Broken Daughters

Picking up the shattered glass of fundamentalism

Onan the Barbarian and my version of “the talk”


Warning: Embarrassing, mature content ahead. I did it again – I abused a movie title, twisted it up and used it as the headline for my post. I learned how to do this in my Dad’s bible study. I have not seen Conan the Barbarian, but somehow I deemed this a suitable title for this post.

In my last post I talked about the extreme standard of purity me and many other girls in the different fundamentalist movements have to live up to (and usually fail, which causes deadly guilt in them).

Under the covers it looks quite a bit different. There’s a whole lot not-so-pure things going on.

Which, at this point, brings me to masturbation. I remember when I was a kid I was taught all about purity for ever since I can remember. But my parents missed the point a bit there: They never explained to me acts that would make me impure. So, while I strongly believed in purity, I just didn’t know that I could do impure things with myself. A kid of 10 years is too young to learn about these things, I guess, because once you get started talking about masturbation, you better expect the kid asking more questions about sex in every version of it.

So the point I’m getting at: Of course I did things my parents would sent me to the prayer closet for. And I didn’t even know that I wasn’t supposed to do it. I didn’t know of “masturbation” in the sense of it being a sexual practice and not ok, hence why I never really considered the actual act as that “wrong”. It took me a while to realize that I couldn’t do that, my parents would freak out about it. I must’ve been about 12 or 13 when I could sense what all of the fuzz was about, but I was yet somehow too silly to connect it with the fact that I was actually doing it myself occasionally. It didn’t occur to me, this connection. Can’t tell you why. I think I was like 14 when I finally made that connection and realized: “Oooops. That’s not supposed to happen!”. On I went, into the prayer closet, apologizing to God for the sodomy and stuff. But deep in my heart I couldn’t see the big deal. I didn’t see how it was adultery to my future husband – I didn’t think or fantasize about men at all!

However I want to point out that I didn’t know the “technical” side of it. I didn’t  know what an orgasm was (though I had had one at some point, I’m guessing) and I also didn’t know how sex between a man and a woman worked. My best friend and I had a talk about my upbringing in the area of sex and the idea that I didn’t come to some sort of conclusion how it physically works on my own was oblivious to her. First I thought I was a bit dumb for not realizing it on my own until I found out why I never connected male and female genitals to their actual purpose: I think as a girl, you need to know that a man can have an erection to connect this. I never knew about that. Can you imagine a woman  in her 20s and how she reacts upon finding out? “What?!?! How’s that working? That’s like… magic!”.

This and others I found out when my friend bought a book for me. It was a book on sex for teens and it was just the basic knowledge really. At first I acted like I didn’t need or want to read it but I crept into the kitchen, secretly, late at night, to get it and read it in bed. On almost every page I had a wow-moment. Not only did I learn about men for the first time in my life, I also learned about women.

I didn’t know about how pregnancies worked, or how the female body worked to begin with. I didn’t know that having your period actually had a physical function! I thought it was about being unclean and had something to do with growing up. I didn’t know the eggs business! I believed that a woman was just an incubator and that the babies were actually supplied only by the man! Part of this is due to the teaching that sin (and therefore the soul) is transferred to a child only by the father – which is why Mary didn’t give birth to a sinful, human child. She couldn’t because she was an incubator, like every other woman.

I was really shy about this topic, but my friend figured that me not knowing about it would make life in the real world harder for me. After all, I needed to know what I was getting into in case I wanted a relationship. And I guess she was right because the rate of unwanted pregnancies because people just don’T know how it works is pretty high.

A few months ago my roommate and best friend declared that she wanted to have “the talk” with me. She’d get some others to join in and explain to me what’s it all about. I was nervous, refused, yelled at her that she was stupid and embarrassing and I didn’t need her help at all. But deep inside I was excited to have this opportunity. She gave me a few days to make up my mind and while I felt like a stupid kid at first, I was so curious to find out so many new things. I decided that I wanted her to talk to me about it. So a few days later she asked me if I thought about her offer and I replied “I guess, if it makes you feel better…” with clear annoyance in my voice and excitement in my heart.

As I came home two days later, it was early evening and I had been at work, she was in the kitchen, cooking dinner with two male friends and another female friend of hers. I didn’t realize that it was the day of the talk. We ate together and afterwards had a glass of white wine. Finally, my roommate initiated a conversation about her experiences with love and sex. And then one of the guys went and everybody ended up discussing and exchanging. I thought the talk would be horribly embarrassing, but that actually felt natural and fun. I wasn’t demanded to ask questions or answer things. I could just sit and listen. They described a lot of different situations. Like how they reacted when their boyfriend wanted to have sex but they weren’t ready. How their first times went. What they felt about it in general, how important it was to them, what they find acceptable and so on. Especially interesting for me was when one of the guys talked about his experience with a one-night-stand (something I didn’t know but do now!). I expected him to be happy about it and show off, because we all know men are sex-obsessed monkeys, but the opposite was true. He felt it wasn’t for him, he had regrets about it because he felt he had disgraced himself and the girl and he feels like love is most important to have sex.

I was baffled. Everything I learned about sex and love was questioned that night. Could it be true that having sex before marriage doesn’t always break a person? That love sometimes doesn’t last a lifetime? That society doesn’t see sex as something cheap and easy but as sacred and special? That worldly men thought such a thing?

I still don’t know much on the subject, only what I have read and been told by my friends so far, but that didn’t make me go out and sleep around. I’m doubting that the abstinence only and purity movement is the only way to teach a responsible sexuality. But I’m really glad that finally, after over two decades of not knowing what this purity deal was even about I have at least a tiny idea of what’s going on between men and women.

In retrospective I have to say that I believe my wedding night would’ve been a traumatic event for me. So many things I didn’t know, I wasn’t taught about. How shocked would I have reacted, being thrown into that situation? Would it have messed up my view of sexuality? I’m pretty sure it would’ve had tough consequences for me and my entire life and I’m so glad I saved myself from something I couldn’t even grasp back when I ran away from it.


8 thoughts on “Onan the Barbarian and my version of “the talk”

  1. Thank you so much for this post! I have been doing a series on Sex Ed in a Christian home and your input would be more than welcome. 🙂 (And there is a post on masturbation, actually–

  2. The whole “don’t tell them anything” idea is something my best friend fought when she was in college. She went to a private Bible college and found that several of the girls on her floor were completely clueless–just as you were. She spent one night giving “the talk” to a group of girls in her room–one of whom was engaged. We both pray for girls in your situation. It’s frightening what can happen that you aren’t expecting or prepared for. And, no, not all males are sex-starved monkeys. There are a lot of them who are actually longing for a girl who hasn’t engaged in sex but is waiting for a husband who also hasn’t.

    • Yes, not every man is a crazy animal when it comes to sex, but I do get that feeling that it’s exactly what they want girls to think. Like it’s the only way to teach abstinence. They make a potential rapist of every man, no matter how good of a person he is. wear tight pants or a skirt that’s too short and even the godliest man will drag you into the forest and abuse you. There’s such a huge fear of men in some circles of these groups. And then you’re being married off and suddenly it’s all good. No wonder so many fundamentalist women struggle with sex even after many years of marriage.

  3. Thank you for once more shining a light into a hidden world.

    I burst out laughing when I read the bit about how sin is transferred by the father into the pure mother hence Jesus was pure because he didn’t have a human father!

    It amazes me that seemingly rational people can construct such towering edifices of nonsense. And yet these fabrications of inspired mendacity seem well buttressed against testing storms of reality and rationality.

    It is so sad that your and similar parents fail in one of their main duties, which is to help their children prepare for the real world, its threats and its promises, its joys and miseries, but above all with the people they will live with.

  4. The title of your post CRACKED ME UP!! You are way too funny.

    Well, sex-education in my home sounds about as uninformative as it was in yours :-). It went something like this, “Sex is something that you don’t talk about and you certainly DO NOT do… unless you’re married, and that’s a long way off, so for now let’s just drop the subject.” Umm, Ok Mom. Thanks.

    But I did have the “benefit” of going to public school, so I was exposed to all of the confusing and sometimes disturbing misinformation I gathered from my peers. Of course, there were those awkward sex-ed classes with the school nurse which consisted of dumb questions, beating around the bush and plenty of adolescent giggling. I did learn from those classes what birth control pills look like, though, for what that’s worth :-). I really didn’t learn anything worthwhile though until my husband came along, and he “educated” me in everything I needed to know. At least, I hope it’s everything I need to know. If it isn’t and there is still more to know, I guess we’re doing Ok without it, hee, hee!

    We homeschool our kids, and my oldest son (age 12) already knows waaay more TRUE info about sex than I ever did at his age. When I was pregnant with our third baby (our oldest was 9 at the time), we studied fetal development, which inevitably led to questions about how babies are made. Our oldest has always been very body-aware, so this topic interested him VERY much. We read a good book on it together and just opened it up for questions/conversations. His only question at the time was, “So do you and dad do this?” Um, yeah buddy, we sure do. And he was Ok with that. He didn’t have a lot to ask at the time, but we left it open-ended, and he has felt comfortable going to me and especially my husband at various times to ask questions about attraction to girls and general questions about his changing body and sexuality. The hubby and I consider it a privilege to have his trust and confidence in this area. I thought it would be uncomfortable for us to talk sex with our kids, but it really isn’t at all, and it has actually built more trust and closeness into our relationship. Our 10 year old is still mostly uninformed, just because he isn’t interested or ready to know yet. He is much more interested in how the engine of a truck works than in how reproductive organs work. But his time will come…. I hope so anyway :-). If not we may have to get creative and figure our how to compare sex to the internal combustion engine LOL!

    Interestingly, knowing the “facts of life” has opened up new understanding for our son in other ways, too. He loves to read, and now he isn’t left scratching his head when a reference is made in one of his books to something of a sexual nature. He even understands the Bible better now. It’s really hard for a child who knows nothing about sex to be impressed that Christ was born of a virgin. And the Old Testament is full of “begetting,” not to mention horrible stories of rape, incest and adultery. Now he understands why those things are so harmful and awful. I think he is safer in this world now, too, armed with the knowledge that he has. We have been able to talk to him in more detail about sexual predators, their motives and their methods. He is now armed with powerful knowledge that could help to protect him, and now we are more comfortable allowing him freedom to be in situations away from our protection because he is knowledgeable enough to protect himself. In fact, I think it can be really harmful to keep sexual knowledge away from a child for that very reason (unless, of course, you plan on cloistering them and never letting them out of your sight, which is harmful in its own way).

    I really believe that kids should learn about sex from their parents rather than peers or teachers, in a comfortable, secure way. I wish I had, and it sounds like you wish you had, too. I’m so glad our son can come to us and ask us questions and know he will not be judged or “shock” us or have us embarrass him. Some day his wife can thank us!!! (Sorry this comment is so long. Start me talking sex and I might never shut up LOL)

  5. One more thing (as if my last comment wasn’t long enough!). When do we get to read some more of your story?? You hooked me in and left me hanging :-).

  6. Although it’s awful that you were in the dark for so long, that “talk” with your friends sounds like one of the best ways to get an understanding of how things really work (not just the biology but the emotional context and issues) that I’ve heard, yet—especially as (I’m assuming) your friends are relatively experienced adults. To be honest I’m tempted to get some friends together and pull that on my daughter in a couple of years…

    Oh, yeah, and I, too, am on pins and needles for the next installment of your story!

  7. I am planning to teach my two girls to save their hearts for the one God has for them, and their body for their wedding night. I want to frame it just right though so that when the time comes to talk about sex they will already have a vision of it’s proper context. But i read once in a Christian based book that parents need to talk to their kids before other kids are trying to tell them, to keep the lines of communication open to develope a trusting bond between the parent and child. Having been there done that, I definately recommend waiting not only for sex, but being sexual with another person until marriage. Heartbreak isn’t just a one sided ordeal and sex IS a big deal. It’s more intimate than anything. Even if your heart isn’t broken if it doesn’t work out, his could be, or even a girl he is with down the road could be heartbroken that he didn’t wait or likewise, a guy in your future. There are NO positives to being sexual with someone prior to marriage, except for during the moment or the duration of the relationship, but outside of that there is shame, resentment, feeling foolish and used, etc. And as far as whether love lasts forever, love is great when it involves passion, but sometimes it requires more work than passionate feelings. Part of love is commitment. God didn’t misinform us about love never failing, we just failed at committing to it.

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