Sex Positive Christian

AUTHOR: Brenda Marie Davies

  PHOTO CREDIT: YANA YATSUK

PHOTO CREDIT: YANA YATSUK

I grew up in a Roman Catholic home with a dad who read Bible stories at bedtime. Although our church attendance was rare, I knew that God loved me. Ever curious, I could talk to my parents about anything spiritual, but I noticed the word “sex” tensed their bodies from head to toe. Therefore, God and my sexuality became powerful forces in my life, wholly separate from one another.

Two of my earliest memories are of people asking me to touch myself, “Privately. In your bedroom, please.” Neither adult humiliated me but their look of subdued horror was impossible to mask. I recalled these scenarios while babysitting a girl who also masturbated at three. The first time I noticed, I mirrored my mother, flustered but guiding the girl to a private place and shutting the door. I hoped I hadn’t shamed her but I myself had never felt ashamed. I wasn’t made to be.

In middle school, I crossed my arms in protest while The Backstreet Boys, N’Sync, and country love songs set my girlfriends’ hearts a ’flutter. I felt nothing but disdain. Those boys were soft, their promises empty as the air in the pop of my bubblegum. I preferred a shirtless Slash, top hat veiling dark eyes and leather pants dipping precariously close to pubic hair. I stared at a Guns N’ Roses cassette until I got nauseous and felt an unfamiliar jolt between the thighs. I’d throw the tape away in disgust… but come crawling back for more. Meanwhile, the girls screamed, perused wedding magazines, and I suspected I was a little more boy than girl. After all, boys were supposed to be horny monsters and girls delicate flowers begging to be wooed. The latter made me cringe.

  PHOTO CREDIT: KAROLYN PHO

PHOTO CREDIT: KAROLYN PHO

When I thought of sex, when I finally knew what it was, I never desired a solitary slice, but the whole cake. I shut my eyes and lined my crushes in a row, kissing them one-by-one and sending each away. As for my virginity, I couldn’t fathom crying afterwards. I’d strut the halls with pride; I’d be a real woman. Maybe somebody would pop my cherry in the backseat of his car. I pictured it a light, pretty sedan of green or yellow with a plush interior and a wide open door. I'd lay back there in a floral dress and it’d be just like the kissing was: one boy, then another, and another, and another, and…

Maybe I longed for the attention, maybe I didn’t know I was pretty and thought sexual acceptance would prove it.

Longing to swirl my tongue inside a boy’s mouth— any boy— my horniness led me to a Born Again Christian church with my friend Gina. In high school, I was a nerd that nobody aimed to kiss. But in church, I could be popular. There’d be a slew of new boys and I’d be fresh meat. And I did love God like crazy. I prayed for everything from world peace to patent leather mary janes.

I had no idea what I was getting myself into.

Gina had promised boys. Tall, with coffee skin and protruding Adam’s apples-- something I came to fetishize via the 90s TV show, My So Called Life. Jared Leto’s lean against the lockers, that brown choker wrapping tightly around his skin, the manhood of his apple swelling against the leather string. Apparently, I’d innately known that choking was something special. During this sexual awakening, I remembered my favorite childhood song, Sweet Dreams (Are Made of This) was something I found erotic without the knowledge of erotism. “Some of them want to use you, some of them want to abuse you.” I thought that sounded mighty nice. I used to poke the mole on my upper thigh and think, “This is what boys will like about me.” I lifted my skirt, even at youth group, to imply I might be a force to be reckoned with, if given the opportunity.

All this time, my religion and my sexuality were independent of one another. But one day, with my prayer hands in the air, Pastor Scott said something that changed my life. He said that premarital sex ‘made God cry’. He told us that girls were chocolate bars and that each sexual partner took a bite. He asked, “Boys, would you marry a half eaten candy bar?” They said no.

Before that purity sermon hijacked my sexual evolution, for nearly half a year, my neighbor’s boyfriend Steve drained my loins and made a teen zombie out of me. I’d duck below the windowsill and imagine being invited into his grey Chevrolet. Steve didn’t know I existed but while I touched myself, our lovemaking was gentle and he kissed me all over.

In youth group, I developed a similar attraction to John G., but our pastor deemed such desire forbidden. Previously, I had no idea the master of the Universe, the author of creation, cried when a virgin girl had sex. I met John G.’s crystal blue eyes, watched his fingers move in slow circles while he prayed and chastised myself. “Stop hurting God, Brenda.” From what I remember, I never again touched myself in the same way I had with Steve. Steve and I shared intimacy and eye contact. John G. and I were not permitted the same. I imagined being forced. What if he were a bad boy, in a darkened alley? He made me do it. It wasn’t my fault.

And thus began a new trajectory of fantasy. Because one who earnestly loves God wouldn’t revel in sin. It would be wrong to lust for consensual, unmarried sex. The next time I had imaginary sex with Steve, he pushed me into the car and held my face against the seat.

All said, I rejected the pastor’s plea not to masturbate. After all, he’d shrugged and called it, “less sinful than sex.” He also let it slip that touching oneself wasn’t specifically condemned in the Bible.  I thanked God for His generosity. How else could a horny girl abstain ’til she wore white at the altar? I ran to the Christian bookstore with my girlfriends, the 98 Degree fans I’d “gotten saved,” to buy chastity rings. I chose a sterling silver heart with a key locking it up. From that day forward, I’d be waiting for The One.

I waited and waited. As a nerd, it was easy. Boys passed me over and requested friends’ numbers. By the time I had my first kiss, I was 18. Dennis and I rolled in his bed for hours, myself amazed by the pleasure. I understood he was far from a virgin but I couldn’t fathom my naivety. Granny panties, legs shaved only to the knee. By the time he cheated I could only imagine the torture our endless foreplay had provided.

That’s a nice way to start, isn’t it? Foreplay. Kissing and then touching, and then mouths and then sex. Although Joshua Harris’ now controversial book I Kissed Dating Goodbye was all the rage in Christian circles, I’d stuck to a system I felt was best. After all, I knew I was repressing a Jezebel Spirit. A Jezebel Spirit would easily lounge over handsome men’s sofas in skimpy lingerie. Jezebel offers cocktails from her bar cart and purrs wildly in silk kimonos. The church diminishes a woman’s sex drive to a demonic force.

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By the time I wore white and held a tight bouquet to my slim waist, I was no longer a virgin. In a moment of desperation, after months of scouring the Bible on the subject, I lost my virginity to a stranger. I was so guilt-ridden that when he asked me out, I thought it was God giving me a chance to redeem myself. After being sexually active for a year and half, I was exhausted from lying to the church and no longer wanted to displease Jesus. I’d engaged in grave sexual sin (meaning consensual, monogamous sex with my boyfriend) and I was long overdue to be married. I gripped my dad’s hand while we walked down the aisle. My only thought: “Why am I doing this?”

I didn’t know that the girl who’d married our church leader cried for hours on her wedding night. She was a 19 year-old closeted lesbian who “just wanted to go home.” I didn’t know the girl who swayed her hips too much and developed too fast was raped by our worship leader while babysitting. Pastors told her time and time again her voluptuous 15 year-old body, “caused men to stumble.” Inevitably, his sin was her fault. I didn’t know that countless broken hearts and broken hymens walk down the aisle asking, “Why?”

In the end, my husband and I weren’t ready. Our marriage was built on the lie of his fidelity and the lie I was in love with him. I just wanted to have sex. I’d met a handsome boy who looked like Slash, with dark curly hair and a thrashed leather jacket. Had the church never interceded, I would have never exchanged rings so soon.

Recounting these stories now, my sexual confusion is seemingly ancient history. After divorcing, I went on a self-proclaimed “trampage.” I promised I wouldn’t count the men, but the guilt was overwhelming and I needed to be free. I still struggle to be a lover of Jesus and  simultaneously a sexual being—half-heartedly asking that God turn away while I’m having sex. What a tragedy. How lovely it would be to revel in true love.

Now in my 30s and single, I have a YouTube channel where I address these issues. Is birth control abortion? Are Christians allowed to be feminists? Are non-virgins the equivalent of chewed up gum or muddy water? And my most contentious video: Is Masturbation a Sin? My aim is to help others bypass the pain I’ve been in. On YouTube, furious commenters often say, “You’re not a Christian!” To which I counter, “because I’m sexual? A Christian is someone who loves Jesus, who believes He died and rose again. That’s me.”

In my experience, the church has a disparate obsession with sexuality that’s simply not mirrored in God’s word. If I’d been permitted to read the Bible on my own, I’d have never gleaned sexual shame. I’d understand that God is love, that the Divine pulses through everything, including our loins.

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