The Honest Faith: The Dirty Little Secret
(Warning: NSFW, Possible triggers, 3000 word blog post, use of the word claptrap, Sex, Sex talk, too much information about the writer that you didn’t really want to know)
I’m not going to get into the nitty-gritty of arguments about Biblical marriage. But I do want to talk about sex today. I could talk about tons of Purity Culture claptrap and get people completely up in arms because, why exactly? I have a friend who just finished writing a fiction novel about Purity Culture and can probably speak to all of those things a bit better than I can. Instead, I want to focus on my own experience in the church and growing up. Today, I’m going to reveal my own pain, because last week I admonished us to do so. I’m going to focus on my pain regarding sex this week because I feel like it is one of the prime things that we don’t talk about, but really really need to. So buckle in because this is going to be a long post!
I grew up in a small-ish town in south Texas. My family went to this non-denominational (read: backseat baptist evangelical fundy) church. I was given a pretty bad anxiety/savior disorder from the faith that I received there. In fact, I don’t remember really having any real conversation about sex there at that church/school (did I mention it was also the school I attended until Junior year of high school?), beyond “Sex is bad, mmmmkay?” I remember learning verses about marriage, and how we are to save ourselves for marriage, and how homosexuality is an abomination, blah blah blah… But we never really had a frank, open, and honest conversation about sex. We didn’t talk about masturbation or even safe sex. These were taboo, and I feel really ruined my psyche regarding sex for a very long time.
After we moved away and I started attending more mainline denominations, I started to discover a bit more about sexuality. I heard about friends back home who came out of the closet, and I began to question what I was told about it being an abomination. I remember thinking these are normal human beings. They are some of my best friends, they can’t be abominations. They love people, what makes who they love a problem? I was attending a public school at the time, and I had a choice to make about sex-ed. Do I skip it for ‘religious reasons’ or do I attend? I attended. I was still firmly planted in the savior complex thinking that I was better than everyone else, and it was my job to save them all. I stayed quiet and learned about safe sex, as a senior in high school (way too late). I, of course, was still a virgin at this time.
I didn’t really have any serious relationships during this time. I had a girlfriend in high school for a time, and she was a long distance relationship. I had a few crushes here and there, but nothing turned into a relationship. I was an extremely awkward, nerdy, and holier-than-thou church kid; it really isn’t hard to see why nothing materialized. Not much has changed, am I right? The first real relationship I had was with a woman in my friend group (I don’t like to use the word “girl”, especially as it pertains to the baggage we associate with all of this stuff). She was going through a tough time, and I only kind of liked her. I was horrible. She liked me, but I always felt like it wasn’t really a 2-way thing for me. I feel like such an a-hole for how I treated her back then. I mean things got a little physical, but we never really did anything beyond making out and groping. That’s right I told you I was going to talk about my dirty secrets. I mean I wanted to do more, but there was that big part of my brain that was saying I’d go to hell for it.
Fast forward another 3 years. I’m a Junior going to be a Senior in college. I’m working at a Christian Camp as a camp counselor one summer. Just to let you know, yes, still a virgin at this time. Still, have not had an honest and frank conversation about Christian sexuality to that day. Anyway, during the orientation training week, they separate the male and female counselors. I wonder if you can see where this is going. The married male senior staff have a conversation with us boys about masturbation. They tell us that “Masturbation is bad, mmmmkay?” and that they know we are basically horndogs with legs so we have to try our best to not masturbate all summer and that we would keep each other accountable. Okay, do they have these conversations with women? Are men the only ones who are seen as sexual beings within the context of Christianity? This seems like a horrible double standard that plays into rape culture all too horribly well. I didn’t make it. I didn’t tell my other counselors to keep me accountable, I just hid that I did not make it. Again, no real relationships have materialized for me. I did date that same girl from high school that I had a long distance relationship with, in another long-distance relationship. No, really she goes to another high school, you wouldn’t know her.
My first real, in person, relationship was with a woman who was very kind to me. She lived across the state but moved to the same town when she started going to college. I really liked her. She was pretty and fun, and the first woman I had sex with. This led me to have blinders when it came to the relationship because honestly, it was my first time. I still had not had an open and honest conversation with anyone about sex. I’m pretty sure people thought other things about me up to this point and time. But the truth is I had not done a single thing beyond masturbating up until I was 22 years old. I had a horrid view of human sexuality and I honestly felt like I was going to hell for just masturbating, let alone having sex for the first time. This, in a sense, opened the floodgates for me. I had a string of bad relationships after this. Until one night when all of this bad images and horrible views of human sexuality came back to bite me in the ass.
In 2007, I was not having a good year. I was turning 24 and things had just ended with the the woman I just told you about in a very disastrous fashion. No, I mean it was bad. Like I called every 20 minutes to her house until her dad picked up on the 100th call and told me to stop. Yeah, it was bad. Have I mentioned that I wasn’t the most emotionally or mentally healthy person at that time? Anyway, like I said after that I had a string of bad relationships. One night this woman I had dated once, and decided she had the crazy eyes, called me. I had just returned from a youth conference that night. It was about 2 am when she called me. DON’T TAKE CALLS AT 2AM. Anyway, she was crying and saying that she was going to end it all. Remember how I said I had a savior complex, and an anxiety disorder? Yeah, those combined with it being 2AM said the only way to save her is to go over and make sure she doesn’t do anything to hurt herself. I went. I drove across town at 2 AM and arrived at a parking lot. I should have known something was off when she met me outside, and had a blanket laid out in a field next to the parking lot. I sat with her a while and talked till about 3 AM. I was exhausted. She asked if it was okay to make out, I’m like whatever. After a few minutes of this I say I need some sleep and get up to leave. I get to my car and she calls me again, saying she’s thinking about hurting herself again. I look over at her and reluctantly say I’ll come back. I sit down with her again, and she starts kissing me again. She starts doing other things and I say I can’t do this. She backs off. This happens a few times. Until, I can’t say no anymore. I was raped. I know I got myself into this situation. I know my better judgment was asleep already. I have beat myself up about this a million and one times. You all can debate whether or not it is possible for a man to be raped, especially in this situation, but I know that I was. I was manipulated. I was not listened to. I was made to do something I didn’t want to do. I returned home at around 4:45 AM and slept. I felt guilty about this for weeks following. I stopped dating.
Two weeks later, on my 24th birthday, I receive a text from this woman. It contains 2 words. “I’m pregnant”. I hadn’t heard anything from her in weeks. This makes my brain spiral out of control. I’m going to be fired from the church I’m working at. I’ll never be able to work in Youth Ministry again. So on and so on. I finally call her the next day demanding that I see proof, a pregnancy test and if possible a paternity test. She calls me a few hateful things because of this demand and hangs up on me. I think well maybe she’s lying about it all and don’t hear from her for another week. She calls again after the week and apologizes and asks me to take her to her next doctor’s visit. I don’t think it’s appropriate seeing as how I really hardly know her, and I need the proof still. She says she’ll keep me updated. I start a relationship with a woman at this time based solely on the fact she felt sorry for me. She felt like what I was going through was pitiable enough for her to help. So she did. She never really liked me now that I look back. I was more like a lost puppy that she was helping. She helped me make plans and figure things out with crazy eyes. She even helped me to realize that the other woman was not pregnant, even though now to this day I still have my doubts.
I had taken another job at the end of 2007 and ended up moving at the start of 2008. I, was at this time, officially dating the woman who pitied me. There was nothing going on physically between us, for the most part, because I was still feeling super un-okay with myself after everything that went down with Crazy-eyes. This relationship was not looked well upon by the people of the new church I was working for, but that’s a different story for a different day (Read the book for more on that). Again, I just went on with life always with that nagging fear in the back of my head that I was abandoning a fictional child. Which I still have that fear, even though I looked up crazy-eyes a few years ago on social media and discovered she never had a child and was never pregnant. It was really difficult for me to be in a sex-positive relationship. I didn’t. In fact, all of my relationships from that point until 2009 mainly stayed pretty tame and PG-rated due to my shame and fear. That was until I met my wife.
I met my wife in 2009. She lit up my world almost immediately. She saw me when we first started dating. She saw the scared shamed me that was there and loved me anyway. I told her about all of this early in our relationship, and she didn’t run screaming. Though, I wonder if sometimes she wishes she did… She taught me to love myself, while I tried to do the same for her. I think in this relationship with my best friend, and the love of my life, I discovered what true sexuality is about. It’s about loving yourself and someone else so much that you want to share all of it. Now I know that’s a horribly over-romantic view of sexuality but bear with me as I’m going to get into what that means now.
I know it’s long! Stay with me!
The entire point of writing this all out is to say, we don’t talk about the important things. Yes, I did the reader’s digest version. Yes, I did have more experiences I didn’t really talk about, but the biggest points were in there. When I was a youth minister, I despised how churches wanted to do sex talks with the teenagers. That’s the job of the parents to talk to their kids about what Sexuality should be and how to be sex positive. I did write and develop a curriculum for my own use, that I didn’t use until I had to after 4 years of development. It was basically based on the point that you can’t make the topic un-awkward so embrace the awkwardness of it. Be honest, be real.
The Honest and Real dirty secret about sex is this. People have it. We all do. Some people aren’t as into it as others, and that’s okay. Some like to have it with the opposite gender, some like to have it with the same gender, some like to have it with multiple people at the same time. It happens. The dirty truth is that we all masturbate. Some do it more often than others. Some aren’t that into doing it. It’s okay. It’s healthy. It’s normal. We can and should talk about these things, because really when you get right down to it we are doing ourselves a horrible disservice. We end up making it into this complex creation that it shouldn’t be. Here it is. Sex is fun, sex can be used for pleasure, sex isn’t just for procreation, though it is our main form of procreation. Sex should have become this taboo subject that we both want to control, yet also don’t want to talk about? That’s not healthy.
Men, Women, and those who don’t identify as either all have sex drives. We are all sexual beings. Yes, sex can be destructive, because it is a volatile thing. But when all parties involved in the act are respectful of the volatile nature of the thing, and consent to use it with respect and care with one another, it’s a beautiful act of intimacy. It is the shedding of all that we use to cover ourselves up and becoming pure passion for just a few moments, or longer if you are Sting. It’s enjoyable to be that vulnerable with someone and have them be vulnerable with you. It’s more enjoyable when you are in a committed relationship with someone and you know that you can be fully vulnerable on multiple levels beyond the physical as well. Though it doesn’t need to just be contained to that. It is a holy and spiritual act in and of itself removing all pretense and just being with someone. The moment when we make it more than that is when we have lost sight of good sexuality.
This whole Purity, and ant-safe sex education is just, frankly, bullshit. We are building up walls to hide our pain from other people. We are preventing ourselves from being holy by saying nobody should be. It is an act of vulnerability with another human being just like revealing your pain to another human being is. Yes, I know it’s dangerous for me to say this, because honestly people would like to label me all kinds of crazy things to discredit what I’m saying here. My biggest point of all this is that none of that stuff matters. If you get down to what the Bible has to say about any of this, it contradicts itself horribly! You say marriage is between one man and one woman? What about David, Solomon, Abraham? They all had multiple wives and concubines. Heck, Paul, of St. Paul fame, who wrote (probably) the passage that is quoted at more weddings than any other, didn’t believe anyone should be married. Look at his writings! He felt like people shouldn’t waste their time on such things because Jesus was going to be coming back like tomorrow, so why bother? Poor guy, 2000 years later, still hasn’t happened. I used an infographic above to show how absurd Biblical marriage really is. So why do we think there should be no talk, and control over this all?
I think people are afraid to be seen as vulnerable. I think people don’t want to reveal their pain. I think they feel safe in the comfort of the aloneness they’ve created for themselves, so instead of letting anyone else in, they tell others they have to have these walls too. They feed into the machine, the hegemony of terror. They want to separate so that they can feel safe within the walls of themselves. But like I said last week, we are stronger together. The Gospel is about tearing down walls and tearing down power structures that would seek to keep us separate. So with all of that being said. Let’s talk about sex. Let’s talk about our desires. Let’s talk about how we can be vulnerable in healthy safe ways in whatever relationships we’d prefer. Because the truth of the matter is we are not alone, we matter. Remember that above all. You are not alone, you matter. Your sexuality is not the only one. It matters too. You are not alone. You matter.