Sexual Shame, the Church, and Changing the Narrative of Virginity or, alternately: Let’s Pop All the Cherries

May 8, 2018

 

 

I grew up in the church.

 

I loved Jesus.

 

I wanted to be good.

 

I wanted to make my family proud.

 

And mostly I didn’t want to disappoint God.

 

What I was told, and took to heart, when I was young was that my virginity was something that I needed to hold close. If I lost it or gave it away to anyone other than my husband -- I would be tarnished. Broken. In need of repair. Sexual urges needed to be repressed and ignored.

 

 

Girls who had sex before marriage were wayward, immoral, asking to get pregnant, making bad choices.

 

I wanted so badly to be one of those girls.

 

And at the same time,

 

I wanted so badly to be good.

 

So I was “good” for a really long time.

 

 

* * * * * 

 

I really figured out masturbation my first semester of my first year of college, while reading a novel for my freshman inquiry class. Somewhere in this book was a passage that was a little bit steamy and it was the first time I remember noticing my body responding. And by responding, I mean my clitoris felt kinda tingly. So I touched it. And then I touched it some more. It was AMAZING. It felt warm and melty and electric. And it was mine.

 

I knew it was dirty and I definitely knew I couldn’t tell any of my friends about what I was doing because they would tell me I would have to stop and ask God to forgive me.

 

So I kept my secret and found ways to justify what I was doing. The thing about masturbation is that it doesn’t make anyone else complicit in your sin. I was the only one who would have to ask for God’s forgiveness -- the only one whose salvation was at stake. I was clouded in shame, regularly repenting for my incessant, transgressive orgasms.

 

So I masturbated. Often. And repented nearly as often. Masturbation was my “good Christian girl” loophole for six years.

 

* * * * *

 

I was 23 when I lost my virginity. It was an inevitability. I was tired of holding back my sexual self and I had a good number of men in my life who were interested, even eager, to be the one to finally pop my cherry. I had been holding onto it so tightly since I knew what the concept even was, that I really felt like it was lost. Gripping it so tight, and then in a night of drinking and blurry shenanigans, it was gone.

 

I came home from my friend’s house in a state of shock. Deep down I knew that I was a terrible person. Jesus was disappointed in me. And I could deeply feel the gazes of horror and pity from the few friends I told. I had made it so far and then messed it all up. All I could do was cry and ask for forgiveness over and over. AND OVER.

 

I was 23 when I lost my virginity for the second time. Or it was “taken” from me. By another friend who thought it was ridiculous that I was a 23 year old virgin and who continuously teased me about it. As was the case the first time, intoxication was what I needed for my inhibitions to be at a place where I was listening to my pussy more than I was listening to Jesus.

 

Two times you might ask? How is that possible? Well. In the logistics of that situation, all three of us were friends. Me and the two men. So the second time I lost my virginity… the person who popped that cherry thought they REALLY popped it because he didn’t know of my previous harlot indiscretion. I didn’t correct him.

 

My loophole had failed me. I had failed God. And my family. And my future husband. And everyone’s image of me. It felt like I couldn’t get clean.

 

I was a bad person. I was paralyzed by wretched, insidious shame and that feeling remained in my body a very long time. And then, once I left the church and began dating and exploring my sexuality, I felt shame for being a virgin for so long. So much goddamn shame.

 

Virginity is a social construct. Quite often tied to religious devotion. It assumes vaginal penetration of a woman with a vagina by a man with a penis. It assumes that there is virtue or chastity or purity that can be taken from you. It assumes that your sexual development and sexual unfolding and sexual worth all hinge on one significant act.

 

* * * * *

 

FUCK. THAT. SHIT.

 

* * * * *


Lately, I have been thinking about how to change the narrative around virginity. I have no use for the way that religion, culture, and family all contribute to building the current construct of virginity. But I do think we can take the idea of the sacredness of sexuality from the dominant narrative and honor it to our own delicious ends.

 

What if we change our thinking from it being a loss to an active celebration of connection and autonomy?

 

What if each new sensual or sexual experience we have can be a virginity that has been activated? A debut in a new chapter of our sexual lives.

 

First kiss. Popped that cherry. First kiss with a new partner. Popped another one. Oral sex. Anal sex. Being able to vocalize while getting it on. Pop pop pop! Threesomes. Crying with your partner after orgasming. Using your first toy. So. Many. Cherries.

 

 

All these experiences can be virginities worthy of celebration.

 

All of these ARE virginities worthy of celebration.

 

 

If we look at it that way, I have recently popped these cherries: kissing a sweetie under the mistletoe, holding hands with a sweetie at a movie, and, well, being vaginally fisted.

 

What. Miraculous. Cherries.

 

Each sexual debut I celebrated with joy. And I am looking forward to celebrating many more. Because my sexual self and my sexual choices are mine and worthy of celebration. As are yours.

 

Say it to yourself: My sexual self and my sexual choices are mine and worthy of celebration.

 

So let’s do it. Let’s start celebrating our sexual debuts, the cherries we have popped, the virginities we get to explore. 

 

 

Celebration and joy can -- AND WILL -- eradicate shame. 

 

I'm going to say it again, so it begins to really sink into our bones. 

 

Celebration and joy can -- AND WILL -- eradicate shame. 

 

 

 

Let’s build this shame free world together.

 

Are you with me?



 

 



 

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