How can we feel sexually confident if we believe that our bodies are gross, objects of embarrassment, or something that makes us “less than”?
For a woman to feel sexually confident, she has to feel that being a woman is a good thing, not a source of shame.
And yet, how often do we grow up with that sense of shame at being a woman?
I want to take you on a bit of a journey today (or maybe more of a stream of consciousness post!) on various things I’ve read around the internet lately that have solidified this for me.
First, as many of you have seen, I’ve been doing a series of Fixed It For Yous, where I take horrible quotes from books and “fix” them.
Usually I fix best-selling books, or books that are widely known in the evangelical world, because I want to make the biggest splash, and if I look at more fringe books–well, obviously you can find ridiculous things in fringe books.
But people keep sending me quotes, and I saw one that was especially horrible recently. Even though it’s not in a best-seller, I decided to “fix” it, because it’s written by a writer who is still featured on The Gospel Coalition’s website. So he isn’t that fringe.
Imagine treating women’s natural cycles like they’re sinful!
But how many of us grew up like that? In my period series that we wrote last summer, we talked about the shame that girls would feel over their period. And women are expected to soldier on and hide it. The most embarrassing thing we can do is leak in public. We have to pretend that there’s nothing wrong, acting like we feel great even when we’re crampy or tired. It would be embarrassing to admit weakness.
Incidentally, this is one reason I love Femallay and menstrual cups! It helps women take back control of their periods in an easy way–and stop leaking–but while understanding your body better. And they have teas and more to help you through when you don’t feel your best! Check them out.
Many girls, though, when they get their period, feel that now there is something fundamentally wrong with them.
Recently an online friend, Emily Shore, wrote an article about how girls should NOT have to apologize to their fathers for making their fathers feel awkward.
Emily reports that, on October 6 on KLOVE (a Christian radio network), a guest said: “Daughters, we need to apologize to our dads for all those awkward emotional moments growing up. We put them through a lot.”
The guest goes on to say how difficult it is to be a dad of daughters when they are hormonal–and tells women that they need to go back and apologize to their dads for it, and forgive their dads if their dads pulled away.
Here’s part of Emily’s take:
Segment goes on, “But daughters: we need you. We need our dads. We need that relationship, that love, that support, your wisdom. I’d rather have my dad get it wrong and be engaged than be disengaged. So, if that’s a good word for you today, for those dads, we wanted to encourage you: you may get it wrong, you probably will, but your daughters are forgiving…even in those awkward moments.”
I love how cleverly the language is here. Note how at the beginning of this segment, the DJ calls out for daughters to APOLOGIZE to their fathers for the sole purpose of EXISTING as a teenage girl and having the audacity to have hormones! The DJ cites how fathers are ultimately responsible and they SHOULD engage more. And why WOULDN’T this be the case when fathers are the ADULTS and girls growing up and going through adolescence are MINORS?
KLOVE: Why don’t you instruct FATHERS to APOLOGIZE to daughters?
No, instead, the KLOVE DJ refers to how “daughters are forgiving…even in those awkward moments.” Wonderful, so now daughters: you must APOLOGIZE to fathers, but you must also FORGIVE fathers for disengaging even if they do not apologize since the DJ gave no instructions to fathers to apologize.
Somehow, again, girls, who are hormonal, confused, embarrassed, and often only 11 or 12, are to blame when dads pull away.
Now, I know this can be awkward for dads. I know dads don’t always know how to react when girls hit puberty (that’s why you all need our Whole Story puberty course!). But the problem is that girls, at that young age, now feel the responsiblity to fix the relationship, because they feel that they did something wrong. When dads pull away, even if it’s understandable, girls feel shame. And then girls feel like they have to fix it, which exacerbates the shame.
You're telling me WHAT goes WHERE?!
Talking about sex with your kids doesn't always go smoothly.
That's why we created The Whole Story, our online course that walks parents through the tough conversations and does the hard parts for you!
Let’s add a good dose of purity culture responsibility to the mix.
Our friend Rachel Joy Welcher, author of Talking Back to Purity Culture, and guest on the Bare Marriage podcast, has just written a post for Christianity Today where she asks, “What’s next after the purity culture reckoning?” She writes:
Before You Meet Prince Charming by Sarah Mally depicts a woman’s heart as a chocolate cake. If someone eats a piece before the party (i.e., marriage), the cake, and consequently her relational worth, is no longer whole. In the introduction to Every Young Woman’s Battle, Stephen Arterburn warns female readers that every time a man has sex with a woman, he takes “a piece of her soul.”
Alongside these unbiblical messages about human worth that fly squarely in the face of the theology of the imago Dei were the false promises of marriage, great sex, and children for anyone who practiced premarital celibacy. But it was, perhaps, the overarching message that women were responsible for the sexual purity of both genders that burdened me the most as a teenager growing up in the church.
In their book, For Young Women Only, Shaunti Feldhahn and Lisa A. Rice report that “teenage guys are conflicted by their powerful physical urges” and “many guys don’t feel the ability or responsibility to stop the sexual progression.” Their conclusion for women? “Guys need your help to protect both of you.”
Despite Jesus’ words to the contrary, I remember believing that men truly couldn’t control their lust if women didn’t take on the responsibility of dressing and acting in ways that squelched it. These books made it clear to me that the responsibility for sexual sin and temptation—even assault—fell squarely on the shoulders of women. I couldn’t believe some of the lies I saw sandwiched in between Bible verses or the tactics that were used and the carrots that were dangled. I cringed. I cried. And one time, I threw a book across the room.
Once again, women are responsible–this time for men’s sin.
Women, do we realize how heavy the burden is that we’ve been asked to bear?
Rachel comments in her article that when she went back and reread the books that she had read as a young woman, she was despondent at the messages that she had internalized.
From puberty, many of us have internalized that our bodies are somehow defective–they’re sources of sin and evil; they’re sources of shame; they make us emotional and “less than” men.
But we’ve also internalized that our bodies are inherently dangerous–they can cause men to lust, to sin, to even assault us. And we’re never quite sure what we should be doing to prevent it, but we know we should be doing something.
And many of us have lost the protection and acceptance that we should have felt from our fathers.
I guess what I’m trying to say to women today is: if you don’t feel particularly sexually confident, maybe it’s time to go back and revisit little 12-year-old you and give yourself a hug.
You never should have been given those messages. There is nothing wrong with your body; you are fearfully and wonderfully made.
If men objectified your growing body, that was on them, not on you.
If your dad pulled away, that was on him, not on you.
If you were told that your normal cycles were something to be ashamed of, that was on them, not on you.
And men, I’d just ask you to realize the weight of what women have felt regarding our bodies.
This is seriously tough to navigate. And if you want your wife to be free and confident in the bedroom, then it starts with not feeling ashamed of being a woman. Maybe God put you in her life to be a vehicle of healing for the terrible messages she’s been given over the course of her life.
Emily ends her article (which you should read in its entirety) saying that she knows men can do better because her husband is awesome.
I do believe that men are changing this conversation, too, and I hope that together, we can put a lot of this shame that’s been put on women’s bodies behind us.
Do you feel like you carry this weight? Did your dad pull away at puberty? How can we break this cycle? Let’s talk in the comments!
Other Posts in the Sexual Confidence Series:
- 3 Markers of Sexual Confidence (especially in women)
- 4 Markers of a Sexually Confident Man
- Knowing that Sex is for You Too
- How to Feel Confident when You're Married to a Porn User
- Did You Grow up Embarrassed to Be Female?
- 5 Keys to Sexual Confidence after Menopause
- 4 Keys to Sexual Confidence as the Higher Drive Wife
- Sexual Confidence Doesn't Mean You're Willing to Try Anything in Bed
- Do you need to get angry at what purity culture stole from you?
- What We Didn't Know about the Clitoris
- Telling Women You Matter is Not Swinging the Pendulum Too Far (our wrap-up)
You may also enjoy:
- The Orgasm Course
- The Great Sex Rescue
Sheila Wray Gregoire
Founder of To Love, Honor and Vacuum
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