Sexual Repression Stopped Me from Developing My Own Boundaries

When I was a teenager, I was in trouble all the time.

Seriously, I was grounded like every weekend, usually over very minor offenses.

But nothing was more of a crime in the house I grew up in than sexual activity.

Not even sexual activity, but even cultivating the opportunity for sexual activity.

Sneaking out to skinny dip at a nearby beach with a few friends. Having a boy in my room.

I was fairly certain, when I was caught doing these things, that I would be kicked out of my house, even though nothing really had happened. I thought that because my mother said it.

The negotiation point became this: when you are 18, you do as you like. But until then, NO SEX, NO BOYS IN YOUR ROOM.

There was so much fear associated with sexual activity, and so much shame.

Much of the shame was a holdover from childhood sexual abuse--both the abuse itself and how it was handled. It was fucking humiliating on every single level, because my mom did all the "right" things.

I had to talk about it to adults. I had to show them on the doll. Before it all came out, I heard over and over again in school "this is wrong, if this is happening, tell someone about it, and that person will be out of your life."

But in my case it was a family member, someone I loved. I didn't want him out of my life. I didn't want to be bad or for wrong things to be happening to me either. It was really too much for a little kiddo, and in my memories I felt old enough to handle it, but then I think about kids who are the age I was then, and they are babies. Little tiny babies.

My town seemed to be many different religions, but it was actually just many kinds of Christianity, all worshipping the same god--the god of Sex is Bad.

There was nothing worse a girl could be than slutty, and that means sexually active. There was no worse parenting than the parenting that allowed boyfriends and girlfriends to have sleepovers.

Adults were supposed to manage teenage sexuality. To control it and prevent it. And to educate about it? Somehow?

It was all really confusing, and as I write about it, I realize I can't possibly do it justice, the kinds of mixed-messaging I received. Because in the midst of all this, I was able to talk to my mom and get on birth control, and I had sex with my first boyfriend at 17, because I was allowed at his house, although he was not allowed at mine.

It was such a bizarre not-under-my-roof policy.

But it had a big effect on my sexuality, specifically on my ability to set boundaries.

I couldn't.

Sexual boundaries were something that came from the outside in. First from my mother and the vague other adult voices in my head, then from the boy I was with. How hard he pushed past me saying no.

My only sexual boundary was no, and that was a very flexible one.

I never learned to have a conversation about what I liked or didn't like (that was too much like showing them on the doll).

I never learned that I was allowed to say yes to sex or sexual contact that I wanted, and certainly not that I could ask for and receive what I wanted.

I was supposed to say no to sex. Simple as that. I was supposed to deny what I wanted and what he wanted, and if I didn't do that, I was doing a bad thing.

Just blanket, bad thing.

My sex developed without nuance. Or with the barest nuance of how hard I was saying no.

It was not pretty.

And I just realized today that this is what is at the root of my desire for others to hold my boundaries for me, for others to read my mind and provide me what I secretly want while I protest and try to prevent it because I am trying to be "good" aka to deny myself pleasure and the object of my desire.

It goes sooo far beyond sex.

It used to run my relationships.

It might be running my business right now.

But I can see it now, so it begins to end today.

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