2015: Advent Religion: Morality Resides in the Genitals

by on December 10, 2015

This is where it gets heavy.

Sex is not the whole of morality as taught in my churches of origin. Nor is it the whole of morality as practised by those churches. It was however a particularly fraught and restrictive topic. As a teenager, the most important thing about sex was no. No, never. Don’t date anyone you wouldn’t be willing to marry. Don’t touch each other. Don’t hold hands. Don’t kiss, maybe not even until you get married. Don’t expect that sex will ever be anything important in your life, that was the most important part. The important thing about sex is that it’s almost always going to be a sin, even if you’re married, unless you’re doing it in exactly the right frame of mind and have God in your thoughts as much as your spouse. So just don’t go there. Stay out of the county. Don’t think about or long for it or plan for it. Bodies are dangerous. Try to pretend you don’t have one.

I believed that almost everything was wrong. I had no idea that sex could be fun. I didn’t know there could be laughter in it. To even imagine touching or kissing was a sin, so how could I know it could be comfortable? I was so hung up on the sexiness of sex that I didn’t know anything about the affection.

There was a girl in the church, let’s call her Julie. She was a year older than me, and pretty. The youth pastor spent years grooming her. He always had attention for her, always took an interest in her. He treated her as a cut above the rest of us. Julie was the one who needed mentoring into church work. Julie was the one he sponsored into full church membership. Julie was the one who was told she ought to wear skirts to church, because it was holy to look feminine, though the rest of us could wear trousers with no comment. She was his second-in-command. She was sixteen, seventeen. He was twice that, and married with children.

I didn’t hear until one university holiday that she had, eventually, gone to someone else in the church and confessed to having an affair. I heard that with no questions asked about the narrative, as if she’d been as responsible as him, as though he hadn’t targeted and seduced someone in the youth group he was trusted to care for. I heard that she’d confessed and apologised to the church. He didn’t; he ran away.

I was horrified, and pathetically grateful he hadn’t taken a shine to me instead, and I was the furthest thing from surprised.

There was another girl, let’s call her Sarah. Sarah didn’t have the advantages of the rest of us. Sarah was working class and poor. She didn’t have the same safety net, and she’d been hurt and excluded too often to be cynical about people who seemed to like her. So Sarah ended up, at seventeen, in a relationship with a single father of twice her age, and he came to church a few times, and they brought the little girl who by that time was calling Sarah “Mummy”.

The deacons banned Sarah from the music group. The music group was half her pride in life. She was good enough to be allowed to sing at the front, to perform, and to be relied on to do it regularly. But Sarah wasn’t allowed to sing anymore, because she was openly living in sin, and we couldn’t have unrepentant sinners standing at the front like nothing was wrong.

The most important thing about sex is the sex. It wasn’t the whole of our morality. But if you were having sex, you were a sinner. Abuse disappeared in its shadow. There was nothing for you but shame.

Leave a Reply