There is an epidemic of Christian women experiencing sexual shame and most people are not talking about it. How the hell do I know that? Well, sex shame is something I fight against every day. For example, going bra-less started as somewhat of an experiment a few years ago.
Could I do it?
Would I love it?
How will I handle the discomforts?
While I talk in depth about my “Bitch tits” journey on my podcast, I will tell you this: The number one reason I decided to ditch my bra was my own discomforts and frustrations with wearing bras in the first place! At the same time I knew I might make others uncomfortable with my body- and that’s where the trouble begins.
The first step towards Freedom Between The Sheets is to understand that sexual shame exists.
Messages about sexuality often starts in early childhood like the television shows we watch or off-hand comments from teachers and parents. If you’re not sure what I’m talking about, think back to some of those early messages you heard in passing or were explicitly taught about sexuality:
Maybe you heard your dad comment about how cute and sexy Brittney Spears is. And something about the way he said that made you ask yourself how he felt about your mom in comparison.
Maybe you heard a particularly harsh sermon about what the Bible says about sex, leaving you with the solid idea that sex is dirty.
Maybe you were sheltered by the confines of purity culture leaving you with unfulfilled desires and many questions.
For me, sexual shame began at about 8 years old when my dad made one simple comment: Sit like a lady.
Now, you might be wondering what the big deal is with that statement. You, like me, may have grown up hearing that phrase and others like it over and over again:
Sit like a lady.
Behave like a lady.
Talk like a lady.
Well, as a little girl I didn’t understand social cues all that much and had to figure out on my own what it meant to be “a lady.“
P.S. I am currently in my 30s and still Trying to figure out what it means to “Act/Talk/Sit like a lady.”
Yet these comments were normal for me to hear and often resulted in immediate change of my behavior, speech or posture. I’m not even sure why. It’s like it was instinct. Even more confusing was being called a “young lady” in the best, most loving way (and sometimes in the worst when I would get in trouble).
But I loved it when my dad would lovingly call me, “young lady.” It made me sound grown up and mature. It was a badge of honor I could figuratively wear every day. My dad was my hero, my own personal Superman. I can remember his huge biceps that could lift anything and take care of anyone. I only had eyes for him.
I desperately wanted to live up to what a “young lady” is supposed to be.
So, there I was, watching Full House, legs and arms spread as far apart as they could go while cushioned in the oversized love seat. Full House was my absolutely favorite tv show. It was also one of the very few shows I was allowed to watch. Every once in a while I could sneak in an episode of Boy Meets World or Family Matters. I couldn’t understand the dangers of these shows that were so popular. So, all that to say, watching Full House was my childhood’s version of “me time.”
Recently I discovered a delicious stretch I found perfect for my luxurious tv time. It was nothing incredibly special, yet felt like the definition of comfort. Here’s how it would go: I plopped my skinny butt squarely into the double love seat. My bum and my back would sink deep into the white cushions. I connected my feet directly in front of me, heel to heel, and let my knees fall o opposite each other. Then I could throw my hands up and back behind my head and, Aaaaah, this is soooooo nice!
A little bit into my show, my dad came down the stairs and paused on his way to the garage. “Sit like a lady,” he said.
Instinctively my legs snapped shut.
In that moment I felt embarrassed, humiliated.
I did not know then that my dad overcompensates for his discomfort with the female body by correcting what he deems as inappropriate.
Now, was my dad trying to sex shame me? Or humiliate me? No, not at all. I think my body posture made him uncomfortable, and that he didn’t even realize it. In fact, he probably doesn’t even remember this moment in our history. And that is totally fine. It’s why I’m here working in the sexual health field. I want to share my stories to help other parents have even better relationships with their kids and better conversations around sexuality.
Looking through my lens of the world, there seems to be an understanding that if a girl spreads her legs too far then she is being inappropriate or sexual. (Is it cool that I said all that?) Yet men can sit any way they want, while scratching all the things, and be considered a man, accepted. (I now have TS’ song The Man running on repeat through my head.)
Whatever the reason, spread legs from a woman seems to mean something sexual, generally speaking. And that message is one I believed as a child and tend to buy into as an adult. Think about it. Or better yet, how are you sitting right now?
What if you decided to spread eagle right where you are?
So… How do you feel?
Empowered? Embarrassed? Uncomfortable? Free?
For me, I feel like a kid again.
I don’t fault my dad for making a common comment towards me when I was eight. I’m not scarred for life by it or anything like that. But the truth is… that happened. One simple comment stole a sense of innocence, like so many other little girls, and one root of sex shame is planted.
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Email Jessica B. your questions: Jessica@jessicaleighbiles.com