I grew up going to church and, for the most part, I enjoyed it. It was the hub of my social life. My mom and dad both grew up in the same church. My mom’s dad was the youth group leader while my mom was growing up.
My parents were the youth group leaders while I was growing up. My parents got married in that church and they raised my siblings and me in that church. It felt like every time the church was open we were there. We attended Sunday school and Sunday morning service, Sunday night service, and Wednesday night services, too.
The church I grew up in is an independent Bible-believing church that’s not affiliated with any specific denomination. It takes the Bible pretty literally. It doesn’t believe in same-gender marriage. Women are not allowed to be elders, deacons, or pastors.
The 21st cntury has not changed its mind on these things. It believes men are the head of the household as they are the head of the church. The church I grew up in believed that women and men were equally important but they had separate roles. It maintained that the children’s ministry is as important as being the pastor, yet only one gender can be the pastor, whereas men could also serve in the children’s ministry.
When I entered youth group, we were oftentimes split into gendered groups for various activities and lessons so I was always with the females. As in many youth groups, one of the subjects we focused on most often was sex. In my opinion, the church is obsessed with sex - when to do it and not do it, how people are doing it, the genders of the people doing it. It’s everywhere! I thought more about sex while I was at church than almost anywhere else.
During our girls-only small groups, we often read books and talked about how to abstain from sex before marriage. My church had a hard line you didn’t cross when it came to premarital sex and the view was very clear: sex is a gift from God that is only between a married man and woman.
One of the analogies we were told that has stuck with me is the story of the gift. Sex is like a present. Every sexual act we engaged in before marriage put a small tear in the wrapping of the gift. If we had sex before marriage, even if the sex was with your fiancé, the entire present would be unwrapped. What did we want to gift our husbands on our wedding night? A nicely wrapped present, a present with shredded wrapping, or a present that isn’t wrapped at all?
Sex education through the church was incredibly heterosexist and binary, to start. It doesn’t allow room for anybody other than heterosexual, cisgender individuals. But beyond that, it also assumes that everyone wants to have sex and wants to have it with the opposite sex. No wonder I was so confused about my own sexual orientation.
I wish I would have learned more about sex in the ways I needed to know. The church hadn’t prepared me to actually express what I needed in the bedroom or how to say no to what I didn’t like. They didn’t tell me that not all sex is amazing or consensual. They didn’t prepare me to communicate with my partner, to be vulnerable, to know what I needed and then express it. The church talked a lot about how sex is a beautiful gift from God to be used in the right circumstances. But they didn’t teach me about what that gift was supposed to look like. They told me not to have sex but they didn’t teach me how to love someone. T