T O P I C R E V I E W
Member # 51449
posted 12-22-2011 04:18 PM
I'm sorry that this is going to be a bit long, but I have no idea what to do. I need to get over this.
Ever since I was young, I was raised in a christian household to believe that sex was bad and that it was only ok if you were married. Being a sexual human being with natural desires, I felt guilty for thinking about sex/kissing/etc. I discovered masturbation by accident via bath faucet when I was 6, and I just knew that there was something wrong about it. A lot of my childhood memories involve me feeling nauseated and sobbing out of guilt for being curious about sex, and I went through all of this alone. During that time I also developed an irrational fear of becoming pregnant, which has unfortunately stuck with me. When I was in middle school, my mom took me to a purity thing at church called Sex has a Price Tag, and I ate it up. Now I look back on it and I re read the book and I realize what complete bull and misinformation it was, but it still hurts me. I'm 17 now, and my boyfriend and I have been together for 4 years. He is wonderful and he is my best friend. We are sexual together (oral sex, outercourse, etc) and for the most part it is enjoyable but I still feel like I'm "not allowed" to be sexual. At one point we tried becoming celibate but it just made me feel worse. Until recently, I believed that sex was something that was only for married people, but after evaluating my beliefs I don't think it is wrong for people to have consensual and respectful sex outside of marriage. I have read all the Scarleteen articles, especially the ones by Hugo Schwyzer about reconciling faith with sexuality and virginity being a social construct, but I still don't feel better. I've also realized that in all honestly I can't find a time in my life where I felt like a "virgin", which is actually kind of liberating. I have already developed my own moral codes when it comes to MY life and sex, but I feel like I don't have the right to practice them for some reason. I haven't even stepped foot in a church recently, because I'm sick of conservative people telling me what God wants me to do when really my relationship with God should be between God and I. I am angry that if I wanted to find information about healthy sex from a christian perspective, that all I would get is abstinence based scare tactics. Why am I so afraid of what these people in church who don't even know me think? Why can't I just have confidence in my choices and my life? I've been so depressed the past few days. Earlier this week, My boyfriend and I had intercourse for the first time this week and honestly, it was wonderful. It felt natural and comfortable and like something that was meant for me because I am a sexual person and I want to embrace it. But I can't enjoy those feelings because I feel like I should feel guilty. To make things worse, I got sick later this week from something I ate and the pregnancy fears came back, even though I'm on my period! I really need to get over this. I feel as though I am not allowed to be sexual, but when I try to be 'pure' or abstinent it is out of guilt and I just feel like a horrible robot. This might seem really long and complicated, but has anyone gone through something similar? How did you overcome it? Does anyone know where I could find a church that is more progressive or liberal and less conservative?
Member # 3
posted 12-22-2011 04:30 PM
I'm so sorry to hear you've been feeling like this for so long and how hard this has been for you.
However, I hear you making some really strong, very real and raw statements here I think are really powerful, and that's a really good thing. For instance, I agree that you should be able to get healthy, sound information about sex and sexuality without having to give up your faith. I think it's fantastic that you feel strong in your own values, despite feeling so unsupported in them. And I agree that it's not fait to you to have been made to feel the negative ways you have. The good thing, though, about some of what you're voicing here is that those are the kinds of feelings that can give you a really good start to feeling better. Alas, these feelings aren't going to go away or change overnight: unpacking sexual shame and guilt tends to take people a lot of time and to be a process. But we can certainly help you out. The likely easiest first step we can help you with is about what you're asking for in terms of churches. have you ever looking into Unitarian Universalist congregations at all? If not, I think you might find exactly what you're looking for there. Extra bonus: they have several sex education curricula for all ages and they are EXCELLENT. I'd be happy to help you with some links if you like, or even ask a UU friend or two over here if you'd like to talk with them. (Scarleteen is a secular site, but as you noticed with the columns you read, that doesn't mean people can't talk here about faith-based things. We just ask that anyone here not talk about them in ways that are prescriptive to others, that's all.) Maybe we can also talk about, for now, finding some middle ground when it comes to sexual activity. I hear you saying that either you're sexual and don't feel good about it later, or that you must be "pure" or abstinent, which doesn't feel right either. How about instead we talk some about finding a pace that does feel better to you somewhere in the middle?
Member # 51449
posted 12-22-2011 04:40 PM
Heather, thank you so much. I just want to give you a hug right now.
I would love to have access to some links or for one of your UU friends to give me their perspective on things. I want to find somewhere that I belong where I can strengthen my faith while still being myself. As far as the middle ground, I haven't really reverted back to being abstinent for about 2 years. My boyfriend and I only did that once and it didn't work. I am completely comfortable with him and and being sexual with him, but its this feeling that I shouldn't have the right to because of what I've been raised to believe. Like I said, having intercourse with him was wonderful, it was feeling the repercussions of what I was raised with that is hurting me and it's starting to affect him too. I have noticed though that the guilt often comes when we explore a new stage of sexuality together, I went through this the first time we had oral sex too. I don't understand why though because we had talked for months about having sex, I'm on the pill, we even bought condoms together. The communication and respect is there.
Member # 3
posted 12-22-2011 04:52 PM
We always wish we had a hug button. It really stinks that we don't.
I also just put a shoutout on my networks for UU folks: will holler back if and when I hear from someone, or they'll just show up here. After I address this other part of your response, I can also get you started with some links. I understand why you're feeling the way you are because sexual guilt and shame like this tend to be very, very deep-seated things. And there's things where even when you've taken the time to do things as best you can, you feel otherwise really good about things, you can still feel their impact. Unfortunately, as a sex therapist friend of mine says, religious shaming is what keeps most sex therapists in business. In other words, this is the thing that more people seek out sex therapy for than almost anything else. It's sticky and tenacious. I don't want you to think that means you'll always have to feel like this, because you don't and probably won't. But it will likely take some time, maybe the help of someone like a counselor or therapist, and probably a good deal of patience with yourself. I imagine, too, that if you can find a faith-based community where you do feel more supported with this -- instead of having the kinds of experiences you have -- that will probably help a good deal as well, especially with some time. Do you want to talk with me about trying to figure out what you think you'd feel best about at this point in time when it comes to sex and masturbation? (Gathering those links for you now, back in a flash.)
Member # 3
posted 12-22-2011 04:57 PM
So, here's the big website for uu:
http://www.uua.org/ Here's a basic statement on how they view and address young people: http://www.uua.org/beliefs/congregationallife/religiouseducation/7000.shtml Here's their sex education programming:http://www.uua.org/re/owl/ (Just FYI, I'm not Christian, and a tough sell when it comes to sex ed curricula, and I think theirs is one of the best out there, including in secular environments. It's really, really excellent.)
Member # 3
posted 12-22-2011 05:39 PM
(And have a couple cool UU folks showing up for you soon!)
Member # 93199
posted 12-22-2011 05:52 PM
I spent my teen years in the UU church community and now I teach the sexuality education program, Our Whole Lives (OWL), that Heather mentioned. I'm sorry that you are dealing with these issues and I hope that reaching out here can help connect you to some of the resources you need. You have already come a long way through your journey to deal with what you were taught through the conversations you have with your boyfriend. Branching out to more support networks can help you find a faith community where you won't have to feel guilty about sexuality in order to belong. I think along with Heather's suggestion that you consider talking with a counselor or therapist finding a new faith community might be a healing process for you. The Unitarian Universalist faith is a liberal religious denomination that is made up of people from a wide variety of faith traditions. Many people join the UU faith as teens or as adults and come from Christian, Jewish, Muslim, Pagan, Agnostic and other religious backgrounds. The community recognizes that sexuality is a natural element of our human nature and has developed the OWL curriculum to help bring education about sexuality to teens without the shame that many religions place on us. UU churches vary in how they are set up and what they focus on so if there is more than one in your area I'd suggest trying all of them. Ask ahead of time what kind of programs they have for teens your age and if they teach OWL at the high school level. Even if they don't teach it many UU churches also have strong youth groups where the value of acceptance will be a greater focus. OWL teaches that sexuality is a natural part of human relationships and much of the focus is on making the relationships in our lives positive ones, regardless of if there is any sexual element to them. Later today when I am home I will send you some more information on the basic program beliefs so you can see how the approach is different. Another option if you want a stronger connection to Christianity is the United Church of Christ. I don't know a lot about them personally, but they also teach the OWL program and worked with the Unitarian Universalist Association to develop it. It can be difficult to find a new faith community but there will be many people happy to talk with you at any of these churches. If you want to know more about how a specific church approaches sexuality ask to talk with their OWL teachers or their youth leader before you try out an event. I hope that you will explore some of these options. Even if they don't work out for you immediately keep them in mind in the future and know that there are faith communities that would be happy to support you and your sexuality.
Member # 51449
posted 12-22-2011 07:12 PM
Gwen, thank you for the resources! I think I'm going to start researching them now
And yes, Heather I would like to talk more about what would be best as far as sex is concerned. As far as masturbation, I really don't morally see anything wrong with it anymore. I understand that it's healthy and can be relaxing too. My boyfriend knows that I do and I know that he does too, but the only negative side effects of it is that I would much rather be sexual with my boyfriend instead of on my own (we go to different schools, so we only see eachother like once a week) Or sometimes I feel like I've wasted time afterwards, especially if I've been stressed about homework. This week was probably a just a bad week to decide to have sex for the first time, because I'm a senior and finals were this week, so the stress really got to me. Also I kind of had a mini epiphany. Earlier when I said I felt guilt about moving to the next stages in my relationship, I realized that I had given my boyfriend oral sex long before he had done the same for me. And I felt no guilt about doing it to him. But as soon as I was able to finish when he gave oral sex to me, I felt guilty. He loves me and he wants to please me, but growing up with this guilt has made me feel like I'm not allowed to enjoy anything or experience pleasure, and when I do that it's not valid or 'real', which is really sad.
Member # 68739
posted 12-22-2011 07:41 PM
Hello artsygirl. I know very well what you are going through as I have been going through this for most of my teenage and so far, all of my adult life (I am almost 24). I too deal with irrational pregnancy fears that nearly take over my life to be honest. Now, I partly have these irrational fears because I also have OCD...but, OCD is an anxiety disorder and I fully blame at least 90 percent of my anxiety issues on my raising. I wasn't completely raised in a Christian household, but my father (who I love more than anything in this world) is a very, very, conservative Christian who is very active in his religion. My father, as strict and conservative as he was, God bless him that he has never really tried to force any beliefs on me and when it came to sexuality, he wasn't very vocal to me about what I should and shouldn't do. That sucks in a way, because I didn't receive very much sex ed growing up, but considering the info I received from my other family members, I am very grateful to him for not interfering with that part of my life. Anyway, he has always encouraged a relationship with God and strongly encouraged Christian principles for me. I was and still am very open to this, though I have become greatly distanced from organized religion for the past several years, mostly because it provoked a lot of anxiety in me. I didn't like being in church because I felt like I was under a microscope and I was uncomfortable with all the yelling (preaching) and all the gossip that went on in a church. Also, I had more questions about the Bible than you can believe. I never thought about this stuff as a youngster but as I got older, it became pretty important to me to have "answers." With maturity, I realized that we have no definite answers in this life and faith is what it is, faith. I do believe in God, and I do believe in a lot of Christian principles because most of it really is good moral advice. However, there is a lot I don't agree with or understand. I've tried to ask questions, and I always get either a "i don't know" or "it isn't for us to know" and well, that just never satisfied me.
I feel as if I am rambling but I will try to get back to topic. The Bible says a lot of things that I don't agree with, such as the way women were treated and the way the Bible speaks of sexuality. I have always been told to accept the whole Bible as truth, or take nothing at all. Well, I just think that is unfair. I have no way of knowing who really wrote it or how many times it has been changed. I do know this: we live in a completely different world than that which existed in Bible times. Most Christians would say that the same principles still stand, but I don't see how they could. We don't live in a time where you can go get married right at the age of puberty (which happens way earlier than it used to, by the way) and sell oxen for money to get by. Now, you are expected to go to college forever to even get a decent paying job, and I am living proof that a degree doesn't always get you a job, much less a good one. People live longer now as well, so there isn't as much of a rush to get married and have children, nor is it very wise in this day in age. For these reasons, if you really stayed fully abstinent (even without masturbating) then it would leave most people going through two decades or more of abstinence!! I think if we were still living in biblical times, it would be VERY easy to remain abstinent if you got married right at the time of puberty, but waiting until you are in your 20s or 30s...wow, that is a lot to swallow. It can be done, but I doubt it would be easy and I doubt it would be without its own set of problems. We are sexual beings, just like all living things. We can't just shut our urges off like a light switch. If you believe in God, then you agree that he made us this way. So, if he made us creatures, with urges, then why would he give us a deathly punishment for trying to satisfy them? Of course, he also gave us intelligence so that we can do this reasonably and safely. I find it hard to believe that God is sitting up there solely concerned with our sexuality when there are SO many problems in the world. But you know what, all of what I just said came from my own opinion and my own educated guesses. None of this matches how I was raised. I was raised to think sex was sinful, dirty, and every single thing you do with a boy can get you pregnant and then you would be disowned and considered "a loose girl." So, when puberty came up for me, I had sexual urges just like everyone else and I have beaten myself up about them ever since. I felt guilty when I thought of sexual things, I felt guilty about masturbation, and I felt especially guilty about sexual contact with a guy. I never had anyone to talk to about any of this because every single person in my family would go berserk on me, in the least. My father, even being the most religious (and oddly the most mentally stable, the rest of my family I am referring to don't actually practice their religion but mostly just spit out rules and regulations at you) wouldn't have understood or have been happy with me, because well, no father wants to hear those things about his little girl. So, I found out all my sex ed from tv, movies, and friends. And boy, did I receive a lot of wrong info from that. Presently, I am in a relationship that I have had for going on 8 years with a guy that I love very very much and plan to be with him the rest of my life. Getting married is just not possible for a long time because of debt and obligations to other things, things I have no control over at all. We have only had intercourse a few times and that has been most than 5 years ago. We maintain our sexuality by having outercourse because my irrational pregnancy fear is just way out of proportion. Even so, I still worry about pregnancy all the time. I have been in therapy for these fears for awhile and it helps somewhat, but I don't think I will ever have a 100 percent healthy sexuality. I know that my fears mostly come from the fact that even though I believe that what I am doing is okay, I can't marry that belief with how I was raised. It isn't so easy to just forget all that you have been taught because you form the core of your personality in childhood, and try as you may, elements of your raising always stick with you. I wish I had an answer for you, but I don't. Just wanted you to know that there are other people going through this. Believe me, I know the misery it causes. I'm not happy being totally abstinent, and I am not happy being sexual, and it really just sucks to feel that way. Even though I know I can't get pregnant with what I am doing, I always feel in the back of my mind that God will punish me by making me pregnant because I was sexual. I've been so depressed the past few days. "Earlier this week, My boyfriend and I had intercourse for the first time this week and honestly, it was wonderful. It felt natural and comfortable and like something that was meant for me because I am a sexual person and I want to embrace it. But I can't enjoy those feelings because I feel like I should feel guilty. To make things worse, I got sick later this week from something I ate and the pregnancy fears came back, even though I'm on my period! I really need to get over this. I feel as though I am not allowed to be sexual, but when I try to be 'pure' or abstinent it is out of guilt and I just feel like a horrible robot." I feel like you took this quote right out of my mouth. I am here if you want to talk and I hope my experience has at least made you feel less alone in this. Take care!
Member # 93208
posted 12-24-2011 08:17 AM
I don't have a lot to say beyond Gwen's thoughts, but I can add as someone who not too long ago started attending a UU church as a newbie that it's incredibly welcoming, and a great mix of religious community and social support. Aside from the sex ed classes, there are tons of cool activities from yoga to reading groups, and the services blend faith traditions as well as secular stuff--so the readings for a day might include a Jewish prayer, a contemporary poem, and a passage from the Book of Tao. UU churches do vary in how the services are structured, so if you're looking for something more familiar, you may be able to find it. And like Gwen said, there's also the United Church of Christ--if you'd like another perspective on that, I could ask my girlfriend's teenage daughter to get in touch with you. She's a very enthusiastic member in her conservative Texas town.
Member # 51449
posted 12-31-2011 12:51 AM
Thank you for the resources everyone. After all this I realized that I had never told my boyfriend about my past, and I figured that's pretty important since he's the one I'm being sexual with. So we had a long talk and we were able to reinforce our beliefs, which felt great. He also suggested that I write down all my beliefs so that I can have them for encouragement whenever I start feeling down. I'm feeling much better about my beliefs and choices now. Thank you so much!