Episode 149: Sexual Health and a History of Patriarchy

Sexual Health and a History of Patriarchy

Hi everyone, welcome to Thanks for Sharing. I’m your host Jackie Pack. Today on our episode, I have back with me Rachel Allen, who was my guest last episode, and we started a series talking about sexual health. So if you haven’t listened to that one, back up, go listen to that one. This one will probably make more sense as we talk about it, and you’ll know who Rachel is, so welcome, Rachel. Hi!

So today we’re going to talk about religion and sexual health. Yeah, specifically like religions that are patriarchally structured or conservative sexually, I think would be a word that I would use there, and how that has shaped and defined sexuality in our culture and us as individuals. So one of the things, kind of the two common things that come out of this is the idea that we are not, we don’t own our sexuality, someone else owns our sexuality, as females. And sometimes it’s males, too, like we talk about that being Gods or like for God or for to be set apart, though we do put a lot more of that focus on how women do that than how men do that. But really I want to, one of the things that has come up is the idea of purity culture, and that has kind of shaped America, at least for the last 3 decades, we know that it’s been pretty present and was kind of revamped and kind of got a new following and kind of became its own sort of cult belief system in the early 90s, which has impacted several generations and prior to that, I mean it may not have been the same purity culture that we see that kind of came to the forefront in the 90s, but there has been this purity culture in America for hundreds of years.

Yeah, ok, so we have to look at, too, we were part of our founding as a nation in America, and I’m assuming that most of your listeners are Americans, but most of our, like we have to even look at the founding of America. There were a lot of Puritans that were moving here because of English exile, because they were too strict. They were too rigid. The English church didn’t really like that. And the English church at that time was kind of moving towards a hey, we just had a really, really hard time in which a bunch of people died because of kings and overthrowing different hierarchies and things like that, and so England was kind of like, yeah, we don’t want any big rules, like, we’re just like wanting to people being calm and God is love, and that’s kind of where England as a church was going, which is funny to think about England being the less strict one. But Puritans moved to America because of that and they were very structured sexually. They were very rigid in terms of their sexual beliefs. We get some interesting readings from like Anne Hawthorne and The Scarlet Letter, the Pilgrim’s Progress. What is the witch one? Witch at Blackbird Pond. Oh right. Which really kind of shows us how that was shaping America, and like I just recently listened to a podcast that went in deep about the Salem Witch Trials and how much like sexuality played a part in that. Was that unobscured? Yes it was. It was so good.

And so we see those tenets kind of carrying through even though most of us would say like we weren’t raised by Puritans, it was in our foundation. It was very much in our foundation, and regardless of where we’ve kind of gone after that, that is our foundation, and so when we’re looking at the idea of purity and female sexuality and owning sexuality and being able to live in our sexuality, like that has not been allowed in America really ever. Right. And just like we do with clients, a lot of times, we will say to them, like, you need to know your story, and your story didn’t just begin at birth. So we’re looking at your parents, your grandparents, whatever that looks like right? We’re going back because if change is going to happen, we have to know what the root foundation is. And once we can understand that, then we can understand what steps need to be taken to move the client wherever they’re wanting to go. And so I think that similar as a country, right? If we want to make progress or if you know, some people are like the sexual message is not working or we’re too sexualized, I mean on some levels we’re too sexualized, on others we’re not enough, right? And so I think we can’t outpace or outgrow our foundational roots, and we have to go back and talk about that story.

Yeah, so one of the things that I like, I’m a linguist by nature, like I love words and I love kind of understanding the meaning of words. I think there’s a big difference between a sexualized culture and a sexually health culture. Right. Sexualized is kind of voyeuristic, it’s exhibitionist, it’s very out there, and really it’s something that can be bartered or owned or used as currency. It’s salacious. It’s tempting. It’s seductive. It’s that other thing, that thing that we’re not supposed to do. It’s on the edge of what is taboo, and sexual health really says like this is an integral part of human beings, like we literally cannot survive as a race without our sexuality, and there are whole cultures that have festivals around sex, that are open to what it means to be female, what it means to be male and anything kind of in between there. Like we know that Native Americans didn’t have two genders. That kind of came to America with the Puritans, and we’ve lost some of that in trying to control and mandate what sexuality is supposed to look like for individuals.

So let’s talk a little bit about the fear of sexuality. Okay, I get super excited about that. So I think historically, and again, well not again because I haven’t actually stated this today, but when I’m looking at the history of patriarchal religions and patriarchal structures, I am looking at Christianity, Hebrew, and Islam, and that’s kind of my, like, I know more about that than other religions. I know way more about Christianity than I do Judaism and Islam, so as I’m talking like I’m talking through a Christian lens, but I’m sure that there are variances in different denominations and sects like that and I’m sure most of this is going to make sense. But when the Christian church kind of started taking over Europe, one of the things like, there are 2 things that I think kind of happened at the same time that were really imperative to sexual health in religion. It also shaped our hierarchy, and one of those is Augustine was sexually anorexic. Augustine was, just for listeners, August was, he’s an Apostle but he was a Theologian and he gave us a lot of the tenets that we think of as like foundational theological beliefs came from Augustine. So he really put down the idea of like what the Holy Spirit was, the idea that God was, like we have a unified God. We’re a monotheistic religion, so we’re not polytheistic. So before he came to Christianity, there are jokes in the theological world that Auguste slept with every prostitute within the Roman Empire. Like, he was known to be a ladies’ man, he was known to be very sexual. And then when he came to Christianity, like he felt this burden of what he had done and created and really kind of the absence of that, which I would say that Augustine was a sex addict who then went into sexual anorexia and shame, but in that like a lot of Augustine’s writings were talking about like how women were created by the devil, like he’s the one that brought up the idea that an original sin started with women and like it, the fall of man was women’s fault. He put a lot off on women and that like women tempt you out of purity or women tempt you out of your walk with God. And so you have these 2 things happening where he’s creating these huge leaps in theological foundation and he’s kind of a misogynist in big ways, and that got wrapped into his writings.

Because in early Christianity, I mean when we’re talking about females, right I mean, there had to be a big debate about whether or not females even had a soul. Right. And then that evolved to whether they could be saved. Right. So this is some of what you’re talking about, like this shifting the blame to women and kind of externalizing their own maybe desires or appetites and making that about somebody else. Right. And otherwise if it weren’t for them, they would have been in this great walk with God.

Right. Which in some ways, and I’m not comparing Augustine to Hitler, but in some ways what he did with women and putting all the sin blame on them is what Hitler did to the Jews in the Holocaust, where he was like Jews are evil because they are the ones that crucified Jesus. Well Jesus was a Jew, like, you know, so there is some of that like when we shift the blame, that becomes a big problem. We’re talking about huge things like sin nature and all of that. So as that kind of developed, there’s a lot of history in that too and I’m a nerd so I could go into all of it, but we also saw polytheistic religion and pagan religions really get attacked by the church, and most, and I mean, the church is trying to spread the gospel in very militant and bloody ways which I do not agree with, but one of those things was to snuff out pagan religions, which tended to be very nurturing toward women, tended to be very like Goddess oriented. We know that a lot of power came from fertility and maternal being and as also we had herbalists and midwives and things like that came from pagan religions that really valued and in some ways worshipped the female body. So those 2 things are happening at once.

Pagan religions were also usually more like the people or the peasants or, whereas Christianity tended to be the royalty, the lords, the all of that kind of stuff. Yeah, so when Constantine made Christianity the religion of Rome, Rome then got the backing of the elite and the military, where pagans were really hearth and home, like this is what we practice within our four walls. So there wasn’t a lot of power with it in terms of militant power. So in that, a lot of femaleness specifically and the idea of purity, the idea of sexuality got lost or turned into something dark and dirty. Fast forward 250 years and you have the Salem Witch Trials. Fast forward to that, you know where we are kind of present day, and you can see like in our modern history, we did have like the 70s when the feminist movement really like started and kind of came to existence. Or at least the second wave of feminism. Yeah, second wave. The 60s was first wave, 70s was the second wave. And like we kind of started seeing that idea of like sexual freedom in more liberal parts of the country. I don’t know that that really ever happened in more conservative parts of the country, like the Southeast or the bread basket, but I would definitely say like New York and California, those kind of places got to experience that. I would guess that most farms and most like rural towns in the United States didn’t experience as much of that, but in the 80s, we get a huge Christian backlash or a huge like conservative backlash from that because women wanted birth control and women wanted to leave the home and start working and not have children as much, and it really created a lot of financial freedom for women. That’s when we first started looking at marital rape as actually being a thing, and the conservatives really started pushing against this idea of women owning their sexuality, and then we get the purity culture movement that kind of comes after that, which is this idea of giving your purity, your virginity, not even purity. Purity is virginity. Those things are very related and the penis to vagina virginity is really the only thing that counts in that, but like that idea of like a virginity until marriage and giving it to your father or giving it to God or giving it to this male to hold until your wedding. Which then your husband now owns it. Yes. And then we’ve had the last 30 years of that kind of showing up in our culture, and now we’re kind of watching that shift because some of the front runners of the purity movement as it stands today are kind of coming out and saying yeah, this was a bad idea, like we didn’t know what we were talking about when we did this and it caused damage.

So I mean, that’s a good history timeline kind of bringing us to where we are and why I think it’s so difficult for us to look back and see sexual health in our history. I don’t even know that we were really taking about sexual health. Yeah. And so I think that’s kind of newer, you know 21st Century kind of term, latter half of the 21st Century kind of term in saying that sexual health is something… Well I think it says something that we didn’t really ask women about sexual health until like 2005, right, like most sexual health books were written by men, for men, and most like marital books were written by men for women. And so really until 2005, we didn’t even start getting good research about women saying like, it’s not that I don’t like sex, it’s that I’m not having good sex. Or it’s not that, like I’m exhausted. I don’t have any more time or any more space to give to this. Or I didn’t, I don’t even know like, aside from the 3 positions that my husband likes, I don’t know. And there has been a kind of another backlash to that where women think they need to get educated, but they’re going to porn for that, which is also made by men for men. So again it’s this idea of like women really haven’t had a space in American history or in American culture to shape what healthy female sexuality looks like. And I’m not like, I’m not just, because there’s a whole other side of this that’s about males, too, right? Like and I think that that in and of itself like we have to talk about because when it comes to the patriarchal structures, it’s not good for either person. Right. Because it is structured as a hierarchy, there is a power dynamic.

And men in different ways than women, right, are told what their sexuality needs to look like, what it can’t look like, how much it needs to look like, all of that kind of stuff. Men are also told that as well, so they get a different message than females do, and in some ways I think that might look like they get to be owners of their sexuality, and yet it’s really a sexuality that was handed to them and often doesn’t serve them well. And so one of the things that I think kind of shows up and I’m going to stop talking so fast, that kind of shows up with purity culture is this idea that like women are to remain virgins. Like it’s that idea of like women don’t own their sexuality, but it’s also this idea that they’re the gatekeeper, right, like it does make me think of Ghostbusters with, like the very first Ghostbusters movie with Sigourney Weaver and Rick Moranis, where they’re the gatekeeper and the key master, and it’s a sexual scene, like the whole thing is kind of like they have sex and then, you know, this pagan God shows up to destroy New York, but that is such a powerful pop culture look at how we treat sexuality, that women are this gatekeeper that are holding, basically holding the dam, right? Like you should have no sexual feelings because you’re gonna have to tame these sexual feelings of men, and if you break, like this water is just gonna go everywhere, and it’s gonna be uncontrolled and like it is your job to contain it because men can’t. It’s not their job to contain it. Right. They literally can’t, which is super frustrating I think for both sexes, right? Like the idea that you as a male have no self control should be really insulting, I would think, like men run our world. They are the CEOs, they are the presidents, they are the world leaders, like if you have no self-control, why are we trusting you with that? And I’m not saying that that should be a good thing either. I think that should be kind of a 50/50 split like I believe everything should be.

I think that’s the choice that often we give to men is either your sexuality is too big for you and not even you can control it or you’re anorexic. Yes, and at the same time, the choice that we give women is you don’t get to own your sexuality because you’ve gotta control his. Right. But you need to be an object of his sexuality, right? Yes. You need to be desirable because if women aren’t desirable, then what good are they? Right. But you aren’t allowed to have your own desires, or your desire should be that you be desirable. Right. So women focus a lot on how they look, but a lot of times, you and I both see this with clients that we work with, when we start talking to them beyond looks, beyond physical appearance about sexual desire, they don’t know. They don’t even know how to have that conversation with us usually. Right. Well and I mean it shows up in our culture in multiple ways, like the idea of needing to be younger, thinner, fitter, more tan, have better eyelashes, like all of that is this idea that we should hold the desire of men, not necessarily… And it’s a young desire. Yeah. Right, it’s a young-looking desire, I mean. Yeah, right, I kind of love like Helen Mirren made a statement and I’m gonna quote, I’m gonna mess up the quote, but she was basically saying like I didn’t become non-sexual just because I hit 50. I’m having better sex now than I’ve had my entire life. And I think that some of that, as women grow into their own self and their own person, women kind of do start to own their sexuality more, but that’s also when we start, the society starts saying that women are unattractive, so they, again like if you’re no longer holding the dam for us, then we don’t want that.

And kind of the flip side of this, too, is the idea of rape culture, and I think it’s always interesting when we talk about purity culture, like I feel like we have to talk about rape culture because I feel like they are the exact same thing, just different sides of the same coin, and that’s the idea that if women can’t own their sexuality and if it’s their job to control men’s sexuality, then when they don’t succeed in doing that, then they get raped, and it’s their fault. Right, it’s that idea of if you don’t dress right, if you don’t present yourself right, if you don’t do all of the things that you’re supposed to in order to, you know, control men, then you deserve to be raped. It’s your fault. It’s your fault, which is really the flip side of purity culture, too, that says like if you can’t be modest enough, if you can’t, you know, tell boys no, if you can’t hold your line, if you can’t know your boundaries, then you’re not pure. You’re not virginal. You’re not what God wants. You’re not marriage material. Yes. So it’s really the same message. It’s just wrapped in different boxes.

And we have what is that, it’s like a traveling display? I know it’s been here in Salt Lake City, different states. I think it’s called like “What I Wore” or “What She Wore”. Yes, “What She Wore”. “What She Wore.” And it’s really the clothing of female rape victims, right, and they’re just hanging up, like this is what she was wearing, and it’s like jeans and a hoodie and tennis shoes, right? It’s just regular clothes that you would see on any college campus when she, you know, gets out of bed and has to hurry to class and isn’t trying to like pretty herself up or dress herself up or be an object of sexual desire and she ends up getting assaulted, and I think it’s really challenging some of these notions that because a women is dressed a certain way or not dressed a certain way that she’s increasing her likelihood of being raped. Right. I mean, also the idea of modesty just isn’t accurate. Like it doesn’t make women safer and it doesn’t make men “lust less”. That’s on the men no matter what the woman is wearing, and like the only way to make women safe is to make men accountable, right, like that’s that piece of like if someone robs me, we want the robber to deal with the consequences. We don’t always want our rapist to deal with the consequences. Right. We don’t even like using the word “rape” for what rape is. Right. You know, like I tell people in my office all the time, which you know, it’s super fun, I keep saying I’m gonna put it up as a sign in my office, but like non-consensual sex is rape. If it’s… and coercion is not consent, so if you keep pushing and keep pushing and keep pushing and she says yes or she says uh or she says maybe, fine, whatever, I don’t know, okay, I guess, that’s not consent. Right. That’s just not consent. And we have primed teenagers and early adults to get sex this way, and I’m not gonna say that it’s all on our males, like I think females buy into this narrative just as much as males do, right, like… And females don’t know how to own their “no” either. Right. And so I think a lot of times they don’t give clear messages because they don’t get a good response if they say no with any firmness, and that’s not just sexually, right but I mean I think a lot of times we tell girls that they don’t know what they’re thinking or they’re wrong or we don’t listen to them, so not surprising girls are also not clearly stating what they’re feeling.

We also tell women don’t be aggressive, don’t be mean to him, right? Like don’t… Friendzone is a thing. I hear more guys complain about being in a friendzone with females, and I’m always like, women do that all the time. We don’t complain about it. Right, like I have male friends. Right. But it’s that idea that like she should just be attracted to me because I’m an available male and therefore she should want me, or be flattered by my advances or my comments. And the idea that she would just want to be friends and have no sexual interest is kind of like appalling, or like sometimes it’s made into a joke, although I think there’s a lot of bitterness that comes from that, when I hear like “I’m in the friendzone”.

And again, I’m not trying to trash on men, like I don’t think that’s it at all> I think men have been given this narrative, too, and I don’t think it’s fair for them. And when I talk to men who step out of this narrative, their sex is a lot more fulfilling. They enjoy their partner more. They get to explore with their partner, which is this beautiful, messy, creative side of sex that I just love, right, like we talked about that in episode one. Like sex isn’t supposed to be a box. Right. And it’s supposed to be creative and messy and vulnerable and beautiful, and when we create so many rules around it that it becomes more anxiety-inducing than creative, like that’s a problem. Right. And unfortunately, I think most conservative churches, in order to not sin, have created this idea of like, this is what sex is and it’s in this small little box that is unattainable for anybody and doesn’t allow anybody to be complex human beings who own their own stuff, are accountable, and are desirable, like I think that men want to be desirable too, like we… You and I have talked about that, where like men are desperate for their wives to want them. Right. When we… A lot of times when we do talk to men, one of the things, I mean they can talk a lot about what their arousal template looks like or what turns them on or what kind of porn they like or whatever, but really when it comes down to it, when we have these conversations in our men’s group or with male clients, a lot of times what it comes down to is, “I like a woman I’m having sex with to like having sex with me.” Yeah. And sometimes it just stops with “I want her to like having sex.” Right. But if women are doing all of this to please men and they don’t really know what they want or they need or they desire, like they don’t know how to ask for that. Right. And they can’t fully show up as a partner, right, because they’re more to be acted upon and they kind of freeze or they go blank when we ask them to act. Right.

It’s funny when I start working, when I start working with clients on sexual health and like we said in the last episode, this is kind of advanced stuff, but I always ask like, “Okay, so when you guys are trying to figure out where you’re going for dinner, who puts the options on the table? Like who decides this is where I want to go to dinner? Like how to do you do that?” And not always, but most of the husbands will say, “Well, she always just says ‘Whatever you want.’” And that’s pretty much how sex goes, too. Or I will have them say, too, like “We can go here, or I don’t want to go here and I don’t want to go here.” Right, so we call that leftover sex. Right. I’m not willing to do this, and you don’t like this, and I’m not willing to do this, so we’ll do what’s leftover. And leftover sex, surprise, surprise, is not good sex.

Right and here’s the thing, kind of going back to the original thing of like how patriarchal structure has dealt with this or like convoluted this, like we don’t see a lot of good sexual health in religious text in Christian or Islam or Judaism, except for maybe Song of Solomon, and you and I have talked about like that or Song of Songs, it’s not even Song of Solomon that’s been misinterpreted, like we don’t know who wrote it, so it kind of depends on who wrote Song of Songs on whether or not it’s healthy sexuality or whether or not it’s patriarchal BS. Like, if you’re a king, you kind of get what you want anyway because you can kill the person that doesn’t give it to you. Right. And we often recognize, right, or I don’t know that we’re recognizing, but I think we’ve bought into, historically people have bought into this idea that kings had these appetites, right? They had an appetite for wealth. They had an appetite for power. They had an appetite for land, and they had an appetite for sex that just the queen could not satisfy, right? So it was totally acceptable that he was going to have multiple sex partners. Right.

Well, even our term, like in psychology we talk about entitlement a lot. Even that term “entitlement” comes from kingships. The idea that just because you are born who you are, you get these things. Right. Like, no. I mean, like I don’t know that that should be how the world works, but that is how most of our history is structured. That is how power is structured in the United States right now. He who has the power makes the rules and writes the history. And writes the history. And we can talk about revisionist history another time. But that’s another piece of that, right? No, you don’t get the right to a female’s body or you don’t get the right to another person’s body just because of who you are or what title you hold. And we kind of treat it that way, but I think the other piece of that is like, when it comes to patriarchal structures, especially when it comes to religious patriarchal structures, historically what has happened is he who has the gold makes the rules. Well, for a long time, women weren’t allowed to have the gold. Right. And so some of that really holds to women didn’t have a voice. They still don’t have a voice in most conservative religions. Women are treated as secondary citizens, even though every origin story, the Bible, the Koran, the Torah all state that God created male and female in his image, male and female he created them in his image. Like, at no point does he delineate that in creation, and yet, and that’s in all three books just so that you’re aware. And so like when we look at that, that really tells me that like we’ve created this structure. It works well for men in power until it doesn’t. Because I think that men in power can be very lonely, like we know that and we see that, right? Right. Because they have power, so they don’t need relationships, but that’s not… And often, if we’re working with a sex addict client, it’s not just about more sex. And it’s not just about more sex with more people. Right. I mean, somehow you were doing that and you ended up in my office, so on some level it wasn’t working for you, right? And so if we go back and stat to challenge this idea that a king had this kingly appetite for sex and he just kept having more and more concubines, maybe that wasn’t what he was after all. Like maybe had he actually had a partnership with a queen who was more than just benefitting her family and the king’s family. Like that’s what marriage really was, right? Right. Sometimes we talk about the origin of marriage, that was the origin of marriage. It was an arrangement in between families in which women were used as the bartering tool. Yeah, and which women were bought and sold. Yes. Like it was a form of slavery. Yeah. Maybe it was a different kind of slavery but it was definitely a form of slavery, and I think even in that, like I look like just looking at the marital laws in the United States are just insane to me that like men could beat their wives with rods up until like the 1950s in most states, like that’s just insane. But even kind of looking at that, we as people like, we kind of live in this weird dynamic as human beings. We’re built to grow and create and live in kind of the unknown, like we were created to be nomads. As tribes, we moved, we shifted, we created, and yet we so desire this structure and this foundation for people to tell us what to do. Right. And I think that religion has capitalized on that kind of fear of the unknown, that fear of the dark, like if I know what rules keep me safe and keep me in good standing with whoever or whatever, then I’m good and I’ll just do that checklist and it’s fine. But that doesn’t really work with humanity and we’ve done that with sexuality, and it really doesn’t work with sexuality. Right.

I was thinking when you were talking, I can’t remember, I should have looked this up before but I didn’t know I was gonna have this thought, so I don’t remember who it is. I think it’s from a book, but also based on research, talking about how long it takes for like our blood to regenerate itself, right? How long it takes for our skin to regenerate itself. Sometimes some of these things are months, sometimes there things are like 2 years, right, like our body is literally regenerating parts of it, and when we look at how our body is continually kind of reinventing itself, and yet we want to keep our sexuality in this box that is bounded and doesn’t grow out of that box or doesn’t evolve, I think that’s where we start to look at and see we have a lot of sexual messages that are not serving people and are breaking down, and I think that’s where we’re starting to look at, like what is the sexual health side of this?

Right, well, and I think the other piece of it is, okay, look, I get that when you have a 12-year-old who doesn’t know what to do with their body and they’re scared and they’re not in a relationship, and you know, STDs are a real thing, and sex is… I mean like 12 is young for sex and you know you have all of this like emotional immaturity happening, like I get wanting to like put some boundaries there and say like this is how we do that… You might want to wait. That’s kind of a big step. But I don’t have as a 30-something-year-old, I don’t have the same rules that I had when I was 12. And yet in these conservative patriarchal structures, we do with sexuality.

And sometimes women are the biggest defenders of those. Right. Well, and honestly like again, like when you look at the amount of things that women, which this could be its own episode in and of itself, when you look at the amount of things that women in their mind do every day in order to keep themselves sexually safe, of course they like the rules because they just want to be safe.

I think they also want to have a very clear roadmap to being good. Yes. And a lot of times, that good again goes back to the purity culture. Yes, and when the entirety of the fall of man has been put on women’s sinful nature, like you do feel like you have to kind of work your way out of that. Well and I think if the belief right is if I’m a good girl, I will be protected from sexual assault, sexual abuse, all of that kind of stuff, like that happens to sinful women, so if I can be pure, if I can be good, if I can be righteous and spiritual and all of those things, I’m somehow protecting myself. Right. And that works until it’s completely shattered. Right. And I was gonna say, and statistically speaking, that’s just inaccurate, and the flip side of that, okay, so statistics, it’s like 1 in 5 women have experienced sexual assault in their lifetime, right? Uh huh. And 1 in 16, you told me this the other day, 1 in 16, their first sexual experience was unwanted. Yeah. So like when we look at that, the flip side of that is that rape culture piece that says well that’s your fault, you weren’t good enough. You must have done something bad that you need to repent of or that wouldn’t have happened.

Well I think also, I mean we, you know I think when we’re teaching kids, we’re starting to teach kids about sex, but for a lot of people who are doing the teaching, what they’re not thinking is that some of these kids have already been sexual. Yeah. Not by choice. Right. But so when you start talking to and educating kids about sexuality and you’re saying you should wait and you’re saying, you know it’s not wise to have sex before this age or something and somebody’s first sexual experience was at four, they’re not going to raise their hand and say, “Wait a minute, what about me?” They’re gonna crawl inside themselves and start to think, well where do I fit into this? Right. And usually they come to the conclusion that it’s not a good place that they fit in. Right.

Well and I remember, so I was in the, like the first part of the purity movement, like I experienced that, and I remember like they would talk about like how gross it was and how dirty it was. They would use like flowers and pass it around the room and everybody would take a petal and then like at the end, they were like this is what you’re giving your husband, and like… I think I’ve used the example with you, the chewing gum. Right, or like they would show like if you went to bed with your partner, like your partner is also going to bed with this person and that person, so like it became really like dirty and shameful and like you shouldn’t do this. And then they would put this in this nice little caveat at the end of like, but if you’ve already done those things, God believes in the second virginity. Okay, that’s not helpful, right? Like especially when we’re putting in all the shame of don’t do it, and then they’re like, but if you have done it, don’t feel too bad. Don’t feel too bad. Like you just spent an hour telling kids how dirty and terrible and horrible they are, and then you put in this great caveat at the end, like I don’t know that that’s how that works. Also again, like a lot of pressure is put on the girls, right? Like I remember this was a thing, like growing up, and granted, I will say my mother did a great job at being like, yeah, I don’t know about all that. My mom did a great job at kind of giving us like, she was a nurse and so she kind of gave us sexuality in medical terms and kind of so it’s like this is what that looks like, it’s totally your choice if you choose to please be safe, please be smart. My mom totally went the route of like, remember statistics show that if girls have babies outside of wedlock, they’re less likely to get degrees, and they’re… and so my mom totally pushed the education route on that. But in that, like I remember like in youth group or in like girls retreats and things like that, there was always this, now remember, “You need to be modest because you don’t want to make your brother stumble.” And so again, there’s a lot of this like, “Okay, but why can’t he help keep himself from stumbling? Like he’s got 2 feet. He learned how to walk, right? Like I learned how to walk, he learned how to walk.”

I remember as a leader going to activities like as a church leader for the youth, going to church activities where boys and girls were gonna be there and it’s like a beach / boating activity, right? And so it’s like, okay, girls, you have to wear a shirt, and you have to wear this over your bathing suit and no two-pieces and this and that, and I’m like these are drowning hazards. Like it’s literally not safe to put all these clothing over the top of her, like cotton doesn’t do well in the water. It becomes heavy. It’s… you know, and they were like, “Well, but what about the boys?” You know, and it’s like… Make them wear blindfolds. So we’re just gonna like put weights on the girls and like be like, “Don’t get in the water ‘cause you’ll drown!” But at least he won’t have to see shoulders. Right.

Well, and that like also, kind of going into that, when I talked earlier about like the sexualization of culture, when you make it salacious and nuanced and dirty and wrong and on the edge of taboo, you’re pushing the limits, right? We shame girls as young as six for being sexual in our culture. Right. Or younger. Yeah, or younger. You know, sometimes I, I mean I do think there’s a non-sexual piece to flirting, right, but I’ve had people who will say “My parents told me I was a very flirty baby”, and they mean it in a sexual way. And I’m like, oh no, no, no. Babies, it’s part of their development to see if they can engage people. Like they’re figuring out if their world is safe, and so they will make eye contact with you and they will be flirtatious. It has nothing to do with sexuality, right? It’s “Can I get another person to notice me because my life and my survival is based on people noticing and caring for me?” Right. And I think that that whole concept of like women’s bodies being something that needs to be covered or are salacious or tempting, like one, if a 6-year-old’s body, if an infant’s body is tempting, we’ve got a problem with society because they didn’t put that on themselves, right? And we don’t want to talk about what society is doing. But like I think one of the things, and I was one of those kids, like I refused to wear t-shirts when I was swimming because it sucks. No one wants to swim in a t-shirt. It sticks to your skin. It’s gross. Also, like just talking about the idea of wet cotton, like I’m having a visceral reaction, like I don’t like… Might as well wear your jeans swimming. Oh gosh. So that’s one of those things where it’s just like again, how uncomfortable can we make females so that men don’t have to be accountable? Which we’re… again, purity culture and rape culture are the flip sides to the same coin, and if we don’t start recognizing that, that’s some of what the “me too” movement is, right? The “me too” movement where women say like, “No, I’ve had enough.” And Harvey Weinstein was this man who felt untouchable. He felt… for decades, he was. And he was. And then you have like these reporters who start getting the stories and they’re like, we need a spokesperson, and we need someone to come out because if one person comes out, the rest of them will. I mean, that’s scary to be the only, the first female to come out and say like, yes this happened. Because it’s not like females hadn’t tried before. Right. Right, I mean this was another attempt and it took. But women have been trying for a long time to say, hey, I don’t like being assaulted. Yeah. I mean, women have been doing that for decades, right? Like I remember The Accused with Jodie Foster. It’s a really, really hard movie to watch, and it’s not one that I necessarily suggest people watching. Well, high trigger content. Really, really triggering. It’s about a rape and it wasn’t really taken seriously because of who she was, and kind of what came out after that and her story… like I watched that movie at a time when I was dealing with a lot of rape cases, and like I just remember like her story now, which that would have been, I don’t know, 10 years ago, but that was still being echoed 25 years later. And 25, like we made a movie about it, guys. If we made a movie about it, things should have changed, right? But that is one of those, like it has taken so long for women to be heard, and we’re starting to see culture move there, but we’re getting a lot of backlash from that, too, like men have stopped hiring women because… I’ve had clients who are over-hiring or are an upper COO, CEO who have told me that that was the initial response by their company after the “me too” movement is we cannot hire or promote women. And that’s not the real answer, right? So this, like again, we kind of have to have this dialogue of what happens in sexual health? Like how do we get consent? How do we know what consent is? What does that look like? And those are messy conversations, but those are also the kind of conversations that take the religious or patriarchal structure out of the like dos and don’ts and can’ts and cans and world of sin and kind of move us into like, okay, if we’re all relational and we’re all talking and functioning and like figuring this out, it’s not about if your penis enters the vagina, it’s sin. And everything else is a green light. Everything else is fine and great, you know. It’s more about like, is this what you want? Is this what she wants? Are we making sure that that’s okay? And I don’t know, and I get like there’s a lot of religious kind of constructs and structures around this, like wait until marriage. Well people used to get married at 14, and usually she didn’t have a choice in it and he was 30. So like, there’s just a lot around that that like we need to start diving into as a culture of like, what did that mean then and what does that mean now? And how do we process that?

The idea that like religion shouldn’t adapt with culture and society, I think it’s a really hard one because it has throughout time, right? Like if we look at what the evangelical, and I’m just saying evangelical because that’s what most Americans identify as, evangelical Christian churches now vs. what the early Christian church was with Paul, they are two very different things. They look very different. If we look at the American church vs. the European church, they are very different and hold very different things as important or valuable. If you look at the difference between Protestants and Catholics, if you look at the difference between Protestants and other Protestants, right? Like there’s just so many variations of what is allowed and what is not allowed and how that shows up, like they adapt so the idea that sexuality can’t and shouldn’t is just off. Right.

Initially, in a transition period, yes, more is going to be required of people, right? Like, yeah, it’s gonna take effort and energy to turn this ship in the direction that it works best. I said ship, not shit, just FYI. And so… But you just said it. Right. So I think it’s one of those where more is gonna be required of not just of men, but of women. Yeah. And it’s not going to be be… I tell people all the time, it’s not gonna be this drudgery. Like, the last thing we want is for sex to be even more burdensome and even more bogged down, right? Like what we want is to start to free it, and if we put some energy and some thought and some education, you know, and I’m like, the rules for sexual health are pretty simple, right? We talk about safe, sane, and consensual. Yeah. And that’s a pretty broad net, but it’s also, and it’s, they’re pretty simple rules, but it allows for a lot of different people and their preferences and their likes. And yes, the other thing that I think we have learned as divorce has become more acceptable in the United States as the choice to not actually get married has become more acceptable in the United States, one of the things that we’re seeing, right, is that if you’re in a committed relationship, this person isn’t stuck with you. Right. Right, they can leave. And so, the need to keep the relationship working for both of you goes up. Right, it’s high. And it requires more effort. It requires you to keep working on yourself, and what we found is that the divorce rate is actually going down because people aren’t just like, I’m stuck here. But it’s not in Christian communities. Yeah. And I think that that’s… that to me is a tell-tale sign that we’ve got to shift, we’ve got to adapt, we’ve got to move. Because a lot of those marriages maybe shouldn’t be together. Yeah, maybe they shouldn’t be, or maybe they’re giving, they’re being given tropes when what they really need is to be able to figure out the relationship, right, like I have two pet peeves that come like religiously. The first is I don’t believe in getting a divorce. I heard that my entire life growing up, and I heard it from different people in different religious communities. I still hear it. Here’s the thing, being a therapist changed my perspective on this. I believe in divorce. The only thing that you have to do to get a divorce is to stop trying. If you go into stasis, I guarantee you, it may not be tomorrow, it may not be in 10 years, but you are headed for divorce because stasis doesn’t work for humanity. Right. So I do believe in divorce, and I think that we have to work our way away from that, like every day that I connect and reach for my husband and say “I love you” and I care for him and I step into that space and I’m a partner, and every day that he does that back for me, we’re working our way away from divorce. Right. Like, and we’ve got a pretty big gap there now. Right. Because we’ve been together so long and we do that for each other. One of the sayings that we use in our marriage a lot is “We stand back to back.” And that’s because we’re nerds, and on a battlefield, you stand back to back to protect each other, but you’re equal. And you have to pay attention to each other’s movements, you have to pay attention to each other, like where you’re going and what you’re doing, right? And you’re helping each other, you’re stabilizing each other. You are each other’s strength. Right. You don’t get that in any other formation on a battlefield, and I’m not saying that the world is a battlefield necessarily, but I do think that often me and my husband have to come back and say like, “It’s us against the world,” like we chose each other. We’ve got each other’s… we don’t just have each other’s back, we’re standing back to back as equals.

The other pet peeve I have… and I get that it works for some people. It does not work for me and it always messes things up in my office is the idea of the love languages. The five love languages, whatever. And again, like this was a religious construct created by religious people in order to like simplify and explain how to love each other. And they’re all good… Well, and I also think the premise of that idea that in a relationship, you’re gonna have to figure out the language of another person, right? Like, this other person has a way of being that is not yours. Yeah, and that’s not a bad thing, and it is your responsibility to figure out what language they speak. I don’t have a problem with that. I don’t either. So the premise of it, don’t necessarily disagree with, but here’s the thing. When a wife comes to me and she says that her love language is acts of service and he says that his love language is physical touch, I don’t believe it, and here’s why. We all need all of them. That is human connection. And almost all the time, that’s what they say they are. Yes, you’re like let me predict. I have a really good… I’m really good at this. You are one of these two things. But here’s the thing, and usually he’s talking about sex when he’s talking about physical touch, and usually she’s talking about she wants him to pick up his laundry off the floor. Right. Like and so there is this like just the sum of this of like it’s so reductive, and these are incredibly complex creatures. We are incredibly complex. Right. If you have a religious faith, you believe that, you believe that you are incredibly complex, and that’s good news. Yeah. It’s good news because it means we can continually evolve.

And I mean, like so there’s a book series that I read, and they talk about, they describe God as infinity, and they describe human beings as slivers of infinity. And it’s a really neat like book and concept, but like I love that idea in terms of talking about human sexuality because if you, like a sliver of infinity is still infinity. You still have such like beautiful creative space to grow and build and develop, and okay, like have some constraints around that, have some rules. I’m all about rules and boundaries, right? like, again it needs to be consensual. We need to be on the same page. Let’s not have any like slips or accidents or like things going in the wrong place when the other person doesn’t know it’s coming, so it needs to be consensual. We need to be talking about that. And that doesn’t have to look like a board presentation, right? Like that can be flirtatious, that can be fun. But make sure it’s consensual. Understand what consent is. There’s great stuff out on YouTube right now. Just type in tea consent. Right, T-E-A. And it’s great, right? Like it will give you the roadmap of what consent is. Make sure it’s consensual. Make sure it’s sane, right? Like we want to know that we’re kind of on, we’re not just trying stuff that’s out there. Like we want to make sure that we’re creating a space that’s safe for both people, which is the third one, but we also, I mean like we kind of want to be present. We want to be together… You don’t want to be like I mean, this goes along with safe, but I think it’s also part of sane, like sexual pleasure at the expense of your physical health, right? That’s not very sane. Right. Like, don’t be breaking things or pulling muscles or like, know your limits. Not everybody is an extreme yogi, so don’t do weird things. Just don’t push yourself past the point that you’re supposed to. And yet, make sure it’s safe, right? Like, and we can talk about safety in many ways. We can talk about physical safety, emotional safety, we want to make sure that we’re not using sex as currency. We want to make sure that like if we’re using sex after a fight, it’s because we’ve come back together and we’ve resolved that fight. Right. Not that sex is resolving the fight. We want to make sure that we’re having dialogue. Can you talk to your partner? If you can’t talk to your partner about sex, like that’s where we start because we’re not gonna have good sex if we can’t talk about it. And if you can’t talk to your partner about your passions, your interests, your soul, you probably aren’t going to be very good at talking about sex either. Or even talking… so here’s the other thing. Maybe I have three pet peeves. So the other thing that I really struggle with when it comes to like patriarchal religious structures and things that they say that need to happen in relationships is that like men need to be the head of the household and that women need to submit. I don’t really know what that means, I’ve never seen that actually work very often, and when I have, like I question whether or not it works, so that’s my own like bias, and I get that. But this idea that, and I hear men say it all the time. They’re like, “Well she wants me to be strong.” Maybe, but maybe she just wants you to talk to her about your weaknesses, right? Some of the best conversations that me and my husband have had have been around grief, when we don’t have a whole lot of control around what’s happening and we’re able to kind of sit and say like, “I get it. I know this person meant a lot to you, and I can just sit here with you and let you cry.” Right. And I tell men if they say that like, “She wants me to be strong. She wants me to be…” I’m like, “Well don’t let her… why are you letting her do that?” I think you have to go back to her and say, “This isn’t working for me, and this is what I’m finding, this is the price that I’m paying personally, and I think this is the price on our relationship.” And the other thing that we get into with that is like we have these gender roles and gender biases that are really perpetrated by the patriarchal structures. We like those. They work until the don’t, but the problem is like, the roles aren’t just about who cooks and cleans and who does lawn work. It becomes an emotional power struggle, and if we can’t talk about the fact that like, I don’t like to do dishes. I don’t want to do that. I personally, like I love power tools. I get excited about power tools. I had to learn how to change the oil in my car or to change my tire, like those were requirements. I grew up on a farm. I know how to run a tractor. I can back a horse trailer on a dime, right? And so it’s just some of those things that like were very masculine traits, but like I had to do them, so it wasn’t, it was out of necessity that I learned those things, but like we have to have conversations with our partner about what we like to do and what we don’t like to do. And like do those roles and expectations actually work for us? Do they make us happy? What are we giving up int eh process, right? Like one of the things that we often talk about that women give up when they stay at home to be moms is a lot of freedom and self-reliance, which can have huge impacts on sexuality. Right. When a woman doesn’t feel like she’s a functional adult contributing to the family or that that’s even being recognized as a contribution, she doesn’t want to have sex. She doesn’t feel like an equal, and vise versa, like if a man feels like he has to provide all of the safety because he’s the only one that can do it, like there’s a lot of pressure then to like have the right job, to have insurance, to make sure like he’s performing at his peak because he can’t afford to lose his job. And he’s also what I find often feeling very lonely. Yes. And those kind of conversations, and I know that it probably sounds crazy, but those kind of conversations lead to healthy sex.

Okay, so this is episode 2 in our series, and then we wanted to do another one specifically for the whole good girl / sex addict girl, and then I think we’ll wrap it up, just kind of talking a little bit more about like addict sex and what we talk about there vs. sexual health, and also talking more specifically what we see for males and how patriarchy robbed them as well. Yeah. Yeah, ‘cause I mean like both of those… so we’re basically gonna take this overview and kind of dive in a little bit deeper because I think we have to recognize that we live in a patriarchal society in which gender roles and sex roles have been mandated, and then we can talk about all the nitty gritty, like how does this actually show up in clients that we see.