How I Survived Homeschooling in Bill Gothard’s Cult: Part Three

CC image courtesy of Flickr, Norbert Posselt.

HA Note: The following is reprinted with permission from Alexa Meyer’s blog Life of Grace and Peace. It was originally published on June 26, 2015 and has been slightly modified for HA.


In this seriesPart One | Part Two | Part Three | Part Four | Conclusion


Part Three

My dad was on cloud nine that I had been invited personally by Bill to HQ, but I was never asked, only told it was a great privilege.

I asked not to go, that something about it wasn’t right.

My parents only replied that I “didn’t know what I was talking about and this would open doors of great opportunities for me.” So shortly after I turned 16 I headed off to Chicago via a plane ticket bought by Bill or IBLP, about mid-September, for a two month visit.

It was a little nerve racking flying alone not knowing what to expect when I got there. I stayed in the house directly across the street from the main building and worked in the kitchen below Bill’s and the administrative offices. In fact, as you step out the front door of the house, you’re facing Bill’s office windows. The girls seemed like most other girls I’d ever met – polite with that underlying bite that criticism and legalism breeds in people. I didn’t click with anyone there, but I didn’t expect to as my life experiences up to that point had taught me that it was better not to get too much involved with others since I wouldn’t be there long. I was shown around and introduced to my housemates, the house rules being explained to me first thing. Most of the rules were practical and made sense – pick up after yourself, do your chore rotation (dishes, bathroom, etc.), curfew. Then there were ones that I felt were silly and none of their business. Like when I was to have quiet time (Bible reading), the fact that quiet time was required, get up and do “Wisdom” Searches as a group (6am!!), what music I could listen to and when, was my wardrobe right ( I could only wear loose sweat pants in the house [but must run and hide if a male came to the door] and never jeans at any time [seriously?!], no dating (as if I even wanted to!).

After about a week and a half I put in my music from home (just church stuff), closed the bedroom door (my roommate was out) and played the music softly. After a bit the house mom, who was only about 4 years older than me, came in and told me I couldn’t listen to it, remember the house rules. I replied that yes, I knew the rules, but my parents okayed my music. Well, I was just going to have to turn it off, and she would take it from me if I did it again. I was reported to Bill and called into his office the next day. When I went in we were alone and he motioned me to sit on his couch, where he sat facing me, his knees close to mine. He told me I was called in about the music, and my house mom thought I didn’t respect her and the rules. I said I respected her position and had been following the rules, but that my parents were my authority and had approved my music.

He leaned toward me, his knee making contact with mine (I tried to scoot back from him), earnestly looking into my eyes, and told me that I misunderstood my position.

That while at HQ my parents had put me under his authority and I was to follow the rules and his guidance. He picked up my hands, which had been resting in my lap, and went on about the evils of music that used drums and beats of any sort. I needed to search my heart and root out any sin and evil influences, so that I would see the will of God. Still holding my hands, he told me to pray, ask for forgiveness and help in searching my heart. I was also to commit to not listen to any music with a beat of any kind. Since my father taught me well most of my life the “umbrella of protection” through the “chain of command”, this was normal for me. However chastened I felt, I was also confused by feeling dirty and guilty of something I couldn’t understand or explain. So after drying my tears (he loves to make you cry-shows real repentance evidently), he stands up pulling me to my feet and hugs me front to front. (I mention this because I never, even without my parents’ teaching, hugged a male that way- only from the side.) This made me feel uncomfortable.

Later, away from him, I was upset that he would dare to take the place of my dad and dictate what I could and couldn’t do. My parents never told me I was under Bill’s “authority”, only to be respectful and remember our family rules. I complied outwardly but secretly continued to live as I would have at home. Towards the end of my time there, I listened to my music whenever I wanted to. My thought was, what’s the worst they can do? Send me home? Great! I wished they would!

A few days later I was called into Bill’s office. He told me I was to go on the first ever trip to Russia in October. I said I wasn’t qualified to go, nor did my family have the money for it. He called my parents to give them the “good” news. He told them that he would pay to send me to Northwoods for the Medical Seminar training I needed, that they would have to raise the money for the trip to Russia. They thanked him and then asked to speak to me. When they asked me if I wanted to go, I answered, “I guess so, maybe. I don’t know.” I was certainly feeling pressure with Bill sitting there listening to every word I said. They thought it was a good opportunity for me and that I should go. My mom did say that they wouldn’t make me and the church might not support me with the money, so in the end I might not be able to go. So I said okay. My parents went to our church asking for help, which I hoped wouldn’t be enough. It almost wasn’t – I found out from Bill the money came through three days before the trip was scheduled to leave.

In the meantime, I worked in the kitchen. One night around 8:30pm or so about two weeks after arriving, Bill called me up to his office. I used the back staircase to get there, since it let out in an area right outside his door. I went in wondering what he could want at this late hour.

Once again he was alone.

He asked me to make him a chocolate milkshake. So I head back down thinking I didn’t even know there was a milkshake maker, and I sure didn’t know how to make one. A couple of us kitchen staff were still there so I asked them about it. They showed me where everything was and how to use it. I told them I thought it strange that he asked me, why didn’t he ask the guy that was still there. They just shrugged their shoulders and said he’d asked for me. So I took it up. He asked what took me so long. I answered that it was my first milkshake. After he tried it, he smiled and told me it was one of the best he’d had in a while, I was from now on to make his milkshakes. I smiled and said okay. We chatted a little before I was dismissed. As I walked back to the kitchen all I could think was, really?!, now I’m stuck waiting on him every night! The whole thing seemed kooky to me, it was just a milkshake and anyone could make it, why me?

Soon it was time to head up to Northwoods for the “training” week I needed to qualify to go to Russia. I was surprised to find myself riding with Bill’s entourage and dismayed to be seated next to him on the bench seat behind the driver. He made small talk with me – was I enjoying my time at HQ, working in the kitchen, had I made any friends, etc. I answered politely and what I thought he wanted to hear. In general, I felt slightly uncomfortable and was annoyed that I had to ride with him. Why did I have to sit next to him?

It reminded me of how I would feel sitting next to my dad – I kept expecting Bill to put his hand on my knee at any moment.

At some point Bill took off his shoes and encouraged me to do the same. I gladly took them off, since I’m used to not wearing shoes whenever I can. Shortly after, I felt his foot on my ankle. I quickly pulled my feet away and to the side, looking over at him. He was smiling at me. I said “Pardon me”, and tried to put distance between us. Yuck was the word running through my head, and I couldn’t wait to get out of the van. A part of me wondered if I’d misunderstood – maybe his foot accidentally hit me. Even so, I made sure to keep my body as much to myself as possible. I was enormously relieved when we arrived.

I don’t remember very much about what was taught that week, except that it was more of the same stuff in the “Wisdom” Booklets. I learned how to play the bells, which I enjoyed. Occasionally Bill had me sit across or next to him when we gathered to eat. I learned quickly to sit with my feet tucked securely away from him and my chair moved away as far as possible. He would also sometimes stop me when we were passing and chat with me, doing the usual hand holding and looking into my eyes.

There was one incident that stands out to me particularly. At some point towards the end of the week, we had an afternoon session where we were instructed to examine ourselves and find any sin that would hinder us from helping others. We were told this sin could be unkind thoughts, lust of the eyes, too much “worldly” influence (i.e. music with a beat, wrong clothes, spending time with the wrong people-anyone outside the group or who lived life differently and wouldn’t accept “God’s truths” as taught by IBLP/ATIA), stepping outside of your father’s authority, etc. So after the soul searching time, I wrote down a few “sins” I thought qualified. I felt very repentant about them and talked with God about it.

Later that night, around 8pm or so, I was surprised to be summoned by Bill to his suite. He invited me to sit by him, which I did but kept some space between us. He asked how my day went, how did my time searching for hidden sins/distractions go, was I ready to confess, that he wanted to help me come clean. I shared a few of the “sins” (which I can’t even remember now) but he kept pushing for more. Finally I reluctantly shared a “sin” that I thought would stay between God and me. I didn’t think it was any of his business, but I had been well trained to submit to “authority”. After dragging as many details as he could get from me, he told me that he was going to call my parents so I could confess to them and ask forgiveness. So he calls them and sits there listening, as I embarrass and humiliate myself even more. My parents didn’t seem to find it strange, wrong, or humiliating that Bill was talking about this with me. They acted as though I was making “progress”.

I just felt guilty, ashamed, humiliated and somewhat violated over something that I felt was between God and me and didn’t hurt or involve anyone else.

I was made to feel dirty and sinful over something that I later found out in counseling (with a woman) was very common and nothing to be ashamed or feel dirty about – masturbation.

So my parents “forgive” me and, under Bill’s direction, I commit to staying clean. Really, I’m amazed that I emerged with any healthy, normal outlook on sexuality! After the call, I dried my tears and stood up to go. Bill hugs me, telling me I’ve done the right thing and I’ll be blessed for it. It felt awful, was what I thought. I wanted to go home and curl up into a ball and never show my face again. I felt hurt, confused, exhausted, etc. and wanted it all to go away. Shortly after, we headed back to HQ, and this time I made sure to sit in the back of the van!

The milkshake times continued to happen a few times per week until it was time for the Russia trip. On the planes I generally had a seat in the back, which suited me fine. At some point on the Russian plane (we called it Aroflop, it rattled so badly) Bill’s male assistant came to me and said Bill wanted me to come see him. Thinking “what is it this time?”, I walk up to where he was seated, smiled and said, “Sir, you wanted to see me for something?” He patted the empty seat next to him and said he wanted to check on me. I sat down and answered his questions – how was I doing, was I looking forward to ministering in Russia, etc. I stayed as shortly as I could, giving an excuse to go back to my seat. Frankly I was bored and didn’t appreciate being singled out. I couldn’t understand how any young lady could be jealous of a 56(+) year old’s attention. I don’t remember much else happening outside of the usual with him. I tried to draw as little attention as possible to myself.

Hurts Me More Than You: Deborah and Janet’s Stories

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Trigger warning for Hurts Me More Than You series: posts in this series may include detailed descriptions of corporal punishment and physical abuse and violence towards children.

Additional content warning for Deborah and Janet’s stories: descriptions of sexual arousal and sexual abuse from corporal punishment.


Deborah’s Story

I always felt traumatized by spanking whether it was me or someone else. When I was really young I would try to get my teenage brother in trouble but to be fair he tried to get me in trouble a lot too and teased me a lot. Once I got to be a couple years older I didn’t ever want to get people in trouble. Somehow, it just seemed so much worse for them to get spanked than most things they might do to annoy me.

Anyway, even though my parents generally only hit me once, it was done/threatened for all kinds of things from the look on my face, to not closing a door carefully enough that would often slam itself shut when the window was open, to a vague statement from my mom to my dad about not getting a lot done for him that day because she had to take care of me and teach me school at eight years old.

Sometimes I even got smacked without verbal warning while sitting on my dad’s lap if I was sitting in a way that hurt him and I didn’t realize it.

I got spanked pretty much every day from before I was old enough to remember until I hit puberty at ten. Then I got lectured pretty much every day and spanked sometimes. The last time I got spanked, I was fourteen. I cried all day because I felt completely degraded. I had worked so hard to become a competent homemaker and learn to be a proper submissive woman only to find I would still be hit if I had an opinion. It didn’t really hurt that much, but inside it was devastating.

The worst part of getting spanked was never the humiliation or the pain or the endless guilt and self-loathing or even the forced hugs and prayers. The worst part was that every single time I got spanked, I would get turned on. A lot of people hear this and say something along the lines of, “Well that is why you should never spank someone past puberty.” I have news for you. It didn’t start at puberty. If it had, I might have been able to understand that it was something sexual or weird. It started by my earliest memories of being spanked. I remember it every time I remember getting spanked. I just thought it was part of the deal. It wasn’t until I learned about sexual arousal as an adult that I understood it.

Imagine how disgusting it would be to grow up thinking something was normal only to find out that your parents were causing you to be sexually aroused while hurting you on a daily basis for your entire childhood and occasionally in your teens.

The trauma this caused me really can’t be properly described. I don’t have the words to explain how it feels to this day.

So to anyone considering spanking their children, just please, please don’t. It is not worth the risk to their bodies or their emotional and sexual health. Sure it may not affect every child this way, but if it does affect your child that way you will probably never know and never be able to even say you are sorry much less make it right. It is a form of sexual abuse to some children at least and now you know it.

Why would you take the risk of sexually abusing your own child?


Janet’s Story

I was being spanked for squirming while being spanked for getting mad while being spanked for throwing my math book on the floor because I desperately wanted to understand but no one could explain in words I could grasp.

Sure, throwing a textbook on the floor and sobbing in frustrated rage isn’t going to further my education. But neither is spanking my eight year old self for expressing my utter rage that I didn’t have someone who could help me understand. I desperately wanted to learn and most things came easy for me, but math wasn’t that way.

It had been easy for my mom in grade school and high school, so she didn’t have the words to explain to my stumped mind. When I would slam my book shut and cry because the frustration was so great I physically hurt, I was ushered into the bedroom, my skirt hiked up, my underwear dragged down, and I was spanked – first for one thing, then another, then another. Compound spankings lasting sometimes as long as an hour were a common element of my growing up years. I can remember getting five, six, even seven separate spankings all in a row because each time I wouldn’t fully “surrender.” I remember my mom sobbing while she spanked me, saying how she just wanted me to submit — all I needed to do was let her break my will and it would be over. Too bad breaking wasn’t my cup of tea.

First it was a fiberglass stick, until it got too short to sting because it had been broken over my bare backside too many times. Then it was a wooden spoon. Several, actually, because they kept breaking too.

Different families have different methods for how they spank. Some say pants on, some say pants off. Some determine it based on how severe the infraction was. For me it was always sans-underwear, no matter what.

For a young child raised in the extreme end of purity culture (short sleeves were immodest until my parents “loosened up” and allowed them when I was around 10), demanding that your child strip naked from the waist down for punishment (often doing it herself) was incredibly confusing and embarrassing. In retrospect, being naked in front of my mother or father was worse for me than the spanking itself, because it was so ingrained in me that good Christian girls must cover themselves from neck to wrist to ankle.

Spankings became a time when I was not only physically hurt, but also forced against my will to show my body — something that only the wicked hell-bound world did.

My early childhood memories are a strange jumble and sometimes I wonder if I’ve really remembered everything correctly. Were the spankings really that bad? Really that scarring? Sometimes I’m tempted to pass memories off as creative embellishment, since I have a vibrant imagination.

But then I remember the two things that began so young I can’t remember a time without them: spankings and masturbation. Maybe there wasn’t a link at the very beginning – somewhere around the age of two or three, I think – but there was soon enough. I masturbated to self-soothe after spankings. Then, whenever I was trying to survive those moments in which I waited in dread of the impending spanking. Eventually I did it when I was frustrated too, or just plain bored.

I began to imagine being spanked to arouse myself (though it’s weird to type the word “arouse” since I had no grasp of what was even happening). I pictured myself being forced to strip, doing things that I hated, that made me feel sick, vulnerable, and ashamed, feeling the burning hits on my bottom. I imagined it in vivid detail as I would touch my little five year old body. Yes, you read that right: five. Maybe I imagined it even earlier than that – I don’t remember. But it went on for years.

Before I knew the slightest thing about sexuality I’d already spent nearly ten years masturbating to the equivalent of BDSM fantasies — all inspired by the spankings I endured.

I still can’t find the words to express what that childhood was like. Whatever your personal opinion is on BDSM, I think we can all agree that it’s not healthy in the context of a five year old’s everyday imagination! It’s taken me years to break that mental link between physical pain/humiliation and sexuality.

Of course my parents knew none of this. They caught me masturbating once or twice and were at a complete loss for what to do. I think they probably tried to deny that I was even masturbating. Nor did they know what to do when they discovered that at the age of nine I was making out with other girls my age. “That’s a sin,” they would say, “don’t do that.” They probably prayed and cried a lot, and talked in hushed tones about what to do, but they never made the connection in their mind. They still don’t know why I did it or what I

My parents really did love me and I know they were only spanking me because they thought that’s what God wanted them to do. Would they even believe me now if I told them? I don’t blame them as much as I blame the generally held belief among fundamentalist Christians that if you spank your children nothing will go wrong. Something went very wrong with me.

So tell me, readers:

Am I the only one who laid in bed at night masturbating to the thought of my parents forcing me to strip from the waist down and lay down defenseless in front of them so they could spank me? Am I as alone as I feel?

Soy Makes Kids Gay and Babies Masturbate!

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By R.L. Stollar, HA Community Coordinator

On Monday, one of the stories we received for our “Homeschoolers U” series about Patrick Henry College experiences mentioned a curious anecdote. The anecdote involved a PHC freshman who believed soy products make people gay. Here’s the story according to Lillia Munsell:

Midway through my first semester, a fellow freshman insisted that soy milk turned people gay. Trying not to choke on the ridiculously expensive dining hall food, I asked what he meant. “It’s the estrogen,” he explained to me with all the confidence that came from studying high school biology at the kitchen table. “It turns people gay. How else do you explain California?” I don’t know how to explain California, but this did explain the rumors about my lactose-intolerant Cuban friend who poured soy milk over his cereal and said deviant phrases like “what the hell.”

While this story might just provoke laughter and ridicule towards a freshman who would believe such asinine pseudoscience, it might be better to direct that laughter and ridicule towards the source: the so-called educated adults from which that student learned the pseudoscience. And honestly, you don’t have to look far to find them.

This student was a homeschool kid attending Patrick Henry College. The man who created PHC, Michael Farris, is a self-declared “buddy” of Joseph Farah, the editor of WorldNetDaily, a website that pretends to do legitimate journalism. (In fact, one of Farah’s own kids has attended PHC.) Farris has featured Farah on HSLDA’s radio program, Home School HeartBeat. That program is where Farris mentions Farah is “my buddy”. Farah has returned the sentiment, making Farris an exclusive WND columnist in 2006.

You know what else happened in 2006?

WND published a series entitled “SOY IS MAKING KIDS ‘GAY.'”

Yes, WND ran six-part series by James “Jim” Rutz, a dominionist who wrote a book called Megashift that teaches you how to “prepare yourself to take part in a total makeover of Planet Earth.”Rutz’s soy series is full of ridiculous pseudoscience about soy. Here’s an excerpt:

There’s a slow poison out there that’s severely damaging our children and threatening to tear apart our culture…

The dangerous food I’m speaking of is soy. Soybean products are feminizing, and they’re all over the place. You can hardly escape them anymore…

Soy is feminizing, and commonly leads to a decrease in the size of the penis, sexual confusion and homosexuality.

But Rutz is not alone in fearing the evil power of the soy bean. Nor is he the first. In 2001, half a decade before Rutz wrote “SOY IS MAKING KIDS ‘GAY,'” Debi Pearl — yes, homeschool guru Debi Pearl from No Greater Joy Ministries — wrote an article entitled, “Soy Alert.” Pearl, unfortunately, was entirely blind in 2001 as to how soy makes kids gay. But she was fortunately enlightened enough to realize another danger of soy:

Soy makes babies masturbate!

Yes, you read that right. I’ll let Pearl try to explain:

We regularly get letters from parents that are shocked and horrified to have discovered that their babies, as young as 18 months, are, without doubt, masturbating. It is a shocking but growing phenomenon. Some of the problems are associated with small children clutching vibrating toys, but not in all cases. Yet, there must be a predisposing prompted by hormones. Could it be caused by the hormone element in soy formula?

Pearl never answered the question. Which is convenient for her. But she also insinuated that marriage problems could be related to soy:

If your husband lacks leadership and male dominance, but you seem to have a strong assertive drive, then stop eating soy and do some research.

All of the “evidence” she found led her to a rather gloom conclusion:

Soy is a drug, like many herbs. It is too powerful of a drug to use freely as a food.

But fear not. Pearl discovered a biblically-based solution:

When men try to improve on what God gave, it should be questioned. Cereal should be grains; milk should be the way it was in the Promised Land; meat should be as it was when Jesus fed the multitude, or when Abraham fed the angels of God.

With homeschool “leaders” like Debi Pearl and “news” sources like WND teaching these myths, it’s no wonder a homeschooled college freshman at PHC thought they were real. Hopefully he has learned real science since then.

Hopefully, too, homeschoolers will start demanding real science from their leaders and news sources.

***** UPDATE: It seems the source of these myths might very well be the Weston A. Price Foundation (WAPF). WAPF is a lobbying organization that is immensely popular in homeschooling circles (just take a look at the comments on this popular homeschool blogger’s post). Homeschool curriculum company Sonlight sells the Foundation’s foundational textbook, the cookbook Nourishing Traditions. (It’s hard to exaggerate the adoration some homeschool families have for the book. It’s right up there next to the Bible.) According to WAPF itself, “The most prominent group warning about the dangers of modern soy consumption would be the Weston A. Price Foundation.” And what would that warning be? Again, according to WAPF: “The fact that soy can feminize males and masculinize females is evidence of soy targeting the brain.” WAPF’s president, Sally Fallon, first gained notoriety for attacking soy in 2000, a year before Debi Pearl’s 2001 “Soy Alert.” In 2000, Fallon called soy “the next Asbestos” and claimed it caused sexual problems for kids. It seems reasonable to assume this was source for Pearl in 2001, considering the Pearl family uses WAPF material.

A Quick and Dirty Sex Ed Guide for Quiverfull Daughters: By Heather Doney

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

HA note: The following is reprinted with permission from Heather Doney’s blog Becoming Worldly. It was originally published on April 6, 2013.


This post is NSFW (not safe to read at work).

I got the idea to write this because I read this and this and something saying that only 67% of women in some study of “mainstream Americans” reported having an orgasm the last time they had sex, while men reported a rate of 91%. The worst bit of info from that study was that in a “hookup” only 11% of women had an orgasm (an incredibly damning statistic for the hookup culture if you ask me). Also, 10-15% of ordinary women are thought to have never had an orgasm. I thought “Ooh, this is bad. What gives?” I imagined that among people who grew up with the Quiverfull teachings I did that that rate is likely even worse. Then it made me think of this quote by Douglas Wilson, which just makes me shudder.

“When we quarrel with the way the world is, we find that the world has ways of getting back at us. In other words, however we try, the sexual act cannot be made into an egalitarian pleasuring party. A man penetrates, conquers, colonizes, plants. A woman receives, surrenders, accepts.”

Awful perspective, right? So that’s why, although I’ve already talked about some serious issues with the role of sex in the movement before, I decided to approach it from a different angle today. Sexuality is something that is personal, that is yours to make decisions about, no matter what you may have been talked into believing to the contrary (don’t even get me started on the “pieces of your heart” talk, the many sneakily layered meanings of the word “modesty,” or the hints starting at a young age about how a certain kind of “giving of yourself” will be required by your imaginary future husband). So that’s why today I decided to write bluntly about how to enjoy sex as a woman, particularly as a woman raised in the Quiverfull/Christian patriarchy homeschooling movement.

I figured that as someone who has taken a human sexual behavior class in college (and made an “A”), never faked an orgasm or felt there was reason to (both expecting and generally having actual real ones when getting it on with her man), and who also grew up the Quiverfull way, with the purity teachings and attending a succession of home births and whatnot, that perhaps I have some useful things I can share about sex.

Still, I want to make clear that I don’t figure I am some expert or even that I am particularly experienced in this arena. In fact, I’ve only kissed four guys in my life (which is apparently about 3 more than your average Quiverfull daughter is supposed to). Still, learning how to have good sex was a problem for me in the past, but today I thoroughly appreciate and enjoy it. Sex is a natural human thing, nothing to be ashamed or shy about, and I am happy that it exists. Thing is, wanting it is instinct, knowing how to actually do it, or be responsible about it, not as much so.

Also, I am only addressing some basics of heterosexual sex here, largely in the context of a loving relationship, because that’s my thing. If you need to know more about GLBT stuff or healing from sexual abuse, or anything regarding less “mainstream” practices, there are others that could likely provide much better resources.

Discovering What You’re Working With

I know we were raised to see masturbation as wrong, as some sin or sex addiction problem, but I don’t think they characterized that exactly right. (Although obviously it can be an issue if you are regularly choosing masturbation over sex with a willing spouse.) Anyway, regardless of how you feel about masturbation, here is my case for at least trying it: if you have never had an orgasm by yourself it’ll be a lot harder for your partner to figure out how to give you one.

Also, different people like different things and sometimes you’ll find yourself wanting different things depending on what mood (or what part of your cycle) you are in. So take some private time and check out your body. Here is a simple guide as to what you might be looking for.

If you are comfortable with it, and if you aren’t that’s okay (this is where I definitely deviate from any advice you might ever hear from Quiverfull parents), you might even want to consider getting a couple items that can be nice for a girl to own (particularly if you are forgoing sex and waiting for the right guy and/or the right wedding ring). Some women report discovering the difference between a vaginal and clitoral orgasm (even though technically they’re both clitoral, just different parts of it) with one of these. One of these can be fun and used with a partner too.

Before “Going There” 

Before ever doing the deed you should know what the main parts of the male body are and how they typically function so you can understand and enjoy them (obviously). Here’s some excellent diagrams that explain it all nicely. Then, because you likely already know that sex causes babies (and I imagine are likely already more familiar with the gestation cycle, birth, and infant care side of things than the average person) I will skip past that part (read here if you need it) and just say that if you are not up for pregnancy (and hey, I’m still not) you should find a birth control method that’s right for you. Here is a nice chart with the effectiveness levels for various kinds.

Also, I could write at least five whole posts on Quiverfull/Christian Patriarchy sex myth busting but the bottom line is that no matter what people might have told you (or mistakenly believed themselves), getting on the pill does not cause abortions and condoms do significantly reduce the risk of HIV and other icky things you don’t want. We were taught a lot of garbage by people who wanted to control our fertility.

About STI’s (formerly called STD’s) – they are common and most are treatable. If you think you might have been exposed to one, go get tested. If you think he has, make him go get tested. Testing is not a big deal. Pelvic inflammatory disease is. Women are more vulnerable to the ravages of STI’s than men thanks to the shape of our bodies (yeah, um, thanks a lot mother nature!) and often women don’t have symptoms or know they caught one. Some untreated STI’s can cause cervical cancer or fertility problems due to Fallopian tube scarring. (Not meaning to scare you here, just being straight up.) When in doubt, get tested. Anyway, I put STI’s up here near the top because they are important, but I want to clarify that you don’t generally contract STI’s without doing explicitly sexual things with someone who has an STI (and you generally can’t tell if someone does or not just by looking). Also, if someone says they got an STI from a toilet seat it is exceedingly likely that they just found it to be a more comfortable explanation than saying how they really got it. Anyway, on to happier topics…

Chemistry and Choosing Who to Sleep With

So I am a romantic and I also love this poem. I think good sex has a lot to do with chemistry, and chemistry has a lot to do with feeling love, respect, and genetic compatibility. If you are going to sleep with someone (totally not judging here as to who that might be, except to advise that you don’t sleep with someone who is in a committed relationship with someone else or someone who treats you disrespectfully) you should first get to know them (I know, crazy idea, right?) because the brain is one of the most important sex organs. Physical “hotness” only goes so far. If they look amazing but are annoying or make you raise one eyebrow and shake your head in disgust, or have you wanting to ask them to be nicer to the waitress or their mother or to stop talking trash about their ex (three big red flags!), don’t go there.

If they are brilliant smart, kindhearted and funny, and smile in a way that makes you just have to smile and crinkle up the corners of your eyes too, then they pass the first test. Then, after you get to know them (and this is according to your time frame, not mine), you should hold hands and make out a lot.

If your kissing partner tastes bad (and bathing/brushing their teeth and refraining from garlic don’t seem to help) don’t sleep with them. Politely move on. It is biology trying to tell you something. You are not a good match. Bad kissing = bad sex. If your body likes them, there are ways to know. If not, you’re not doing them or you any favors by faking it. Trust your instinct. If their natural scent smells sweet, if holding hands with them puts you on cloud nine, then a proper amount of physical attraction is there. All the “pink spots” on your body (lips, nipples, hands and feet, genitals) have these things called Meisner’s corpuscles in them. That might sound like a boring scientific term but the sensation they describe is not. It doesn’t have to be sexual but it can be when you are feeling attraction. That’s why holding hands with someone you are attracted to can really feel electrifying.

When you feel electrified like that you’ll likely find your mind floating towards wanting more intimacy, more skin contact with this person. However, just because you (and/or your partner) feel aroused (increased blood flow to your privates, an erection in men, a feeling of being “wet down there” in women) does not mean you need to act on it. We are human beings, not animals. You have a choice. They have a choice. Nobody will explode or keel over and die from lack of sex. Pressuring someone for sexual activity is not okay and this also goes for when you are the person being pressured. If he asks you and you don’t feel right about it (this goes for whether you are married to him or not) then don’t do it. If you do want to, then say so and see what he says.

Dispelling a Few Myths

– I had a laugh the other day with some former homeschooled girls who said they used to think “oral sex” meant French kissing, admitting I used to think this too back in my sheltered homeschool days. It definitely does not.

– Don’t imagine you are somehow “unable” to get pregnant and not take precautions based on that.

– Don’t think that having sex automatically means the other person will consider you as being in a relationship (or bound for the alter) because of it. If you haven’t talked about this beforehand then you’re just two people who had sex.

– Don’t have sex with someone you are not okay with being in love with. Sex is a powerful and sneaky thing and can make or break relationships even when you have other plans.

Getting it On

If/when you know the person you want to have sex with well enough, feel comfortable with doing so, and you have an opportunity where you both agree on it (consent, ever-present as an important component), have at it. Happily take off your clothes, explore, ask questions, try things, feel the love. You can go for it all at once or spread out this exploration into “steps” as you get to know one another. It’s up to you.

Don’t expect your partner to know what you need or for you to know what they need. They are learning too. That’s what practice and talking is for. However experienced or non-experienced your partner is, you will still have to learn what they like, what you like, and what you like to do together. It will be an adventure and just like not everyone has a taste for spicy food, not every girl likes having her hair pulled and her bottom slapped or her toes sucked on (but some certainly do, and provided you’re cool with it, have fun).

If one or both of you are virgins, the first time will likely be awkward and for women it very well may hurt and you might bleed (these are both generalizations, btw, and definitely not the rule). Always tell your partner if something they are doing feels painful and if they need to do it differently or stop. If you don’t like it, you can say stop at any time. If you do like something, say you like it so he’ll know. Also, if you want something, ask for it. Even if it feels awkward to talk about sex, remind yourself that it isn’t any more so than actually doing it. Besides, your partner won’t know unless you say what’s on your mind. Still, be gentle with their feelings.

Sex is a vulnerable thing.

If you just can’t seem to make it work, read up on vaginismus. Girls who grew up in sexually repressive environments or have experienced sexual abuse are more likely to have this condition. There are also other sexual dysfunctions that could be at play too, on your part or his.

If you are sleeping with someone who has slept with other people before, don’t judge them or sex shame them. This is pretty normal in mainstream American culture and no slight against you. You can ask them their “number” if you want to know, but if they want to keep that private their wishes should be respected. What you should always ask is if you might be at risk for STI’s before either of your clothes come off. Just because they look “clean” doesn’t mean they are. If they don’t know for sure, tell them to get tested. Also, when in doubt, always use a condom. Condoms are honestly not all that awesome in my opinion but they have their place. They are also not nearly as “useless” or “bad” as we were taught they were growing up. If used properly, they actually do prevent many STI’s and unwanted pregnancy. If you find you are allergic to latex or spermicide make sure to go with latex-free and spermicide free varieties. Also, it’s really not any more awkward to buy a box of them at the store than it is to buy a box of Kotex.

Making Sure it’s “Good” Sex

So foreplay (kissing, touching, whispering sexy things to each other, perhaps oral sex) is fun, will help you figure out what you’re in the mood for, and make the actual sex better. It is also a way to set the stage for both people’s pleasure to be seen as equally valuable, desirable, and necessary. If you feel self-conscious about your body or exploring different things, light a candle or two and forget about it. Everyone looks good by candlelight.

Read about various positions (this cartoon couple is positively adorable, aren’t they?), discuss them together, and try out the ones that look cool so you can figure out what you like.

When it comes to orgasms most women report needing their clitoris rubbed, meaning orgasm happens more easily through either oral sex or “woman on top” sex where you or he touch your clitoris while you have sex. I used to not know this and thought there was something wrong with me but since learned that this is not weird but instead totally normal – standard stuff that women usually need that somehow still gets ignored in our patriarchal (i.e. overly penis-centered) culture.

Also, there’s this myth that you are supposed to orgasm at the same time. Reality is it happens that way sometimes but it is a treat, not the norm. Most of the time one partner does before the other or even prefers a totally different position to come in than the other. Ideally it should be the woman who comes first (perhaps even multiple times) but sometimes (especially when guys are young or haven’t had sex in a while) it isn’t. Then a polite guy will either do something else to satisfy you, or wait a little bit before he can get an erection again (yeah, gotta love the “refractory period”) and give it another go. A rude guy will roll over and go to sleep. If you have a rude guy, call him on it and ask for what you need. Don’t let him get away with thinking sex is meant to be anything less than an egalitarian pleasuring party!

Note: I know that in writing something like this (which I thought about for a long time before putting up) I am sharing things that are still pretty taboo for a woman to speak about openly but particularly so for a woman from my background. I decided to post it anyway. I also know that creepers are gonna creep, so I just want to say I don’t want to get any objectifying blog comments saying I am “hot” or “not hot” or other remarks of that nature. I am both unavailable and quite uninterested in receiving such stuff, thanks.

This post is solely here as a public service type thing.

The Secrets of the Birds and Bees: Iris Rosenthal’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. “Iris Rosenthal” is a pseudonym. Iris Rosenthal blogs at The Spiritual Llama. This story is reprinted with her permission. Also by Iris on HA: “Confessions of a Homeschooler,” Part One and Part Two.


When I was ten years old I saw blood in the toilet after I finished using the bathroom. Freaked out and thinking that I was dying, I ran and told my mom that there was blood in the toilet when I went pee.

She asked me if I was sure and said that it might be from her and she forgot to flush the toilet. I was then told to take a clean piece of toilet paper and check to see which hole the blood was coming from, if any. Then she proceeded to tell me that if the blood was coming from my poop hole I would need to go to the hospital, if it was coming from my vagina then she would need to have a talk with me, and if there wasn’t any blood then she just forgot to flush the toilet.

So I went to the bathroom to check and discovered that I wasn’t bleeding at all. Relieved that I didn’t have to go to the hospital and that I wasn’t going to die but still very curious what the talk would be about, I decided to fake my period. I picked a scab on my leg to make it bleed on the toilet paper and told my mom that it was coming from my vagina.

She then sent my siblings out of the room, turned the lights down and sat me down on the couch with her.

At this point I thought I was in deep, deep trouble (and so did my  siblings, because there was no sign of them lurking about).

Then my mom started explaining the bleeding. She told me that what I had experienced was my first period, I would get them every month for seven days, and that meant that I could have babies now.

At that point I was wondering what my deception had gotten me into, and decided that I didn’t ever want to get old if bleeding every month was considered normal.

The next day she gave me a book called Preparing for Adolescence by Dr. James Dobson. She told me to mark down on notebook paper how long I was reading and what chapters, so it would count as my Health subject.

The only thing I remember from that book (besides it being boring) was that I finally learned what masturbation was. That thing I did where I would touch myself finally had a name.

I would fake a period every month so that I wouldn’t get in trouble.

I didn’t get my first real period until I was 13. Even then I wasn’t any more ready for it than I was when I was ten. There was so much blood, I always felt angry all the time and my stomach would hurt.

I would get in trouble with my mom for “being in a bad mood” even if I tried to tell her that I was on my period. Apparently that was no excuse and since I was a Christian I had to always be in a good mood. “A crabby Christian is an oxymoron.” She would say.

One day I started my period at homeschool co-op, I didn’t have any pads with me but there was a basket of tampons on the back of the toilet. It took a few tampons for me to figure out how it worked, but I was finally successful… Or so I thought.

After co-op I went to my riding lesson, and an hour later I was very sore. I almost couldn’t get the tampon out and started freaking out thinking that it was stuck.  Thankfully I was finally able to get it out and wadded up some toilet tissue so that I wouldn’t bleed all over the place.

I was never really told how sex worked, so I had to figure it out on my own. Living on a farm I watched the animals and from there was able to get a better idea. But it wasn’t until I read a book on Native American folklore that I got a clear picture of how sex worked for humans.

When I moved out I did a ton of internet searches and then I had information overload.

After all, you can only learn so much from watching a goat.

Like Acid on Skin: Myra’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. “Myra” is a pseudonym.

Trigger warnings: the following story contains descriptions of physical and sexual abuse of a child.


Perhaps this is just for me, for me to finally put into words the terrible pain in my heart, which seems to slowly eat away at life like acid on skin. Sexual education.

I received none as a child, absolutely none.

The following story might be confusing in places because I have recently been told I suffer from PTSD and DID, or dissociative identity disorder. Large portions of my childhood are missing, confused, or simply changed. Only recently has the truth been resurfacing in my mind.

I was homeschooled my entire life growing up, and my family was the homeschooling family to be in our area.

My mother kept a computer in the house that was password protected and we were never allowed to use it unless we were typing. I found her password book one day tucked under her mattress when I was cleaning the house. When I was a teenager I snuck out of my room in the middle of the night and I searched sex, rape, and pornography on the World Wide Web. They were all terms I had heard before, mostly associated with evil and the world going to the devil at church.

Needless to say I got a first-hand pseudo sex education from the porn industry.  And I was hooked. I spent every night on that computer watching pornography in a trance. I realized, eventually, that I had been masturbating since before I could remember as a self-soothing mechanism when I was spanked. I also realized that my father touched me after beating me (it was called spanking but I was always left with bruises from the middle of my back to my knees) to make me stop crying.

I had my first orgasm as a small child with my father.

Frankly, the experience was beyond confusing. The actual experience with him was pleasurable not painful at all, but it forever associated being beaten with sex for me. And obviously, I was being molested even thought I did not know it. I honestly thought it was how people were supposed to comfort their children. The intense shame and regret I felt as a teenager immediately caused me to dissociate the memory and place it in my mind in a place that was carefully guarded.

I do not know how long this abuse continued or when it started. There are other elements of the abuse that I have recently remembered but are too fresh, raw, and frankly too explicit to detail.

My mother spanked me between the legs whenever she caught me masturbating. When I was almost a teenager I was raped by a family friend.

Today I am left with a confusing mixture of sexual issues. I have a hard time not associating sex with punishment. I have a hard time not seeing sex as something used to make someone feel better, basically, used as a commodity, I have a hard time associating intimacy with sexual action.

Having any sort of sexual education might have helped me see that I was being taken advantage of by the people who were supposed to care for me. Perhaps it would not have, I honestly do not know. I do know that it could have saved me from a life long struggle with pornography addiction.

I hear others talking about how wonderful, intimate and generally fireworkery, sex is.

I wish that had not been taken from me.

I wish I had not been so isolated. I wish I had been told more about sex.

Ignorance is Safety?: Christina’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. “Christina” is a pseudonym.

Trigger warnings: the following story contains descriptions of physical and sibling sexual abuse of a child.


“I know a bad word.”

I was seven, standing in the bathtub and my mom was washing my hair.

“Tell me what it is.”

“I don’t want to say it.”

“Tell me what it is or else I’ll spank you.”

I was petrified, my heart was racing a mile a minute. I couldn’t tell mom; I was afraid of being punished for even knowing the word. I was shaking and crying. My mother took out the hot-glue stick that we were regularly beaten with and proceeded to spank me there in the bathtub. Between each swat she would order, “tell me!” until, sick with fear and pain, I told her.

The dirty word: Bra.

Hello, my name is Christina. My purpose for writing this today is to help those who have gone through something similar to me and to spread awareness to those who haven’t.

Growing up, my mother told us nothing about sex. Nothing. As girls, she didn’t educate us about having your period, bras, body changes, nothing.

I was introduced to sex when my brother molested me on Christmas day when I was eight years old. He was only eleven at the time and I write this with his permission. In the last year my brother told me stories of what led up to that day. He was only four years old when our mother would “spank” him until bruises formed for “touching his penis”. Other than these beatings he had received no sexual education at all when he stumbled across pornography on the internet. He didn’t even know the word pornography when he described to me what he had seen. I didn’t know what it was but I knew it was wrong. I was too scared to tell anyone what happened on Christmas, so I kept quiet for four months. In the meantime my brother had molested my little sisters as well, and I knew about it. I told my brother not to hurt my sisters anymore, so when it didn’t stop I finally got up the courage to tell my older sister.

My sister told my mom, who called our youth pastor for help.

Our youth pastor called Child Protective Services, and my brother was removed from the home.

He lived in foster care for a year and we weren’t allowed to see him during that time. When he finally came home things were awkward between us for a while, but when we were willing to open up to each other he was able to apologize, and we were able to talk openly about what happened. If I wasn’t terrified to go to my mom for help, the whole situation might have been prevented. My mom was not a person I could go to with my fears and questions. She never talked about sex, and never made us feel that we could talk with her about whatever we needed to talk about.

I thought I had cancer. I was eleven and scared to death. After weeks of worrying I built up the courage to talk to my mom. I told her I was developing these lumps.

Her exact words were, “welcome to adulthood.” Nothing else.

I lay awake that night and put the pieces together. I wasn’t dying after all. In the months that followed I stole my sister’s bra, and on three separate occasions I shoplifted bras from stores. During that time I kept dropping hints to mom, but she made it awkward, and I was so nervous. My mother never made herself available for any serious conversations. Even when approached, she would make the conversation as short and surface as possible. Finally, at age thirteen, I got up the courage to confront her. I told her how I had been shoplifting and taking from my sisters and her reply was, “why didn’t you tell me I needed to take you shopping?” I told her that she made it hard for me, but she wouldn’t listen. She waited seven months before she took me bra shopping for the first time.

I began to watch pornography regularly when I was eleven.

I don’t know how to tell you why. I would go to great lengths to be able to access a computer with internet. I began to masturbate. It was an unsaid rule in our household that anything sexual outside of marriage was evil. Because of this, I felt guilty for masturbating, I felt like I was defying God. I prayed to God, promising that I would never masturbate again. The next day I broke that promise. I felt like shit, like I had let God down. I was weighed down with a load of guilt. I felt I deserved death.

I was prepared to hang myself; the only thing that kept me from tightening the rope was the thought that if I left them, my little sisters will go through exactly what I did, and I want to be around to prevent that from happening.

When I was fourteen I tried to be open with my mother. I told her what I went through as a pre-teen and a teen, and her response was to send me to therapy; she didn’t want to handle me herself. One day on the drive home I was trying to explain to her how she wasn’t there to help me as a kid going into my teenage years, but she refuses to listen. We start talking about masturbation, and she tells me anything sexual outside of marriage is wrong. There I was, opening up to my mother and sharing how I tried to hang myself as an eleven year old because I felt so guilty, and she contributes to my guilt, telling me that what I did was wrong. No comfort, no empathy, no help. Just guilt. I ask her, “from a biblical perspective, how is it wrong?” She can’t answer me.

I pushed the question, and she finally told me, “you need to move out. I don’t want you around your little sisters.”

I am no longer living with my mom. I feel free to talk about masturbation, sex, and gender expression with my siblings, something I never felt I could do before. My brother and I have had conversations I never saw us having. Today I am inspired to help others, and I feel more confident about how I want to raise my children. My mother lost custody of my younger sisters in August and I know that they have a brighter future ahead of them.

I am so grateful that they will never experience what I did.

My sister has also written about her sexual education, the link to it is here.

Finding A Reason To Wake Up: Warbler

Finding A Reason To Wake Up: Warbler

Trigger warning: self-injury and self-sexual abuse.

Family Background

I know my older brother cut himself.  Sometimes he was just overly rough in whatever he was doing and got hurt that way.  I remember him sitting on the other corner of the table as my dad made us study Koine Greek together.  He glared at my father with hate-filled eyes and used his one set of fingernails to scrape up and down the inside of the other arm.  He got spanked about 3 times as much as we girls did.  He was “strong-willed” and didn’t seem to care how much they hurt him.  He boasted that he was never hurt and that they could/would have to try harder.  He was always “the rebel” and was the first one to defy our parent’s authority.

The eldest sister was “perfect” and I didn’t think she did anything like that until her ‘courtship’ went up in flames and daddy grounded her and threatened severe repercussions for ever touching the computer or getting online ever again.  I was in the other room listening to all of this, hiding.  She found me late and we sat there mutely staring at each other.  She said she was going to run away and she had a plan.  I was scared and I didn’t want her to get caught and punished worse, because that is what daddy always threatened.  But I looked deeply into her eyes; and I knew that if she did not get away, one of us would find her dead in her bedroom the next day.

I was a “chicken” in the fullest sense of the word.  I never had the courage to actually cut my own skin.  But I would exacerbate any wound or scab by picking at it fiercely and not letting them completely heal.  I would pick at the corners of my fingernails until I pulled off skin down the the cuticles that would bleed and ache for a week.  I would allow myself to get burned when I was cooking and wish the pain would keep going.  I developed a very high pain tolerance as I refused to care for bruises or cuts and attempted to “be tough” about them.

I had an active imagination and I would imagine myself doing things.  I hated being in the kitchen with the knives because I was never sure when imagination would lead to reality and I would “snap.”  Sometimes I wanted to snap.  Other times my primal instincts kicked in and I fought myself for life.  Because I saw myself as worthless and ugly and bad.

An Active Imagination

I hurt myself specifically from the time I was 10 until I was 17 or 18.  I know for a fact that homeschooling made this a problem because had I been taught more, I would not have used this to hurt myself.  A sex-ed class would have taught me much sooner that what I was doing was damaging.

I hurt myself sexually.  I would imagine some scenario where I was being forcibly raped or forced into being a sex-slave.  I would ball up a towel or a sheet and I would lay on top of it until I rubbed my skin raw (and sometimes rub it off).  I did not know much of anything about human sexuality, or why it hurt so much, but I would walk around in pain every step I took for a couple days and then do it again the next week.  I did not even know that it was “masturbating” or what that word meant until I was 14, and at that time, I was told only that it was a sin. I stopped for a couple of months because of fear, but having no other outlet, I began hurting myself again semi-regularly.  I was able to hide it even though I shared a room for most of my life.  I didn’t get any other information about sex until I was at least 16.  When I first understood the workings of sex, I was grossed out and immediately shut off the conversation.

It took me over a year to realize that what I was doing was actually sexual and bad for me physically. By that time I had an outlet for myself in a homeschooled social circle, a pet to care for, and an outdoor hobby (gardening) that gave me exercise, sunshine, and something to love and invest myself into.  I was incredibly depressed most of my teenage years and I know that was a big reason for my self-abuse.

Another reason, I believe, was because when I had a crush on a young man (he was 12, I was 9) my parents squelched it quickly and shamed me for it.  Instead of helping me develop my relationship skills and experience, I was made emotionally stilted.  My next male-interest wasn’t for another 11 years, but it fell apart due to my relationship-immaturity and inability to ‘learn’ years of relationship-growth-experiences/consequences in two years.   It caused a lot of pain and I think it was because I would have been a very different person if I had a larger social group.  I am the girl that has crushes on everybody.  Had I been able to express those and have them dealt with in a reasonable manner (not told to save everything for courtship, or when I was “ready” to be a wife and mother) I could learn what men were interested in me for me, what crushes were stupid and should have bad consequences, and what it took to make relationships work.

Homeschooling meant that my parents controlled my outward actions around men with fierce looks, codes of conduct, chaperones, and stringent rules.  So my emotions turned inward in a bad way.  I would imagine violent scenarios and hurt myself personally.  I could hide it from them because sexuality was never again discussed.  Homeschooling kept me away from my peers, leaving me with the romantic-relationship-IQ of a toddler.

When it comes to relationships with authorities; I am co-dependent and I feel the need to hide any part of me I think they will censure.  It was not healthy and it is something I still struggle with, personally.

Advice For Others Who Struggle

Find a healthy outlet.  Depression kills.

Go jogging, or plant a morning glory, grow an herb garden and start making tea, or adopt a pet, or volunteer at a shelter, or buy a junk car and find parts at a junk yard to get it running, or restore a painting.

Or climb Mount Everest.

Find something that you love and that you can pour your energy and emotions into: a place to give.

When you find a reason to get up every morning, you will not want pain any more.  I remember taking a shower and screaming into the gushing water, because that was the only place they couldn’t hear me.

It eats you up inside and I know you want to be free.      

Advice To Parents

Dear Parents:  Your kid is struggling.  Don’t say this isnt your kid.  I know they are.

This is not 1% who have a few problems, it is the 99% who hide it.

Your kid is struggling because you have set up a shame-based system of right and wrong.  If you ask them, they will deny it because they don’t trust you and they don’t want to be shamed even more. They know their failings more personally than you have ever had occasion to point out and they have internalized it.

You know that one issue that never seems to go away?  It’s a sign that something rotten is eating away at their heart.

The bad news (no, the first part wasn’t the bad news): you cannot really do anything about it at this point. Your child does not trust you; your words and actions and rules and teaching and religious views are largely the reason that this behavior began and has been happening.

You cannot stop it until after you prove beyond a shadow of a doubt that you are changing. And that will take a lot of time, more time than it will take for them to grow up and move away.  So I suggest that you do major damage control by being as brutally honest about your failings first.  Don’t expect anything from them except to try to live with you as you learn to listen.  Get books and read them and ask your child for help.  And if they actually tell you something: do everything they say.  Don’t argue, don’t talk back, don’t tell them that you never taught that.  Take what they say and live it.

Maybe after a couple years they will start trusting you enough to share their lives with you. When you demand your child give you her heart, she will give you the one you want to see.  Her real heart will be hidden as far away as it takes to stay alive.  


I have this one quotation saved in my email drafts with the title “Raising Children”:

“The only hope you should have is that they will gladly share their own adult journey with you.”

Sex Miseducation

HA note: The following is reprinted with permission from Libby Anne’s blog Love Joy Feminism. It was originally published on Patheos on July 18, 2011.

Children who go to public school receive sex education. Some sex education programs are better than others, some are more comprehensive, others less so, but at least children attending public schools get sex education. I didn’t. My parents never told me about sex, never had “the talk” with me, nothing. My parents taught me that sex within marriage was the most wonderful thing ever but that sex before marriage was the most sinful thing ever, but they never actually explained what sex was. They just told us that it was a “special way of loving.” Weird? Yes. In an ideal world children will learn both about sex and to hold a healthy view of sexuality from their parents. Unfortunately, this is not an ideal world.

Now of course, I was curious: just what was this “special way of loving?” What was this thing at once so dangerous and so wonderful? And why was it so taboo, kept hidden from me like a secret? I pieced this secret together here and there from various sources over the course of six or eight years using a variety of sources:

A Biology Textbook: When I was in middle school I found a description of sex in a biology textbook. The two or so sentences of clinical explanation horrified me, and I quickly closed the book and put it away, more confused, terrified, and ashamed than enlightened.

An Art Book: Around the same time, I found a book full of pictures of statues in a stack of art books my mother had gotten from the library. The statues were nude. I stared, fascinated, looking at the pictures in an effort to learn more about human anatomy. I then felt incredibly dirty and put the book away quickly before my mother could notice that I had seen it.

A Book Store: When I was around fifteen, I was at Barnes and Nobles and ran across a book on how to tell your child about sex. I hid behind the shelves of books and listened anxiously for footsteps. I skimmed the pages furtively, hungry for whatever information I could find, information that would help explain this confusing thing to me. Given that I was terrified of being found and that the time I had was limited, the only thing I remember learning was about masturbation, which I had never heard of before. I felt extremely guilty and dirty afterward.

A Christian Sex Guide: At some point during high school, I found a Christian guide to improving your sex life in my parents’ bedroom. Closing the door and extremely nervous I might be discovered, I leafed through the book, slightly concerned that my parents might be having marriage problems and very frightened of being caught looking at the book but more curious than anything else. After a few minutes, I returned the book to where I had found it, feeling guilty and dirty, but slightly wiser.

The Internet: When I left for college I could use the Internet without being afraid that my parents would check the computer’s history. Finally I could solve questions that had been puzzling me, like just what “oral sex” was – I had heard the term somewhere several years back and had been curious ever since, but had been unable to find the term in a dictionary. Finally my questions could have answers. I clicked through pages of Christian sex advice websites, always afraid that my search terms might bring up porn sites. I justified what I was doing by reminding myself that I was now an adult and besides I was only looking things up on Christian websites.

A Mirror: I realized during my first year of college that I had no idea what parts I had down there. My parents’ emphasis on purity had made me feel that my private area was somehow dirty and unclean, and I had therefore never paid any attention to it. I didn’t even know where my vagina was, just that it was down there somewhere. Curious, I looked up anatomy images on the Internet and then then stood naked in the bathroom using a hand-held mirror to explore body parts I had not even known I had. I was both fascinated and horrified by what I learned.

Romance Novels: After I had been in college for some time, I held the hand of the man who is now my husband for the first time. This made me feel warm and wet in certain places that I had not known could be warm and wet. I was completely baffled. I had no idea what was happening to my body. I might now know the basic mechanics of sex, but I knew nothing about how it actually worked in practice, or what it meant for the body to be “aroused.” What was this? And so, I turned to the lurid romance novels one of my friends kept in her dorm room, reading the sex scenes in depth to try to find out what sex was actually like.

And that, reader, is how I learned about sex. Is it any wonder that I wish I had had a sex education class? Some years later, after I left my parents’ home and was married, a fifteen-year-old girl in a youth group I helped out with started asking me questions about sex. I answered her questions, every one of them, with the openness and honesty I wish my parents had had with me. I didn’t want her to have to learn about sex by sneaking her mother’s Christian sex book or reading romance novels. I didn’t want her to be nineteen or twenty and completely ignorant of her own anatomy. I didn’t want her to be like me.

I’ll never understand how my parents could on the one hand teach me that sex was something beautiful and sacred and at the same time leave me in ignorance about it and make me feel like it was something dirty and unclean. It was the most wonderful thing ever…but it was completely taboo as a topic. It was a sacred bond between husband and wife…but please don’t mention it or think about it. The contradictory messages I received gave me a very warped view of sex. I both looked forward to the sacred bond of sex with my future husband and felt dirty any time I thought about it. Learning about sex piecemeal here and there didn’t give me a very accurate view of sex either, even discounting the sense of guilt I felt about doing so.

When I finally got to the point of actually having sex, I was disappointed to find that it neither felt sacred nor lived up to the descriptions in the romance novels I had read. Picking up knowledge of sex in bits and pieces here and there while awash in guilt does not lead to a comprehensive understanding of sex or a healthy sexuality. I had no idea that sex took practice or effort, or that sometimes one partner wouldn’t feel like it and the other would, or that it could be sweaty and gross. It has taken me years to iron all this out and to come to a healthy view of sex. I wish that instead of focusing on keeping me ignorant of it, my parents had informed me about sex and focused on giving me a healthy view of sexuality. But then, their beliefs about sex would not allow them to do that.

What I would have given a sex education class, a safe place where I could have found the basic information and asked questions! Sure, it wouldn’t have been perfect, but it would have been something.