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Gendered socialization creates and perpetuates traditional gender roles. I grew up in a very Catholic family, and sex was never discussed. When I reached 7th grade and my school was doing the hour-long sex ed class that required a signed parental permission slip, my mom reluctantly signed it and decided it was time to give me “the talk”. While we had discussed periods and puberty a couple of years before, most of my knowledge of sex came from tv shows. My mom explained that sex is only for married people and that as Catholics, we don’t support birth control or condoms because that’s “playing god” and because sex was created for the sole purpose of making babies within marriage.

Fast-forward to late high school by which time I had become 1.) an atheist and 2.) an outspoken feminist. I think that as long as both partners are adults of consenting age and there’s communication and consent involved, you should be able to do whatever you want sexually with as many partners as you want.  Sex is fun and natural and can be enjoyed solo or with others. Life is meant to be lived for yourself, so explore your body, your kinks, what, and who brings you pleasure.

Lgbtq couple
Photo by Anna Selle from Unsplash

Traditional religious upbringings tend to include a lot of binary gendered expectations and compulsive heterosexuality. Deviating from that norm can cause feelings of guilt, shame, and confusion. When we stigmatize sex outside of marriage, there’s also an assumed stigmatization around masturbation, foreplay, oral sex, and really most aspects of sexuality. By shutting people down, especially women, and categorizing desires, curiosities, and regular human urges as shameful, purity culture causes harm that takes work to overcome. I’m sure motherhood and being a wife is wonderful, if that’s what you choose. Choice being the operative word. I’m not a fan of religious, political, or economic ways of thinking that remove choice from the equation. I think that what you choose to do with your body, and who you choose to share your body with is none of anybody else’s business, and you owe no explanation to God, your parents, religious leaders, or anyone assuming power over you.

With that being said, if you grew up believing one way and now believe the opposite, you have to consciously examine your past beliefs. You have to overcome feelings of guilt and shame and find joy in your sexuality. You might feel behind everyone else, like you’re just learning what everyone else was figuring out in high school. That’s okay because everyone has their own pace, and comparison doesn’t help you get to where you want to be. At the end of the day, it’s all about finding what makes you happy and embracing that.

Michaela Steele is a senior at ASU Online, studying Mass Communications with a Women&Gender Studies minor. Michaela enjoys writing, going to concerts, and binge watching David Attenborough documentaries. She aspires to work in music PR. She's passionate about intersectional feminism, discussing philosophy, and analyzing media. Feel free to reach her at: [email protected]
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