Biological Shame

At my junior high, everyone went through a sexual education class in 7th grade. One semester you had PE, and the next you had Health one quarter and the other was sex ed. So everyone had it. Or nearly everyone, because as you can imagine, I was pulled from the class.

I don’t know if other kids in Mormon families had similar experiences with that, though it wouldn’t surprise me. Sexuality is a bad thing in the church. Women are constantly shamed with the responsibility of men’s inner thoughts by having to dress in a way that they won’t have “lustful desires.” That’s a common theme even outside the church, as is evidenced every time they ask a rape victim what she was wearing at the time, but that’s a rant for another time.

Sex and sexuality weren’t talked about except in the negative. Being sexy is bad. Having sex is bad…..unless you’re married to the person. Talking about anything having to do with it is taboo. I never had sex ed, and my parents never made up for that by having “The Talk” with me (or any of my siblings so far as I know). I didn’t even know what was going on when I got my period, and because of the stigma that surrounded it, I was embarrassed by it. I was mortified every time I had to tell my mom (my mom! Didn’t she go through the same thing? Didn’t matter to my embarrassment.) that I was nearly out of feminine products.

When I went off to college, I was majoring in Equine Science, and in one of my classes we actually talked about reproduction. The class went out to the school’s breeding center, and observed as they “collected” a stallion. To do this, first they had to “tease” the stallion with a mare who was in heat. This was done with her in a pen where he could see and smell her through the fence, but that was it, as they didn’t want to run the risk of his injuring her. They then guide him to a false horse that he mounts, and one of the people working there has to catch his penis in what is called an “A.V.” aka artificial vagina. It has a vial at the end to collect his semen, that they then use for their breeding purposes.

I went home that weekend, and as usual, my folks and I talked about my classes and the different things I was learning, and I mentioned the trip to watch a stallion being collected. It was a fine conversation until they asked what A.V. stood for, and that’s when I apparently embarrassed my parents by saying vagina out loud.

Their reactions spoke volumes just by their expressions. How dare I speak a scientific word dealing with a reproductive organ out loud? Girl bits are dirty! Why do you think that women in the Old Testament were considered “unclean” during and after their period? (Is it any wonder that I was so ashamed every month?) It was clear that being a woman was something to be ashamed about.

The farther I get from the Church, the more frustrating and infuriating I consider their archaic and sexist attitude toward women and sexuality to be. Why is vagina such a dirty word? As a teen, I thought that one had to have sex while on their period to get pregnant (because I was told when I got mine that it was somehow related to the ability to get pregnant, but the correlation never explained). So I really shouldn’t be surprised that those who can’t even talk to their teen about the realities of sex would be so horrified by the proper anatomical word for pussy.

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