculture different from your own, I encourage you to read this too. It’s not that we want pity. I know that we all had weird childhoods, in different ways, but it’s always nice to try to understand a person who was raised different. With this book, you can do it while laughing.

For more about this book and an excerpt, go here. To buy the kindle edition, go here.

*****

HA note: Kierstyn King also reviewed Homeschool Sex MachineRead the review here.

Homeschool Sex Machine: Book Review by Kierstyn King

HA note: The following is reprinted with permission from Kierstyn King’s blog Bridging the Gap.  It was originally published on July 13, 2014.

Homeschool Sex Machine is a great way to understand what it’s like to grow up male in the midst of purity culture.
Homeschool Sex Machine is a great way to understand what it’s like to grow up male in the midst of purity culture.

The author of Homeschool Sex Machine, Matthew Pierce, writes from his perspective growing up in a religious homeschool environment where purity culture reigned supreme and being pubescent meant you were trouble.

I read it earlier last week, and was just overcome with feels. It’s a short read – and captures that cringe-y kind of hilarity that you get when you read something funny but it’s also oh-so-relateable. That “been there” kind of thing that reminds you of when you were also a young pubescent kid trapped in that crazy world, and the mental lengths you went to so you could maintain purity but still also…be dealing with puberty.

Homeschool Sex Machine is also a great way to understand what it’s like to grow up male in the midst of purity culture. As much as I could relate, it was also eye opening to notice just where some of the emphasis changed. While Matthew maybe wasn’t told to cover up or get raped, the idea of attraction being evil (and by proxy dehumanizing women to be temptresses placed by satan, and men mere hormone balls) and all that entails was rampant. When your complete virginity and purity is the most important thing about you, things get fucked up pretty fast. Crushes? what are those even? pre-marriage feelings? sounds like a bad idea.

Anyway, I could go on, but for a cheeky look at purity culture and growing up in that world, just…go read the book.

It’s funny, it’s cathartic, it’s a little uncomfortable in a good way, but mostly, it’s just good. Find it on amazon.

*****

HA note: Lana Hope also reviewed Homeschool Sex Machine! Read the review here.

Something Is Wrong With Me: Jane’s Story

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

I grew up with the Pearl books surrounding me.

My dad had cases of their “To Train up a Child.” The church moms and young married women were constantly talking about Debi’s book “Created to be his Help Meet.” This book was given to every young lady either getting married or recently married. However, in my teenage years my mom thought that the book was not age appropriate to me (I might start asking what sex was!), so I was not allowed to read it.

Despite not being allowed to read it, I picked up on many of the themes in the book from listening to the other ladies in the church talking about it. I remember many times hearing the women talking about what “type” of husband they had. I heard enough of that that I could even figure out what “type” my father and brothers were and especially what type I wanted my husband to be (or not to be – my dad was a “steady” and honestly I couldn’t stand his methodic ways most of the time).

Despite not being allowed to read many books when I was a teenager, I was great at reading books on the sly. When I was 16, I managed to pick up “Created to be his Help Meet” for a few minutes while visiting my recently married sister. Of all the pages to open up to, my highly hormonal, sexually awakening yet so innocent teenage self opened the book to the “Bad Bob” story. I found the story on another website (which also has a great commentary on this story), and reprinted it here (trigger warning for misogynistic language):

*****

Bad Bob

In the following story, the characters, Bob and Lydia, are composites drawn from counseling sessions of two different couples. We have heard the same basic story many times over while ministering to countless married people. 

Bob had an upset stomach and was not hungry, so his family dropped him off at the motel where they would be staying, and then they went to get something to eat. His dad never let them watch the motel TV, but Bob knew they would be gone for at least an hour, and he was bored. The first scene that he saw held him riveted. The music was sensual. Bob stared, trapped in his own shocked silence. There before him in slow motion was a woman walking up steps. All he could see was the woman’s behind encased in a short leather skirt that was slit up the backside. The camera slowly shifted down her long slender thighs until he could see the backless high heels. Then it traveled slowly up her long legs focusing on the open slit as she climbed. He watched as she reached the top of the stairs and stepped into a room; still the camera stayed on her legs. Bob’s heart pounded in anticipation. The soft music began to swell as the camera climbed. A sound on the outside of the motel door jerked Bob back to the present. He hit the off button with such force as to crack the remote and then flung it across the room as if it were a poisonous spider. False alarm, no one was there, but after only two minutes of a mere introduction to soft porn, Bob would never be the same. That day was the first day that Bob masturbated. He was 13 years old.

Two years later, Bob was sitting in church when Lydia, the youth director’s wife, stood up directly in front of him to take her youngest child to the bathroom. His mouth got terribly dry as he stared at her round behind encased in a tight leather skirt with a slit up the back. It is true that Lydia’s skirt was several inches longer than the one that was no part of his daydreams, but when Lydia bent over to pick up the child, several of the young men sitting behind her slowly covered their laps with their songbooks. Bob almost hated Lydia after that day. She was responsible for his torment and temptation. The force of those few seconds of soft porn 2 years earlier, along with the stretched material pulled dangerously high as Lydia leaned over, caused him to empty his semen into his pants, right there in church, resulting in a large wet spot. He found a use for his Bible that day after church. It covered his shame as he rushed out to the van to take the back seat. A week later Bob dropped out of the youth group. His sudden departure puzzled and saddened the earnest youth director. He went to Bob to ask him if there was anything Bob wanted to talk about. Bitter bile filled Bob’s mouth at the memory of the youth director’s wife slowly walking up the church steps with her tight skirt and high-heeled shoes, just like the woman on the TV. Lydia, with her sanctimonious smile, did not deceive him; how could she be so dumb as to not know exactly what she was doing to him? No, he had nothing to talk about, he told Lydia’s stupid husband.

Lydia never knew she had shamed her husband, hurt his ministry, and caused a young man to smolder with bitter hatred and almost falter on the edge of quitting the faith. She would not have believed me (or perhaps she would have been secretly pleased at what she thought was her beauty) if I had pulled her aside and explained how the young men at church were reacting to her and why several treated her with such distain. She would have explained to me that her style was just “her style,” and they needed to get a grip. I know this because I have talked to many Lydias.

Bob had not looked at porn since that first night, but his mind was in a constant struggle, and his battle with masturbation was never-ending. Opened or low-cut shirts were a misery to him. Bare midriffs were bad too, but a girl who had long slender thighs coming to the meetings in mid-length shorts or skirts made him miserable beyond belief.

When Bob was 22 years old, he met a sweet, little peach of a girl with soft, warm eyes and a good, clean heart. They married, and Bob was relieved that his miseries were finally over. For the first three years she was sexually exciting, and he was able to fully enjoy what before had shamed and frustrated him in his youth. He known knew blessed relief from his old enemy, lust, which was finally brought under control in his pure marriage relationship.

Life never seems to roll out easy, and after Bob’s wife had her second child, she stopped being so responsive to Bob in the bedroom. Her excuses were exhaustion, sickness, didn’t want to get pregnant, didn’t feel like it, it hurt because “something seems wrong inside me now,” etc. She knew she had to give him sex once a week, but she came to him half-heartedly, which caused him to never really get total satisfaction. The women at work always dressed sexy and had tried to provoke Bob, but he saw them as a bunch of diseased animals, so although they provoked him, he resented it.

Church was different. Church ladies seemed clean and wholesome. At 25 years old, Bob was in his prime, and he needed his woman. God had designed his body with a sensitive trigger that needed release at least 2 or 3 times a week. He had developed certain habits in order to avoid unexpected temptations. His wife had no idea why he had such strange habits, like picking the spot where they would sit in the church, but she just sat where he led her. Lydia was not a problem anymore. Thankfully, the few years that had passed had played havoc on her beautiful behind and thighs. Bob smiled and said “hi” when he saw her walk by. She still tried to pull on that stupid “what did I do” look, like she really didn’t know why he had always disliked her. It was true, he still did not like her and found a certain sense of gratification at the demise of her beauty. Seeing her made Bob remember when her husband, the youth director, was teaching a small group meeting of young married men, explaining to them that all women go through times of total disinterest in sex, including his own wife, and how important it was to be vigilant against lust during those times. He had felt sorry for him at the time, but now Bob’s own little honey had turned off her water spigot of sweet loving.

“Vigilant, I must be vigilant.” Bob was scanning the church building looking for a safe place to sit when he felt his wife pulling on his arm. “I want to sit over behind the Chandler family.” Bob’s alarm went off. Three tall, long-legged, beautiful teenage girls, who liked tighter, shorter skirts, were members of the Chandler family. He groaned with irritation. His wife caught the groan and took offense. He wished he could explain all this complicated mess to his wife, but she would only get jealous and spend the rest of his life watching where and who he was looking at…. He allowed her to lead him into the row of temptation. If anyone could see his mind while he sat behind the Chandler girls, they would have had him arrested. He knew he was Bad Bob, full of lust, anger, frustration, and defeat. Somehow he always thought bitterly of Lydia when he was feeling defeated: “What a fat cow, no, not a cow, she’s a pig.”

*****

I know this story has so many things wrong with it on so many levels, but I will leave that to others to discuss.

Today I want to talk about what that story did to me and my idea of sexuality. You could probably say I grew up without sex education. My mom went to great extent to not discuss sex with me. In fact, at the age of 16, I was still terrified to sleep in the same bed that my brothers had slept in without changing the sheets because I thought I would get pregnant by my brothers – and that would be the ultimate sin and shame!

When I read Debi’s story, I thought I was given a great secret into the mind of a man.

Between this story and also sneak reading “For Women Only” by Shaunti Feldhahn, I formed the idea that men were sex robots that could be completely turned on and ready to hammer me from just glancing at my butt in tight jeans. Despite rejecting many of the teachings of my fundamental upbringing, I didn’t realize these views on men’s sexuality were so wrong. I hadn’t connected these ideas to the religion because I had never been exposed to how men really were (after all, I could never openly talk about this!). I found these teachings haunted my sexual life years after I had left everything resembling fundamentalism behind. Here I was, thinking that it was a fact of life that men could ejaculate in their pants by just seeing my butt through a tight skirt.

When I became sexually active and eventually married, I thought there was something wrong, ugly, and not womanly about me. Why? Because these men were not aroused the way Debi said they would be by my body. My husband can see me butt naked and may not necessarily be aroused just by the fact that he can see my naked body. This was extremely hurtful for me when all my life I had been taught that the slightest peek of my body could have a man ready to tear my clothes off.

I thought something was extremely wrong with me.

After time and time again of not seeing men aroused the way I was taught they should be by my body, I started to get obsessed with it. I think somewhere deep inside I knew that I wasn’t a defective woman and I wanted to prove that to myself. I turned to man after man to see if I could find one man that reacted to me the way Debi said they should. After all, I thought something was wrong with me, not Debi’s idea of men. I wreaked havoc on my young life with this obsession and felt an immense amount of shame for the extent I went to try to prove that I was actually womanly the way Debi said I should be.

Thankfully, I met my wonderful husband and slowly healed. It wasn’t easy, but over time I think I have gained a more healthy view of men’s sexuality. Or at least realized that I am a normal woman and my husband is a normal man. There’s nothing wrong with either of us, even though he does not react the way Debi says he should. On a side note, he doesn’t even need that release 2 to 3 times a week just to remain faithful to me. I am grateful to say there’s so much more to him than that.

I think one thing Debi (and many other fundamental Christian authors) has done is she writes thinking that the younger, homeschooled, sheltered generation will have many the same experiences as she has. After all, most parents first got a healthy view on men’s sexuality before they are exposed to radical ideas such as Debi’s. By having some exposure to the real world, the parents are able to balance it out more than the sheltered kids are.

I don’t think Debi realizes how much these young, innocent girls truly believe her.

After all, she’s married and she knows what a man is actually like. She knows that her story isn’t entirely the real world. But these sheltered girls don’t know. These sheltered girls spend their entire lives making sure to not have men ejaculating in their pants only to reach the marriage bed and be extremely disappointed when they meet a real man. No one ever told them that sometimes they might be met with a soft dong. If no one ever told them that, they will think something is wrong with them. I don’t know how many of these disappointed young girls took the same route as me.

I don’t know how many of these poor girls may have destructively turned from man to man just trying to prove they are as womanly as Debi says they are.

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.

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.