Fox finds it very odd that I don't like to masturbate. It was never something that I did at all but I didn't think it was abnormal until we started talking more about it. I am currently reading Shameless: A Sexual Reformation by Nadia Bolz-weber and suddenly everything makes sense to me now. I am from a small Texas town where there is literally a church on every corner; religion, Christianity to be specific, is the way of life. During my adolescence I went to church every Wednesday and Sunday, most Saturdays and every summer was spent away at a church camp. During the 90's we were being force fed the belief that "True Love Waits," and that anything dealing with sex was an abomination. We were given 'purity' rings and we pledged our virginity to our future husbands. We went to camps where we were shamed for impure thoughts that I finally realized many years later were abnormal for young minds to think. We sat in groups for hours where we talked about how bad sex really was for us. We were all going to Hell for even thinking that we were attracted to someone before marriage. No wonder I would throw myself at any male that paid any attention to me when I was in my formative years, that could be my future husband and according to the church he deserved my BEST and most pure self. I was robbed of my sexual development due to the fear of being cast to Hell.
This confused me more than I can express because how was I supposed to get married if I wasn't allowed to be attracted to a man? Was I just supposed to wake up one day and BAM, I am married to the man of my dreams, yet I had never dreamt of because that was bad, mmmmkay! I was taught that I was supposed to get married and THEN have sex but no one really taught us what sex was about, or how to do it, or what not to do for that matter. But I did mention I was from a very small town so everyone was having sex but no one was talking about it out loud. The girls who did get pregnant were sent away and the magically returned 9 months later with a new baby brother or sister. There were a few girls who were actually allowed to raise the babies as their own but they weren't allowed to continue in our school. We were never taught safe sex, we were taught abstinence, brimstone and fire!
Allow me to circle back to my aversion for masturbation. During our summer camps we would have group discussions for hours at a time about how bad it was to masturbate. We were going to Hell for touching ourselves in a way that might cause us sexual pleasure. There were times when people in my youth group where pulled to the front of the church, in front of the entire congregation and prayed over, women cried tears of disgust, men on their knees, hand stretched high in the air, each voice louder than the one beside them all because the young individual was caught masturbating. I decided many years ago that I wanted to avoid that humiliation so touching myself was just not for me. Even now when I try masturbating, I get no joy from it and it wasn't until I was reading this book over the past week that I made the connection. My overtly religious upbringing robbed me of the joys that come along with masturbation.
I can't be the only one who experienced this humiliation and shame for doing something so normal. I won't even get into how my gay friends were treated and often sent to 'reparative' camps so God's chosen could get the demons out of them. Being a bi-sexual woman, I never admitted my lust and desire for another female until I was well in my 30's. I didn't want to even begin to imagine how much shame I would bring upon my family and the church if they knew that secret. Thankfully, we are raising our children to embrace their sexuality and we encourage them to play with themselves if they feel so inclined. Masturbation is a beautiful time for self-discovery that I was robbed of and I will not allow my children to be robbed of that gift as well.