Beauty to Ashes: How Sexual Shame Nearly Killed Me

Beauty to Ashes: How Sexual Shame Nearly Killed Me March 9, 2016

depressionAs I entered into adulthood I experienced the deepest turmoil and pain of my life. This turmoil was brought on by my perceived failure as a godly Christian woman. I failed at the one thing I had worked so hard to succeed at and had based my entire worth upon. I had sex with my boyfriend and there was no going back.

My pre-teen and teenage years were spent learning how to preserve my sacred virginity for the future husband that God picked out for me in advance. I read Josh Harris’ book I Kissed Dating Goodbye and I attended conferences where they sang phrases such as “Try as I may to chase another lover, I find there is no other.” I promised myself to God – mind, body and soul. And then…

The Downward Spiral

I met a guy in my youth group and immediately hit it off with him. He was cute and funny and he seemed to like me, too. We started talking and discovered that we were both head-over-heels for each other. We took it slow at first and didn’t even start dating until I was in my senior year of high school (two years after we met). By that time we were planning to get married and I was calling his parents “mom” and “dad.”

The chemistry between us was unbearable. We were horny teenagers in love and we were forbidden to touch each other. What a trap that was! After a couple years of longing we finally kissed; they weren’t kidding when they said, “Kissing leads to other things.” Over time, kissing led to other things indeed. His car became our favorite place to “hang out” and we started exploring each other and learning about each other’s bodies. It was exhilarating and exciting and extraordinarily shameful. I was horribly ashamed of myself and repented constantly for falling prey to my sinful desires. I craved him, though, and I couldn’t resist the urge to be close to him and feel his touch so we continued to push the limits of what was “allowed”.

One day–as we were crammed in the front passenger seat of a Ford Taurus–we slipped up. It was literally just a slip and he was inside me. I couldn’t believe what was happening; I tried to ignore the horror that was crashing down on me long enough to enjoy it. My heart was racing and my mind was telling me yes and no at the same time.

I felt like everything that was important to me was ripped away from me in that moment. One slip. One “mistake.” There was no going back. One second I had the most precious thing to me, my virginity, and the next minute…I didn’t.

During the next few months I entered into a downward spiral that lasted for years. The next several months, especially, were very bad. Something flipped in me and I completely lost my grip on myself.  Deep inside myself I had decided that nothing mattered and I might as well enjoy the ride to hell. I continued to have sex with my boyfriend and even became upset with him when he tried to put a stop to what we were doing. When he told me that he didn’t think we should buy any more condoms, I responded, “I’m not a good girl anymore. That part of me is ruined. There’s no going back. So we might as well enjoy it.”

As things continued to spiral out of control for me I started receiving attention from some other male friends of mine. I soaked it up. I loved their flattery and the sexual vibes I received from them and wanted more. I felt validated and sexy and I craved the affection that they showed me. One of those affections turned into more and pretty soon I found myself in another romantic relationship. Emotionally, I couldn’t stand the guilt and shame of it all so I just shut myself down. I tried not to feel the pain and the guilt–but eventually it caught up to me.

I ended up confessing to everything in one big blow-up day. I told my parents that not only had I been having sex with my boyfriend, but I had also been cheating on him with someone else.

My dad picked up a chair and threw it across the room. I went up to my room and started planning my suicide. I didn’t stop planning suicide until several years later.

A Better View of Myself

Pain, shame and guilt don’t just leave you. They linger and haunt you for as long as you allow them to. I had no reason to banish those feelings of shame and disgust of myself. Even after getting married, I didn’t think I was worthy of the love that my husband was lavishing on me. I felt lesser than him because he had kept his virginity until meeting me. I felt like a dirty whore for having taken his virginity from him while we were still dating. I carried so much shame into our marriage, it amazes me that we survived it.

During this time, I clung to the verse in Isaiah 61:3 that says that God will “bestow a crown of beauty instead of ashes.” I thought that was such a beautiful description of what I had become; I was a pile of ashes and felt that God had restored me to beauty despite all of my shortcomings and failures.

I even have a tattoo on my back of a wrist covered in thorns and God’s hand holding a rose. I got that tattoo to symbolize the sin I had committed against God (through the thorns and blood) and the rose that I was growing into in his hand. What I didn’t realize is that the reason I felt so awful and ashamed was because my belief system had set me up for failure.

I had thought that God was bringing me from ashes into beauty when really I had been unjustly brought from beauty into ashes.

My understanding of who I was and what I was worth was screwed up. Christianity had taken a beautiful and natural thing–sexuality–and made it into something shameful and ugly. Instead of making the informed, educated and mature decision to have sex for the first time with my boyfriend–whom I loved–and use the protection I should have for such an event, I look back on my first time with sadness and see it as a turning point in my life. It was a turning point that led me down a very dark, sad and frustrating road.

Like I said, I remained suicidal off and on for several years following all of that and I carried a lot shame into my marriage and into our bed. Surprisingly, I didn’t realize how much it was still affecting me until I became an atheist and started re-thinking many aspects of my life and my beliefs. My sexuality is one thing I didn’t think was going to change.

As it turns out, the thing that changed the most was my relief from the guilt and shame over the sexual being I am and always have been. I love who I am now and I’m proud of my sexuality.

[Image Source: Flickr]

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