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I can’t remember a time when I wasn’t obsessed with sex. I remember being a really little kid, like six or seven years old, and feeling super ashamed because some kid in the neighborhood told me sex was when people kissed and then fell onto the bed. Then we kissed lying down in the bushes, and I thought that meant we’d had sex. I also knew genitals were private and supposed to be covered up. So when another neighborhood boy convinced me to show him mine and he’d show me his I also felt tremendous shame. I remember confessing my transgressions to my parents and being very confused when they didn’t seem to care.
When my dad remarried I got two new stepsisters around the same age as me and my sister. With four girls and a huge playroom, we got super into playing Barbies. And, reader, let me assure you that our Barbies fucked.
The older of the two new sisters was as sex-obsessed as I was, but without as much shame (thank God). She had the luxury of a tiny TV in her room, where I slept when I was over on weekends. We’d watch USA Up All Night (softcore feature-length porn) and Showgirls with the volume low. I’d always protest (to no avail), but out of religious obligation rather than disgust or disinterest.
I knew sex was out of the question, but kissing seemed fine (this was before I Kissed Dating Goodbye) and I could not wait to kiss a boy.
My interest in kissing boys unfortunately (or, perhaps, thankfully) far predated puberty for me. It’s a special kind of hell to want straight male attention while bearing an often-remarked-upon, more-than-passing resemblance to Taylor Hanson.
To be fair, he was a pretty girly-looking dude. In fact, when I first saw Hanson perform (on MTV at a friend’s house) on the Jenny McCarthy show the lighting and camerawork so obscured their appearance that I thought they might be girls. I felt anxious, because I found them attractive in a way I hadn’t when watching the exaggerated femininity of deep tans and fake boobs of Up All Night. Since I wasn’t allowed to be gay, I felt extremely relieved to discover they were all male.
Further unfortunate for young, horny Cathy was the fact that my teeth were so jacked that my orthodontist told me if I didn’t take action I’d be unable to eat as an adult and they’d have to break my jaw to fix it. I had glasses that always sat crooked on my face. I was poor and fashion-challenged.
There was something I wanted desperately that I would never have because I lost the genetic lottery. It was also super confusing to me. Because I would see girls who were less pretty than me (not many, but there were some) who made out with boys.
I was very literal and guileless. I interpreted what people said quite literally and took their statements at face value. Subtext was not a language I spoke. I’m still this way, but more aware of it and so better able to compensate.
I was told that men were attracted to women who were pretty. I was not pretty, and boys weren’t attracted to me. So that checked out.
It took me well into adulthood to see how puberty, orthodontia, contacts, a wardrobe upgrade, and some basic social skills could help ameliorate my difficulty obtaining male attention.
I think there’s something obsession-making about desperately wanting something you cannot have from an early age. For some people it’s a special toy, or maybe social acceptance, or having money. I just wanted someone to make out with. The fact that I wasn’t supposed to want it as much as I did definitely exacerbated things. And, to this day, I’m still obsessed with it.
In my late 20s in DC I was in bed with a Eastern Orthodox guy who handled comms for a Senator. I told him I was raised Evangelical, and he said, “Oh, of course you’re obsessed with sex then.”
It’s true, as far as I can tell, that Evangelicals are obsessed with sex in a way other forms of Christianity aren’t. For them, sex is always and necessarily a Big Damn Deal.
I think it’s harder for people who weren’t raised Evangelical (or at least in contexts heavily influenced by Evangelical ideology, which I believe is most of America) to understand me. If you never bought into the idea that sex is always and necessarily a Big Damn Deal, and you haven’t been negatively impacted by a culture that buys into that assumption, I’m not for you (though I am extremely jealous of you).
Why do I go on and on about something that I now believe is, at its core, just another bodily function?
The reason is that it took me decades to become aware of the possibility that sex isn’t always and necessarily a Big Damn Deal. That was the first step in the long path towards trying to separate myself from the shame and stigma around sex I was raised to buy into. I write for anyone who could benefit from that realization and that path.
Having grown up evangelical / Southern Baptist I certainly agree that “sex is always and necessarily a Big Damn Deal.” And yes you certainly do tend to become obsessed with what you can’t or aren’t supposed to have. I know that was true for me as well.
I’m fact, evangelical Christianity itself is obsessed with what people may or may not be doing in their bedrooms. And that leads to desperately trying to get them to stop anything that might be fun.
It took me a long time to shake off the Christian manufactured idea that sex is dirty and shameful. Over the years I dated a number of people who couldn’t get past that idea and as a result sex was something you did and then regretted.