Healing Religious Sexual Shame
Oh boy was this is hard to write!
In this post, I will be talking about a topic that could be activating, so please resource yourself.
It’s something deeply personal to me and something that took a long time to deconstruct.
From the first time I felt a tickle when I saw a naked bum in a magazine when I was 7, to feeling ashamed for feeling so horny as a teenager, to discovering the world of sacred sexuality, to sexology training, to a whole load of other things.
I saw an email the other day from somebody I’ve been following for a while, and it sparked something in me.
I talk fairly openly about growing up in the Church- and also want to reiterate this is NOT story of abuse, cult-like behviour, or anything really extreme.
However, it did leave a huge mark.
Growing up in the 90s and 00s, meant that I got the full thrust of Evangelical Purity Culture thrown at me.
From youth clubs, youth camps, weekends away, the whole lot.
I drank it all in, absorbed every message, believed it all.
Good Christian girl, Lucy.
One of the few Good Christian girls left by Year 11, as so many other girls had given into temptation.
Also, I am aware that my experience as a white, middle class woman growing up in London in the ’90s and 00’s, is a very different experience to a woman of Jamaican descent growing up in Nottingham, for example.
Women from BAME backgrounds who also grow up religious get that extra whammy of racial trauma, plus the cultural messages from their families.
Note that the concept of Purity Culture comes from a white, American, Evangelical origin (do your Church and religious research, you’ll learn a hell of a lot!)
The more I have networked and met other people- either sexuality professionals, sex coaches, sexological bodyworkers, sex educators, etc, or people who are just on the path to healing- this is something many of them us have in common.
I’ve spoken with women, men, trans, and non-binary folk from all over the world.
From the UK, all over the USA, South Africa, India, Burma, Poland, New Zealand, Australia, Singapore, and more.
And the ones who are the most scarred and who have done the most profound healing around their sexuality…
… guess what they all had in common?
That’s right: Religious upbringing or environment.
Religious sexual shame is the topic of a whole book (and many books have indeed been written about it, such as Shameless, by Nadia Bolz Weber, Sex, God, and the Conservative Church, by Tina Schermer Sellers, Pure, by Linda Kay Klein, and God and the Gay Christian, by Matthew Vines).
It’s something that seeps far deeper than just, “no sex before marriage”.
It’s also no “funny business”, no intimacy, no nothing.
Not only because God would disapprove, but because it will actually damage you.
And there lies the toxicity.
It’s taught with concern for your emotional, mental, and spiritual wellbeing, rather than a reflection of their own deep sexual shame.
(Don’t believe me? St. Paul was the worst of them!)
This stuff is deep– do you think it’s a coincidence that the most virtuous, clean-shaven, Bible (or Qu’ran) thumping men often hide a very dirty secret?
It wasn’t because they were “weak in spirit” or they “failed”, it’s because the whole damn system failed them, even when they are the greatest beneficiaries of it.
And you then think that you have failed and just didn’t try hard enough or pray enough, so you squash it down even more.
Here’s some background:
This twisted theology comes from the notion that you are inherently sinful and you need God/Jesus/Allah to save you- otherwise you won’t be able to control yourself.
You are sinful, you are weak, you are fallen. Without this control then you’ll fall into a pit of uncontrolled devil’s orgy.
Do you see the fallacy in that? How that has screwed you up?
You must walk this impossible tightrope, God forbid if you fall (and many do).
It’s the idea that your body is inferior to your spirit and that Eros is deeply wrong.
It’s a policing of women’s bodies and how much skin they show (only women’s bodies, never a man’s body).
It’s saying that a woman who wears a thong or booty shorts and does sexy dancing, “Can’t be a Christian”.
Now substitute that with somebody who is gay or trans, somebody who has had sex before marriage, or somebody who tries energy healing.
Speaking to many, many, many people from religious backgrounds, they have all expressed having to work with that feeling of being, “dirty”, and “wrong”, when they felt desire.
Even when they were in legal and God-approved wedlock.
Or when they felt desire outside of what they were told was Godly- having to shut that deep down inside of themselves until they either imploded or exploded.
This heavy emphasis on “good” vs “bad”
GOOD= Godly= must be striven for at all costs
BAD= UN-Godly= must be prayed out of you and avoided
GOOD desires mean Godly desire for your future husband or wife
BAD desires mean literally anything else
Is it a surprise, then, that there is a direct correlation between heavy porn usage and countries and states that are heavily conservative?
No, it really isn’t.
Luckily, there is hope.
Healing religious sexual shame is an unpeeling and unfolding.
It’s a reclaiming and befriending your desires, reclaiming your body, sex-positive community, and a coming home to the GOODNESS of your body.
I did it, and many others have done it too.
I really know deep inside that my sexuality and connection to spirit are one and the same, not either/or.
I can embody all the different archetypes. I know deep inside that my body, my desires, and my pleasure is GOOD.
Religious sexual shame is something I will be exploring more soon, because in the process of healing and deconstructing, you form a new relationship with your sexuality and your spirit.
You come out of the binary of GOOD vs BAD, HOLY vs PROFANE, SIN vs REDEMPTION, UNHOLY LUST vs GODLY PLATONIC LOVE
And even deeper: Madonna vs Whore
Want to reclaim your sovereignty? Then The Shameless Woman program could be for you.
All my love and a big mug of tea,