Best of, Justin, memories, relationships, Viktor, Wyatt

The Abstinence and Shaming Culture

I don’t talk much about topics that tend to make people emotional. I mentioned that in my last post. Topics that would be considered “subversive” in any way with any of my friends or acquaintances I avoid because I just don’t want to hear it. I don’t want to argue. I don’t want to feel judged or shamed for my opinions.

I don’t feel that way as much as I used to – I don’t run in the exact same circles anymore. Even a few people from the past have grown themselves and have allowed their outlook on such issues to change. So that helps, a bit.

But I know if I talk about this on my personal Facebook page, I will have people attack my view and possibly try to pray for me about it. Some friends may or may not do this… but I do have some family that would have no shame commenting. So I best talk about it here if I want to broach the subject.

I’ve been ingratiated into a group of ladies that can talk about anything and everything with respect and openness. I can swear and bitch along with them, or I can talk about serious subjects and it has been a safe environment so far in which disagreements on a topic are not met with emotional outbursts or belittling.

One recent conversation was about teenagers talking to their parents when they have sex. This conversation brought back a wave of bitterness about my own experiences. I’ll just lay them out. Maybe then it would be clear why I am for teaching safe sex in schools. While I can concede “abstinence is best” for not getting pregnant or STDs, I find it entirely necessary that young teens be taught all the information about sex and relationships before they start along that path. I’m sorry if it offends, but it is completely ignorant to think that kids that age are not “dating” and/or being exposed to sex.

“Not all kids are doing it,” I hear people say. Of course I know that, <insert snarky insult name here.> But the kids don’t feel that way. They think they are the only ones not doing it half the time. The sexual innuendo they start to joke about, the bullying or shaming done often has to do with sexual themes. Telling kids just not to do it will not stop it from happening for the ones that fall into it. There are a range of reasons kids will want to or be expected to do any of this stuff and preaching “just don’t do it” will not stop a damn thing.

So onto my story.

I learned the mechanics of sex at school in 7th grade while I was in Australia. My mum had already given me some basic info about periods, but that was about it besides the “don’t let boys touch your private areas” talk… and my dad telling me to kick a boy in between the legs if they try anything.The school and my parents didn’t really talk about contraception or anything like that. Maybe they would have gotten to it had I finished out the year… but half way through the year my family moved back to the US and I was put into a very conservative Christian private school for 7th and 8th grades. No sex ed happening there at all. Any discussion caught amongst the students was quickly shut down.

I only just recently talked about the particulars about my first boyfriend and my introduction into the actual sexual acts. If you need to get caught up, read it here.

I feel it is safe to say I was pressured into it by him. I was also convinced that he was a “good, Christian boy” and that we’d be together forever – so therefore there was a “commitment” involved and… well… there was fear of varying degrees. Fear he’d be angry, fear he’d leave…. there were manipulation tactics used to convince me it was all ok… I can’t even say now what all my motivations were to go along with that aspect of my life then. Anything I learned about sex was through this one guy.

I moved to Ethiopia when I was 15. In Ethiopia I went to an International school that was in no way a Christian school… yet my family attended an Evangelical church and I attended the youth group. Of course I had friends outside of this sphere, but I became “best friends” with a boy from my class that was also in the youth group.

He acted enlightened and not so uptight, so I mentioned to him some basic info about what I had experienced. He did not get details – no play-by-play, no mention of abuse. I used words like “stuff” and “…things.” I mentioned some generalizations in youth group when we did a topic of dating.

Whereas Mikael and his sister thought my additions to the discussion were good and “brave,” I underestimated the missionary kid, my “best friend.” He went and told his family ALL about it.

So his mother ran to my mum to tell her all about how “promiscuous” I was. To this day, I hate that word. I was shamed by these people. I confronted Ethan and asked him “What the hell?!” His response was merely that he and his family talk about EVERYTHING.

Really, Ethan? Really?? Did you tell them about when you asked me to pose in my underwear for your “art project?” Oh, sorry. Actually you asked me to pose nude, and I was the one that agreed only down to the underwear.

I didn’t think so.

Awhile after, my parents had me sign a “True Love Waits” contract. I signed it not because I wanted to – or even believed in it anymore – but because I felt the pressure to and didn’t want to have the fight with them… or be further shamed by people in my church.

One day, I had a sleep over at my house with a handful of girls from church. I made a mild sexual innuendo type joke. One other girl laughed hysterically – so at least there was one. But then the other two or three girls (including Ethan’s sister) were just so shocked and appalled. They had no qualms shaming me for saying such a thing and then one of them didn’t even want to hang out with me further for several MONTHS after. Eventually that one appeared to ease and be okay hanging around me again – but I had lost all trust and ease in this group. To be quite honest, I couldn’t even stand that chick after the way she had treated me. All of this stuff, instead of making me see the light or whatever – it made me feel rebellious and distrustful of evangelicals.

The next time I even did anything with a boy was when I was 16 and fooled around a little with Justin in a movie theater. At the time Justin was from a Christian family as well… so when we broke up he threw that one occasion back in my face and tried to shame me for it. I was so hurt by that.

After all of that I was determined to have the rest of my sexual life to be on my terms. It didn’t always work out that way, of course, but I was of the mind that I would do it when I was ready and I wouldn’t be ashamed of it.

I moved to Sweden when I was 16 and the culture there was a LOT more progressive and not-shaming for the females. So my first time having full on sex was when I was almost 17, with Viktor. I mentioned recently in a discussion about all this that “at least my first time was with a nice Atheist boy.”

After my history, I did not feel like I could tell my parents when it happened.

Luckily, Swedes are well educated about sex early on – so I had friends I could turn to. The Swedes have very good resources for teens – free youth clinic, easy access to contraceptives, etc.

So while I was there from 16 – 19, I was handling it all myself. I put myself on the pill. I got myself tested and dealt with the Chlamydia myself. I dealt with a pregnancy scare myself. I was open with close friends and boyfriends on the topic – no pussy footing around if I wanted to demand condom use, discuss STD status, or anything like that.

I had been slut shamed one too many times. As I grew up, I made a conscious effort to own the word “slut.” I joke about being a slut with my friends, I’ve allowed men to call me a slut in intimate relationships.

I did not involve my parents or anyone from my church in the sexual side of my life.

…And that is sad. I really hope that one day my kids will be able to talk openly with me about it. I want to be there for them… and yet, my husband is very conservative and I can already see the arguments coming a decade in the future.

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3 thoughts on “The Abstinence and Shaming Culture”

  1. I, too, grew up in a conservative, Christian family, and I, too, was “slut shamed” by my parents and by people in my high school who found out about a certain incident. It got so bad that when I would read my name, I would think, “she’s a slut,” and then realize I was thinking about myself.

    When children come to their parents to talk about sex, parents have a responsibility to listen and help. I asked to get birth control pills; instead of starting communication, my mother shut it down and told me she wouldn’t give me her blessing. And I would never have gone to my father.

    This refusal led to several years of shame and promiscuity. And that took years to work through in therapy in order to accept myself.

    I encourage you to have open and compassionate conversations with your children. They can love your husband but disagree with him. Just make sure to surround them with understanding people, and listen, listen, listen.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. It breaks my heart to know it’s happened to other people too… obviously I knew it did, but when particular people tell me their stories I feel for them… you know?
      That’s my hope – that my children will have a better experience than I did… and if they meet shaming individuals outside, they can always come home and have support from me. Thanks for sharing your story with me.

      Like

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