I am still very new and wet behind the ears when it comes to atheism, at least in admitting to it. However, one of the things that I most looked forward to on this side of religion was living free from the control mechanisms of sex and specifically female sexuality. I grew up adhering to very strict religious ideology. However, for me and many young people in my church there was a get out of jail free card…marriage. At least that was how it was proposed. In marriage you could enjoy sexual freedom because what happened between a man and (ahem) his wife was their business or his business depending on who was telling the story. At sixteen, my pastor’s wife dropped the bomb on our youth group that there were in fact no-no’s even between a man and (ahem) his wife. It was probably the most graphic sex talk I had heard…in a church (ahem). At that time we were given a list of those things god would not “allow” us to do. Thus destroying the “I do” to do list dreams of many and the reason most of us young people thought marriage was a good idea. Amongst the young people, there was a feeling of being tricked and deceived by “god’s” sudden and unexpected change of heart. Many were abstaining not out of disapproval of sex but out of esteem for sacrificing for god but and questioned why you should wait if the things you wanted to do were going to be a sin in his eyes both before and after marriage? I now realize that when those ladies first told us that there was nothing taboo between a man and woman who were married they had no idea about what was going on in the world and once they did…well “god’s” very strict list appeared.
So now, as I examine my sexuality outside of religion, I find myself often conflicted. While it never seemed like anyone’s right to stick their nose in the business of consenting adults, I still feel the residual affects of those religious ideologies. What I mean to say is that while I have clearly been able to define my beliefs on sex, I still find myself caught in the crosshairs of religion, sexism, and peer pressure/societal norms. I had naively expected a feeling of sexual liberation to accompany my new found atheism but have instead found myself leaving the ideas of ho, slut, and a trick unquestioned coupled with a new self-induced stress to live free from those controls.
What I have discovered (I think) is an unwillingness to give up on the benefits (perceived and real) of living on the religious side of sexuality or the image of the religious side of sexuality. Those privileges being the perception of a better choice in mate (no man wants a “ho” for a wife, right?), camaraderie, and even professional benefits if you did most of your socializing at a church. I had not previously been able to see any such privileges only others desire to control and judge something that belonged to me. Now, I understand that is a privilege in and of itself to judge others. The struggle is in being completely honest with myself about judging others, and about what my own sexuality would look like without the residual effects of religion and social punishments for not participating. I feel that I am somewhat prevented from that level of honesty until I first let go of the “privilege” I have had. I struggle with this for myself and as the woman or mother figure in my nephews’ and niece’s life. I do not want to pass on the shame about sex that was forced on me and yet I struggle to let go of that shame for myself and the quiet shaming I have done of others. We have a policy that anything can be discussed, but I find myself conflicted in my ideas about sexuality. I know that it is partially due to lack of honesty with myself about digging deeper into my ideas and beliefs about sex and/or dealing with the consequences of doing so.
Though it plays out a little differently, I have seen a few men who have been caught in the web as well. There were two different groups of men who participated on the religious side of the sex shaming business from my experience those who believed there were godly sex acts and ungodly sex acts (missionary only or lots of restrictions), and those that believed wife material should be relegated to godly sex acts, and other desires should be quenched elsewhere if they could not be ignored. Men who did not subscribe to this ideology in a church setting could find themselves in a rough spot. Likely to still attract female offers, but not the quality of relationship (male sidepiece) or perhaps even woman they were looking for. Crossing paths with the wrong female, one with influence that you displeased or openly dating one deemed to low on the totem pole, could cost a man socially. Men were allowed to date down but not openly. It seemed to be important that you treated such a female like she was low. I watched the self-esteem of many girls and women be crushed by such treatment when they realized what was being done to them. I watched women become “hoes” after someone destroyed their sense of self and they started to belief they were low. I mostly watched and rarely helped. I felt they wouldn’t listen but mostly it wasn't worth the consequences for me. Likewise, I saw guys get shut out or temporarily demoted for breaking the rules of engagement. I run into a lot of those, they believe in god but no longer want to deal with church. As one man explained it he didn’t want to work for the head pimp (pastor) anymore. It seems that sex and power are synonymous. Those with power may use sex as they please and those without power are not supposed to own their sexuality or something of the sort? Perhaps you have a better explanation or definition.
I have the following questions for both genders: Do you think you view sex differently as an atheist? If you walked away from a religion has it changed your views on sex in general? Has it changed your views of female or male sexuality or do you still hold true to traditional ideas? Do you believe that words such as ho, trick, or slut have a place in society? Can one be a “dog” or a “playa”? If so are those words as damaging to men as ho, trick, slut are to women? Do these attitudes have an important place in society or is sexual denial just the painful remnants of Gnosticism perpetuated by St. Augustine?
Feel free to answer all of the questions or some, or just share your opinion on sex and atheism.
Thank you for your response, Don. Lol, the holy spook was too funny. Hmmm, hadn’t thought about my tags having a high sex quotient, but I haven’t posted many either. Interesting, I guess going into the world without the rules is a bit on the forefront of my mind and I am not sure if I know how to. I am not interested in celibacy or abstinence for the moment and if I might return your much appreciated bluntness, my personal interests are in alternative lifestyles (at least for the moment) but that perhaps is a different story… perhaps. However, as I figure this out for myself, I struggle with what to say about it to young impressionable minds. My very religious mother found my nephew had pornographic magazines stashed away that he "borrowed" from his fathers belongings. Not the first time, but he was spending hours in the closet looking at them. I was put on the spot to talk with him by my mother. He asked me about some of the things he saw group sex, lesbians, oral sex, and much more. He was disgusted, fascinated, and confused. What he was really asking was how he was supposed to feel about what he saw. My brother, his father, and I agree that legal sex is not an issue with wrong or right but an issue of right for the individual and safe (except when it comes to his daughter of course). Anyhow, I found myself running in circles as I tried to explain truthfully, fulfill my mother’s expectations, and not scar him for life due to a talk with aunty. He did not take mercy on me and persisted with the questions I am still not sure I can answer for myself. I would be lying if I said that at that moment I wasn’t kicking myself for the open communication policy. I was tempted, so tempted to explain away the women as victims of low self-esteem or desperate for money, but couldn’t do it. Who am I to say why they did it and the reasons may vary but none are for me to judge. I managed to not shoot myself in the foot, I think/hope. I was not nearly as open or comfortable as I thought I would/should be. There are many issues at play including why those women are the focus and not the men, ie power and sexism. There are consequences for taking ownership of your sexuality especially as a female. I don’t want to pass on guilt for what I believe to be natural drives but I don’t want to set them on the path to a life of being socially ostracized before I can provide clear guidance about these things myself. Make sense? Someday, in the not so distant future I will have to talk with my niece. Well, I am now horrified and traumatized. I don’t want her thinking that sex is something men do to you, but on the same token well… social consequences for women and thus the conflict. I don’t want to be the person who says one thing and does another, that was part of the reason I could not deal with religion. I am tempted to avoid it altogether, but then I leave her to clueless friends and boys who do not have her best interests in mind. Yet, I feel the “holy spook” on my heels pressuring me to preserve the false truth of necessary female purity and staying in line with the patriarchal society that says sex devalues women. Which is more harmful truth or tradition? This is a place that can speak to these issues a little more freely than I would find in other places. Which is another reason why my posts may have a “high sexual quotient” perhaps (?). Maybe it is a high expectation but I tend to feel I will get a more balanced response than from the Christians I am surrounded by. I am curious about atheists who subscribe to more traditional views and those who do not. I will definitely take your suggestions on reading a few books, any suggestions? Lol, slurry women? Hmmm, I am not familiar with that term, Mr. Ramon, but I am going to assume that it is another word for interesting because I am feeling a bit puritanical at the moment.
I am truly sorry that you've experienced so much religious and societal brainwashing with regard to sexuality in general and female sexuality in specific. While I cannot fully relate to the religious aspect of this issue as I made a conscious choice to be sexual liberal at the age of about 10 (I am not exaggerating), I can definitely relate to the sexual double-standards set onto women by society. With that said, my thoughts are coming from the perspective of a sexually liberated 25 year old woman who's had a lot of experience with men, both good and bad.
First of all, you need to recognize that all of the religious dogma attached to human sexuality is just that- dogma. There is no objective reasoning behind it. Additionally, there is no set criteria for determining which sexual acts are “good” or “bad”, nor is there an objective and logical reason why such a criteria would even exist. Thus, you and anyone else are free to do whatever the hell you please. One should only rationally judge their own sex acts based upon their own level of comfort and willingness to perform them. I would encourage you to explore your sexuality- in a safe manner of course- in order for you to figure out what your comfort level really is and what your boundaries really are. You may think that you like or dislike something, but perhaps experiencing the act may change your mind. Of course there are things that you may not be open to at all, but would not encourage you to be totally closed-minded about everything. Furthermore, I am not suggesting that you run out and sleep with any and every guy right away: explore your sexuality whenever you are truly ready to do so. Again, there is nothing morally wrong with engaging in pre-marital sex of any kind. I’ll add that marriage is not the end all to be all in terms of sexuality- many married couples experience all sorts of sex problems including the lack of an active sex life at all. I know married couples who have these types of problems.
Secondly, society will have you believe that any woman who is open about sex/ engages in sex freely is automatically a “ho”, “slut”, “tramp”, “floozy”, etc. In my opinion, people- both men AND women fit into those categories if they have absolutely NO respect for themselves nor other people (i.e. the person who mindlessly has unprotected sex all the time, people who incessantly cheat on their spouses, etc.), and has absolutely NO standards in choosing a partner (anyone with genitals would be sufficient). From a moral standpoint, there is no objective and logical reason why women cannot be just as liberal or even more liberal than men about sex. I have always been this way, and thus have received more than my fair share of judgment from both men and women. Frankly, I don’t give a fuck about what someone thinks of me or my lifestyle. That is the type of confidence and attitude that you will need to gain, although it takes time and effort to obtain. I would encourage you to align yourself with people who are open-minded and have been through your experience.
Lastly, your quote, “no man wants a ‘ho’ for a wife,” is only partially true: (most heterosexual) men DO want a ho, there just want her to be their personal ho behind closed doors. Yes, I am speaking from personal experience, just in case you were wondering. The quote, “a lady in the streets but a freak in the sheets” is more accurate. I’ve yet to meet the man who would prefer to have a nun or a saint in the bedroom.
I sincerely hope this helps. Sex is a just a part of life.
The advice that has been given so far has been pretty good. There really isnt much more that I can add, but I'll try.
First and foremost is getting over the religious dogma that has permeated our minds for years. Fortunately I was at a church that didn't deal much with sex. My mother was from the old school and didn't really talk about sex at all. For some people to deal with the brainwashing of religious authorities can be a difficult mountain to climb. I say that it takes time to overcome many insecurities in the bedroom. Again it will take time, trust and research to find your own way in many areas, not just sexually. Women, I believe, are in a tougher situation than men when dealing with society and expectations. Women have to try to give themselves to their partners, while ensuring that they are loved and respected at the same time. Many men could care less about being respected or called the next day.
I don't think that women should be called names when they are free in their own sexuality. I realize that most of society does not share my view, however, the same standard that I hold for men, i hold for women. If a man sleeps around, then why shouldn't a women? Its hypocritical to express differently.
I just talked with my 12 yr old daughter about making sure that she respects herself and the way to ensure that is to make sure that others respect her when they talk, email, facebook or text her. I figure its better to tell her now, than wait until its to late. Fortunately she wont have the religious dogma drilled into her head.
it is funny, the early part of life has questions about sex because "women want one man to satisfy all their needs and men want all women to satisfy their one need"
later in life when child bearing and rearing is no longer a question women have one need to satisfy and men are satisfied with any need!!!