My Strict "Sex-Is-Bad" Religious Upbringing Turned Me Asexual

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woman thinking about something in bed

I used to go to church four or five times a week: Sunday morning service, Sunday evening service, praise band practice, youth group, youth group bible study, and whatever weekend events were going on.

In February, the youth minister's bible study topics revolved around love. We all sat in metal folding chairs, trying not to make eye contact with each other while listening to a man tell us how to keep our bodies holy.

Masturbation and make-outs were forbidden; they were gateway drugs to coitus.

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"There are three kinds of kisses," he said, then illustrated with enunciation. "Peeeea-ches. Pruuuuunes. And AL-fAL-fa." Peaches and hand-holding were most accepted, as long as we shut it down if we "felt the juices flowing."

I'd already "alfalfa kissed" a boy, of course. Danny, a seventh-grader, who'd kind of pinned me up against a door and tongue-kissed me for 10 minutes (my friends timed it), but not that it mattered. By Monday, he'd held hands with a prettier, taller eighth-grader in the hallway.

It'd be another few years before I branched into heavy petting. By my senior year of high school, sex had spread through my group of friends like chicken pox. Eventually, I'd have to go through it.  

From a male's perspective, intercourse seemed more like "sticking your finger up someone else's nose," the way Minnie Driver's character in Circle of Friends described.

Over time, I learned how to get myself off and grew addicted to what my body could do to a male. I craved not so much the sex, but the attention. Them wanting me meant I was pretty. Special. Beautiful.

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A sexually excited male in my presence turned me into every female lead in romantic comedies. I was Pretty in Pink and Sleepless in Seattle. I was Buttercup from The Princess Bride.

Over two decades, I always had a regular partner or a willing participant. When I found myself without either, I went out with guy friends on weekends looking to get laid, trying to cover my reeking odor of desperation for love.

Most often, I defined my worth by my partner spending the night with me.

I fell into several abusive relationships. I faked a lot of orgasms. I had sex without wanting it and a couple of times without giving consent. It didn't occur to me until a few years ago that this was wrong.

I'd always thought having sex fulfilled my role as a woman while satiating my need for acceptance. I needed those few minutes of after-climax sweetness, hoping they'd let me sleep nestled in their arms for most of the night.  

For the first time in 25 years, I don't have a sexual partner by choice — and that's OK. It's too much work. I've started telling friends I'm going through an asexual phase.

Every desire for closeness has shut down. I don't get myself off, I don't really think about sex, and seeing people kiss makes me cringe. The sound makes me nauseous.

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My older daughter sometimes asks why I don't have a boyfriend and I tell her I don't want one. She tells me about the boys at school with "annoying crushes," on her and I fight the urge to give her a fist pump for thinking of them that way.

I've always been age-appropriately honest with her about male and female parts and how they work together to make a baby but I haven't told her that it's something people do when they're in love because it's enjoyable.

It's more important that she knows how to love and please herself first. My daughters will grow up knowing that sex is something they can choose to do because they want it, not something they have to do because it's expected. I got sermons and a virginity ring as a teenager, and they'll get books about their bodies, and vibrators.

Calling myself an asexual as a mother makes me uncomfortable, like a living oxymoron. Do I really qualify? There have been dozens of times when sex was mind-blowing, and all the things I wrote poems about for months.

Maybe I've finally become too jaded. But the more I learn about asexuality, and the more time that passes without any urges whatsoever, the more it fits.

My purpose in life is no longer to please the male species or be their momentary object of affection. I'm just here to work, write, love on, and raise my kids. Right now, that's more than enough. Maybe, someday, we'll get a dog.

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Stephanie Land is a writer who focuses on her struggles as a single mother and throwing up. Her work has been in The New York Times, The Washington Post, The Guardian, New York Review of Books, and others.

This article was originally published at Mama Lode. Reprinted with permission from the author.