No Blurred Lines: Melissa’s Thoughts

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

*****

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

It really is that simple.

The Problem with Virgin to Vixen: A Personal Story

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HA note: The following is reprinted with permission from Lana Hobbs’ blog Lana Hobbs the Brave. It was originally published on October 28, 2013.

(If anyone around here is uncomfortable reading about sex, drop out now!)

In “Pulling the Victoria’s Secret Dance”, Libby Anne tackles the conservative Christian culture’s strange demands on women, that they go from being perfectly virginal, pure, and innocent to becoming their husband’s personal porn stars after saying “I do”.

I imbibed enough of Debi Pearl and other Christian writers (not to mention my mother’s advice to ‘not say no too often’) to get this idea in my head that while I could enjoy sex, it was for me primarily about performing for my husband — in part to make him happy, and in part so he would never cheat.

And boy did I perform.

And I think I did a pretty decent job for someone who had never seen so much as a sex scene in a movie — since my husband hadn’t seen anything like that either, he didn’t know any better. ;)

And I enjoyed performing. Mostly. I would sometimes get flashbacks during sex of being touched by other people, but i would push past that — I would disassociate. My mind felt like it was leaving my body and it felt odd but i didn’t stop because I believed that to stop was basically to invite my husband to leave me.

And when I say performing, I mean it. I was acting. When i didn’t feel sexually attractive, I was pretending I was.

It was all an act.

That only gets you so far. It can be fun, acting, but doing it every time is draining and regularly having sex while disassociating left me feeling a little sad and confused.

I finally realized this year that I was performing — like I was taught — instead of really being there myself.

I’ve started saying ‘no’ when I start to disassociate. I’ve started being a little less sexy, and a little more myself. I’ve started learning about what I want.

I’m relaxing more and forcing it less.

This is the part where i would love to say that everything is better than ever now. Well, that isn’t quite so. It was easier when I was acting. I knew exactly what to do and my feelings didn’t matter. I could even manufacture a version of the feelings if necessary — growing up where your ‘attitude’ and emotions are under constant scrutiny makes you good at that.

So it isn’t all a bed of roses now. We have a lot of rebuilding to do, trying to get rid of my emotional baggage and start over from a new, healthier perspective in which sex comes out of love and desire instead of duty and insecurity.

But we’re working together, connecting instead of acting, and I think it will end up being a beautiful thing.