cw: abstract, hypothetical talk of sex and rape
Back to my trademark pair of subjects for this post: Christianity & asexuality. More specifically, sex aversion within the context of conservative American sexual abstinence Christianese, sometimes known as “purity culture.”
Honestly, I’ve still got mixed feelings about how much I should apply that particular moniker to anything I was involved in. All the talk of purity balls and pledge cards is totally foreign to me, and I was raised Episcopalian, so no one in my church was very adamant about that kind of thing. The voices in my life in favor of abstinence… didn’t feel like the thing other people describe it as. I’m just not one of the people who’s had what I recognize as that experience.
Then again, I’ve somehow accumulated not one but two promise rings, so I suppose that says something unto itself.
But this isn’t about that. This is about the kind of reading materials I had access to on the subject, which were far more numerous and assertive as abstinence peddlers than the people I dealt with in person, and more specifically, this is about something I vaguely remember from them that I think left more of an impression on me than I realized at the time.
It was a warning, of a sort, against — I don’t remember exactly what. Some sort of caution against being alone with a member of “the” other gender, or making out for too long, or both. Because, y’know…. One thing leads to another and all that. Even if you don’t mean to at the outset, you might end up having sex.
That was a scary thought to me at the time.
I thought it sounded as though, if you get into a situation with the “potential” for sex, it can just come at you like the wind, without you having to make a conscious choice about it.
It didn’t occur to me at the time to think of that as rape.
It wasn’t supposed to be, after all. They described it like an impulsive decision that you wouldn’t have otherwise made, because the Temptation was so great. The idea of temptation didn’t really register with me. I just read it as a trap. Like quicksand. A one-way ticket. You can get in but you can’t get out.
That… probably influenced me in more ways than I’m capable of consciously recognizing.
There’s something I didn’t explain at the outset of this post, which is that I’m trying to reverse engineer something here.
I think this sex-quicksand script coupled with my bouts of visceral empathy does more than just the label “sex-averse” to explain why I sometimes react to, for example, someone saying, “Yeah, we had sex on Tuesday,” like I’m remembering myself-as-them having been bound and glued to a conveyor belt with a furnace gaping wide at the end — and am simultaneously confronted with calm contentment and complacency about the fact, as if this is not a big deal. It’s jarring, that’s all I can say.
All I can think to attribute that to, beyond my own surface-level “no thanks,” is the possibility that my default mental script for sex still features quicksand. And for whatever reason, the consent seminars and opinion pieces I’ve encountered over the years haven’t displaced that script, maybe because there’s still that gravitational pull embedded in how so many people talk about and represent sex. So I still mentally configure it as something that happens to people rather than as something people choose.
Because in casual mentions of sexual history, how many times do you see people affirm, “This is something I chose, and wanted, and we both made happen on purpose, free of outside pressure, selected of our own internally-originating will”?
Why would they need to, right?
Would that even be enough, to let my anxiety rest?
Right now, I don’t even know.