Guest post by Rebekah
I’ve heard the horror stories about the licked cupcake Young Women’s lessons and parents who fainted over or ignored their children’s questions about sex. I thought I came out okay. Sure, I had the standard Young Women’s lessons about how we must be modest because boys can’t control themselves, and no, my parents didn’t tell me much about sex at all, but I did grow up knowing the terms “penis” and “vagina.” I thought I got off easy.
Then I got engaged. (Those of you who have been engaged or witnessed this may all smile knowingly now.) Suddenly, I was dealing with people wondering about if I wanted lingerie and making sure that we weren’t out by ourselves too late and my fiancé buying us a bed and me setting an appointment for a pre-marital check-up. I was kind of forced to realize that (1) somehow my chastity seemed to be everybody’s concern, and (2) beyond the basic idea of how a penis and a vagina fit together, I knew absolutely NOTHING about sex.
Okay, not absolutely nothing, just close to it. I heard “orgasm” for the first time at school in eighth grade and looked it up in the dictionary at home. I had learned the term “hymen” while reading a book in high school about the status of women in the Middle East (well, learned the word. I still didn’t know what it was, just that it sometimes broke when you had sex the first time). I had to look up the term “clitoris” after coming across it my junior year at college in a Mormon Feminist blog, though I didn’t learn where it was, just that it was the female organ for sexual pleasure. I knew what masturbation meant, but I didn’t have a clue how it was even possible for girls, as there seemed to be nothing to touch.
Overall, I realized that I should probably get some sort of an education, and since my parents hadn’t been all that forthright with specific information, I decided that my best bet was what English majors do best: read a book. I had heard that And They Were Not Ashamed by Laura M. Brotherson was supposed to be pretty good, so I girded my loins, bought it as an e-book, and began to read.
The book was okay. I wasn’t all that impressed with the writing, but it did give a good chunk of the information that I lacked in a tasteful, straightforward manner—and somehow, it still left me kind of traumatized. I spent the next three days unable to think of anything but how weird and kind of gross the whole thing sounded, not to mention the unexpected complexity of reaching orgasm. I had kind of assumed it would just happen. The fear rose in me—could I really make this work? I love my fiancé, but. . . do I really want to experiment with another naked body? I eventually told my fiancé why I wasn’t doing so great, which made him realize he knew nothing either, which made him do his own research and have his own freakouts.
I told you, I thought I didn’t have the stereotypical Mormon girl issues constantly talked about on the bloggernacle. I had instinctively shrugged off the modesty lessons that turned into shaming, and I was comfortable saying “sex” in conversation instead of dancing around it. However, I had to work to make myself get any degree of knowledge about it. I was curious, yes, but I felt myself getting more and more fearful about the whole thing, even though what the book was saying was that it’s not something to be scared of.
The fear subsided as the information sunk in. Before I got married I even managed to read a bit more in-depth, perusing The Act of Marriage and my roommate’s nursing textbook. It took a while to adjust, but now I’m okay with knowing where my glans clitoris is. (Finding it was interesting. . . “Okay, lump of tissue above the vagina. . . that looks right. . . oh, MY, that is SENSITIVE!”) As I got closer and closer to the wedding, my parents finally broached the subject—not to give any practical advice, but to warn me that my husband’s sex drive would be stronger than mine, which could be a problem if I didn’t learn to “give in” once in a while. So far, that piece of advice has said a lot more about my parents’ marriage than about mine.
However, I’m left with a lot of resentment. I’m downright angry at a culture that made me learn my anatomy from hearsay, looking things up sporadically and never feeling like I had the right to get to know my own body. The few times that I had looked at my vagina to figure out what was going on down there I had felt incredibly guilty. I wouldn’t say that I blame my parents, but I am kind of mad that I had to learn about my body on my own, even when they don’t support school sex-education because “those lessons should be learned in the home.” I’m mad that it took me until age twenty-one to learn any sort of specifics about a process that God has deemed good and holy, and that when I did learn about it, it freaked me out for three days straight. I’m just glad my husband and I got our freakouts over before the wedding night. I don’t want to think about what it would have been like if we hadn’t gone out and done our research before and talked about it.
It could have been worse—it has been worse for so many people. I could have been like those girls and not learned a thing beforehand, going in scared, clueless, and shameful. After this, I have decided that no someday child of mine is going to have to learn what a hymen is from a book as an eighteen-year-old. Nobody should.