Sexuality and Shame, Part 1: Sexpectations

Sexuality and Shame, Part 1: Sexpectations March 22, 2014

by Kaleesha Williams cross posted from her blog The Lost (and Found) Mind of Kaleesha Williams

Please welcome our newest member of the SASBN Kaleesha Williams! She’s written a great series on sexuality we’ll be posting! Welcome aboard Kaleesh!

“Shame, boatloads of shame
Day after day, more of the same
Blame, please lift it off
Please take it off, please make it stop”
-The Avett Brothers

I am snuggled with my dear darling, watching a movie.  The heroine appears on the scene wearing a black vinyl supersuit that looks like it was painted on.  Her lips are full and red, her eyes are dark and sultry, her ample cleavage threatens to spill out of her suit.  As she walks up the steps of the building the camera captures the flexing muscles of her curvaceous rear.  Her waist is impossibly slender.  In three inch stiletto heels she is ready to do battle with the first villain that she encounters.  She is stunning.  She is hot.  A perfect female specimen.

I hate her.

That old feeling rises in my throat and I swallow it down.  I cannot take my eyes off of her.  I remind myself that she is Hollywood: her boobs have probably been enhanced, she probably looks quite plain without make-up, maybe she even has skin issues; she isn’t actually fighting in heels and is more than likely insanely uncomfortable in her tailored costume.  She probably hasn’t had a delicious, satisfying meal in months.  Her fine features are highlighted by skilled camera-persons while her poor ones (we all have poor ones) are masked.  She is dissatisfied with something about her physical appearance the same as I am with myself.  She is human, just like me.  She probably snorts when she laughs.  They never film her laughing.

I am so distracted by her that I lose track of the plot.

I am very still.  I am now wondering what my man is thinking when he sees Her on the screen, moving with grace and ease, Her hips swinging captivatingly.  Is he attracted to Her?  Of course he is, just look at Her!  She is so sexy.

I am so not.  I’ve never had a great body, but time and mothering have had their way with me.  Baggy belly, baggy behind, baggy eyes.  I vividly remember the last time I saw myself in a mirror naked as I consider the sexpot on the screen.  My stomach knots up.  I am so embarrassed, so ashamed of my body.  I should do more to take care of myself.  I pull my blanket up around neck and try to disappear.

Only moments have passed.  It happens so quickly.  Pretty girl—me want to disappear.  It happens often.

Now I am angry.  I hate the character, hate the actress, hate the culture that says, “This is what is sexy, this is what men want, this is what’s going on.”  I am angry on behalf of my daughters and sons who will grow up surrounded by this message.  I am angry on behalf of other women who surely feel as inadequate as myself compared to Her and the other mere 2% of women who look like Her.  I am angry with myself for getting suckered.

I pep myself up again, this time reminding myself that she’s just a human who doesn’t deserve my wrath.  I was perfectly content with myself before I saw Her.  I love my life.  I finally have a great relationship with a great man who makes me feel more than adequate, physically, sexually and otherwise.  I have done amazing things with my body; I’ve given life and sustenance to seven other lives. I must not give in to Hollywood!

Nonetheless, my anger is intense.  I want to blame someone for what I am feeling.  The movie ends.  The feeling doesn’t.  I talk with Denny about it.  By “talk with” I mean I rant about the floozy in the movie for two minutes and the twistedness of our sex-crazed culture for four.  He is fascinated by my strong response and begins to ask me questions.  Soon my anger turns to defense.  He probes too deeply. I don’t like where this is going.  Why do we have to talk about my sexuality?  I don’t understand it, but I feel threatened and I begin to shut down.  I fall silent and listen to him talk.

He speaks so thoughtfully and so… so…  comfortably about sexuality.  He is so accepting of this aspect of human nature.  Where he comes from, his culture, they were free to explore their humanity and so they explored it freely.  I tease Denny about their being free lovin’ hippies, but at the co-operative house in which he lived for over a decade they were social activists, artists and anarchists (not anarchists in the rebellious punk-rock teenager sense of the word, but anarchists as in community-based, self-management practicers and promoters and social economic developers.  Or something along those lines.  Think co-operative businesses, co-operative social institutions and co-operative efforts of all kinds).  They were careful and considerate, thoughtful and aware, right down to their sexuality.  In spite of their shameless freedom they didn’t have wild orgies or swingin’ sex parties, they didn’t walk around in the nude or copulate in public with animals.  But they didn’t hide their affections or their thoughts.  They were open and accepting.  What they were experiencing was natural and they were not afraid of it.

Incidentally, because sex was not taboo it also did not receive an undue amount of their attention.  It was merely one of many facets of life to explore together, right there with intellectual and artistic pursuits, shared meals, self-government, community outreach, gardening, political activism and spontaneous dance parties in the kitchen.

The culture I came from was not so balanced.  It strikes me that Christianity is very focused on sex.  Does that seem contrary to popular ideas?  Maybe it’s my imagination.  It’s difficult to separate myself from my experiences, from humanity, to view things objectively. Maybe I can’t blame Christianity entirely, but it’s definitely played a part in the shaping of my sexuality.

There is some idea that God created this sexual aspect of us; so beautiful within the confines of marriage, but with so much potential for sin!  We must run from all temptation.  Insert plenty of colorful descriptions of temptation here, fresh from the pulpit.  And suddenly you see temptation everywhere.  You see sexuality everywhere.  Somehow it’s evil, something you must hate and reject.  It’s so very evil you must keep a lookout for it always.

I think this does different things to different people, different personalities.  It creates true prudes in some cases, raging closet nymphomaniacs in others, or maybe just embarrassed, awkward individuals who won’t look you in the eyes.  I imagine plenty of folk escape unaffected;  I guess it depends largely upon their immersion in Biblical culture.  I thought I was fairly comfortable in my sexuality.  Until Denny’s questions.  Until I took some time alone and gently sifted my thoughts.

Near as I can figure, I get angry because I am somewhat ashamed of my sexuality.

By the time I began to explore this aspect of my nature I had already been innocently receiving messages about it.  I can’t say that I remember my parents doing or saying anything in particular to impress me with their ideas (we didn’t go to church and though Mom was a Bible believer she pretty much left us kids to decide for ourselves if we wanted anything to do with her God). I consider my family pretty average.  I think it was mostly just our American culture, permeated with ideas so subtle and prevalent.

I remember that when I was fourteen I felt convinced that I should remain a virgin until I married.  I felt somehow that this was what God expected of me, of young ladies in general.  It’s my first memory of giving God’s wishes any consideration.  I took a Bible off Mom’s shelf for the first time.  It looked confusing.  I guess I was hoping for a more complete instruction manual, maybe with “virginity–how to keep” in the index.  After flipping through and reading a few passages I put it back on the shelf between The History Of The Jews and The Gospel According To Peanuts.

To this day I’m not sure where this conviction came from.  It’s not like I had nuns breathing down my neck or anything.  Possibly I was influenced by Shakespeare’s Much Ado About Nothing, but I may not have even seen that until later in my teens.  Maybe I picked it up from my mother the way all children pick things up from their mothers; more in a general way than from any specific instruction.

What I later considered one of my greatest mistakes was not deciding how I would go about walking out this conviction of mine.  So began the most serious conflict of my life: what I believed God expected of me verses the humanity I lived.

To be continued…

Comments open below

Kaleesha Williams lives in southeast Missouri, homesteading and homeschooling her seven children, joyfully exploring her newfound freedom from Christ.  You can read more of her thoughts and experiences at

The Spiritual Abuse Survivor Blogs Network

NLQ Recommended Reading …

Breaking Their Will: Shedding Light on Religious Child Maltreatment‘ by Janet Heimlich

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  • Astrin Ymris

    Even secular culture is imbued with a lot of judgmental ideas about sex. Even though women aren’t expected to remain virgins until marriage– and are even allowed to date!– there’s still a lot of stigma about “sluts”. Everyone agrees that you shouldn’t be one, but when it comes to defining precisely where the line is between “normal sexually active adult woman” and “slut”, things are very hazy– and extremely subjective. IMO, the lines are often stated AFTER the woman (or teenager) has crossed one of them.

    I also think that the lines are drawn differently based on the woman’s race and socioeconomic class. A twenty year old white woman from a wealthy family isn’t a slut if she gets pregnant by her steady boyfriend after a contraceptive failure, but a woman of color from a poor family often is.

    Sluttiness is also directly proportionate to a woman’s weight, irregardless of sexual behavior.

  • I weigh about 360 lbs. Even if I were to wear tight/short/revealing clothes, I bet more people would think I’m delusional than that I am a strumpet! 😀

  • attackfish

    A delusional strumpet.

  • If only! Unfortunately, I was cursed with too much self-consciousness to allow me to flaunt my flabby knees and saggy chest.

  • Astrin Ymris

    I feel your pain– and share your body self-consciousness!

    Still, from what I’ve read, overweight women ARE associated with a charged sensuality– no strumpet clothes necessary. She’s seen as a woman who dares to indulge in her appetite, rather than ascetically restrain herself in an effort to meet an impossible ideal. There are men who find this… enticing.

    There are also a whole slew of moralists ready to scold and denigrate us for our lack of self-control, too. 😛

  • LisaP

    I really want to read the rest of this. This is waaay too familiar to me.

  • Kaleesha Williams

    Thanks for the input, all! Part 2 of 3 will be up soon.

    I agree secular culture is imbued with their own ideas about sex. It would be hard to sift through that to see what came from religion and what didn’t. I think there are so many factors at play here we may never sort it out. I do know that I love what Denny describes of his life and friends… I wish we could all just BE, with no shame. How do we make that happen? How can we claim that for ourselves and our children?

    I’m fascinated by the differing opinions on overweight women… I had never given thought to how weight might play into various stigmas. And yeah, socioeconomic class… I can see that. Interesting! I’m just coming at this from your middle-lower-class white girl angle. =)