Saturday, February 21, 2015

Sex Ed ... (feel free to stop now)

Imagine growing up in a stalwart, conservative Mormon home where if the T.V. was on and if two actors looked like they might kiss your father would groan and change the channel. A home where any hint of p.d.a. was scorned, even between your parents. A home where even a regular t-shirt wasn't modest because if you leaned over to pick up something you dropped, some "inappropriate" skin would show. A home where your parents wrote letters to the school to have you excused from all Health classes. A home that was limited to PG movies. A home that taught if you see an "immodest" cover on a magazine Satan is tempting you to look - turn it over. Imagine your mother rushing out of her room to exclaim appallingly to a room of high schoolers, "you know what a french kiss is?!" At 21 having someone tell you that the sensation of a "pit in your stomach" wasn't Satan, but sexual arousal. At 22 still never having even held a boy's hand. At 24 hearing someone ask "can you have sex with a tampon in?" and not knowing even the most basic mechanics of sex to know why that would be a relevant question. That's me. If I hadn't lived it, I would think it impossible. Upon marriage I bought a book. I felt guilty at first, but I'm so glad I did. I am also very grateful that I married someone who had been married before and knew what he was doing.

Why do I share this? I share it because I worry about others who might live in this scenario. Although it eventually turned out fine for me, this lack of sexual education which is common in Mormon culture is problematic for a multitude of reasons. I was scared of my body. I was scared of men's bodies and any kind of physical contact. I was completely unprepared to make decisions related to marriage, thinking that everything else mattered, but sex. I didn't know enough about my own body to make informed choices about how and when to engage physically with another person. I also realize now how vulnerable I was on dates or even out dancing because I clearly knew WAY less than the other person. Also, many women in this situation feel extreme guilt about sex even after marriage. I understood "physical attraction" to be about being tall, but not too tall, ultra thin, tan, with streaked hair, perfect teeth, and fake nails. I am short, red-headed, fair-skinned, with a curvy frame and I was certain that no man would ever be physically attracted to me, so I would have to find someone who didn't care about looks. Now I know better. I wish I had always known.

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