It’s the fourth annual Beauty of a Woman BlogFest hosted by the talented and illustrious, August McLaughlin!
Inspired by the outpouring of stories shared by readers after her revealing post, Does Dirt Have Calories? – (in which August exposed her early battle with an eating disorder) – she kicked off the blog hopping happiness that is the Beauty of a Woman BlogFest. She has a made a space for women and men to safely gather and share their stories of female beauty: what it is, how they found it, what they hope to find for their future.
In 2014, August expanded her blogfesting empire to include stories of female sexuality and empowerment under her latest trademark, GirlBoner. Today, bloggers from around the globe gather to celebrate the beauty of a woman, her sensuality and sexuality. I am so pleased to be joining August and my fellow writers for the third year.
Heavy Petting is a No-No
I was raised Catholic. I went to Catholic Church, I went to Catholic Sunday School, then I entered Catholic Kindergarten and stayed through Catholic Eighth Grade. I spent my Sundays genuflecting, kneeling, and singing loudly lest our Catholic priest halt Mass altogether (as he was known to do) if he couldn’t hear his parishioners praising God loud enough.
I was a smart, happy-go-lucky girl who grew up in Small Town, North America with nothing very big to complain about. I loved my classmates and my teachers, but there seemed to be something missing.
In all my nine years at Catholic school, we didn’t talk about sex. Except in the “Don’t have it until you’re married or you will go straight to Hell,” kind of way. I vaguely recall that message coming through.
Every story in the Bible seemed to portray women as either unachievably good or a complete harlot. Or worse, just there. In the background. And I have always, always felt the need to be the lead in my own story.
Sometime around seventh or eighth grade, my school boasted of purchasing advanced reader religion books for the middle school to use. These books were said to be collegiate level and we should revere them with holy esteem. And I was proud of these textbooks, until I read the heading “Heavy Petting is a No-No.”
Yes, our textbook felt the need to include that little logline. And that’s when I stopped listening. Yah, I literally stopped listening because my teacher was trying to convey the beauty of “marital relations” and the “joy of childbirth.” Her eyes were all getting all glinty and I had to swallow the bile rising in my throat. Hello, I was 13! Ew.
What was more sickening than my teacher’s impromptu testimonial though was the language. Heavy Petting is a No-No? It was offensive and infuriating. Offensive, because we were teenagers and didn’t need the language dumbed down to tell us something’s a “no-no.” That’s a phrase for toddlers. And infuriating because what we did need dumbed down were the words “heavy petting.” I went to Catholic school, remember, this wasn’t covered in the priest’s homily last Sunday.
It was clear our teacher kept talking because she was uncomfortable. She was not a trained health education teacher, she taught music originally. I hardly see the connection between teaching kids how to play the guiro and sharing the story of your wedding night. That can’t be a prerequisite on one’s resume.
I honestly don’t think I knew there was a difference between sex and sexuality until college – where, in fact, no textbooks of mine defined anything as a “no-no.” I may have had a small inkling about these terms one semester in High School when I took an independent study in psychology. I was supposed to be using my scheduled time to edit my final paper from the previous semester’s work, and send it off to psychology journals for potential publication. But since I spent 80% of that semester actually surfing the internet for tattoo ideas, I sadly would not get my research published at that time. What I did learn during that hour break each day was about a French bohemian author named Anais Nin, who is best known for her tell-all series of diaries chronicling her torrid love affairs with both men and women. I spent my class time reading short stories by the author, most of which fell in the erotica genre.
She stuck with me, Anais Nin. Her works contained empowered women and men, who’s verbal tete-a-tete was as strong as their physical one. In her time, Nin’s work was so risque that police often tore down posters advertising her readings on the grounds of obscenity and indecency. To get around this, Nin’s posters placed symbols rather than her name to alert the public where she would be reading.
It was two years later, I walked into a tattoo parlor and inked one of those symbols on my hip.
If the lack of sex education has taught me anything about sexuality, it’s that the education piece never ends. And how sad it would be if it did. The beauty – of a woman, a man, a trans individual, someone who is still questioning – is that there is an infinite amount to learn. We can learn about ourselves, we can learn about others, we can learn what we like and don’t like. And, we can change our minds. We are forever learning, that is…as long as you don’t think sexuality is a no-no. 😉
If you enjoyed this post, please check out the many other BOAW2015 participants.
There are so many stories being shared. And drop me a line! I may be searching for my next tattoo, but I promise to reply.