Embracing Sex While Coming From a Religious Background

A Sex Ed(itorial) Column

  • Graphic Jennifer Aedy

I grew up Catholic and went to Catholic schools until I got to university.

My entire life, I was told that sexual abstinence was the only option. My family was also Catholic and often emphasized the importance of chastity. When I was 10 years old I vowed to stay chaste until marriage.

In sixth grade, my peers started making dirty jokes. Boys loved to chase girls asking them if they knew what slang words for genitals meant. Every time this happened to me I felt deeply uncomfortable.

In middle school people started dating and it was a big deal. I remember when my first boyfriend asked me out on our first date, and how excited I was.

In high school, sex ed classes were gender segregated.

My teacher told us the school wouldn’t allow the staff to show girls how to properly use a condom. Contraceptive options were spoken of very briefly and focused on the negatives of their usage rather than promoting safe sex. Consent was touched on, but with a focus on how to say no to sexual advances. Affirmative and continuous consent was never even mentioned.

We spent an entire class watching videos about how to prevent rape. These videos were telling young girls not to stay out late, not to dress provocatively, not leave their drinks alone, and always stay with a large group of friends. Our teacher put a lot of emphasis on not dressing “like a slut.”

She often went on rants where she slut-shamed hypothetical sexually active young girls. I was 13 at the time.

The boys’ sex education, however, taught everything from masturbation to how to use multiple forms of contraception to how to find both the clitoris and the oh-so-famous “g-spot.”

Any kind of sexual thoughts or desires I had made me feel very ashamed and guilty. I remember googling: “Would God hate me if I masturbate?”

I actually ended up staying with my first boyfriend for three years. After we had been together for eight months, rumours that we had slept together started spreading. People would snicker whenever they saw us together and made lewd comments. Whenever I denied these rumours, I was always met with shock and asked, “why not?”

I soon started feeling a lot of pressure to have sex. After all, my boyfriend and I had been together for a long time. Every time I mentioned my boyfriend to some friends, they’d ask me if we’d had sex yet and it made me feel sick. It wasn’t something my partner and I had discussed yet.

I ended up losing my virginity when I was 14. It all felt natural and right. There was never any pressure from my partner and there was a lot of communication about it before and afterwards. My fears regarding sex started to melt away.

After my partner and I broke up, the fear started to resurface. When I slept with a new partner those waves of shame and guilt I’d had at 13 came flooding back.

Even though I’d completely lost my faith by the time I was 14, and started getting really into feminism and sex positivity, that conditioning stayed with me. Liking sex still feels wrong to me.

The deeply ingrained conditioning and shaming girls feel from a very young age sticks with them for a very long time. It’s taking everything I have to unlearn that and fully embrace myself as a sexual being with desires, kinks, and pleasure.

It’s time to stop demonizing female sexuality. Sex education should actually be educational and not impose chastity onto young girls. Teachers should never be calling 13 year old girls sluts. Sex is a very natural and pleasurable experience and everyone should be able to fully embrace it.

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