Up until I was about 12-years-old, I was terrified to masturbate. And to have sex. And to have oral sex. And even to just touch a guy on a body part that wasn’t usually visible. It wasn’t because I was worried about doing something wrong or getting hurt or embarrassing myself. No, it was because I was scared that I was going to get damned to hell by God and Jesus themselves, because that’s what my 7th grade teacher told me.
Let me explain: Up until high school began, I was a Catholic school kid. I wore a uniform to school every day, had nuns as teachers, got detention if I chewed gum and took a daily religion class, where I learned all about Catholicism. In sixth grade, we got The Talk. My class was split until a girl group and a boy group and hearded into the auditorium, where they showed us “naked” pictures of girls and boys and explained how sex and the reproductive system worked.
After drilling it into our heads that sex was something only married couples did only when they wanted to have babies, our teachers warned us never to have premarital sex unless we wanted to go to hell and have God hate us. After our school Talk, my teacher encouraged our parents to have The Talk at home too, so that my school didn’t have to deal with it (I’m guessing). When my parents approached me, I cried hysterically the entire time and then locked myself in my room to pray because I didn’t want to go to hell.
In 7th grade, my teacher, an extremely strict and old nun, talked to us more about sexuality. She loved to scream to get her point across and obviously I was so scared of her I couldn’t look her in the eye. On the day she told us about masturbation, she slammed her religion textbook shut and stood in front of us angrily. According to her, masturbation was a sin that was not to be tolerated. She told us that masturbation was basically a one-way ticket to purgatory, where we would have to sit and make our sins right before we could enter heaven. Purgatory was not good, she said. She said that if we failed to right our sins, we would end up stuck in purgatory forever, or we would end up in hell. Then she yelled at us a lot about why we should never consider masturbating or having sex, unless we wanted God to look down on us in anger.
I was terrified. The boys in my class who were already chock full of hormones were shaking a little bit (except for the rebels – they were like, whatever man). I couldn’t help but wonder how God would know we were masturbating. Was he watching all of us? How did he do it? Did he make a a list of all the times that we had touched ourselves? If I went to purgatory, would I ever end up in heaven? My teacher had succeeded in freaking me the heck out.
For a little while, I was scared of anything sexual because I really didn’t want to go to hell. But then I switched over to public school for high school, and things started to change. In health class, I learned more about masturbation and sex, facts that I had never once heard in Catholic school. I heard my peers talk about that kind of stuff like it was no big deal. No one ever said that doing it was a sin – in fact, all everyone seemed to talk about was how great it was. I thought, if everyone is doing it, then does that mean everyone is going to purgatory? I decided that that wasn’t possible.
Once, I let someone in on my fears. I admitted to my first boyfriend that masturbation kind of freaked me out. After he practically died of shock, he sputtered out, “but why?!” I told him that I didn’t want to go to hell and all of that good stuff. At first, I thought he was going to laugh, but instead he just gave me a really weird look and asked me why I would think that. When I told him what my old school taught me, he shook his head and said, “Dude, that is so wrong.”
After a while, I stopped being so afraid. I learned that while Catholicism is against masturbation, that doesn’t mean the rest of the world is. Now, I have nothing against people who stick strictly to Catholicism. That’s your belief and your choice and I’m not going to judge you for it. But here’s the thing: I don’t think masturbation is wrong. What do I think is wrong? The fact that my school scared the crap out of a bunch of innocent young teens who were trying to figure out all of this sexual stuff on their own. Making yourself feel good is healthy, normal and completely acceptable. I still call myself a Catholic, but I have to say I’m glad I stopped going to Catholic school and stopped being afraid of everything that had to do with sex.
Can you relate to this story? Does your religion tell you that masturbating and sex is wrong? Do you think that’s true? Tell me in the comments.