Full Disclosure: Christianity Ruined My Sex Life
When I tell people who I used to be, they don’t believe me. And not just because I used to be black. It’s because I was withdrawn, lacking in all things self-esteem, clad in Matrix gear (complete with trenchcoat), and emphatically Christian. People who knew me then hardly recognize me now.
I was a very sexual child growing up, though I didn’t realize it at the time. I remember my early elementary school days, how I couldn’t wait for the recess bell to ring. When I wasn’t warring with the other boys, each of us assuming the X-Men role we associated with most (I was naturally always Gambit), I waited desperately for the girls to invite me to play house. Sounds pretty gay, but I had a different take on it. While most boys and girls embraced the gender wars we’d been indoctrinated with (turns out there was a cootie shot, and everyone should get one), I focused on the similarities I had with the girls, ingratiating my way into their favor.
I was Mittens the Cat. And like any good house cat, it was my job to rub against the rest of the housemates, resting my head in the girls’ laps while they stroked and played with my hair. I didn’t know it was sexual at the time, but I knew I thoroughly enjoyed it, and it was attention the other boys weren’t receiving. In retrospect, it was very sexual.
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I was in 2nd grade – just 7-years-old when I had my first sex dream. A young girl sat in a lone bathtub in the middle of a dark room, the edge of her nipples barely submerged beneath the water and voluminous bubbles. This wasn’t just any girl. This was then 11-year-old Wednesday Addams, as portrayed by Christina Ricci. I remember waking from the dream with two previously unexperienced desires. The first was that I REALLY wanted to return to that dream. The second is that I remember very clearly wanting to “kiss her boobies”. I wasn’t molested as a kid. Seriously.
My parents were, however, decently liberal with the facts of life, especially coming from the Christian parenting perspective. When I asked where babies came from in 1st grade, there was no stork. Babies happened when a man and woman loved each other, and he put his penis in her vagina, at which point bees shot out, swarming a flock of seagulls that had been nesting in there.
But I was raised Christian. When I moved from Sunday School to the church’s teen-focused youth groups, sex became a very real thing for me and my peers, even if only in our own bodies. Periods and wet dreams were happening. Our church youth leaders had to begin talking to us about the importance of sex, and why it was important not to have it.
They weren’t all terrible. One youth pastor in particular, named Mo, had a knack for discussing Christianity in a level-headed way, one that allowed for the cynical nature of someone like myself. Frequently I would question the seemingly arbitrary and unsympathetic values espoused by the Christian faith. “I’m not going to tell you God works in mysterious ways, because that’s a cop-out answer to a great question,” he would respond, never feigning to have all the answers. But the Mos were few and far between in the church.
As I was about to begin high school, my family moved from the not-really-that-diverse Redwood City to the I’ve-never-seen-a-colored-person Burlingame. The church’s youth were far more affluent, and the emphasis on chastity and the evils that befell those who didn’t practice it became more and more sinister.
“These two pieces of paper represent your body. Now this glue here, this is sex.” Our pastor began rubbing the glue, almost sensually over one of of the sheets of printer paper. “And when two people have sex, it bonds them together.” The dry sheet now saw that his counterpart was wet and began to mount. “Now they’re bonded: forever. But what happens when that sacred bond is broken?” He began to pull the pieces of paper apart, and they began to tear frivolously, each ripping noise widening the room full of our 14-year-old eyes and clenching our throats. “A piece of you is torn away, and taken with that other person. And you’re never whole again.”
I took to reading my bible nightly. As my own adherence to my religion was strengthening, I became confused at what role religion played in the lives of my peers. I remember watching Katherine stand in front of our youth group, hand held towards the heavens, as she testified.
“I have Jesus in my heart, and I know that I am walking with him, and with strength, you can too.” There was clapping, there were tears.
The following Monday morning, Katherine sat next to me in Spanish class. What do you do when the most popular girl in your youth group has pictures of herself doing tequila shots off another girl’s tits from the weekend prior on the front of her binder? What did it mean to walk with Jesus?
I went into a tailspin. By this point I had already felt ostracized, and had made the transition from dockers and sweater vests to black spandex and fingerless military gloves. But I began to relentlessly scrutinize myself and others. The Bible our youth pastor instructed us to purchase spoke of the sin of “sexual immorality”. What the f*ck did that mean? Could you possibly be any more vague? Was it a sin to have sexual desires? Was it a sin to masturbate? To kiss? To get an erection? None of us were perfect, but unless every second was spent trying to get there, we were failing God.
I began abstaining from masturbation. It was not an easy task, especially not for a 15-year-old boy. I remember the numerous times I took the old pair of boxers that was designated as my ejaculate towel, ceremoniously burning them in a Yuban coffee tin in our backyard. If I had nothing to masturbate into, surely I would stop. I might make it a week before a new pair of boxers was chosen, and a deep sense of shame and failure beset me. By the way, if you think burnt hair smells bad…
Eventually I found my groove. I would turn the tv to Spice – a Pay-Per-View porn channel I had used many times prior to masturbate, and now simply ogle the scrambled breasts and moans that would come into clarity every few seconds. Nightly watchings became weekly, and eventually I stopped altogether. Because I had stumbled upon masturbation at age 11, my body had never found it necessary to induce a wet dream. Once I stopped masturbating, that all changed. Countless nights where I wouldn’t get to sleep until 4am, having been up all night studying for an AP history exam, were interrupted by my less-than-welcome nocturnal emissions.
You can enact any fantasy imaginable in a sex dream. I knew it was getting bad for me when my fantasies started to be about me being allowed to masturbate.
I made it eight months to the day without masturbating. Considering I had previously been on a 3x a day schedule (twice at night, once in the shower in the morning), that was an enormous feat. If you calculate the average amount of male ejaculate over the course of that time (which of course, I did) it equates to roughly an 8 1/2 gallon aquarium full of semen that I spared many laundry cycles.
My decision to begin masturbating again came after I started looking vigorously into what the f*ck “sexual immorality” meant. I REALLY wanted to masturbate. The furthest back in english translations I found scripture-wise were that “fornication” was really what was being referenced. And if you look at the latin etymology of that word, it’s actually a reference to vaulted chambers and cellars where prostitutes most commonly plied their trade. So basically, the Bible was saying engaging with prostitution is a sin. Hallelujah.
But in those eight months a lot had happened. I began an underground free-speech newspaper, Revelations (I’ve always been a pretentious twat, okay?) The paper put forth a variety of viewpoints, but anti-abortion articles and the fare were certainly all a part of it. I was consumed with an enormous amount of frustration and dissonance concerning my own logical viewpoints and what the Bible had to say about sex. I rejected girls – girls I really liked – telling them that we were not “equally yoked” in our faith, and therefore we could not be together. I made one such girl cry, guilting her when she confessed that she had given a blowjob before.
One youth pastor called me “the future of the church”.
By age 16, there were too many fundamental questions that had gone unanswered for me to continue steadfast in my faith. I wrestled with these questions for months, years, until one day I said one last prayer:
God, if you do exist: I need proof. Like real proof. Like blood on the wall, ‘Hi Eric, it’s Me’ proof. Believing something just because the people who raised me told me it’s true doesn’t make it any more true for me. And what about the other people who have different beliefs, but ones they adhere to just as strongly because their parents taught them their religion? Faith cannot be the sole determinant of how I live my life. I can no longer beat myself and others up, insisting that what is natural for us is somehow imperfect to you.
The prayer went unanswered, and I expect it to continue in that vein. I became Agnostic. I didn’t know what was out there, but none of us did. And by the time we’d find out, it’d be too late anyway.
It would be another three years before I’d lose my virginity. Even with girlfriends I had in that interim, an enormous sense of sacredness enveloped all matters of sex. I guilted them, insisting that couples don’t masturbate when they’re together, because that somehow detracted from our relationship. If they talked to their friends about our sex life, I shamed them for disrespecting our bond.
While fortunately I am no longer plagued by these guilts (thank you, UC Berkeley!), they still rear their head in my sex life. I now fetishize that which is morally corrupt. The more sinful, the better. It’s as if everything that was withheld in the name of God must now flourish, be explored, and be celebrated.
I’m proud of who I am. But the journey was one that caused an immense amount of shame, confusion, and hurt, to myself and to others. And now that I’m finally feeling at peace, it’s my family who’s expressing shame, confusion, and hurt over who I am.
What would Jesus do? I don’t know. But these WWJD bracelets make awesome cock rings.
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