I’ve written a lot about my experiences being raised in what I call “the purity culture”—evangelicalism’s obsession with the virginity and sexual ignorance of its young, an obsession that manifests itself in purity rings, purity balls, modesty teachings, and the rejection of dating. Some readers have asked what it’s like for males growing up in the purity culture, and I’ve had to say that while I could guess, I honestly didn’t know. Most of those speaking out against the purity culture have been female. Today that changes.
Growing up in my homeschool world, I heard constantly from everyone around me talk about the importance of modesty and purity. Women were supposed to dress up like Victorian-aged puritans because men are so susceptible to lust and we just can’t control ourselves. I never understood this. But I accepted it because everyone else around me seemed to and I never felt I had the right to question it. If I tried to question it, wouldn’t that just be the sexual freak inside me trying to fight God?
Oh. Yeah. I kinda got ahead of myself.
There’s a sexual freak inside of me. Or, well, there’s a sexual freak inside of every male. According to my culture, all males are sexual freaks waiting to happen.
We’re like ticking time bombs of atomic hormones.
You don’t want to let those time bombs out until marriage. And it’s really easy to let them out. That’s why women should all dress so carefully. If a man happens to see a woman readjusting her bra strap, all hell could break loose and men could turn into savage beasts. There is a rapist inside of all men, including me.
I never thought there was a rapist inside of me. I never felt a desire to force myself onto a woman when I accidentally saw a bra strap peaking out of a woman’s denim jumper. But I still felt sick to my stomach when I caught myself looking one second too long at that bra strap. I felt that indicated my inherent dirtiness. I felt nothing but pure disgust for my body. I felt God staring at me from that bra strap, as if he was about to turn me into a pillar of salt, just like he turned Lot’s wife into salt for looking back at Sodom.
I’d stay awake at night, begging God to forgive me.
I’m surprised there’s not a whole generation of homeschooled males that have fetishes about bra straps.
But really, what I took to heart from all this talk about how obsessed men were with sex was not just that there was a rapist inside of me. It was that apparently I had a broken rapist inside of me. Because, honestly, I never felt so overwhelmed by semi-exposed skin that I couldn’t control myself. I spent years thinking there was something wrong with me. Men were supposed to “stumble” when they saw a midriff, or a shoulder, or too much leg. But I never “stumbled” like that — meaning, I never saw a midriff and went home and masturbated about it.
So I decided when I was sixteen that I must be gay.
In retrospect, that only made me feel worse.
Because men never made me “stumble,” either.
Because I’m not gay.
I was actually straight. And as far as straight people go, I was actually normal, too. Apparently normal people — straight or gay or whatever you are — don’t obsess about sex as much as homeschooling parents do.
I was conditioned by all these myths that pervade homeschooling that males are so overwhelmed by sex that they can’t exercise any semblance of self-control. But you know what? We can. And we’re not only hurting women by saying that women are responsible for mens’ thoughts. We’re also hurting men by making us all out to be monsters with uncontrollable sexual urges.
Rape is a horrible thing that should be opposed by everyone. Normal human sexuality is completely different. And I am sad that I grew up in a world that saw no problems with blurring the lines between the two.
It took me years to figure that out. What I used to think was me being gay eventually became me wondering if I just had a really low libido. But then I went to the doctor and found out, no, my libido is fine, too.
Apparently my problem was that I’m not a stereotype manufactured out of thin air by the I Kissed Dating Goodbye courtship cult.
But after everything I’ve gone through, that’s a problem I am ok living with.
Originally posted on Homeschoolers Anonymous. Posted here with permission.