I’m part of a facebook group of writers and creative types, and one of our members, Linda Kay Klein, posted her TED talk a few weeks ago. I had previously read this article she wrote for the Huffington Post and was inspired by not only how openly and intellectually she talks about her evangelical Christian upbringing in a mainstream media piece, but also how she articulates its influence on women’s sexuality and sense of self. Maybe that shouldn’t be so abnormal, but I’ve struggled finding the words to talk about my similar childhood experiences with church, youth group, Christian summer camp, I Kissed Dating Goodbye, True Love Waits and…..well, you get the picture. And I’ve struggled even more to understand and talk about how that plays out within my own sexuality. Linda’s TED talk explains how its played out for her how she’s made sense of it through academics, social science and listening to stories of the women she grew up with:
My move to New York was similar to her six-month Australia trip, in that it was truly my first time out of the “Christian bubble”, as we called it in my college circles. I remember my first day as a case worker in the South Bronx my co-worker whipped out the velvet, rhinestone-laced thong she’d just bought for her next night out with her boyfriend.
I turned beet red.
This was certainly not the kind of thing that was talked about with my Christian girlfriends. Even through college, the unspoken (and sometimes spoken) rule was that one-piece bathing suits were the standard for women attending any swim-related church outing. And here was my co-worker alluding to being naked with a man. Ironic that I was willing to face the tough streets of the Bronx–visiting housing projects, accompanying clients to court and welfare offices, sitting with them through pap smears and t-cell tests–but a sexy thong made me want to hide in the fetal position under my desk.
I now laugh at girls night out as friends attempt their best mock blow job demonstrations, but the journey has been long, mostly solitary and still quite complicated. According to Linda’s social research I am apparently in good company with the fears, anxiety and paranoia I’ve experienced in my sexual encounters with men–“sexual encounters” being anything from a simple, flirtatious conversation to the clothes I wear to the more intimate moments. I guess I always thought it was my own issue and not necessarily tied to any particular cultural or religious phenomenon. I obviously had my suspicions, but its taken brave feminine souls like Linda Kay Klein, Nicole Hardy and Elna Baker to confirm them. Theirs are the narratives we don’t read about in Cosmo or Marie Claire. Keep talking, ladies–and I will too.