Now, I’m supposed to be on the fourth goal of the Thirteen Goals of a Witch today, but in honor of St. Valentine’s Day, I’m going to address something else. And the topic of the day is (da-da-da-dum!)…sex.
This is basically going to be my story about how I came into my own sexuality, which played a big role in my disenchantment with Catholicism. If you don’t like some touchy subjects, you might prefer not to read. But here goes.
I’ll be frank with everyone; obviously I was raised Catholic, as I’ve stated many times, and we good Catholic girls are taught to save ourselves for our wedding night. I did the whole thing were I even signed a little plastic card that I kept in my wallet. I’m pretty sure it was called the “Pure Love Promise” card. I signed and dated the back. If I remember correctly, that was in 2008, when I was 14 or 15 years old.
Let me tell you all a little something about me, though. I was one of those poor innocent kids who knew absolutely nothing about sex for a very, very long time. It wasn’t that my parents tried to shield me from it or anything. In fact, I remember watching a PG-13 movie when I was just eight years old, with my family, in our basement. I think a lot of little kids would sit on the couch and watch with some element of awe on their face, but I was one of those kids who didn’t know, and didn’t want to know, about anything bad. I distinctly remember watching that movie from behind the couch, and every time a bad word was said or a questionable scene happened, I ducked out of sight and made my parents tell me when it was over.
Looking back, it was no surprise that by age nine, when I was in fourth grade, I still did not have a grasp on the very basic concept that having a baby requires a man and a woman. Yep, you heard me right. Even more embarrassingly, I tried to convince my teacher that I knew somebody who had a baby without a man. I remember her face very well. You could definitely describe it as a pained and conflicted expression. I remember her saying to me, “You don’t understand, there has to be a man somewhere, even if they’re not married…” Two years later, I was sitting in sixth grade health class and while I finally understood that there had to be a man and a woman, I still didn’t know what they did or, frankly, why.
To be fair, my parents tried. They really did. They gave me that American Girl book set which included the infamous childhood ruiner, The Care and Keeping of You. That thing described every aspect of puberty in awful detail, including cartoon illustrations of how to put a tampon in. (I feel really bad for the artist who came to work one day and was like, “I’m going to be drawing WHAT now?”) And, like I said before, my parents did not keep me away from risque films or anything. I mean, they didn’t let us watch anything rated R until we were probably 12 or 13 (I remember watching the first half of Titanic as a kid and then having to go to bed while my parents watched the second half), but as I said before, PG-13 films weren’t too uncommon. And yet, I didn’t really know much about sex itself.
Hilariously, when I started the Catholic confirmation process at fourteen, I still was not very in-the-know about sex. It was easy to sign that little “Pure Love Promise” card, because I seriously thought sex would be disgusting. I had no idea how people could possibly go through with it, even to have children. I resolved to adopt, and I even told my (probably very bemused and/or partially concerned) parents this.
Then, when I was fifteen, I freaking FINALLY had my moment of blooming. I had a crush on a boy (whose family was from a different country and spoke a different language–which just so happens to be the country I’m in now, and that is not a coincidence) and even though he went to a different school, I invited him to my school dance. I remember the exact moment, when we were dancing in the dim cafeteria, and I saw him move, and I felt a lurch between my pelvis and stomach that I had never felt before. How many people can say that they remember the exact second of their sexual awakening? I had never wanted to do sexual things to anyone, up until that moment.
As I think it always is when you bloom late, suddenly I was pretty much consumed with trying to discover myself. I fell into probably the most extreme crush you could imagine on this poor boy. It lasted about two years in full craziness, and even turned into real, kind of tragic, love. He was gay, which was really heartbreaking, but he decided to give me my first kiss, which was confusing as hell. Honestly, it’s really hard to describe that relationship. I’m in a committed relationship with an amazing boyfriend now, but you can never quite forget–or, dare I say it, even get over–your first love.
In the midst of this compelling crush, I was doing insane research, trying to fill in all the gaps that I never got in my public school health class education. What exactly was sexual arousal, and what caused it, scientifically? What happened to boys during sex? What happened to girls? I became a sort of expert on the biology of it. As I got into my junior year of high school, having just been freshly confirmed, I convinced myself it was all just for theory, and not for practice. But curiosity was burning in me, really. I even tried my hand at reading and writing erotica.
One day I decided to masturbate in the shower. It’s a taboo subject, I know, but I think we should be able to speak about it honestly. To be quite real, I actually masturbated long before that, but because of my weird innocence, I had no idea what I was doing. It’s the sort of strange kid behavior where you press yourself up against pillows or whatnot in bed, because it feels nice, but you don’t know why. But in the shower, this was deliberate. And I was breaking my resolve.
When I think about this time now, it’s really quite sad, actually. I had a journal much like I do now, and I wrote in it almost every day. On those pages I scrawled prayers, sometimes multiple prayers, to God, to the Virgin Mary, asking for resolve, asking for strength to deny myself indulgence in my own curiosity. I even hung white towels in the bathroom to remind myself not to give in to temptation. Yes, I put white towels, to represent the purity I was losing, in the bathroom, to guilt myself into not exploring my own sexuality.
At the end of my junior year, even though I still was in love with the boy from the other school, I decided to go see a movie with a guy who I knew liked me. We had actually seen a movie the year before, but at the time he had seemed too old for me (almost three years older). We went to see another movie, and, though during my sophomore year I had refused to hold hands with him, this time I took his hand during the tense part of the movie.
If you’ve ever had extreme sexual tension with someone, you know just how stimulating holding hands can be. Even though during this movie, we just held hands in a sweaty, clamped sort of way, I remember him running his thumb along my thumb, and the sparks it sent through me. During the next movie, our hands did not stop moving throughout the entire two hours. We were trailing our fingers over each other’s fingers, rubbing our palms against one other’s palms…we had an electrifying intimate connection, just through our hands alone. It was so intense that when I would sext with this guy (yes, we sexted, and we were pretty great at it), sometimes he would just describe how we held hands together, and that was sexting enough.
This guy inevitably became my first boyfriend, and I’m really, really glad that he did. He was much older than me, like I said, and he had had many sexual experiences before me, because he had been an early bloomer. But he absolutely respected that I had no practical experience whatsoever. I think he saw me as a little bit of a white flower, and maybe he kind of relished slowly getting me dirty, but even so he “corrupted” me with the utmost care and concern. He knew I was Catholic, and he knew how much (I thought) I wanted to be pure for God. I don’t think the crosses and crucifixes I drew on my hands went unnoticed. He knew very well that I was fighting an inner battle.
We started with strict rules, the ABC’s. He couldn’t touch my Ass, Boobs, or Cooch (laugh if you like, but it was easy to remember), and likewise I couldn’t touch his Ass, er, Balls, or…you know. Yes, in the beginning, he was not even allowed to touch my freaking butt, and despite all the girls he’d gotten off before me, he did not object, because he liked me that much (that is called dedication).
Slowly, the rules became hard to keep. I realized how sexual contact was a slippery slope, and eventually I found myself hating the rules I had made to protect myself. I wanted to touch him, and I wanted him to touch me. I drew the cross in Sharpie on my hands.
I remember the first time I decided he could touch my butt. I remember the night in the car when he touched my chest the first time. And I remember the overwhelming guilt that came with it–not because I didn’t think I was ready, or that I hadn’t done enough research, but because I was losing my purity, which I was meant to keep for my first husband, and for God. I remember all of these moments that we had together, and I remember, too, when I decided that it wasn’t worth feeling guilty anymore. Sexual curiosity seems like a foolish thing to lose God over, but sometime, during my senior year of high school, probably in the front seat of a parked car, I decided that God wasn’t worth it.
Eventually, over the year that we dated, we repealed all of the rules, but we had a process for doing so. We couldn’t repeal a rule in the heat of making out, and if we wanted to repeal a rule, we had to decide three days in advance, and then three days later decide if it was still a good idea. I cannot stress enough that this boy was a full-fledged adult, dating a senior in high school, having had easily ten girlfriends before me, and yet he did all this for me. Part of it, of course, was that he didn’t want to do anything that would get him in trouble, but I know that even that motivation wouldn’t have been enough to do what he did for me.
We never had sex. That moment came at the end of January when I was nineteen, with my second (and current) boyfriend. I wasn’t ready. We didn’t have a system in place, and we sort of made a decision in the heat of the moment, which was something that my first boyfriend had prevented me from doing many, many times. It wasn’t my second boyfriend’s fault, or even my fault. It just kind of happened. And really, there was no reason it shouldn’t have happened. The only reason I wanted to wait was because, somewhere, deep down, I still wanted to save that moment for my wedding night. That “Pure Love Promise” card had long been chucked from my wallet, but that deeply-ingrained notion of that perfect moment after wedding bells had rung was something I never was able to leave behind, even if reality is never so perfect. I was already basically an atheist, but even so, the night that I had sex for the first time, I felt all of the years of conditioning sneak in and steal my self-worth. Instead of it being a great moment, I started having a panic attack halfway through and I rolled away from my confused boyfriend. While he got up to get a glass of water, I stared at the wall in the dark, and I remember thinking that I had failed. Failed who or what, exactly? Nobody and nothing, except the ideas that I still hadn’t been able to shake, the ideas that said I was now spoiled.
Did you know that in the Catholic Church, premarital sex is a mortal sin? As opposed to a venial sin, mortal sins are supposed to completely cut you off from God. You are not allowed to take communion after committing a mortal sin. If you die with an unreconciled mortal sin on your conscience, you go straight to Hell with no hope of purgatory. If your sin is grievous enough, you can even be excommunicated from the Church entirely, which bars you from the sacraments (not just communion). Sins worthy of excommunication include things like abortion.
I’m twenty-two now. I’ve been dating the same boyfriend all this time. We’re really smart about sex; we’re hygienic, I have basically foolproof contraceptive, we have a great time. The irony is that I might even marry this guy, this guy with whom I first had sex, but because my first time won’t be on our wedding night, I’m still not the spiritual being I might have been, so says the Catholic Church. And yet, since my first time, I’ve realized that sex is not the be-all and end-all that the Church thinks it is. Sex is fine and normal. Sometimes even lazy. If you’re smart about it, you really have none of the adverse effects to worry about, at all.
I have a Catholic friend from college who was home-schooled through the end of high school. She had the same views on sexuality as I had when I was fifteen, and so one day I decided to tell her what I had learned–that sex is not everything the Church has made it sound like it is. I told her that I was not a virgin. It was a huge mistake.
This “friend” of mine is a constant reminder of how mental I might have been about my sexuality if I had stayed on the same path I was on in high school. I realize now just how demented the ideas are. This “friend” has condemned me in every way, has told me that my boyfriend is using me and my body to satisfy his base pleasures, and that inevitably he will leave me. And because we’ve had sex, I will be destroyed beyond repair. She felt comfortable saying all this after having met him once, for five minutes. I can say anything I want to try to convince her otherwise, but all she will ever believe is that if a man has sex with you before marriage, he doesn’t care about you at all. And if you have sex before marriage, you are signing up for a lifetime of devastation.
Wow, this post has gotten crazy long. I didn’t know I was going to go into so much detail and depth about my life (and, er, my sex life). Maybe because I use a pseudonym, I feel comfortable letting it all out or something. Or maybe I just finally had to talk about the biggest reason why I initially strayed from God.
Of course, since then, there have been countless other reasons why I have decided not to return to God or the Catholic Church whole-heartedly. Philosophical problems, conflicting interests and beliefs (and frankly, seeing the craziness of this Catholic home-schooled girl) have all kept me from going back the way I came. I’m really glad that the path I’m walking down now is a little more accepting when it comes to sexuality. I like that the LGBT community is welcome. I like that I don’t have to feel like I’m ruined because I enjoy having sex with my boyfriend. I like that sexuality is even celebrated as part of the Wheel of the Year and the cycle of life.
After all, no one should have to hang white towels in the bathroom.
Blessed be, everybody
Edit: I’d like to add that I do not regret my decision to look away from Catholicism and the Christian God. I mean, sure it sucks sometimes because that’s the way I grew up, and that’s what my family expects of me, but I think it’s for the better now. I think maybe my post doesn’t do that fact justice, probably because I was writing it at four in the morning.
I want to stress that, when I was seventeen and wanting to explore my sexuality with my boyfriend, I was now educated on sex and how to be careful, I felt like I was old enough, and my own personal ethics found nothing wrong with doing these things. The only reason I was conflicted was because of my relationship with God.
This is one of the biggest reasons why I like Neo-Paganism, because you have the opportunity to follow your own ethics, as long as it harms none. So, let me stress–if my boyfriend had taken advantage of me, or the other way around, our actions would not have been ethical. But the way we were doing everything, in mutual respect and care, was entirely ethical.