I’m stuck. I’m almost 32 years old, and I am still stuck when I try to tell the story of how my sexuality was shaped. I envy people who can freely talk about such things. It’s just not something that comes easily to me. Some days I wish I could have an open and engaging conversation about sexuality just like I can about Star Trek. God, that would make life so much easier.
For so long in my life, I thought that sex was something to be feared or ashamed of. From the first moment that I was asked not to “tell, cause then we will just get into trouble…” to this very moment, I have been one twisted, mental fuck-up when it comes to anything sexual. And that really, really sucks.
For a while, I blamed all of my sexual problems on the adults that I grew up around. “They weren’t paying enough attention,” I would tell myself. And for the most part, that’s painfully true. The correct type of sexual education was not provided. The correct mechanisms were not put into place to teach us how to stand up for ourselves in certain situations.
I don’t even know how old I was when I was first introduced to things far beyond my years. I’ve tried to look back and figure out an approximate date based on my memories and where we were living at the time or who was around then, but in the end, does it even matter? Why am I obsessing over trivial details of when, maybe I should really be wondering, “WHY?”
That first time wasn’t the only time. There were other times in my life where I was really uncomfortable and party to events that, at the time, I truly felt that I could not control. If all was found out, then I would be in trouble too. And so, I never told. I was the good little girl that I was supposed to be. If that image was ever shattered, I too, would shatter into a million pieces inside. What I didn’t even realize, was that my insides were already in many broken pieces.
Thankfully, there came a time when these things weren’t happening in my life. But, the damage had already been done. My mind was completely changed about sexual matters. My brain would become a breeding ground for one particular kind of chaos I never saw coming.
Because I grew up in a very small and close knit religious community, it became very clear to me that in our current size, there were not enough boys for all of us girls to marry. What would happen to those of us who couldn’t marry someone in our church? What if no new souls came into the fold and provided us the opportunity to not be “miserable, old spinsters”?
These are questions that can be valid in certain circumstances and when thought by adults, but these were fears of mine when I was younger than 10. I was always so consumed with the battle going on in my mind, I never stopped to think that others around me might be experiencing the same mental war. I couldn’t see past myself to know that I wasn’t alone.
I would have these nightmares and in them I would be married off to older men in our church. I would wake scared and afraid because I had been thinking and dreaming of such awful things. Taking dreams to the minister was a common occurrence in our community and I would routinely heard adults around me testifying in church services over dreams they had and that the minister had interpreted for them.
I sat in these church services and wonder what would happen if I ever had to tell our minister about these dreams. Would I be forced to stand and tell what I dreamed and why my sinful desires made me dream these things? There was even that dark little question always in the very back of my mind, “Could our minister already discern and know the types of nightmares I had?”
I will always firmly believe that my saving grace in life was in being a skilled reader. I learned to read at a very young age, before I even started kindergarten. I have very few childhood memories that did not involve me and a book. I would read anything I could get my hands on, and if it I got my hands on something that I knew I shouldn’t be reading, I would take it to my one personal space. The bathroom!
My punishments as a kid involved me losing my reading privileges. My parents knew that taking away my ability to read would be a huge deterrent to doing something wrong. How right they were. But even when I was grounded from reading, I still found a way to quench my thirst.
Schoolbooks were never part of the grounding, so I would read them cover to cover over and over again. It was my therapy, because when I was reading, I was in a different world where I wasn’t the little girl who had to wear only dresses and be restricted from interacting with the world beyond our church.
My reading and studying level impressed the ladies at our public library, and I was granted special privileges that other children my age were not afforded. Downstairs was the children’s section and contained all non-fiction. Upstairs were biographies, autobiographies, and fiction. No one under the age of 13 could go upstairs without an adult, but these ladies had helped me through countless research papers and book reports, so they had no problem at all letting me traipse upstairs for a 5 pound biography on a deceased President whenever I would ask sweetly.
Upstairs, I would roam the aisles for hours, reading novels and learning what sex and sexuality really were. It was not at all what I had originally thought because everything I had ever thought about the subject was the result of my childish innocence that had been exposed to, no doubt, a warped version of intimate interaction.
As I approached my twenties, my mind often wandered and I would imagine leaving my home and church for good. Others before me had done it, even members of my own family. The minister tried to make it sound like they were leading pretty awful lives, but every glimpse that I got, they seemed to be happy and thriving despite the fact that all the rest of us were back at home shunning them and treating them as if they were dead.
I was a woman of 20, still living in my parents’ house when I opened my own post office box and ordered books about sex and love. I was trying so desperately to repair the damage in my brain that occurred after being exposed to things I didn’t understand at a very young age. I did a lot of research and found some critically acclaimed books on love and sexuality. I read about learning to love myself before trying to seek love from someone else. I ordered sex toys and massagers, simply because I was a young woman trying desperately to figure out the right way to do things.
I continued reading all I could about sex. I wanted to be prepared for the world if I ever decided to leave, but I would still try to learn lessons by going down the wrong avenues. Sex education outside my bubble was mostly flawed and still is to this day, honestly. The night before I left home, my mom had gone through my bedroom and found these books and items. Being reprimanded for having these things, along with other situations, were the final straws that broke my last connection to that way of life. I still was so ashamed about what I had been exposed to as a kid, that I still did not feel safe in confiding this information to my parents.
So, I just left. I took my mess of a mind, and I walked out. It’s been almost 12 years now, and I am still struggling with my sexuality. It takes a toll on my relationship with my husband because it’s still so hard for me to relax and enjoy intimacy.
Instead, I have flashbacks to all those times in my childhood where I was doing things that I really didn’t want to be doing. As they were happening, it didn’t seem that traumatic. They didn’t start eating away at my brain until I got older and I read about the real world and I realized that these things were NOT ok.
No one involved in these instances of my past has ever tried to talk to me about it. And I haven’t tried to talk to them. Would there even be a point to it? Probably. It would be healing, most definitely. But oh so hard, because I still have so much blame that I put on so many people…. I need to realize that their intentions were not malicious. I think they were probably just like me. A kid exposed to things they didn’t understand far before they should have been.
It happens far too often, and has gone on for far too long. The cycle ends here. The bad may keep spreading, but it won’t be coming from me.