Even Boys Can Be Victims of Christians’ Unhealthy Views About Sex

Usually, when we hear about Christian views on sexual “purity,” modesty, abstinence, and relationships, it’s associated with women.

But boys in Christian families are subject to it, too.

That’s why you need to read this post by Kylar D. at Recovering Grace. Check out how his father talked to him about sex and how it affected him:

… Dad wanted to know if I had ever had wrong thoughts about women. In truth, I had only just begun to find women attractive and was curious what they looked like naked, but it was a passing thought that I spent no time on. I had no idea what masturbation was, or that something like that was possible. I had been home-schooled and had had some friends of both genders, but sexuality had nothing to do with life at that point. I guiltily confessed to Dad that I had had some thoughts about girls without their clothes on. Dad seemed very concerned and wanted to know what I had pictured…

… The longer the year went on the more hopeless and despicable I felt. Dad said I was listening to Satan and was playing right into his traps. He said that before I got married, I was going to have to confess to my future wife’s dad that I had had all these evil thoughts about women other than his daughter and that I would need to ask his forgiveness. He said I was going to have to do the same with my future wife. She probably would never want to marry me with such a perverse track record.

When I was 13, I began to discover masturbation. It was alarming that something so pleasurable and so out-of-control could happen within my own body. I confessed to Dad what was going on, and he wanted to know all the details. He told me to keep him informed of what was happening because it was easy to fall away from God in that process. He was concerned and I was fearful.

When I was 14, I remember making a resolute decision that I could never get married. There was no way, I, as man who desired the best for the women in his life, could ever subject any poor girl to the perversion that I was. It might even be better for everyone in the world if I didn’t exist.

You want evidence of mental child abuse? There you go. What an awful adolescence to go through when your hormones are working at full speed and sexual thoughts begin to form in your mind, but you’re told that you have to suppress them lest you suffer a miserable life (and an even worse afterlife).

And I haven’t even mentioned the circumcision part yet…

After all that, it’s depressing (and very surprising) to see that Kylar is still a Christian. There’s some solace, though, knowing that he would never subject his own children to the same kind of brainwashing his father put him through.

(Thanks to Amanda for the link)

About Hemant Mehta

Hemant Mehta is the editor of Friendly Atheist, appears on the Atheist Voice channel on YouTube, and co-hosts the uniquely-named Friendly Atheist Podcast. You can read much more about him here.

  • http://www.facebook.com/profile.php?id=553145445 Gordon Duffy

    When Hitch said “religion poisons everything” he wasn’t joking.

    Here we have a father telling his son that he is perverse for doing something completely normal – something the dad knows he himself does- and that any prospective wife will reject him, and that he needs to reject the part of his nature that would make him attracted to the hypothetical wife in the first place.

    Madness!

    • Drew M.

      I think you meant perverted, not perverse.

  • http://www.facebook.com/AnonymousBoy Larry Meredith

    Dad seemed very concerned and wanted to know what I had pictured…

    I confessed to Dad what was going on, and he wanted to know all the details.

    Sounds like dad was getting off on it.

    • http://www.facebook.com/profile.php?id=1019365643 John J. Ronald

      That’s what I’ve always thought about Catholic priests in confessionals, and reading about all-male panels of priests “interviewing witches” during the Inquisition, too.  As Alanis Morrisette wrote, “I confessed my darkest deeds to an envious man.”

  • http://twitter.com/JASacmvp Justin A Smith

    Yeah that dad was kind of creepy

    • Anonymous

      Only “kind of”?

    • http://itsmyworldcanthasnotyours.blogspot.com/ Anonymous

      Kind of?

      *shudders*

  • Laura

    My parents FREAKED out when they discovered my younger brother had been looking at porn online. And later, when he was 19, they burned a bunch of Playboys they found. My brother is an atheist, so it was more amusing than damaging, thank goodness. 

  • Drew M.

    This is seriously fucked up.

    I’m so glad that we never treated sex as a complete taboo

    Catholicism: Not as fucked up as fundamentalism.™

    • http://twitter.com/0xabad1dea Melissa E

      If you feel that way, then your family was pretty mild as far as Catholics go. 

      They’re both equally and exquisitely messed up, in slightly different ways. 

      • Drew M.

        It wasn’t isolated to my family. Nor my friends’ families. Nor anyone else in my parish’s families.

        Perhaps your family was more fucked up than most Catholics are?

        • http://annainca.blogspot.com/ Anna

          I tend to agree. On paper, Catholic doctrine is just as messed up as fundamentalist doctrine. But Catholics are more willing to ignore the official party line and are therefore less likely to take things to extremes.

    • dauntless

      Considering the rampant sexual abuse that occurs among Catholic churches, I would guess that your experience is atypical.

      • Burger

        While the abuse does seem rampant in Catholic churches, you’re not going to find it in every church you happen by. That abuse is atypical itself.

      • Anonymous

        Don’t confuse the priests with the parents. Many Catholics don’t really buy that much into the church dogma and rules. Sure, you have some more extreme cases who do instill the same kind of guilt, but for many it’s more of a cultural thing.

        On average, for Catholics religion plays less of a role in everyday life than for Protestants

        • http://itsmyworldcanthasnotyours.blogspot.com/ Anonymous

          Former Catholic,  here. I’ll admit to still having moments of Catholic Guilt here and there, but I’m in a place now where I can just shake my head and laugh because I know it’s silly.

      • Drew M.

        Got a cite for that “rampant sexual abuse” other than pulling a guess out of your ass?

        The entire religion is *not* composed of pedophile priests.

        Read Stev84′s reply.

  • Scott Kanne

    I don’t remember who taught me the catholic nonsense about masturbation being a sin – I know it wasn’t my father.  I remember being eleven years old, laying in bed, and pleading with god not to send me to hell…  many times.  I’m 36 years old now, and still haven’t entirely shaken the “I’m a bad person” mantra

    Yup, religion has no ill-effects on boys

    • Trina

      You’re not a bad person, Scott.  I know that you know it on a rational level, but sometimes it helps to hear it….

  • thankyou_kylar

    (note: I apologize. I did not intend for this comment to be so long… I just felt the need to get this out of my system…)Goodness…  Kylar’s story is an eye-opening and very sad moment for me.My father was rarely in my life, so my mother had to take on the role of “sex education”.  She was very similar to Kylar’s father but was more “motherly” about it. (does that make sense?)  She was religiously fanatical (fundamentalist Christian) about sexual “purity” and ruined my initial child-like and innocent perception that it’s OK to appreciate the opposite sex.  The consequences of this particular part of my upbringing was devastating and impacted nearly every aspect of my life into adulthood.
    So, I had to repress my sexual feelings growing up.  I had a few girlfriends, one that I loved with all my heart like only a geeky 15 year old boy can.  She and I were like best friends and highly compatible together.  I was told that I could not see her or be her boyfriend any longer, because her parents were Catholic. (I suspect my girlfriend then had a similar conversation with her parents)  When my mother found out that this girlfriend and I (gasp!) had been “experimenting” together, she went ballistic and my young life became just like Kylar’s.  Humiliation, depression, anger, confusion. I was forced to endure the “laying on of hands” at church as they “prayed” for me in front of my friends.  It spiraled out of control and I contemplated suicide on many occasions.  I ran away from home a few times, but of course had to come back because I had nowhere else to go.  The stress became so bad, that I suffered hallucinations of demons “attacking” me, because my mother told me that I was a “child of satan”.  I was forced to read “This Present Darkness” and was told that it was real.  My mind became so indoctrinated, the hallucinations of “demons” and “seeing” things that did not exist impaired me so much that at times I would become catatonic for hours at a time.

    My only solace was my high school history teacher. He was an agnostic and I confided in him the troubles I was going through.  He had a daughter my age that went to the same school that was a good friend of mine and my girlfriend.  The three of us would spend a lot of time together at my teacher’s home.  No, not for the purpose of finding “private” time with my girlfriend.  It was simply a way for us to be together…. and to be happy.  This teacher taught me more about life, growing up, and what it means to be a man.  I found out that he died a few months ago.  I wish that I could have told him how much he meant to me and that I loved him like a father, because he truly was the only father figure I had. 

    These experiences affected my life so profoundly that it continued to poison my relationships into adulthood.  I simply could not function in most relationships, because the “purity” aspect was always at the forefront.  It became difficult to even speak to a female without thinking that I was somehow “sinning” or that I was being “bad”.  

    This “abuse” of my mind resulted in a severe personality disorder, a couple hospitalizations, years of drug concoctions to alleviate the depression and pain.But, as time went on, I stumbled into the best thing that ever happened to me.  My psychologist.  Curiously enough, she’s a woman.  But it is her mind that I love and admire, because she has picked me up out of the pit of religious despair and has helped me to “repair” the damage done.  We’ve been working together for 5 years, once sometimes two/three times a week.In the course of this intense therapy, I realized that it was completely OK for me to NOT believe that god existed.  I read a lot of science fiction growing up and so was a natural skeptic….  feelings I NEVER expressed to my mother as a boy.  And yet the religious dogma inflicted upon me overwhelmed my curiosity for other ideas and opinions on religion.  But thank goodness my interest in science and science fiction flourished despite my indoctrination.  My therapist uncovered these deeply buried ideas in my mind and encouraged me to explore them.  I did and one way I am healing myself is that I have allowed myself to not believe.  i.e. I’m an atheist.  Being released from religion is the freedom I have needed to heal myself from the “sexual abuse of another kind” that has haunted me since childhood.I’m still not completely there, as I have a lot of work to do to reverse my thinking about relationships, people, religion, and humanity.  It will be a life-long endeavor.Thank you, Kylar, for your story.  It only reaffirms that I’m not the only person who had to endure things like this.To you parents out there who freak out about sexuality: think very hard about what you’re doing.  Your children may not be as lucky as I was.  I survived.  Your children may not.  Let them be who they are and simply give them safe boundaries within which they can operate!  They will thank you later in life.

    • Anonymous

      Thank you for sharing. It’s sad to know that yet another person has been affected in this way by religion, but it’s good to know I’m not alone. I felt like a freak for so many years and come to find out it wasn’t me who was the freak at all. Despite that knowledge, the damage was already done and it’s something I struggle to overcome everyday. 

    • Trina

      Thanks for sharing what you’ve been through, and your healing process.  I was subjected to a great deal of ‘sexual repression’ messages from my mother, though it wasn’t very religiously-based.  She was severely mentally ill & untreated, and it thoroughly messed me up.  I spent years in verbally abusive friendships and (occasionally) relationships.  I still am not where I hope to be, in terms of how I view men.  But at least I’m working on it.

  • Brian Utterback

    Not surprising that he is still a Christian at all. He blames Gothard and the IPLP and probably his father. That has nothing to do with Jesus. Over here, we see this as the natural result of the authoritarianism of religion in general.

    Of course, I am sure there are many men that have gone through a similar experience and credit it with their current more healthy attitudes, that the guilt and subsequent self-control evolved into something they appreciate in adulthood. Thus they will still subject their own children to this abuse.  And there is the rub. If it was only about the child abuse, it would be easy to shut it down. But the defenders will largely be the past victims of that child abuse, all claiming that they owe everything to that very program of abuse.

  • Michael

    When I was 9 or 10, I was invited over to a friend’s house for dinner and met his father  for the first time. He took me aside and told me that this was a Christian household and that he expected me to behave accordingly, respecting God and himself and his wife. He asked if I knew what happened to children who disrespected their elders.

    “They get grounded?” I aksed.

    “They go to Hell. Do you know what Hell is? I have a picture of it I can show you.”

    “You’ve been there?”

    For some reason, I was never invited back.Poor kids. They all grew up to be very dysfunctional. A few years ago their dad died of liver failure from years of alcoholism. If there were a Hell, I’m pretty sure he’d have sent me a postcard from there by now.

    • http://www.facebook.com/keithacollyer Keith Collyer

      {quote}”They go to Hell. Do you know what Hell is? I have a picture of it I can show you.”

      “You’ve been there?”{/quote}
      That I have to remember

  • dogon

    And you can’t pray it away either…just feel guilty about it.  Swear you won’t touch sex and dampen all desire. 

  • http://twitter.com/TortugaSkeptic A secret red slider

    “And I haven’t even mentioned the circumcision part yet…”
    Richard, please don’t you hop on the circumcision hobby horse too.  I still like your site.

    • Anonymous

      I think he was referring to the article, don’t know if you read it. When Kylar was 15 his dad decided to have him circumcised. At 15!! Need I say more?

    • Spencer

      Next time, read the article.

    • John Small Berries

      That’s the weirdest misspelling of “Hemant” I’ve ever seen.

  • Ronlawhouston

    I always wonder how much things like porn addiction are caused by this sort of repression of natural sexual desires.  The forbidden fruit aspects alters brain chemicals which I think tends to make people become more obsessive about things like porn.

    Reminds me of the old joke that 95% of males masturbate and the other 5% are liars.

    • Anonymous

      A couple of years someone published statistics that showed that Utah had one of the highest rates of porn consumption. Not really surprising

    • Annie

      I also wonder how much this type of sexual abuse contributes to rape cases. In a less empathetic mind, one could easily travel from self anger for having such thoughts to anger at the person who inspires such thoughts. 

      • http://itsmyworldcanthasnotyours.blogspot.com/ Anonymous

        Makes sense to me.

  • Rillion

    I don’t think you can screw up the girls’ ideas of sexuality without screwing up the boys’ too.  Their sexual identities are set in opposition to each other– you can’t enforce ideas about what’s feminine without also enforcing ideas about what’s masculine, and punishing anyone who transgresses onto the “wrong” side.  Teaching boys that they are lustful animals with no control without God’s help is the other side of the coin that teaches girls they are objects of lust whose responsibility it is not to provoke those animals.  Kylar notes that “a man who is given over to lust will not be helped by women buried in layers of cloth.” Not only is it impossible for women to control mens’ sexuality by forced modesty, but pretending otherwise just serves to punish them both. 

    And of course, as bad as it is for men to give themselves over to lust for women…think how much worse if they lust for men!  In this model of sexuality, nobody wins.

    • http://www.shadesthatmatter.blogspot.com asmallcontempt

      rAmen, brother. It’s two sides of the same coin: if you teach a girl that her body is dirty and will cause her “brothers” to “stumble”, then the boys will grow up hyper-aware of issues of “modesty” and “purity”, and it doesn’t take long for obsession to step in and take over.

      I’m just really glad to see the issue come to light in this way. It’s good to be reminded, from someone with different plumbing than me, that the benefits of gender equality are well worth working toward

    • Anonymous

      Also, if you cover up certain parts, others will just become more attractive. In Victorian England (I think) it was quite scandalous to show ankle for example. It was probably on the same level as cleavage today, even if it seems weird.

      Watching pictures, I’ve also found myself drawn to the eyes of some Muslim women wearing Niqabs (headscarves covering everything but the eyes). They really emphasis the eyes, which can make them very attractive for some reason. Which is probably exactly why the Burqa was invented, to cover that too

  • Anonymous

    The worst part about this is the thought crime aspect

    They don’t just forbid action, which may be somewhat understandable. But they instill extreme guilt about merely having sexual thoughts. That’s just screwed up. Even they have to realize that there is no way to prevent that and it just happens

    • http://www.facebook.com/profile.php?id=1019365643 John J. Ronald

      Christianity seems to be all about the thought crime, doesn’t it?  You feel a temporary hatred towards your brother and it’s the same as killing him? WTF?

      I remember an extremely Xtian co-worker whose parents shunned her because she and her boyfriend stayed up watching a movie and ended up falling asleep…her parents assumed the worst, even though nothing happened, according to the co-worker.  She was despondent that her parents wouldn’t believe her.

      I remembered thinking ” at this point you might as well go ahead and have sex with your boyfriend, since they’re never going to believe you anyway.”; I didn’t  actually say that, but I wonder if the thought crossed her mind, too.
      If so, I hope she acted on it.

  • http://www.laughinginpurgatory.com/ Andrew Hall

    I think the phenomenon of guys not having sex in order to please Christ (well, that does sound a bit odd) is probably underreported. Even though I gave up numerous opprotunities *gnashing of teeth* of having sex while a Christian, it was not something one bragged about.

  • Scgjj

    Almost the same story here…it’s sad that this is what Christianity drives its followers to…The hatred of self is one of the worst attributes of Christianity.

    • Jo

      I am a Christian and was taught to value and love my body and my self as God’s creation, not hate it.

      This is what bothers me the most about those who judge the Christian faith; the rampant idea that all Christians are the same. We’re simply not. Stories like Kylar’s break my heart and the hearts of most of the Christians I know. In fact most of us would not count Gothard’s followers as our brethren.

      • http://annainca.blogspot.com/ Anna

        Of course not all Christians are the same. There are extreme fundamentalists like Kylar’s parents, there are ultra-progressives who are sex positive, and there are millions more who are somewhere in between. It’s not a given that Christianity teaches people to be ashamed of their bodies and their sexuality, but such thinking is indeed rampant in the fundamentalist and evangelical world. If your sect/denomination does not believe that masturbation, homosexuality, and sex outside of marriage are sinful, then good for them! I’m happy that children in your group aren’t being taught guilt and shame. But it doesn’t erase the very real harm being done to other children around the world in the name of Christianity.

  • http://www.facebook.com/profile.php?id=508854860 John Hordyk

    I grew up in the same program as Kylar did. Its a program called ATI based in Chicago started by Bill Gothard, called ATI.

    We’re both in the same Facebook group for ATI student survivors, and he’s a friend of mine on Facebook.

    The amount of bullshit that we went through growing up is astounding. So many of the people who came out of it though, use the “no true scotsman” defence of Bill Gothard saying, well a true christian wouldn’t act like that. Looking at the history of christianity, this kind of shit is kinda par for the course.

    I decided to not get involved with the recovering grace project, as it is still very christian, and the operators of the group are still fairly fundamentalist. But its moving away from the  extreamly fundamentilst group, of ATI. While the ideal would be humanism and skeptical inquiry, if anyone knows anyone in ATI or used to do ATI’s program, Recovering Grace may be a good place to point people. It moves them more into evangelical christianity from the fringe which is ATI.

    • http://annainca.blogspot.com/ Anna

      The Duggars (of 19 Kids and Counting) are probably the most famous example of ATI/Gothard.

      It is definitely a scary and poisonous belief system. I recommend checking out Kathryn Joyce’s Quiverfull: Inside the Christian Patriarchy Movement for a closer look.

  • http://pulse.yahoo.com/_LKTF6H5YXBEGHEFMRSOESS3KWU Advent Gred

    My mother never talked much about anything of the sort.  But she fastforwarded the sexual parts of movies so we couldn’t see it.  I ended up thinking masturbation was a sin anyways, and having similar thoughts to:
     “There was no way, I, as man who desired the best for the
    women in his life, could ever subject any poor girl to the perversion
    that I was. It might even be better for everyone in the world if I didn’t exist.”The whole mindset of self-policing because god has random rules about looking at a woman lustfully is simply a poisonous disaster.  I’d like health officials to speak out about this more, or something.

  • Trina

    What a very awful and sick father – there’s no excuse for that kind of thing.   I had some of the same from my mom, though it was more a psychiatric issue than a religious one, but it did its damage.  Even though I know it’s irrational, I still have trouble trusting men in any kind of sexual setting.  (Thank you, no offers please lol)

  • Andrea

    I was home schooled and grew up under a similar program, no sex and no sexual thoughts. When one of my younger brothers was 13, my parents caught him looking at Victoria’s Secret ads from the newspaper. He was grilled intensely, and admitted to looking at pictures of girls in their underwear from Google image searches. He got all his computer privileges revoked and had to do a weekly check-in to make sure he wasn’t looking at “porn” anymore or having impure thoughts. My other siblings and I also got grilled on whether we had ever looked at porn or had inappropriate thoughts about the opposite sex.

    Fortunately for me, I never had any problems with “impure thoughts” until I went to college and figured out I was gay, and by that point I was well on my way to atheism. So I’ve never had to deal with guilt associated with thoughts. I worry about my brothers though. They’re still at home and very religious, and I wonder how it’s going to affect them.

    • Anonymous

      Hey, that’s one way to get around it

      “Do you have any dirty thoughts about the opposite sex?”
      “No” [thinking: maybe about the same sex...]
      “Ok”

  • Andrea

    I was home schooled and grew up under a similar program, no sex and no sexual thoughts. When one of my younger brothers was 13, my parents caught him looking at Victoria’s Secret ads from the newspaper. He was grilled intensely, and admitted to looking at pictures of girls in their underwear from Google image searches. He got all his computer privileges revoked and had to do a weekly check-in to make sure he wasn’t looking at “porn” anymore or having impure thoughts. My other siblings and I also got grilled on whether we had ever looked at porn or had inappropriate thoughts about the opposite sex.

    Fortunately for me, I never had any problems with “impure thoughts” until I went to college and figured out I was gay, and by that point I was well on my way to atheism. So I’ve never had to deal with guilt associated with thoughts. I worry about my brothers though. They’re still at home and very religious, and I wonder how it’s going to affect them.

  • http://commablank.blogspot.com/ LS

    Thanks for posting this.

    I would never want to try and detract from the severity of what christian beliefs do to a woman’s sexuality. However, I often feel like the way christians fuck with their young boy’s minds is ignored.

    I spent a year of my adolescence wrapping duct tape around my dick to stop myself from masturbating. This was a self-imposed punishment.

    Not exactly the healthiest views of sex.

  • PJB863

    I wonder if there isn’t a cultural issue at play here – e.g. male sexuality is something to be feared or loathed or at least looked down upon.  Certainly religion is no help.

    • Andrea

      I think yes and no. I think it’s mostly sexuality in general that is seen as something to be feared, but female sexuality is seen as nonexistent.

  • Ani Sharmin

    So sad. My own parents’ strategy has been to never talk about sex, except in vague euphemistic terms a couple of times. The part about his parents helping him choose a spouse sounded similar to what my parents’ attitude is, though. I feel so sad for him and all he went through. Hopefully, he’ll be able to build better relationships than the ones his parents taught him to have.

  • GregFromCos

    Thanks for posting this. Been thinking about it all weekend. Lots of memories, although nothing nearly that extreme for me.

    Always nice to have blog posts I can share with Christian family members that we can mostly agree on. And maybe make us all think a bit in the process.

  • http://pulse.yahoo.com/_KGGGYRM6FSNJEMK2IWHOGE6APM WYOCOWBOY

    very interesting…my young life did NOT have no sex talk…just to say the “S” word was a sin…so when i masterbated and something came out I freaked out…I had no one to talk too and just kept it to myself…

  • lemonhouse

    Everyone man has been circumcised has been affected by religion, even if the man’s parents weren’t religious. Circumcision was popularized in the USA by J.H. Kellogg , a Seventh day Adventist, in attempt to “cure the illness of masturbation.”
    It’s a basic, fundamental human right to retain all of your genitalia, regardless of your gender.

  • absent sway

    IBLP! Maybe I should have known. I survived Gothard’s paranoid, authoritarian teachings as well–thankfully with less trauma than this poor man endured. Mainstream evangelical Christianity is a very comforting and liberal place to land after such fundamentalism, I assure you.

  • Jdmann74

    It’s funny how many of us that read this were associated with Gothard, and my father so brainwashed me that I did confess to my future father-in-law and my future wife my impure thoughts. Let’s say that I will handle it very differently with my son

  • Hfy

    Im christian and very devout, but the father in here sounds more like a religious fanatic than a christian. There are a lot of fake christians and ones that believe in eternal damnation if ANYTHING worldly is thought or done. Even normal body function. Sort of muslim and morning belief: that you must ne COMPLETELY pure. However our Lord has created us and therefore knows our hearts. He is forgiving. This does not mean however that you do whatever you want either…


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