Becoming Sexually Liberated After a Christian Upbringing
I grew up in a very religious home—church on Sunday mornings, youth group on Thursday nights, prayers before dinner, the whole nine yards. Honestly, I loved it. (And our weekly pre-church doughnut run certainly didn't hurt)
But beyond my Dunkin obsession, being a Christian is a big part of who I am. My faith-based childhood set me up for success in many different ways, from instilling in me a deep-seated optimism to shaping the love-colored lens through which I view the world.
But there is one big way that religion failed me: S-E-X.
Sex was a dirty word in my house. We fast-forwarded through movie sex scenes, and my parents couldn’t help but make uncomfortable comments when teenagers kissed in Disney Channel shows. I wouldn’t have been caught dead trying to gossip with my family about boyfriends, and I never got “the talk." Instead, my sister and I were given promise rings on our thirteenth birthdays and instructed to make a commitment to ourselves and to God to remain pure until marriage.
My parents had the very best intentions. But rather than developing a desire to protect and honor my body, as they intended, I left my childhood feeling that sex and desire meant sin and corruption. I felt I had to deny, hide and feel guilty about that part of myself.
Enter: Sexual Liberation.
Ev’Yan Whitney is a sexuality doula and sex-expert. She defines sexual liberation as: “Expressing your sexuality, embodying your identity, and connecting to what gives you pleasure in a way that’s authentic, positive, and safe.”
I was taught to feel ashamed or even fear my sexual desires. And I know I’m not alone in that. Our society operates in a dangerous dichotomy, selling unattainable fantasies of sex and beauty while simultaneously telling us to hide our imperfect bodies in “appropriate” clothing and smother sexuality in dark bedrooms behind locked doors.
But being sexually liberated means setting aside what the media, the beauty industry, our parents, and society as a whole expect from us and our bodies.
What does sexual liberation look like in practice?
You get to define what’s “good” for you. There is no good or bad way to be sexual as long as its consensual, safe and empowering. You control your body, your relationships, and your sex life, and nobody gets to say otherwise or tear you down about it. You don't have to be ashamed of what you desire, or even that you have desires. It's natural. In fact, it's a necessary part of human existence.
But sexual liberation isn’t just about being better equipped to orgasm. It’s also vital for our physical and mental health.
When we can freely talk about sex without shame or discomfort, we are also able to freely talk about sexual health. Imagine how different “the talk” would be if kids and parents weren’t ashamed of sex. If teens weren’t embarrassed to ask questions about consent, or terrified of shopping for condoms. If adults didn’t have to be humiliated when asking for STI tests and treatments.
When we are free to be whoever we want and need to be sexually, we are also free to celebrate other’s needs and desires—further eliminating shame from conversations around sex and opening ourselves up to respecting relationship diversity.
When we can freely embrace our sexual desires, we can also freely embrace our identities. Smothering a part of who you are can only lead to self-hate, but being unapologetic can only lead to self-love.
Honestly, I’m still struggling with my own sexual liberation. Even though I’m married and can have all the God-approved sex that I want, I still feel more comfortable when the lights are off. And I still have trouble asking my husband for what I need. Hell, it’s been really hard for me to even write this!
But I’m working on it. Slowly but surely, I’m feeling less and less ashamed of sex and becoming more and more confident in my body, which has allowed me to truly and holistically love myself.