How Christianity Damaged my Sexuality, Part 1: Sexual Assault

This post is further to a post from a while back about a dream about church. I’d had some songs by Delirious? rattling round my brain for weeks so I decided to listen to the tracks again and see what that did for me. It had the anticipated effect of removing those songs from my brain but it had some un-anticipated effects as well. This is a personal post about how Christianity fucked up my sexuality and is part one of two.

It describes various sexual assults and victim blaming thoughts. Content Note for everything after the cut. Please take care of yourself.

In listening to those songs and recalling how I felt when I listened to them as teen, and in paying actual attention to the lyrics, subtext and implications, feelings were aroused. Anger mainly. Fury and Rage. Pain and Regret. And finally, Heartbreak. Sorrow for my teenage self and disgust for the adults who had care of said teenager.

Simply put, I can barely begin to describe just how much damage my religious communities did to my sexuality and sense of self. I suffered so much harm that could have been avoided if I had been taught about consent in terms other than “no means no”.

Because what good is it knowing “no means no”,
if you feel you have no
right to use it?!

There was so much shame and secrecy about sexual activities that I felt I had no one to turn to when things got difficult. If you’re not supposed to be having sex or “fooling around”, or even be considering it, who are you going to turn to when you don’t know what to do?

What are you going to do about the guy you had sex with and “lost your virginity to” because you wanted to and were looking forward to it, only to feel a ton of guilt come crashing down afterwards? The guilt that was so strong, the only course of action was to tell him you didn’t want to have sex with him again? A week after which he dumped you, leaving you feeling used and worthless, guilty and ashamed?

I was depressed for over sixth months after he broke up with me. I believed he’d been holding out for sex and once he got it, I was worthless to him.

I am still afraid that if I tell a guy “no” he’ll leave me.

I got myself in to far too many messy situations because of this belief, and even in stable relationships I have great difficulty saying no.

I still get scared every time I tell my beloved partner of three years I’m not in the mood for sex. I think he’ll be disappointed with me, that he’ll feel let down and cheated.

Because I owe him, right? I’m his girlfriend, his partner.
If I don’t make sure he’s satisfied, bad things will happen.

I become deeply afraid that at some point, soon, he’ll break up with me and that will be that.

Who are you going to talk to about the guy who pressured you into giving him a blow job, only to tell you half way through you were crap, before finishing himself off by coming on your face?

We were on a youth group trip where sexual activity was forbidden and they were doing sweeps of the accomodation to check no-one was bed hopping. He shouldn’t even have been in my bed and so I thought it was my fault, even though it had gone way beyond what I wanted or consented to. That was straight up sexual assult but I told no-one. I felt so degraded by it that it was years before I felt able to give a blow job again, let alone enjoy it. When I did share that experience three years later with a close friend, they brushed it off –

It can’t have been that bad, right? It was years ago, why are you so bothered?
What are you doing listening to some stupid guy?

Who are you going to tell about the childhood friend who assaulted you when you were 12 because you were too afraid to say no, you didn’t like it? Would you have told his parents, who were your parents’ friends? Would you have rocked the boat, and risked getting both him and yourself in trouble?

Who are you going to tell about your line manager at the holiday camp who assaulted you when you were working as a volunteer? Remember, you fancied this man – he made you feel special because he paid attention to you when you were lonely and socially isolated. He later invited you to his room to watch a movie and you agreed because you figured he was being friendly, but he ended up snuggling and kissing you while you were frozen in fear. All because he rubbed your shoulders and back in a way that made you feel you were 12 again. After which, you eventually escaped back to your room and shook and cried and screamed “Don’t Touch ME!” into your pillow, even as those decade old memories settled in your mind’s eye like they happened just yesterday?

What do you do later, when you find out he’s engaged to be married? What about a year after that, when you see him flirting with another young pretty woman your age, and feel bolts of jealousy strike as you see her leaving his room later that evening? Even though you know he’s no good and you don’t trust him. When you know in that instant that he does what he did with you with other people, who are not his now-wife? Oh and by this time, he’s been promoted several times and he’s popular and well-liked, whereas you’re just an infrequent volunteer.

And it’s so complicated because you fancied him, so that makes you partly to blame for what happened, surely? Even though your feminist learnings inform you that there was a massive power differential and that the victim is never to blame for their assault.

If you can even call it that because it was just a back rub, a bit of kissing and some boob-groping? It’s not like he raped you. I mean, you could just have got up and left, right? And lets not talk about how you agreed to watch a movie in his room – of course he wasn’t just interested in you as a friend! What were you thinking?! How could you be so STUPID?

All this and more has happened to me since I dated my first boyfriend

There are other stories but these will do for now.

 …

 All this because I never learned, no, was never taught, how to use my voice in my own defence. “No means no” is great but it’s hardly enough. Not againt the background of what I learned from the Church and Society, which is covered in Part 2.

 …

Meanwhile, I will grieve for my hurts, for the wounds I should not have suffered

and pray that we find peace.

 

 

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8 thoughts on “How Christianity Damaged my Sexuality, Part 1: Sexual Assault

  1. Although it goes without saying that your experiences are not your fault, hearing it, I’m sure does not lessen the impact. I’m sorry that you had to experience such miserable things. But rest assured not every man is oppressive in their desire for you. And I think some men are receptive to hearing “No”, although they might want to know it’s not their fault either. I know, for me, once I had a girlfriend many years ago that didn’t express to me she did not want sex and I had told her I would rather know that she wanted it or did nor want it, because I’m completely capable of waiting…because the last thing I would ever want is for someone to feel unsafe with me.

    I find some intriguing similarities in this post, as well. I had similar guilt about losing my virginity…my first sexual experiences were with guys, and I felt immense guilt too. I wish there was someone to tell me what I was feeling and going through was “normal” and I shouldn’t be overly concerned by it.

    • Heyy, thanks for your kind words. 🙂

      There’s so much I know intellectually but feelings are often a different matter entirely and seem to be instinctive a lot of the time. I’ve lost count of the number of times Squisher has told me he *wants* me to tell him whether or not I want to do something, and it gets easier with practise but also, it is how it is. I have it on good authority that if you accept your feelings and instinctive reactions, rather than beating yourself up for them, it becomes easier to change them over time.

      So I know desire doesn’t have to be toxic, and for sure as hell, the teenage guys I knew were just as influenced by society as I was, and were most likely making it up on the fly too! There are plenty of good guys around – it’s just realising no, actually, you don’t have to put up with the bad ones, and you do deserve to be happy, that takes a bit of time.

      I’m sorry you were made to feel guilty too and that you had no-one to talk to. I was gonna say I was surprised that a guy would feel guilty about losing his virginity but then, as it was with guys, it makes perfect sense. Fuck homophobia!

  2. Pingback: How Christianity Damaged My Sexuality, Part 2: Cultural Teachings | A Hat Full of Ness

  3. Oh my, I just stumbled on this and read it and boggled at the screen and went YES.

    For me there was also this idea that you should avoid “temptation”–which for me really reinforced victim-blaming mentalities and even just extreme discomfort saying “no” when I didn’t like something. I put myself in a situation where “temptation” happened, I have to deal with the consequences. If that makes sense. I’ve just recently begun recognizing how pervasive this kind of, well, call it “sexual activity I didn’t actually want but never explicitly said no to,” happened in my teens and 20s. So nice to read someone else’s take and realize it isn’t just me. So thanks for that.

    • Hey, glad you found this. We’re rarely actually alone in our experiences but usually feels that way.

      I know what you mean abouot avoiding “temptation”, and it being your fault if you weren’t able to foresee the future and avoid it.

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