Religion, Sex and Shame

**TRIGGER WARNING FOR SEXUAL ABUSE***

I could cop a lot of shit from writing this, but there are so many women out there that are feeling religion-based shame when it comes to sex, and I want to offer a different perspective.

I was raised in two Christian homes, and by that I mean that I was part raised by my beautiful grandmother and partly by my mum and dad, I went to Sunday school and I was in the choir. I sat through hundreds of sermons until I was an early teen, and then I went to a private Lutheran college and sat through a sermon every bloody morning in the chapel there.

It is drilled into me from an early age in Christianity that sex is sacred and you should never do it before marriage. If you do, it should bring shame upon you and your entire family. You shouldn’t even masturbate! It was wrong, sinful and you will be condemned to an eternity of hell fire and damnation if you enjoyed sex before marriage or with multiple people (may be a slight exaggeration, but you get my point).

When I was 8 years old, I was raped by a man who was hiding in our backyard at night. I don’t mean to skim over this, but from that night I was already confused about where my virginity status lay. I didn’t know at the time what it was or what had happened. When I got a bit older I was desperate to create my own ‘First Time’…..so, I lost my true virginity (by my own choice) when I was 14. I was SO YOUNG, I know, but I was a very damaged young girl who had been through a lot of trauma and I thought I was going to marry the guy. He was my boyfriend of a year, which was eons at that age, so I thought in order to keep him around I would have to do it because he had had sex before and I hadn’t. We were going to marry each other anyway so it wasn’t a big deal, right? Silly, silly young girl I was.

Inevitably we ended up breaking up and he slept with a couple of other girls from my school, like it was nothing, which crushed me. I felt like I had given away my body and soul just to be replaced. This set off what was already a negative view of myself and my worth, and sex became something I did because I felt like it was the only thing I had to offer, and liking it cemented the view that I was unworthy and sinful. I was rebelling against everything I stood for as punishment to myself for being not good enough.

The feeling that I was ‘bad’ for having and liking sex before marriage stuck with me throughout my life, and led me to making extremely bad choices. I only started to reflect on how wrong this feeling was when I did my psychology and counselling studies and started to question – if God hated sex so much, why did he create it in the way that he did? Why did he make it feel so good, make it such a good tool for connection and conception? Surely we were made to have sex and made to enjoy it?

No matter what you believe, my stance and perspective is firm on sex and masturbation. It is a totally natural, normal thing to do and to want. It is a celebration of your body and the love you have for yourself and the person you are doing it with.

Can it be used as purely a carnal pleasure? Sure. As long as you’re not hurting yourself or anyone else and doing it for the wrong reasons – just like anything. Religion uses fear and outdated, male-dominated views, especially when it comes to women and sex. In my opinion.

You can choose to wait until marriage of course, it has it’s pros and cons I guess – but do it because you want to, don’t do it out of fear and shame. If God is as loving and magnificent as he claims to be, he will love you no matter what. The decisions we make as humans are always extremely complex and different, no one set of rules should apply to how we live our lives. We should be able to choose how we experience life and our bodies without feeling shame.

I came to terms with the fact that if ‘God’ is really out there, and he IS love, then us expressing love for someone outside a piece of paper is not going to change anything. I’m a good person with the best of intentions for everyone – and I like sex. If that’s going to send me to hell, then so be it.

Bethany x

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