Tuesday, March 27, 2012

Lollipops, Bananas & Bathrobes

When I was in college, I was involved in a Campus Ministry.  During the summer of 1992, I attended what was called a “Summer Project”.  These projects were located all over the US and designed to help Christian college students grow in their faith.  The Project I attended was located in Ocean City, NJ.  There were approximately 100 students that travel from all over the country to be part of the Project.  We all lived in a three story house, about 2 blocks from the beach.  Floors were divided by gender, each floor having its own community bathroom.  Needless to say, shower to person ratio was not the greatest.  To help this, there were 3 outside enclosed showers that people could use.  This is where the weirdness began.  When the girls went down to the extra showers they typically threw on a bathrobe and grabbed their toilet caddy.  To get to the showers, they had to walk through the common area of the house.  Partway through the summer, the girls were asked (by leadership) to wear regular clothes down to the showers, not a bathrobe.  Apparently, seeing a girl in a bathrobe was causing some of the guys to “stumble”.  I guess knowing that the girl was naked under her bathrobe was too much for them.  I was afraid to point out that no matter what we were wearing, we are ALWAYS naked underneath. Who knows what the ramifications might have been for that.   But wanting to love our “brothers” the girls complied ( I might add that we then banned them from being shirtless in the common area, as retaliation).
That same summer, the staff member that was mentoring me had a ‘delicate’ conversation with me about my bra.  Apparently, you could see part of my bra when I wore a sundress.  And as you can guess, it could have been a stumbling block to the guys. Did I mention that my bra was a sports bra? You know the kind… made of cotton, white in color, unsexy as hell.  Needless to say, I was so embarrassed and confused.  I mean, hadn’t I seen women were these things running….with no shirt…just the bra. If the conversation wasn’t bad enough, my mentor wanted to take me bra shopping.  Yup, that’s right, wanted to take my 21 year old ass out bra shopping.  Although it was framed in the context of a “fun girls’ time”, it didn’t feel very fun to me.  My incompetence as a young woman seemed clear to me; I was unable to pick out appropriate under garments for myself.  It really sucked.  But wanting to “love my brothers” and have my mentors’ approval, I went.

Many of my friends from UNH attended these Summer projects as well.  When we all gathered for the fall semester, we were able to compare notes.  I found out that the Project I was on, was not the only one that had to deal with this issue over the summer.  Apparently, girls on other projects were asked to refrain from eating bananas and lollipops in front of the guys. I guess it made them think of oral sex.

Throughout college we got a lot of this kind of crap.  We were told how guys were much more ‘visual’ and how hard it was for them to see girls in two piece bathing suits.  That as young women, we need to help the young men by dressing modestly.  Really, if we could be as asexual as possible, it would be greatly appreciated.  Don’t get me wrong, I get how hard it is for guys. They are faced with an impossible task.  They are told to never think of sex, to see women as their ‘sisters in Christ’ and that masturbation was wrong.  So, they were pretty much screwed (or not in this case).

What bothers me so, is that there is a responsibility put on women that never should be.  There seems to be a lack of boundaries.  A confusion of who is responsible for what.  Each one of us is responsible for our thoughts and actions.  Conversely, no one is responsible for another person’s thoughts or actions. It is not only unrealistic but unhealthy to put that responsibility on someone else.  If I am eating a banana and a guy is imagining that I am performing oral sex on him, that is 100% his problem… not mine.  And it should never be put on me.

It can have a real negative impact on a woman.  That she is constantly doing things that are causing someone else to sin.  It can make her self conscious about her own body. That there is something wrong with her sexuality.  It makes her want to cover up that part of her, that God given part.  I think it can have a negative impact on men as well.  I think they feel dirty and ashamed.  Powerless over their own sex drive.  That they are at the mercy of someone else’s actions.

I wonder if part of the problem is that our sexuality is often repressed.  This is especially true in the Christian subculture.  It is pushed down, buried and not allowed to be seen or acknowledged until the words, “I Do” are uttered.  Now, sex and sexuality are different to me.  Sex is an expression of our sexuality, not sexuality itself.  Sexuality on the other hand is something that is a part of us from the day we are born until the day we die.  A person may never have sex but that does not mean they are devoid of sexuality.  I will be the first one to say that I am all for people waiting until they are married but I am so NOT for the repression of a person’s sexuality. It is so damaging and can make for a very difficult and confusing sex life.

I want to see sexuality differently.  I want my Christian community to see it differently.  I want them to teach that there is no shame in our sexuality.  That it is normal to think about sex ALL the time (especially for teens and young adults). That masturbation is not wrong. I want men to stop blaming women for their lack of control.  I want women to not feel responsible for what a man thinks. I want men and women to take responsibly for their own thoughts and actions and to know that they are not powerless when it comes to their sexuality. I want to teach these things to my sons.  I want them to grow up without shame.  I want them to have a healthy view of themselves.  I want them to fully embrace every part of who God has made them to be.

Friday, March 23, 2012

The Monologues

Recently, I attended the Vagina Monologues with a group of girl friends.  The place was packed, sold out actually, it was pretty incredible.  For those of you who are not familiar with the Monologues, they are a collection of stories presented in a play like form and all about the Vagina.  The purpose of the Monologues is to raise awareness and stop violence against women and girls.  According to the United Nations, one of every three women on the planet will be physically or sexually abused in her lifetime.  That is a frightening statistic.  The stories vacillated from comical to devastating, as did my emotions.  I laughed and cried my way through the hour and half.   
The performances were over the top, in your face and very uncomfortable at times.  But I was determined to be mature.  I refused to squirm in my seat as one woman acted out an orgasim scene.  So I just squirmed inside.  But that was the whole point.  To bring the Vagina and the stigma associated with it out into the open. To demystify what has been so secret and shameful.  They did a great job.
Vagina can be a hard word for people to say.  Honestly, it has only been in the past few months that I have been able to use it more freely in conversation.  It’s like a dirty word, for a dirty part of a woman’s body. I find it easier and more comfortable to talk about Vaginas in an a general,  global sense. The minute I write or say, “My Vagina” I fell very self conscious.  It’s like I let the cat out of the bag and now everyone knows that have one.  So I may as well confess right here, right now that I do indeed have a vagina and I bring it with me wherever I go… sort of a package deal.  Honestly, I think it should be a word that everyone has to say at least 3 times a day.  This way, people can become more comfortable talking about vaginas and then maybe real, honest conversations can happen (we should probably include the word penis too but we will stay away from clitoris for now… baby steps). 
As I sat there that night, something began to break inside of me.  I began to realize how many negative feelings and thoughts I have about my own vagina and sexuality.  That it is something shameful and dirty. These thoughts are more subconscious than overt. The funny thing with subconscious thoughts, when you recognize them, you can see them for what they are.  Then you can decide if they are true.  And these thoughts, they are the farthest thing from the truth.  My vagina is not dirty nor is my sexuality.  It was like my eyes were opened for the first time and I just sat there soaking in the truth, letting it wash over me.  I felt like God met me in that theater, in that quiet space and spoke to me.  He spoke of love and compassion,  of acceptance, of tender healing that is to come. It was an amazing night.  A life changing night.  And I will never be the same.

For more information about the Vagina Monologues and V-Day visit http://www.vday.org/mission

Wednesday, March 21, 2012


A women’s sexuality is an interesting thing.  A Christian woman’s sexuality is even more interesting.  It is a part of a person that is rarely nurtured or given adequate attention to.  We go to school to nurture our minds, the gym to nurture our bodies, and church to nurture our spirits.  But our sexuality is often left to develop, all on its’ own, in a haphazard sort of way.  As I reflect on my own sexuality, I feel a deep sadness at the lack of attention given to it.  I feel angry too.  Angry about things people have said and done that have had a negative impact on how I view myself, my body and my sexuality. This topic is too vast to be explore in just one blog post…. So, hang on to your hats ‘cause the next few blogs are going to be dedicated to Sex and Sexuality. 

Wednesday, March 7, 2012

That Still Small Voice

I am a people pleaser.  I hate the thought of disappointing people.  Not having people’s approval is difficult for me.  Consequently, I have let people walk all over on me. I have lacked the ability to confidently stand up for myself.  

I have had a hard time making decisions for myself. Always wanting to know what others’ thought I should do.  So afraid of making a mistake.  So afraid of disappointing others...of disappointing God.  I  doubt my own thoughts, intuition and experiences.  I have allowed people to treat me poorly and take advantage of my generosity.  To my own detriment, have I allowed spiritual leaders to manipulate and control me, all in the name of God.  I have been silenced, minimized, shamed and blamed.  I’m tired of it. I have had enough.

Something amazing happened over this past year.  I found my voice.  A still small voice, buried inside myself.  And it is pissed off.  Pissed off at how I have been treated.  Pissed off at being silenced.  But mostly, pissed off at myself, for letting it all happen.  The truth is, I couldn’t have stopped it.  I didn’t know how.  No one every taught me.  So, I am learning now.  Learning how to speak up for myself, instead of owning someone else’s bad behavior. Learning to value my thoughts and opinions. Learning to trust my intuition.  And realizing I don’t have to justify my decisions to anyone. It is very freeing.   

Funny thing about finding your voice, once you start using it, it doesn’t want to shut up.  It wants to tell people what it thinks about everything.  It wants to speak for people whose voices have been silenced.  To speak for the people that have yet to discover their own voice.  Sometimes, can be kind of ugly.  Like I am engaging in a fight.  Which makes sense right? I am assuming this is all part of the process and once my voice gets comfortable, this angst will subside.  That peace will come.  You know the kind.  It comes  when you realize you no longer need to prove to others that you are okay.  When you are free to be who you are… and that who you are is enough.

Friday, March 2, 2012

Scars and Wounds

Growing up can be hard.  It can leave a person with a lot of scars.  Physical, Sexual, Emotional.  As I venture into the deeper parts of me, the scars are becoming more apparent.  Although, I don’t know if I would call them scars.  They’re more like wounds.  A scar is something we’re left with, after a wound has healed.  It tells a story.  It reminds us of something we made it through. Something painful, something traumatic.  Wounds are not like that.  They are fresh, raw, open.  They leave us exposed.  They require a tender, gentle, understanding touch.  Yeah, I have wounds….
Now, they say that time heals all wounds.  That has not been my experience.  Some of my wounds are 35 years old. I have been able to push them down really deep. Cover them with a ton of bandages. But underneath, they are there still wounds.  Fresh, raw, open.   

Some of the wounds I have from childhood are related to my femininity and sexuality.  The two are so interconnected, it is hard to separate them.  For my entire adult life, I have struggled with these issues and the process is slow going.  As I unravel the bandages and expose what is underneath, Jesus has tenderly put salve on my wounds and healing has begun.  Someday, these wounds will become scars. Beautiful Scars…