Sexuality and Shame: Part 3 Sexaltation

by Kaleesha Williams cross posted from her blog Kaleesha Williams

I’ve heard so many sermons about sexual temptation, so much focus
there, but they are occasionally balanced with messages about how holy
and pure sex is within marriage.  Within marriage only.  Imagine, “Sex
is sinful, evil, wicked…  Oh, now you’re married–okay, you’re free
to enjoy yourselves!”   I wonder, what does a piece of paper or a
pronunciation of “man and wife” actually change about the messages
we’ve received all our lives regarding sex?  (Or about relationships
in general.  Marriage is a very interesting institution, but I shan’t
go there now.)

All of the Christian families I called friends instructed their
children to save themselves for marriage.  Most of them included
instruction in the dangers of touching or kissing and even warned
against the dangers of giving their hearts to another of (falling in
love with) the opposite sex until they married.  In the cases of my
friends it seemed to be balanced with an example of affectionate,
loving parents who also taught that sex, when done right, was a joy.
I attended two weddings of such lovely young couples whose very first
embrace was shared within minutes of their wedding vows.

Unfortunately, I am no longer in their lives, so I have no way of
knowing if they are happy in marriage.  I must allow that for some
young people this has perhaps worked well and they are happily joined
to the only person they have ever kissed, with no regrets.  I’m not
knocking these fine folk.  I feel privileged to know them.

I wanted this pattern of modesty and purity for my children.  This, I
thought, would keep my children from experiencing the shame I
experienced.  They would have no regrets.

But, what were my regrets, really?  If I were honest, did I regret my
sexual experiments?  On the contrary, I was glad that I’d had so many
exciting and pleasurable experiences.  Yes, maybe I would have been
just as glad if I’d only ever known one man and called him husband,
and if I’d been his only gal, just like I’d imagined.  (I still find
it a very sweet thought.)   More than anything what I genuinely
regretted was the shame.  What I regretted was that I was so
embarrassed by my natural desires and activities that I foolishly
detached myself from reality, making life-altering mistakes instead of
thoughtful decisions about what was best for me and my partners.  What
I regretted was that I was so focused on the forbidding and
ever-tempting sex that I didn’t take time to explore other important
things; education, for instance.  What I regretted was that I was so
focused on sex that I wasn’t more discerning about who I shared my
pleasures with and before I knew it I was stuck in marriage, painfully
aware of my loss of opportunity to find a quality mate with whom I
could deeply share other beautiful experiences.

So, what if all I was really offering my children was an opportunity
to experience shame and regret?  What if I could be open with them
about their humanity instead?  I could encourage them to learn about
their sexuality and to not be afraid of it, but to be wise in their
explorations, not foolish like I was.  I could let them make their own
decisions regarding their sexuality and relationships.  I envy Denny’s
experiences in his community in Memphis.  I want that freedom for my
children.

Teaching young people that their natural urges are evil is a recipe
for anxiety and shame.  There are many variables, but this is the crux
of it.  My own story is just one example of how denying one’s
sexuality can be detrimental, but I believe it’s a fairly common one.
Last night Denny and I looked up the current teen pregnancy
statistics from around the world.  Out of some dozen or so countries
the U.S. rates the highest by far.  Higher by two thirds (down a third
from the 1990’s), with some 40-something out of 1,000 teen girls
becoming pregnant.  Are we just that ignorant?  Or are we just that
ashamed?  Both?  So many variables, but it seems that our teens are
seriously lacking in sex education.  And why is that?  Is it because
by and large we are not as open about sex as we should be?  Because
sex is more of a taboo than an accepted part of our humanity?  I can
only speculate.

By focusing on sexual “sin” Christianity also sets us up perfectly
for exploitation by those looking to make a buck.  American pop
culture thrives on the forbidden fruit.   Why is it that across most
of America breasts are viewed as sex objects, carefully covered and
uncovered to provoke sexual response, but in many primitive cultures
women bare their chests just as freely as the men do?  Why do so many
women feel that their bodies are inadequate?  How and why did we, in
our “developed” countries, get to this place?  Why are American’s
shaving and primping and nipping and tucking, changing our bodies from
their natural state?  How and why has everything become sexualized?
What the hell are we doing?

Body image is no small issue, separate but related; I shall not
wholly delve into it here.   Again, it appears to me that we are

generally less accepting of our bodies than folk in many other
countries.  I can’t help but suspect this is born out of our unnatural
over-focus on sex which is born out of our attempted repression of sex
born out of our fear of God.  Maybe I’m imagining things.  But
personally, when I got over my ideas of God I became a lot more
comfortable with my sexuality.  I found myself relaxing more into what
Denny had described about himself and his friends, accepting sexuality
as part of being human, learning to be open and unashamed.  When I
relaxed about my sexuality I soon discovered I had also grown more
comfortable with my body, not quite so down on myself.  Denny is so
accepting, making it much easier to relax and be human.  For the first
time ever I am with someone who sees me as most attractive in my most
natural state, hairy legs and all.  Being accepted by him has aided me
in accepting my own humanity.  It has been very liberating.  I can’t
help but imagine what would happen if more men and women could speak
up and speak out about being natural, being normal, being human.
My first tentative step into my new culture’s sexuality occurred
this spring when I realized that I wanted to take my friendship with
Denny to a new level.  Inexplicably drawn to him in every way,
perceiving that he lived in a perpetual state of acceptance of his
humanity, I felt I could approach him with an offer of sharing
something more intimate than our already close friendship.  I had in
mind a kiss. I thought of little past that.  I wanted to have at least
that one moment with him, to kiss him deeply and sweetly and express
my love and appreciation for who he was and what his friendship meant
to me.  I felt that he would be receptive, as well as understanding
and accepting if that were all we were to ever share beyond our
friendship.  So, one day, after we had walked and talked and he had
encouraged and comforted me, I asked him, “Can I kiss you?”
Early in my marriage I occasionally daydreamed about what I would do
if I found myself single.  I would want to find that one special
someone.  I would have the opportunity to do things “right.”  I would
find a Godly man with whom I had much in common.  I would be proper
and pure until our wedding night.  Now, here I was, newly single and
newly deconverted.  I’d barely had time to think about the next step,
I was just living free, exploring my humanity.  I had no intentions of
having casual flings, but it just seemed so natural and right to share
a kiss with Denny, who was easily the most amazing, interesting and
attractive man I’d ever known, with whom I had so much in common.  If
it turned into more, well, that would just be mighty natural and
right, too.

It did, of course.  And it was.  Is.

Neither of us had expectations that night, a couple weeks later, when
I showed up at his cabin alone.  We were comfortable with each other
and free to explore our relationship.  Nothing could have been more
sweetly human.  I daresay it was the first time in my life that the
sex was not for the sex, but rather for the expression of emotions.
Deep, complex, truly intimate.  Beautiful.  Completely shameless.

Part 1 | Part 2

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.

The Spiritual Abuse Survivors Network

Comments open below

NLQ Recommended Reading …

Quiverfull: Inside the Christian Patriarchy Movement by Kathryn Joyce

13:24 – A Story of Faith and Obsession by M Dolon Hickmon


Browse Our Archives

Follow Us!