I wrote the following for a Page I am part of on Facebook called Raising Kids Without Sexual Shame. I thought I’d share it with you.
I am a child of sexual shame. When I was kid we didn’t talk about and weren’t even really allowed to think about sex. As far as we knew, our parents where asexual: there was never any noise coming from the bedroom. Years later I figured out that the way I could tell my dad and stepmom had sex the night before was seeing her douchebag hanging in the bathroom. Since it happened more than monthly, I figured it wasn’t because of her period.
I really don’t know why I was ashamed of my sexuality because nothing was ever said one way or the other about it. We were very religious and sexuality was this odd, unspoken thing in our house: we just never talked about it. I do remember when I was about 11, I went to my stepmother and asked her where babies came from. She asked me what I thought, and I told her. To her credit, her reply was only half bad; she said I was correct, and that the proper terms were penis and vagina. That was it.
Everything I learned about sex, I learned at school and my sexual awakening came pretty early. I was 10 years old and climbing the rope during fourth grade recess. When I got to the top I had this amazing feeling in my groin: my first conscious orgasm. I almost fell off the rope. I knew I couldn’t tell anyone about it. I went home that night and did my best to quietly reproduce the experience and feeling. I shared a room with my 7-year-old sister and my 2-year-old brother, so I knew I had to be quiet. I masturbated for about six months before I realized what I was doing was masturbation. And since it was a sin—I don’t remember how I knew that, but I did—I quit. For about three months. Then I started up again, which was also when I started exploring sexuality in subtle ways.
I remember one time a kid brought a single page from a soft-core porn book to school and passed it around. There was this one sentence that got me all excited and tingly: “Her warm moist inner thighs.” That was about as pornographic as it got, and I loved it!
My next door neighbor, Peggy, was my age and we used to play a lot of make-believe games. I was a voracious reader and read about four years above my grade level, which meant I had a lot of great fantasy fodder to reenact during play. Most of what we did was pretty much non sexual: mostly cowboys and Indians, and gangsters, which did involve getting tied up and captured. Oh, so fun!
There was this one game that stands out where we would be astronauts going to Mars and, once there, the Martians would capture us. They would take us to the edge of their town, strip us, and tie us to a pole so the other Martians could come and make fun of us by pointing and staring. I remember that during this fantasy game (where clothes never came off), I got the same kind of tingle that I got just before I had an orgasm. I have no idea if Peggy was as turned on by this as I was, but I do know she didn’t like to play it as much as I did.
I remember the worst part of my blossoming sexuality was getting my period. Again, other than what school had taught us (when they separated the boys and girls for “that talk”), I knew nothing about what to expect. I was barely 13 years old, and we were camping with my uncles and their families. I woke up one morning covered in blood; I was mortified and scared. Luckily my stepmother was also on her period and had pads. So, I cleaned up the best I could, put this HUGE white thing between my legs, and hoped it would go away.
As I sat in the camper, trying to soak all this in, my uncle popped his head in the door and said “well, I hear you’re no longer a little girl, that now you’re a woman;” then he smiled and winked. His acknowledging my situation was even more embarrassing and I truly wanted to just sink into the floor, to disappear. Periods ultimately became the bane of my existence; I never, ever embraced my “moon,” even when I became a hippie chick. I was a full-force, seven-day bleeder who was never allowed to use tampons and had accidents all the time. Just one more thing to be ashamed of.
For me, the oddest part of all this is I don’t remember a single instance of my father or stepmother saying or doing anything that was especially shaming. I just knew that sex was wrong; that it was a sin and it was something to hide. Consequently, as I matured I made stupid mistakes, got into horrendous relationships, and even had two miscarriages without knowing I was pregnant. I was not connected to my body, mind, and soul. In fact, as I matured my masturbation habits became more and more physical, less connected to fantasy and desire. I continued to be silent and secretive until a sweet man asked me if I was having fun while we were having sex. I said “yes” and he said “by your response, I’d never know.” That was when I learned to be vocal during sex (and that is another story).