by Kaleesha Williams cross posted from her blog The Lost (and Found) Mind of Kaleesha Williams
By the age of thirteen I’d gleaned enough of a sex education from
Stephen King books and porn magazines to start seriously writing
erotic fiction. According to the responses I received on the
internet, I had found something I was very good at.
It was exhilarating. I pleased the opposite sex. I had power.
Through my teens I continued this hobby on the worldwide web. In
real life I fooled around with more young men than I care to admit,
and a few considerably older men, too, kicking things off with my
first kiss at the age of fourteen with a twenty-four year old man from
Arkansas that I’d met on the internet. I craved the affirmation. (I
guess that’s about when I decided I’d better make some decisions about
I managed surprisingly well with my conviction for awhile. I guess.
By the guidelines I had set I simply refused to have intercourse, but
pretty much anything else was up for grabs. (No pun intended.)
Really, I had little practical knowledge and didn’t know what I was
getting into when I started off. But, it’s okay because I WANTED to be
a good girl. In “real life,” anyway.
Later in life I heard sin described as being like an octopus, waiting
on one side of the line of conviction you drew in the sand, waiting
for you to get close enough to snatch at you with its long tentacles
and drag you over. I reckoned that’s what had happened to me. I’d
gotten too close and found myself up to my ears in sin of the worst
kind. (So I felt about intercourse. Maybe there were worse sins that
could be committed, but in truth the worst always seem to be those you
find yourself committing.) Once you cross that line, it’s easier to
cross again and again, in spite of your best intentions and the
choking shame. I was overwhelmed with shame.
A dictionary definition of shame: “a painful feeling of humiliation
or distress caused by the consciousness of wrong or foolish behavior.”
I suppose the interesting thing, and why I bother adding my voice to
this already saturated-with-reflection topic at all, is the origin of
the shame and its effect on our culture. I am not an expert on this
(or on anything) and don’t pretend to be (I hope you have figured that
out by now), so again, these are just my experiences and reflections.
It appears to be a fairly common thing, what happened in my life
regarding sexuality. A certain duality quickly developed. I explored
my sexuality (as I now believe is natural for people sexually
awakening), yet was somehow aware of my culture’s taboos and so sensed
that what I was doing was unnatural and worthy of shame.
Subsequently, in my personality, this manifested itself in astounding
titillation at the merest hint of sexuality; beyond, I felt, natural
instincts and curiosity. I wasn’t necessarily aware of how this
worked, but surely there was more stimulation because of the forbidden
nature of my thoughts and activities.
As my sexuality matured, so did the mysterious cloud of shame. The
duality and conflict of conscience caused me to develop my sexuality
more in some kind of fantasy land than in reality. There was my real
life and there was my sex life. Since my real life was rather empty
and I had a lot of free time on my hands, having been pulled out of
public school into a very informal homeschooling situation and so
pretty much left to myself from twelve years old on, sex attracted
more and more of my attention as the years passed. Chronic
masturbation, writing and reading erotic literature, pornography,
phone sex and physical encounters with boys and men, these things
filled much of my time. (Incidentally, I still tried to refrain from
Separating myself this way caused me to be blind to the ways sex
affected my life. It filled my head and much time was spent in
pursuit of it instead of other worthwhile things. For instance, I
considered the guys in my life only with the thought of what pleasure
I could receive, with little thought to lasting relationships or
marriage and children, so it didn’t matter if the guys I fooled around
with were decent. In fact, I turned away many a decent guy because he
didn’t flirt with me or pursue me sexually. In hindsight, I think I
had a chance with some very amazing, good quality men, but I didn’t
give them my time because there was no sexual tension. Nope, I acted
on a very base-level, animalistic understanding of self-worth, so I
was drawn to the misfits and the way they aroused me; it was fun and
their desire made me feel good about myself. (My deepest apologies to
you dear, kind men whom I caused distress or discouragement. If you
are reading this and know who you are, I’m glad you stayed strong and
found women who appreciate you.)
I’m very fortunate to not have picked up any nasty diseases or been
raped or worse. As for pregnancy, well… I wasn’t totally ignorant
of the fact that sexual intercourse can result in (and often is the
leading cause of) pregnancy, but every sexual encounter of mine was
cloaked in fantasy, you see. In my mind I wasn’t actually doing what
I was doing. It was as though I had stepped out of the real world and
into a world where sensuality reigned and real-world rules didn’t
apply and needn’t be fussed about. If I kept denying that I was doing
what I was doing, then it wouldn’t be real.
For the most part I was able to keep these worlds separate. Under my
parents’ roof I occasionally crashed into their authority (became
suspect or got caught with a boy) and I crumbled under my shame. But
I handled Mom’s lectures and Dad’s scowls the same way I handled the
rest of the disturbing real world; I separated myself, lost myself in
imagination. It was as though they were talking to someone else
entirely, not to me. In classic teenage fashion I even convinced
myself that they didn’t really know me, didn’t understand me.
Unfortunately, I think that was true to some extent. Or, maybe closer
to the truth, they knew me, they just didn’t know what to do about me.
The shame that descended on me when I discovered I was pregnant at
eighteen nearly crushed the life out of me. Pregnancy was the reality
that could not be denied, could not be fantasized or prayed away.
Yet, in spite of the evidence, stubborn denial held me fast. I even
tried escaping the reality by running away to Australia, to the arms
of a friend and lover I’d corresponded with via phone and internet for
the two years prior. Halfway around the world; if you tried to run
further you’d be running back home.
Shame followed me. I was not delusional enough to withstand the
reality of teen-pregnancy AND a foreign land. The day I flew home was
my nineteenth birthday. I was almost four months pregnant. As I was
flying backward through time zones, and from winter to summer, I had
some time to think. The day lasted thirty-six hours. That was the
longest day of my life.
A few months before becoming pregnant I had begun attending a local
church. I heard the gospel and accepted Christ as my “personal Lord
and savior.” It was about that time that I met Bobby, actually. The
conflict within me was seriously intensified, to be sure. My dual
natures stood in stark contrast. The shame… oh the shame! I had
vague but powerful ideas about what and who I should be and I failed
to meet these expectations time and again.
Now everyone would know.
My parents would know.
Shame kept me from announcing my pregnancy (except to a few close
friends); instead, I hid it until I could hide it no longer. Shame
kept me from being able to allow myself a happy wedding surrounded by
family; instead, Bobby and I eloped. Shame kept me from recognizing
that Bobby and I were not a good match; instead, the messages spinning
around my head made it clear that I had to get married as quickly as
possible to make things right. I may even be able to blame shame, in
part, for shoving me forth into devout religiosity. It certainly
helped propel me through the years.
Shame… “a painful feeling of humiliation or distress caused by the
consciousness of wrong or foolish behavior.”
It has made me a little sad, writing this, but now the anger is returning.
I’d like to know what the hell is WRONG with sex?!
I can tell you what was wrong with sex the way I did it.
Secretively. Embarrassedly. Embracing sexuality while trying to
distance myself from it, in constant conflict, suffering a constant
awareness of sex and denying it. THAT is foolish.
But where did I, where does our culture, get the idea that sex is
wrong or foolish behavior? Isn’t sex one of the most basic, most
normal human functions? These biological urges are written in our
DNA, not just for the sake of procreation but for our emotional
well-being. It’s part of being an animal here on earth, as necessary
and delicious as eating and sleeping and cheesecake.
There are stories of sexual repression and perversion through all
cultures I guess, but it seems so very prevalent in Christianity. The
culture’s suppression of natural desires and functions giving birth to
rejection of sexuality and a fascination with it. Celibate Catholic
priests molesting alter boys, frigid adult children of the Holiness
movement, Biblically justified domineering patriarchs and their
submissive wives and daughters. I cannot begin to tell all the
stories I’m familiar with.
As Christians, was our professed desire for modesty and purity in
service to God what really motivated us to such hatred of sexual sin?
Could that be a front? What about jealousy? What about our own
frustrated sexuality and shame? Am I the only one who claims to hate
the heroine on the TV because she represents the sinful, tempting side
of sex but more honestly hates her because I am jealous of her figure
and find her so sexually alluring that I can’t take my eyes off of
her? Are we angry because we are ashamed? Do we feel shame because
we are trying to suppress natural human responses to sex?
Comments open below
Read everything by Kaleesha Williams
Kaleesha Williams accomplishes her musing, writing, and goat-wrangling
in rural southeastern Missouri–that is, when she has time between
homeschooling and adoring her seven children, gardening, making goat
milk soap, planning projects with Denny, and trying to get her
sourdough English muffins to cook up properly.
Kaleesha has been blogging for over ten years and has written for
various farming and astronomy magazines. You can check out her newest
book, “Free to Be: How I Went From Unhappily Married Conservative
Bible Believer to Happily Divorced Atheistic Humanist In One Year and
Several Complicated Steps” at her website, www.kaleeshawilliams.com.
You can also keep up with her on Facebook.
NLQ Recommended Reading …
‘Breaking Their Will: Shedding Light on Religious Child Maltreatment‘ by Janet Heimlich
‘Quivering Daughters‘ by Hillary McFarland
‘Quiverfull: Inside the Christian Patriarchy Movement‘ by Kathryn Joyce