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Let's Talk About Sex & Shame. Part V.

A quick overview of how things are shaping up: I have several more sets of submissions to post, and will continue to keep taking stories til the end of Sunday. After that, I will post all the stories I've received. Then I will post my own story/thoughts, and a final post on my learnings from this process/series. And then...who knows! You all will have much say in what happens next.

I am feeling a lot of things these days - gratitude & honour that so many of you are trusting me with your stories, sadness at what you have felt and experienced, hope that there are beautiful, happy stories too... I don't know what each of you are thinking, but as I process all of this and think about how we will eventually end this, I already know that hosting this conversation has honestly changed my life. So thank you, each person who has shared their story or sent me a note or even "liked" a link to let me know you're reading. 


Today's set of stories are from people who grew up in church circles but no longer call themselves Christians. (If you're just joining us, the first post in the series is here.)

From one friend (emphases mine):
This article completely resonates with me. I was in youth group smack dab in the middle of the purity movement, which gave me a sense of sexual dissociation.

I honestly believed that God punished me with zits whenever I had a sexual fantasy. My English teacher mentioned that sometimes Christian girls have rape fantasies because it’s sex without giving into or revealing your desires, plus Christian girls believe that guys can’t control their sexual appetites. I was disgusted and horrified, because I had rape fantasies before for that exact reason.

When my ideas of Christianity changed, I still couldn’t shake my sexual shame. Even though I didn’t call myself a Christian anymore, I was too scared to have sex because it would ruin me, use me up, and spoil me forever for my eventual husband. I couldn’t even reveal a crush because it felt shameful.

I thought that when a guy had a crush on me, it was only because he wanted sex. I honestly didn’t think that guys were attracted to women for more complex reasons like companionship, comfort, or conversation.

However, I’m now in a fantastic marriage. What changed? My best guy friend told me he’s in love with me. We were already incredibly emotionally intimate, played music together, were fun-loving companions, and had terrific conversations, so I knew it wasn’t just sex.

I can’t imagine how challenging and shocking it must be for couples who have only kissed to go from just kissing to having sex in one night. To be honest, it sounds overwhelming and frightening. In secular dating, you can take your time easing into a sexual relationship as you get more comfortable with each other (as we did). If virginity is important to a Christian marriage, I think Christians should consider taking it slow after marriage. Get to second base. Read books about sex together before marriage – not about sexual purity but books like The Joy of Sex and I’ll Have What She’s Having. Learn about it. It’ll make you blush, but so will your wedding night.

And from another (again, my own highlighting): 
I grew up in Christian purity culture, and bought into it but....didn't. What I mean is that I privately ended up divorcing myself from the idea of absolute purity, instead developing values that spoke to me and made sense to me, but retained the ideals relating to purity. In other words, I decided that although I probably wouldn't wait for marriage, I'd at least wait until I fell in love. You could draw parallels but it isn't quite the same because I didn't attach shame to the act. I believed there would be trust and love in the experience, whether I was married or not. And I decided that it would only happen that way when I found the right person to share that with. These were my reasons for waiting, and there was no shame ascribed to sex in any way because of this.
I fell in love at age 25. I made a conscious decision, then, and it was the right one for me. The guy, though not religious, never made me feel like there was anything wrong with my choices about sex, whatever the reasons behind them were. He was happy to wait, and offered no pressure. I realise now that this attitude was a very large part of why I admired and respected him, and that it is a quality sadly lacking in many people.
He ended up being the man I married, and our sex life saw no problems at all with regards to having remained a virgin until then. The shame aspect slid right over me. Probably because of the reasons I had chosen to remain abstinent and how they had nothing to do with shame.
Sex is not shameful. And closing the dialogue around it is harmful.
Many churches use the idea that sex is bad to control behaviour. If you live like that long enough, you believe it, and it becomes too difficult to flip the switch suddenly because now you're married. You develop deep rooted issues preventing you from truly enjoying one of the essential human needs. I don't know how you could grow up fighting against your urges believing them to be shameful and ever fully break the association.
And that's the saddest thing about this entire discussion.
Me: What were the reasons you chose abstinence until you were in a relationship with your now-husband? Shame wasn't a motivator (hooray!) and I'd love to hear & share what alternate/healthy beliefs shaped your sexual choices.
I chose abstinence because I am a romantic soul who believes in forever. I am not a person who casually enters into relationships, and it takes a lot to get to a point of trust in a romantic relationship. I started many, many relationships that didn't last past 3 weeks due to incompatibility. I knew I wanted to get married eventually so I ended relationships as soon as I knew that they weren't going to work out long term.
Beyond the short-lived nature of most of my romantic relationships, there were so many reasons to abstain; sexually transmitted infections, very real possibility of pregnancy, and a general sense of wanting to fully trust my partner with that part of myself. Plus I didn't want it to be a shallow experience of carnal pleasure, I wanted sex to be meaningful.
Admittedly, sex is sometimes about release, having nothing to do with love and everything to do with desire, but I feel comfortable going to that place because I am with someone I love. The bedrock of our relationship has nothing to do with sex. So even when we have sex casually, we are never having casual sex, because it is happening within the context of our marriage.
Hope that answers your question. It's a really interesting discussion. I've never talked about sex in this way before.

Again, thank you. I feel like this is losing its sincerity, having said it so many times, but I mean it!! I'm so grateful to have so many voices and stories with unique perspectives.

I don't have any immediate questions on these. Do you? What stood out to you? Did anything surprise you? 

Next up: stories from a few ladies with healthy sex lives inside evangelical/conservative marriages.

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