Kink and religion interviews: What were your early experiences regarding religion and sexuality?
Dishevelled Domina, our fearless leader in this endeavor, Tomio, John and I have recently been discussing kink and religion via email in an interview/question/comment format. There were four questions, of which this is the first. I decided to take part in this discussion because religion is definitely something that has had a large impact on my life and hopefully it will open up a larger discussion in the comments both here and on Dishevelled Domina’s page (it is cross-posted).
What were your early experiences regarding religion and sexuality?
Delving into Deviance (a.k.a. Dev):
I was raised Southern Baptist. We weren’t actually affiliated with the Southern Baptist Convention though, so it wasn’t as bad as it could have been. It wasn’t quite as strict as DD’s church. We could watch movies and wear pants. I went to church two or three times a week. Sunday service, youth group, and choir. For awhile church was just something I did, but when I was 12 I went on a youth retreat and was ‘saved’. After that I started taking everything much more seriously. I tried to let what I thought God wanted me to do influence every aspect of my life – what I ate, what I read, what I did. I went through a 40-day devotional book where I would spend an hour each day with God, and in order to make time for that and minimize negative influences on my life I gave up television and movies. I tried to convert my friends. I broke up with my boyfriend because I thought God was telling me to.
My religion definitely affected my sexuality growing up as well. I tried very hard not to have impure thoughts. I tried not to discuss sex with my friends. I was taught to avoid wearing provocative clothing in order to avoid inciting lust in men. I would usually just fantasize about kissing someone and nothing more as a preteen and young teenager. I would avoid situations in which I would be tempted to do more. However, sex was still seen as a beautiful thing; just a beautiful thing that was for a husband and wife. So sometimes I would roll around with a pillow imagining it was my future husband. I didn’t know I had a clitoris till I was 16. Around the same age, I started masturbating, but I didn’t want it to be masturbation. I didn’t want to have an orgasm because then it would actually be masturbating rather than ‘exploring my body’. As I grew older I started questioning what I’d been taught more, and started accepting my sexuality a little bit at a time. I was very curious about sex, but didn’t want to engage in it as a teenager, so I educated myself, but wouldn’t permit myself to experience anything too sexual. That education, which question 2 will discuss further, was a very sex-positive one. Kinky sex was presented as a normal part of an adult sexual repertoire, so when I did start experimenting sexually, I started experimenting with BDSM as well.
Dishevelled Domina (a.k.a. DD):
I was raised in an Independent Fundamental Baptist (IFB) Church (for the blissfully unaware, here is a taste; women ought not wear pants, tv and movies are always and only bad, and their expected role of women is…somewhat archaic). Between services and the Christian school I was at the church 6 days a week (sometime more) so they had lots of opportunities to tell me, “Yer doin’ it wrong.”
A consistent problem areas for me was being “ladylike.” I wasn’t. EVER. Especially by their definition. As a young tomboy I felt disenfranchised, which stood me in good stead as a teenager dealing with fundamentalist doctrine regarding sexualityand the bizarre tension in how women are regarded (the old Madonna/whore issue).
Thankfully, my parents were a little less crazy than most of the folks at their church. My mom was a bit of a feminist actually, and I am very glad of it. As a nurse she approached sexual education very medically and I was well informed, even about masturbation, and it not discouraged. I did not get any shame messages about sex at home, though they were very clear that sex was reserved for marriage.
When I got engaged my mom gave me a book about sex which was nowhere near as informative as another I received, but was miles ahead of anything her IFB contemporaries would have considered. I largely credit my mother’s open-mindedness for the fact I was able to start sorting out what I liked and wanted as early in life as I did (age 19).
I can definitely relate to this:
This lead to many attempts to cleanse myself of impure thoughts none of which ever worked.After many years of struggling I finally realized that the sexual desire is just a part of being human and there is nothing wrong with it.
Basically, Fundamentalism views sex as being, at best, a necessary evil. I would note that this is largely due to the writings of St. Paul, and not actually based on anything attributed to Jesus. As far as I’m aware, Jesus said absolutely nothing about sex (okay, he probably SAID a lot, but nothing is recorded).
Against the backdrop 0f the 1970s, Deep Throat ushered in what was called chic porn, followed by utter condemnation by Women’s Libbers, especially Andrea Dworkin. It was the height of the “ME Generation.” Disco music, key parties, cocaine was non-addictive, and not wearing a bra was a political statement (check out how tight the Bee Gees pants were…). Even Phil Donohue had shows about whether or not women could orgasm and exactly how is a man supposed to know if it happens…
NOTE: I was a kid – so I didn’t really DO this stuff, but the times were high-rollin’ and our preacher made sure he condemned each and every new fad – even sideburns. Herpes wasn’t even known, much less HIV.
The good thing about the independent Church of Christ (think Independent Baptist…but not so liberal as to allow musical instruments in the church) is that they are INDEPENDENT. So where one congregation is so tight they squeak, another isn’t. So the congregation I spent most of my childhood in was very strict, but when I was in sixth grade, we moved and found a more liberal one – where the very young pastor talked about sex as a gift of God to let man and woman experience just a tiny bit of Heaven, of spiritual togetherness. I even found a book in the church library that had a drawing of a vagina with arrows and circles pointing out what each “structure” was.
On the other hand, that church also lobbied the city council to pass a law forbidding the sale of pornography (which included Playboy magazine, but not Playgirl…figure that one out). They sat up a camera to take pictures of people going in and out of the one adult bookstore in town, specifically to harass the customers. And while I can’t actually say one of them burned down the only adult theater (which was, oddly, a drive in), I know that they greeted it with glee.
At one point, it crossed my mind that maybe the problem with porn was that the people in the movies were not married…That question caused a lot of nervous laughter and rubbing at the back of men’s necks. But no answer. I was considered a bit “throwed off,” as the saying goes.
There are a ton of further mixed messages about sex in my childhood, but most of them diverge wildly from the topic at hand. I’ll refrain from chasing the rabbit trails and leave it at this.
DD’s response to tomio ~
You know why Playgirl was ok? Because all good church folk know that MEN are the ones who look with lust! We women just entice and incite, we don’t actually want to look at naked men! (HAH!)