My parents were staunch jehova witnesses.
I was literally raised in the kingdom hall of jehova witness. My name was not even sexy.
Instead of a sex talk, I was given a purity ring and taught to avoid things like R-rated movies, secular music, and feminism.
My parents made it clear that the sole purpose of dating was to find a suitable husband. When I was a teenager, they forbade me from being alone with anyone of the opposite sex. Their no-dating rule seemed reasonable because I was too young to get married, so there was no point in having a boyfriend. Somewhere out there in the world was a man who would eventually become my husband — I just needed to wait for him.
Any other boy I met along the way was someone else's future husband, so it was important to protect him from any temptation my body or behavior might create.
Keeping men from lusting after me turned out to be hard work. Every article of clothing I owned had to be approved by my father and mother in a sort of living room fashion show. I'd parade around in my back-to-school clothes so they could be viewed from every angle while sitting or standing. Despite this preapproval, my mom constantly fussed over my shorts being too short, my dresses too tight, and my shirts too low.
I assumed there must have been something inherently sinful about my body if men had to "guard their hearts" — as my parents said — against it. No matter what I did, I still seemed to attract a certain degree of attention from the opposite sex. I would never have admitted this, but I secretly liked it. I knew it was wrong to enjoy the feeling of being desired, but the thrill was worth the guilt.
My parents weren't the only ones telling me to be wary of men's attention. At one of our church camp, a guest speaker passed around a long stemmed rose, telling each girl to remove a single petal. By the time we'd all handled it, there were no petals left. "Who would want a rose like this?" he asked. We all nodded our head in eager agreement, knowing the answer was "no one." That rose was our virginity and we needed to keep it intact or else no one would ever want us.
The messages were confusing. The point of being a woman was to be wanted by a man, but only if he was the right one. At the same time, all men were hyper-sexual and couldn't resist temptation, yet still knew more about what was right for me and my life than I ever could.
When I was 25, I got my first job working at a clothing store in the mall. It was the first time I'd spent a lot of time with people who openly talked about partying and sleeping with their boyfriends. I was smug about my moral superiority until one night when a male customer cornered me and began describing incredibly detailed sexual acts he wanted me to do with him. I didn't know what to do and was afraid of hurting his feelings. I didn't realize I could ask him to stop or walk away. I was ashamed that out of everyone who worked there, I'd somehow given him the impression I was that kind of girl.
By the time I left my parents' world, I was a girl who had never been kissed, and that status would stay that way for five more years. This delayed entrance into the dating pool caused me to miss out on formative experiences that would have helped shape my adult interactions with the opposite sex. I never developed an intuition for the types of men to avoid or the telltale signs of disingenuous or sinister intentions. Because I had failed to learn these lessons when the stakes were lower, I paid for them through a series of poor dating choices and abusive relationships.
My first kiss was a man who slammed my face into the side of a doorframe and left bruises all over my entire body. I waited a year before dating anyone else, only to end up with a man twice my age who eventually threatened to kill me. Both times, I assumed I had done something to deserve the way they treated me.
I had been placed in a pit of shame before I even had a chance to understand the nature of sexuality. It took years for me to stop digging myself even deeper and finally form a healthy understanding of what it means to be a woman. I can understand the motivation of parents who want to protect their children from experiencing too much too soon, but there is an even greater danger in allowing your child to enter the world without any experience at all.
Now I am thirty and I vow to teach my daughter differently.
Chinedu you sound like someone I'd like to meet. Might I also add that I find your writing very fluid and engaging...
This also makes me think about creating a platform (again; I tried before... Too many females, too few males) on the blog for single people to meet. I will work on that.