Let me preface the beginning of this series with a few things:
- I’m gonna take weekends off for my “writing every day” goal in November. I can do this because I’m a grown ass woman and I want to.
- I want to explicitly acknowledge that I have AMAZING parents who did the best with what knowledge they had. When I talk about what I learned or heard, I want you to know that 99% of it came from outside sources- youth group discussions, Christian books, Christian camps, absorbed from kids around me, etc. Whenever I hear about how things were for American women in the 70s and even the 80s, I am always so shocked that my mom was as open about her body and sex as she was.
- This series won’t be for everyone. If you don’t care to know the inimate details of my thoughts on sex or even a generalized description of how my sex life has gone, then don’t read this. I will not grill you on the details the next time I see you. I will not scream at you in line at Panera because you don’t know my thoughts on masterbation. Proceed at your own risk.
- This series has been rattling around in my soul for a year or so. It feels immensely personal and completely vulnerable. But women who wrote before me were immensely personal and completely vulnerable and their choice to be open about their sex lives has changed my life so here I am, hoping that my vulnerability will help someone else.
A little background if you’re new here: I grew up in a Methodist family in West Texas. While my family was not politically conservative, overly-religious, or zealous, I grew up in a conservative evangelical culture. It was the water in which I swam at church, school, and elsewhere. I’m also an Enneagram 1 (which I explain here) and so I took the “Sex is bad” shame spiral and ran full throttle with it. Several things happened over the course of my 20s that led me to deconstruct my faith (at this moment, I’m entirely deconstructed) so my thoughts on most of what I learned about faith as a kid have changed.
Okay. So, let’s start here.
My first memory of anything dealing with sex or genitalia was Weiners and Buns. No, that is not a hot-dog-themed porn spread that I stumbled upon. When I was 5, my friend Jeff’s family went out of town so my across-the-street bestie, Megan, and her brother and I were idly hanging out when someone (not me) suggested that we play “Wieners and Buns”- a game where we mosey over to Jeff’s front porch and expose ourselves behind the laurel bushes. My sister and I were, sadly, weiner-less and so curiosity got the best of me. We paraded over to the porch, dropped our drawers, made a few pithy comments (I assume), and then went back to doing whatever we’d been doing before. It didn’t feel scary or secretive. I would have probably had a similar reaction had Kody told me that he had a gross wart on his elbow and did I want to see it. When I went home, my mom asked me what we’d done and I proudly announced that we had played “Wieners and Buns”, probably sandwiching that particular activity in between my recounting of a rousing Barbie doll marathon and our bologna sandwich lunches. Cue frantic phone calls between mothers and my very first grounding from my friends (for a few days). I am not sure that I fully understood what we had done wrong (sexual curiosity at that age is normal) but I knew that I didn’t like being grounded.
After that, I don’t remember thinking much about sex. I know my Barbies got naked sometimes but I don’t remember why I knew that was a thing. School sex-ed was woefully boring and I didn’t learn much beyond I would eventually get boobs and need deodorant. I had elementary school daydreams about kissing my crushes in private and felt ashamed about that. My GRANDMOTHER forced me and my cousin to go to a sex-ed class at a hospital WITH OUR MOTHERS, which was completely and totally mortifying. I don’t even remember learning anything because I probably blocked it from the trauma.
I do not remember inviting anyone into my curiosity until the last day of 5th grade when I was going to ride the bus home with Emily and we would be at her house for a while before her mom got home. I snuck my parents’ ancient copy of The Joy of Sex out of the living room bookshelf and slid it into my backpack. The only hiccup at school occurred when Brittany McCaghren loudly asked why I had brought my backpack on the last day of school and made a move to open it. My life flashed before my eyes. It was probably the only time I have ever actually threatened violence to someone and we eased past the incident with no violence or exposure. When Emily and I got back to her house, we did look at the book, but every small sound made us paranoid that her mom was home so we didn’t get to thoroughly examine it.
All this to say that, young Beth knew sex was ‘a thing’, but she didn’t know details and, more importantly, didn’t want to know details because that would mean she was curious. I had picked up the messaging that sex was wrong and dirty. It felt shameful to admit that I thought about secret kissing or naked Barbies or stealthily transporting The Joy of Sex to a friend’s house so we could look at some wieners and buns. Instinctively, I knew that sex was bad and I wanted to keep any curiosity about it hidden.
SPOILER ALERT: THIS DOES NOT GO AWAY.
It gets buried deep inside the core of my being and I’m still dealing with it today.
(to be continued)