Dear Big Sister: E’s Story

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HA note: E shared this open letter with HA and said, “I wanted to offer a contribution to the Siblings series regarding what I can only call emotional incest.”

Dear Big Sister,

You were my first and often my only friend.  In the early days of our lives it was just you and me.  Homeschooling was new in our community, there were few other children for us to play with and we lived in the country with acres of woods and pastures all to ourselves.  We built castles in the trees, picked mulberries behind the house, blazed trails through the weeds, gathered up our skirts and waded through creeks, climbed, fell, scraped, bruised, laughed, ran, and lived together.  We were dinosaurs, runaways, horses, lions, detectives, unicorns, secret agents.  We were always together, every day, every hour.

Sometimes I wonder if that togetherness is what hurt you.  Sometimes I wonder if that’s why you never learned to let go.

We grew up.  Still, we were together.  Grandpa said that we were amazing because we never fought.  That was not completely true, but fights were rare.  We were very different people but sometimes I think we forgot that.  Our personailties, our interests, our feelings were different, but people rarely saw that.  We were still “the girls” we still mostly went to the same activities and were in the same places.  Now we had more opportunities and friends to be with, but still, apart from a few hours each week, we were always together.  Always, always together.

And then you went to college.  Yes, it was hard for me at first.  You had always been there.  Now you rarely called, you rarely came home, you had new friends and a new life.  But I adapted, I had my own friends and I developed my own interests and I learned to be with myself.  Two years later, I went across the country to my own college and I realized I was happy for you that you had your own life, that I had my own life, that we could be apart and still be close.  It was okay.  We didn’t have to be together all the time.  Right?

Isn’t that right?

I don’t know when your grip on me started to tighten.  I can’t put my finger on when you changed or if you had always been this way.  It seemed to start slowly.  I would call you and you would be angry with me for not calling you sooner.  I was confused; we were both busy with our own lives.  If you had wanted to talk why hadn’t you called?  How was I to know that you were expecting me to call more often?  You brushed my confusion aside, demanded an apology.  I gave it.  I was sorry.  I hadn’t meant to hurt you.

But it didn’t end there.  It happened again.  And again.  And then it started to spread.  When I would come home, you would demand my time.  Talking to anyone else, spending time with anyone else made you angry.  You needed to be included in absolutely everything.  Time with just friends, personal outings, none of that was allowed.  My dates with my boyfriend even became a point of contention… you wanted to be invited along.  Again and again, apologies were demanded.  I was being callous, cruel, insulting for living a life that didn’t involve you at every second.  That wasn’t how it was supposed to be.

I was confused, but I apologized.  I was an unsocialized homeschooled dweeb.  What did I know about social etiquette?  Surely I was in the wrong.

Soon, you were angry with me for even having a phone conversation with my significant other without conferencing you in.  You were angry with me for inviting you to an outing with friends because I hadn’t allowed you to pick the activity.  You were angry with me for accepting invitations to social events from friends that hadn’t included you.  You were angry with me for not hanging up on my significant other immediately when you decided you wanted to go do something with me.  And you were always, always angry with me for initiating contact with you by email or over the phone because it was never soon enough, it was never good enough, it was never the specific way that you had wanted me to contact you.

And you demanded your apologies over and over.  And I tried to explain myself over and over, but nothing would satisfy you.  So I would abase myself, I would apologize, I would wonder why I could never do things right.

Sister, I love you, but we are not the same person.  Our lives are separate.  Our personalities are separate.  We are not two isolated, lonely homeschooled children anymore.

When I came out as gay to you, I had hoped to find an ally.  I knew our parents would not accept it, but you had long been questioning the morals of our upbringing.  I hoped that I could trust you.  And at first, you seemed open, accepting, welcoming.  You encouraged me, you told me that you would protect my secret.

I wonder if it was your jealousy and your possessiveness that led you to change your mind.  When you changed, it was sudden and vicious.  Your possession of me escalated as you found an ultimate enemy in my same-sex partner.  You tried everything to prevent me from spending time with her or even mentioning her around you.  Open hostility, passive-aggressive behavior, the cold shoulder, emotional manipulation, shouting, lying, poisoning friends and family against me, and spiritual abuse were your tactics.  At the time, I thought it was about morality and homosexuality.  I no longer think it was.

I think, in your opposition to my same-sex relationship, you found what you believed to be a moral high-ground and a justification for your possessive, destructive behavior.  Suddenly, your controlling tendencies were applauded and supported by your family and the community around you.  Even today, you say that homosexuality “isn’t that big of a deal.”  At first that confused me.  It seemed like a complete reversal of your opinion.  But no, I don’t think this was ever really about me being gay.  It wasn’t about me at all.  I think it is about you and how you never learned to let go.

But Sister, I finally learned to be wise.  I finally realized that our relationship was not normal, not healthy, and not my fault.  I stopped apologizing.  I stopped abasing myself.  I stopped playing your game.  And oh, how angry that made you.  Every phone call, every attempt to talk to you, to have a relationship resulted in shouting, anger, and emotional abuse.  You lashed out at me when I drove across state lines to see your Masters degree graduation because I did not agree to stay overnight at your apartment.  You lashed out at me when I invited you to my wedding, not because you were opposed to the gender of my partner, but because I had not previously demonstrated enough devotion to you for you to want to attend.

You are the reason that there is only silence between us now.

I don’t know what made you the way you are.  I don’t know if it could have been different.  I don’t know if you would have been healthier and happier if we had been able to grow up with a little more separation and distance between us.  I can only speculate.

But I want you to know, I’m not that lonely, dependent little girl anymore, who was attached to your hip, who followed you everywhere, who was always with you.

I love you, Sister. But we can’t be together anymore.

Love, E

In Which the Pieces Come Together: By Jeri Lofland

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Jeri’s post was originally published on her blog Heresy in the Heartland  on November 3, 2013. It is reprinted with her permission. Also by Jeri on HA: “Generational Observations”, “Of Isolation and Community”“His Quiver Full of Them”“David Noebel, Summit Ministries, and the Evil of Rock”“The Political Reach of Bill Gothard”, and “Bill Gothard on Education”, and “Ken Ham: The Evolution of a Bully.”

At some point in my growing up, I realized that my family was dysfunctional.

While outsiders saw us as picture-perfect and held us in regard as a model of the ideal Christian family, we knew our Sunday-best was an illusion or at best, just one facet of who and what we were. There were a lot of good times, certainly, but there was also tension. And no matter how much fun we were having, we never let our guard down.

I have spent the last year seriously unpacking what I’ve carried from my family of origin. In the process, I’ve gradually learned a new vocabulary describing the ways that dysfunction affected me:

According to a report on Developmental Trauma Disorder by Dr. Bessel van der Kolk,

When children are unable to achieve a sense of control and stability they become helpless. If they are unable to grasp what is going on and unable do anything about it to change it, they go immediately from (fearful) stimulus to (fight/flight/freeze) response without being able to learn from the experience. Subsequently, when exposed to reminders of a trauma (sensations, physiological states, images, sounds, situations) they tend to behave as if they were traumatized all over again – as a catastrophe. Many problems of traumatized children can be understood as efforts to minimize objective threat and to regulate their emotional distress. Unless caregivers understand the nature of such re-enactments they are liable to label the child as “oppositional”, ‘rebellious”, “unmotivated”, and “antisocial”.

When trauma emanates from within the family children experience a crisis of loyalty and organize their behavior to survive within their families. Being prevented from articulating what they observe and experience, traumatized children will organize their behavior around keeping the secret, deal with their helplessness with compliance or defiance, and accommodate in any way they can to entrapment in abusive or neglectful situations.

These children… tend to communicate the nature of their traumatic past by repeating it in the form of interpersonal enactments, in their play and in their fantasy lives.

So many of Dr. van der Kolk’s observations resonate with me. And in an odd way, I find it reassuring to discover that professionals can accurately describe the ways in which my siblings and I coped with our traumatic upbringing. We were not anomalies; we were not “broken”; we were not “messed up”. As children, we responded understandably–even predictably–to unsettling circumstances beyond our control.

Our parents were told by Bill Gothard and Michael Farris and Mary Pride and Doug Phillips, by Raymond Moore and Gregg Harris and even James Dobson, that God had given them (parents) responsibility for their children’s education and that by taking our education into their own hands, they could have the loving, God-fearing family they always wanted. Our parents accepted the challenge, choosing to raise us in an environment totally different from any they had known before. In a system totally different from their own experience. In a culture totally different from that of our peers. But in some cases, that system failed dismally.

My ten siblings and I are only a tiny representation of the thousands (millions?) of children who grew up in conservative religious homeschooling homes.

Many of those homes were unhealthy, and socially isolated; many were abusive. And many of us are survivors. The symptoms we have dealt with along the way are not signs that we were rebellious or lazy or crazy or influenced by demons–they are simply signs that our young brains reacted normally to the challenges our parents created for us when we were vulnerable and doing the best we could to make sense of the strange and sometimes painful world in which we found ourselves.

Now that I have children trusting me to show them the world, I am finally able to feel empathy for my younger self. I see myself at my children’s ages, and grieve the losses that little girl was not able to properly mourn at the time because she had to be strong and she had to be good. That little girl discovered early that it was safer to ally herself with her caregivers–who were bent on pleasing God–than with the rest of her culture–who were displeasing him every day. That little girl learned to cooperate with and even defend the very people who were traumatizing her, even when this only created more cognitive dissonance.

Now I find nurturing my children and tuning in to their specific needs to be healing to me. Observing them, I am better able to recognize my own likes and dislikes and fears, the things that make me feel supported, the things that make feel threatened, the things that make me feel brave.

I have carried a lot with me since leaving the home of my childhood. I felt I had to hang onto it to find out what exactly it was.

Now that I am able to label the way I felt as a girl, it is easier to let those feelings go and move on with a better, healthier life.

Voices of Sister-Moms: Part One, Introduction

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HA note: This series is reprinted with permission from Heather Doney’s guest series on her blog, Becoming Worldly. Part One was originally published  with the title “Quiverfull Sorority of Survivors (QFSOS) & Voices of ‘Sister-Moms'” on June 24, 2013. This is a slightly modified version of the original post. If you have a Quiverfull “sister-Mom” story you would like to share, email Heather at becomingworldly (at) gmail (dot) com.

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Also in this series: Part One: Introduction by Heather Doney | Part Two: DoaHF’s Story | Part Three: Maia’s Story | Part Four: Electra’s Story | Part Five: Samantha Field’s Story | Part Six: Mary’s Story

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Part One: Introduction by Heather Doney

I hosted a guest blog series about the experiences of “sister-Moms” in Quiverfull families.

This was actually the first time I’ve had people do guest posts on Becoming Worldly. I was excited about it  — and really couldn’t think of a better topic to start with!

Before beginning with the first guest post, an account by a young woman who’s going by “DoaHF,” I figured a brief intro about the kinds of issues young women and girls who were raised in these sorts of environments often face would be appropriate. This intro is a generalization. But based on my experiences, research, reading blogs, and conversations with many other Quiverfull/Christian patriarchy daughters, the following troubling patterns and issues for girls emerge:

  • Being a “parental child” and having an adult level of responsibility within the home starting at a young age.
  • Inappropriate and enmeshed relationships with parents, particularly fathers, encouraged by daughter-to-father purity pledges, purity balls, and purity rings and teachings saying that daughters are under their father’s “spiritual covering,” much like a junior wife of sorts, until (and if) they receive permission to marry through a parent-guided or arranged process.
  • Lack of age-appropriate financial, social, emotional, physical, or educational independence during formative years (and often into adulthood).
  • Social isolation and indoctrination as part of a controlled, restricted, and separatist “us v. the ungodly world” perspective.

In May I briefly spoke out about my personal experiences as part of a BBC World Radio Heart & Soul documentary on the Quiverfull movement. The “A Womb Is A Weapon” radio piece is half an hour long, with some adorable British accents and one distinctive New Zealand one. I speak starting at minute 11, and Nancy Campbell totally sounds like a racist Disney villain. Yep…not even kidding!

Within this sort of isolated, dogmatic, and restricted environment where the parents are consumed by what they see as duty to “the Father,” the eldest daughters of Quiverfull families are enlisted as junior mothers to their own siblings. While Quiverfull proponents such as Nancy Campbell often talk about how helpful this system is to mothers of large families and focus on how much these daughters are learning about childcare, the drawbacks of the lifestyle to the daughters doing this constant care are numerous. They are only recently coming to light because, as these daughters ourselves, we speaking are out about them.

That is the focus of this “Voices of Sister-Moms” guest post series.

Note: The rest of these issues apply to daughters of Christian patriarchy as well as Quiverfull daughters. While many in Christian patriarchy families did not have to care for numerous siblings, most still had the rest of the accompanying teachings, rules, and expectations.

The “Dad in charge of everything, particularly guarding his daughter from the interest of young men” is a standard thing in Christian patriarchy (with a watered-down and often more symbolic version of this occurring in mainstream society). But it can become much more extreme when a daughter is homeschooled. Then she literally can be hidden away from all outside men and boys, encouraged to look to Daddy as the manliest of manly examples in her life, and I don’t think I have to get into how very wrong this can sometimes go.

Daughters who do eventually disobey or disagree with their fathers (often by choosing higher education without approval or planning to marry someone he disapproves of) describe a subsequent shunning that takes place by dear old Dad as being “like a bad breakup.”

This, folks, can be referred to by the icky name for what it actually is — emotional incest.

Some young women report not being allowed to work outside the home in their teens and early 20′s, others report being able to do so under heavy monitoring and sometimes then only at certain types of workplaces seen as appropriately “feminine” or gender-segregated enough, and others report being able to only work in or start home-based businesses or do tutoring and childcare. Some report engaging in long hours of unpaid labor for family businesses, others being forced to turn over their earnings to their parents, and others having what they are allowed to spend their savings on tightly controlled by their parents.

Either way, becoming physically and financially independent is often not allowed.

A number of Quiverfull/Christian patriarchy daughters say that they were not permitted to get their diploma, a GED, or their drivers license. Some even did not have social security numbers issued to them due to being the product of an unreported home birth.  Their parents chose to use withholding these things as a way to control them. Some have even said that they were told it would be their future husband’s choice as to whether they eventually got these things, or were simply told that they would not need them for a life of housewifery and motherhood.

For many, a college education is intentionally set out of reach, whether being described as an unbecoming or immoral goal for daughters.

The young woman is repeatedly told she is not intelligent enough or doesn’t have the right aptitudes to obtain higher education. Or her parents might refuse to sign FAFSA paperwork enabling her to be eligible for student financial aid.

Many girls report only being able to socialize with siblings or the daughters of likeminded families, and then only under supervision, steeped in a strong “informant culture” inculcated into the children that generally curtails secret-telling. In addition to often being kept away from peers, most girls report being encouraged or required to wear “modest” dresses that are several sizes too big or more appropriate for someone several years younger or a great deal older, having their Internet and phone conversations closely monitored, and having friendships with boys disallowed or ended for superficial reasons.

Another thing often mentioned by young women who grew up in Quiverfull and Christian patriarchy homes is that very coercive and often both emotionally and physically abusive “discipline methods” were regularly used on them to keep them toeing the parental line. “Spankings” that consist of multiple hard hits with a belt, a piece of plumbing line, or a wooden stick or utensil (sometimes occurring well into their teenage years), “taking of privileges” that may include meals or basic necessities, and being put “on restriction” by being given punishing chores and/or temporarily shunned and shamed by the family for any form of questioning or disobeying.

Often there are threats of having even minimal contact with the outside world removed and replaced with punishments if a girl gives so much as a hint of showing disagreement or displeasure towards her parents, which is referred to as “having a bad attitude.”

As such, smiling and “being joyful” are often the only moods permitted for young women like us and the struggles with depression, guilt, self-harm, and self-esteem that might be expected in such an emotionally repressive environment occur with regularity. In addition, and this is often reported to be one of the most painful of the control techniques, young women raised in Quiverfull/Christian patriarchy families often are told that they are risking their very souls, God’s wrath, and the entrance of demonic and satanic forces into their lives if they do not “honor their mother and father” by cheerfully complying with every parental request. Some parents will also tell their children that the bible permits and may even require rebellious offspring to be put to death.

For most young women who do choose to leave (or are forced to leave) the Quiverfull/Christian patriarchy way of life, the outside world can be quite overwhelming and scary in many ways and the transition difficult on many levels. Some initially find shelter in marriage and family, others though university attendance, others through paid employment, and still others through the help of extended family and friends.

A few even manage to find their way to places like Meadowhaven for cult deprogramming.

As we come of age and grow in our understanding of what happened to us and gather to tell our stories, there is a sense of comfort, healing, and solidarity in finally being able to compare and share our experiences, to know that we are not broken, we did not “imagine things,” and we are not alone. Together we can face the truth and recognize (if not come to an in-depth understanding of something seemingly so unfathomable) that the indoctrination that took place in our formative years was indeed done by the same people who brought us into this world and our parents were likely indoctrinated themselves.

While growing up in this lifestyle may seem pretty extreme or foreign to someone looking at it from the outside (or even to someone like me who grew up in it but didn’t really see it through this sort of framework until many years later) there is something important to keep in mind. First, it was normal for us because it was what we knew. Also, although it certainly can bring hardship and pain — after all we never asked or chose to be raised in such an environment — there are many strong, smart, dedicated, and likable young women who have escaped it and “pass for normal” in our society today.

I have so much respect for many of the ones I’ve had the honor of meeting and getting to know and look forward to being introduced to more.

When you choose to move on despite the fear, the hardships, the shouted threats by “leaders” and patriarchs, even while knowing you may face a loss of connection with your own family, you do it because something inside you says you have to be free to live, not because you want to leave your loved ones behind. Despite the unnecessary hardships that many of us have had to overcome (and are still overcoming), today we know that we have both the right and the ability to let ourselves out of the cage that this harsh and harmful lifestyle is.

As more of us come of age, more will continue to do so.

We hope to make it easier for them.

The Quiverfull/Christian patriarchy movement is still young. It’s mostly the “big sisters” who are speaking out right now.

But as time goes on our little sisters will likely join us.

So while these sorts of formative experiences do leave scars, today those of us who are out can choose what directions we would like our lives to go. We can take back these stolen parts of our lives. And as we let others know what happened and how we felt about it, we can find assurance in the knowledge that we are discovering and shedding light on a dark side of human nature. We are also highlighting the resilience of the human spirit and the power of community.

We might have each felt hopelessly alone and silenced while we went through this stuff before, as children, teens, and young women. But we are not alone today.

We now have the words and confidence to share what happened to us, what is still happening to others, and the confidence to ask you to understand and help us do something about it.

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To be continued.

Excerpt: 10 Things I Plan to Tell My Daughter About Sex That Aren’t That Purity Movement Crap

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Note from Nicholas Ducote, HA Community Coordinator:

I have often wrestled with what I will tell my children (when my wife and I decide to have children) when they start becoming “sexually aware.” It’s easy for me, as a newly married twenty-five year old to critique the way I was raised.

I feel that this article by “Jef With One F,” recently published by the Houston Press, is one that I would pass on to my daughters when the time came.

It offers succinct, practical advice for sex and sexual relationships in the twenty-first century. The Houston Press gave me permission to provide an excerpt here on Homeschoolers Anonymous.

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10 Things I Plan to Tell My Daughter About Sex That Aren’t That Purity Movement Crap

By Jef With One F

Against my better judgment I’ve been doing a lot of reading on the purity movement. If you’ve never been exposed to it, then I’ll explain. The idea is basically that you, as a father, are supposed to serve as the sole male influence in your daughter’s life until she gets married. You “guard her heart (and vagina)” because only you can be trusted with it…

…Better writers than I, like Libby Anne, have tackled the subject in depth, and you should spend an afternoon reading her work. She went through it as a daughter of movement, though. I’m a dad, and I am perfectly aware that the sexual health of this child is going to be part of my job…

Here are the ten things I know I need to tell a modern girl about sex once she matures enough to roll her eyes throughout the conversation.

10. That sex is beautiful and fun as hell, but so is driving a car and a bunch of other things that come with responsibilities. You need to ask yourself if you can handle those. I knew I couldn’t be trusted with a car at 16, so I didn’t ask for one. Same with sex. I waited until I knew I was with someone that wouldn’t use me wrong and knew what they were doing. You shouldn’t be afraid of it, but you should respect its possible consequences, such a pregnancy, disease, and just the general mess that sometimes come from sleeping with someone you shouldn’t have.

9. That someone that feels the need to lie, trick, or force you into sex is never going to be the slightest bit interested in your enjoyment of it. You might as well be a gym sock as far as they’re concerned. Don’t be a trophy.

8. That you should never do anything that will make you hate yourself to gain another person’s approval. You are not defined by the approval of others, and anyone who says you are wants to control you. You are your own person with your own unique value to yourself.

7. Your body belongs to you. Anyone that doesn’t respect that is an enemy. Run if you can, fight if you can’t, and never let someone convince you asked for or deserved it if all else fails. If a person makes you feel that they can fire you or fail you in a class or something if you don’t return their affections then they are just a rapist that doesn’t like to go out. Leave and tell someone immediately, because if it wasn’t you it will be someone else…

Check out the full article here.

Asexuality And Purity Teachings Can Be A Toxic Mix: Christine

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

I am an asexual. This means that I feel the same amount of sexual attraction for men that a straight man does, and the same amount of sexual attraction to women that a straight woman does. I remember that the conservative community denied the existence of asexuality, but I can’t remember the exact reason. I think it was something along the lines of ‘they’re just celibate’ or ‘they’re just abstinent’. However, many celibate or abstinent people feel sexual attraction, and many asexuals are not celibate or abstinent. To learn more about what asexuality is and is not, this is a great informative video:

I don’t know whether I was born this way or whether it has roots in my upbringing. All I know is that this is the way I am and the doctors say it has nothing to do with my hormones.

You’d think that asexuality would be a good fit for someone raised in a purity culture. However, due to the ignorance some are deliberately kept in about our own bodies, feelings, reproduction, and sexuality, asexuality and purity teachings can be a toxic mix.

Many homeschoolers try to ‘protect’ their children from knowledge about sex, sexuality, and reproduction. My parents fit into this category. As a result, I didn’t learn about human reproduction until I was in college, and didn’t learn that other people experience sexual attraction. Or rather, I misunderstood what sexual attraction was. I thought ‘being attracted’ to someone meant thinking they were smart, or good looking, or fun, because those were the kinds of attraction I experienced. As a teenager, I developed crushes based on those attractions. I did not know that other people experienced the world a different way, so I did not know that my experience was different or that I was asexual.

Due to the way my mother covered the TV screen when a couple would begin to lightly kiss in the 1940s comedies we were allowed to watch – and in the rare other shows and movies we were able to watch – I received the impression that all affectionate touching between a man and a woman was ‘sexual’. After all, sexual lust was supposed to be a desire that we all feel, and the desire I felt was one for affection. I wanted to be hugged, long and firmly. I wanted to lie with my head in my crush’s lap while he stroked my hair. I desired these things so badly it hurt, but I believed that they were obscenely sexual thoughts that I must, and did, repent of in tears. It wasn’t helped at all by the fact that our pastors and community leaders taught that the slightest amount of affectionate touch between a man and a woman was sin, must be avoided at all cost, would sully us for our future spouse, and would lead to procreational intercourse. “Don’t heat up the oven if you’re not going to put something inside” they said – and completely missing the sexual reference of that statement, I thought it meant ‘don’t touch someone if you’re not ready to procreate with them’.

There was also the problem that having a crush on someone was called, a la Josh Harris and his book ‘I kissed dating goodbye’, ‘giving away a piece of your heart’. Someone went further than this and said that having a crush on someone you weren’t married to was being an ’emotional whore’. So I had a huge amount of guilt about my crushes, even though they weren’t sexual (which I didn’t know). As a teenager, my best friend told me that ‘girls like us’ don’t have or respond to crushes on boys. My mother told me that homeschooled girls who talked to boys ‘are the ones they like now, but not the kind of girl they’ll marry.’

The long and the short of it is that a lack of information about sex and sexuality combined with the sexual-attraction-blindness of my asexuality led to many, many painful hours and tears over very innocent matters. It also led to ignorance of my orientation, which is not helpful when you hope to meet a compatible spouse, and which caused a lot of complications in my relationships.

There was another toxic teaching that reacted badly with my asexuality. There’s a letter in Paul’s epistles that was taught by our pastors and leaders as follows: A wife must allow her husband to have sex with her whenever he likes. This teaching is obviously toxic by itself. But for an asexual who doesn’t know she’s asexual and for whom this is the entirety of her sex-ed, this is what I thought sex was. Sex was something a man does to a woman. “It’s clear from nature, from very human biology” said Douglass Wilson, author of “Her Hand in Marriage” and the Credenda Agenda, “that men are for initiating and women are for responding.” (my paraphrasing) After leaving my family and starting into the world on my own, I decided that I didn’t think premarital sex was sinful, but that I personally didn’t want to have sex until after marriage (due to my desire for sex being tied very closely with reproduction). When my boyfriend raped me, I felt horrible but thought it was sex. I thought to complain about it to a friend would be to say that sex was wrong. So I stayed with my boyfriend and tried, futily, to convince him to ‘not have sex with me unless I wanted it.’

The above story wasn’t helped by the fact that I had not been taught about ‘good touch’ and ‘bad touch’. As a child, I was taught that I must always put my own interests and feelings aside and serve other people, and not argue. My body had never been my own – not when my parents coerced me to hug someone (‘to make them feel loved’) or when they’d told me to pull down my pants so that they could give me more spankings, or walked into the room while I was getting dressed, or had to go to a homeschool class when I had a 104 degree fever. So I was unused to being in touch with what my body told me, which made it even harder to recognize the full extent of what was happening to me. When touch felt bad to to me, I didn’t know to name it ‘uncomfortable’ or ‘undesirable’ or ‘repulsion’ or ‘fear’. I described the feelings to my boyfriend. He told me it was arousal and excitement. I didn’t know enough to know that he was wrong.

So, ironically, the teachings that my parents thought would keep me abstinent and make me a ‘good girl’ actually ended up putting me in unwanted sexual situations.

I sometimes wonder if some of the other things I was taught helped make me asexual. Not having a name for my vulva until college except for “pee pee thing’. Being taught that my vulva’s function was only for ejecting pee and babies (I was taught that pregnancy began when a man and a woman stood too close to each other.) Being taught that my ‘pee pee thing’ was very dirty and must never be touched. The close companionship each of my parents had with me instead of each other, called by some psychologists ’emotional incest’. As a young girl, I saw older girls mocked and derided by my parents, friends, and role models for being interested in boys. When I got my period, its function was not explained to me, but my mother cried and wished I wasn’t growing up. As my body began to develop, I was mocked and shamed. My breasts were a shame to me. My periods were a shame to me. Other maturing features of my body were a shame to me. The more I kept them hidden, the less I would be mocked. I never dared to mention a crush I might have on a boy because I could not bear the mockery and shame I knew was due to come.

Did this crazy upbringing ‘make’ me asexual? I don’t know. I do know that there was never a time when I felt sexual attraction, so if it’s due to my upbringing, that upbringing took affect before the time when sexual attraction would have normally developed. I’m still clueless about some things: As I’m writing this, I’m wondering when that time is for other people.