Oh look, another sex episode! Santiago shares his experiences and some resources. Ami, Abby, and Alex discuss sex ed in the Adventist church and touch on dorm life, contraceptives, and the experience of growing up during the AIDS crisis. They ask their friends: What, if any, sex ed did you receive?
Links mentioned in this episode:
- Film: Yes, God, Yes
- Inclusive sex education resources
- Erica Smith, M.Ed. - Sex Educator
- Old Video of Christian Sex Education
- Book: No More Mr. Nice Guy
- Video: No More Mr. Nice Guy Overview
- Video: Signs you're dating a "Nice Guy"
- Book: #Church Too
- Book: Beyond Shame
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Credits: Abby and Ami, creators of the Seventh-day Atheist Podcast • Music: Hall of the Mountain King Kevin MacLeod (incompetech.com) • Licensed under Creative Commons: By Attribution 3.0 License
[00:00:00] Santiago: Welcome to Haystacks and Hell, an ex-Adventist podcast where we tell stories about growing up Seventh-day Adventist, leaving faith behind, and building new, fulfilling lives.
[00:00:16] Just a quick content warning: this episode covers mature topics and mentions abuse.
[00:00:23] Ami: I wanna know about your Adventist sex education. Did it include anything other than, you know, 'Don't do it?'
[00:00:34] Guest 1: It didn't exist. There was no, it, it was, you're a kid and there's, you know, pornos to be found, and that's about it.
[00:00:42] Guest 3: She was talking about how sex is best in like loving and committed relationships, specifically married. But even in marriage, she specifically said, 'Girls, you have to be careful because you don't know where your husband will have been.'
[00:00:55] Guest 6: The extent of my sex education was old, married, Canadian couple coming to Haiti and telling us unless sex was between man and a woman, and married, it was disgusting and it was like being like dogs. And that was it.
[00:01:09] Ami: [Laughing] That was it!?
[00:01:11] Guest 6: That was the end!
[00:01:13] Guest 8: The emphasis was on virginity. But what if you weren't a virgin? There was no real education that I got as far as the 28 day cycle and the ovulation. It was more like, you know, 'Dancing leads to pregnancy.'
[00:01:28] Group: [Laughing]
Early Experiences with Sexuality
[00:01:35] Santiago: Welcome back to Haystacks and Hell. I'm your host Santiago, and today we're talking about sex. Again. But today's focus is a bit more on sex education or in many cases, how we didn't get proper sex education as Adventist kids.
[00:01:54] I'm going to start by sharing some of my own experiences, and then I'll read some comments shared with me on the ex-Adventist subreddit. Last week in episode four, I mentioned how I learned about masturbation from a guy in the grade above me at my old Adventist school. This was when I was in elementary or middle school and I'm pretty sure I hadn't yet gotten "the talk" from my parents.
[00:02:18] Sometime after that, I saw porn for the first time. And again, I don't remember exactly if I had already gotten "the talk" by this point. Dial up internet was still a thing when my family got our first computer, so the computer had to be close enough to the phone jack, which was in a pretty open and central spot in our home.
[00:02:40] I was allowed to use the computer when my parents weren't using it and after I had done my schoolwork. And when I was still homeschooled, I remember playing Bible story games like Jonah and the Whale. And then as I got older, I remember playing secular games like ClueFinders and Runescape.
[00:02:58] I also liked using AOL Instant Messenger or AIM as it was usually called, and Yahoo Messenger. And I mainly used them to chat with other kids from my Adventist school. But one day I was in a public chat room and someone posted a chat with a link.
[00:03:18] Like I've said before, I was a pretty naive kid that had been mostly homeschooled and I thought the message said "free webcams" and was offering some sort of sweepstakes promotion where you could win a free webcam to use with your computer.
[00:03:32] Looking back, it probably said something like "free cams" and of course, this was a spam message for a porn site. So I clicked on the link and that was the first time I ever saw porn. I remember closing the browser window pretty quickly, because I wasn't expecting that and again, the computer was in a central part of our home. But it was too late. I was curious and when the coast was clear, I managed to look it up on purpose this time.
[00:04:04] And I'm pretty sure that tons of other millennial kids were exposed to sex and porn this way. There's a movie called Yes, God, Yes starring Natalia Dyer from Stranger Things and it's based on the true story of a Catholic girl who learned about masturbation by chatting with someone on AOL.
[00:04:24] It's a great movie that takes a look at coming of age within purity culture and I've linked it in the show notes for anyone who's interested. Of course, my discovery of porn at a young age was less than ideal for my adolescent mind.
[00:04:39] I'm not against porn that is produced ethically, in fact, my partner and I have watched porn together, but back then, I was definitely too young and discovering it this way led to a pattern of secrecy and shame around my sexuality.
[00:04:55] I knew I'd probably get in trouble if I told my parents about what I'd seen, so I kept it a secret. This goes back to the comment I made about drinking in the very first episode. I think many of our parents made the assumption that they could hide certain realities from us or shield us from them, and they didn't prepare us for how to navigate the world responsibly.
[00:05:19] A couple of years later, I had my own computer and was watching porn in my room. My desk was directly across from the bedroom door, which in retrospect was a mistake, because when my mom opened the door and walked in, she saw what was on my screen and completely freaked out.
[00:05:38] She was so shocked that while I had definitely gotten spankings before with belts, spoons, and flip-flops, or 'la chancla' as we say in Spanish, I don't actually remember getting physical punishment for this.
[00:05:53] I remember she told me that we would have a serious talk when my dad came home and we did. I don't remember exactly what they told me, but I do remember us kneeling down by their bed and praying for forgiveness.
[00:06:09] They took my computer and internet access away for at least a couple of weeks and I also remember my dad and I took a walk later on. He tried talking to me about what I'd seen and I do appreciate that he was really gracious about it.
My Parents Just Played a VHS Tape
[00:06:24] Santiago: I don't remember exactly when I got the talk, but I remember thinking that it wasn't really all that helpful. My parents played a VHS tape that they'd gotten from another Adventist family, and this animated video was way out of date. This is also the same videotape they used for my younger brother.
[00:06:44] I do not remember ever hearing the word "consent" and I don't remember learning anything about having a healthy sexuality. It covered the basics of how babies are born, but the main message was about honoring God and getting married before having sex.
[00:07:02] I've spend a few hours trying to find it online, but I don't remember what it's called so instead, I'm going to play a few clips from a video I found on YouTube that closely matches the vibe of what my parents played for me.
[00:07:15] Narrator - Dad: Suzanne and Jeremy are part of a family. There are all kinds of families, but God's plan for every family is the same.
[00:07:34] Narrator - Mom: When it is time for the baby to be born, it comes out through an opening which is called the vagina. It's the opening between the one for urine and the place for bowel movements.
[00:07:44] Narrator - Dad: On a boy's body, you can see more of the parts like the penis and the scrotum.
[00:07:48] God planned for just about the same number of boys and girls to be born. Both are important to him.
[00:07:54] Narrator - Mom: And how the baby started is another of God's miracles. You know that when a man and woman love each other and decide to get married and spend the rest of their lives together, they show their love in many ways.
[00:08:06] Narrator - Dad: God is happy when two people decide to get married and start their life together with his blessing.
[00:08:11] Narrator - Mom: He made a husband and wife for living together and showing their love to each other all their life. At very special times, they like to hold each other close. God made their bodies so they fit together in a wonderful way.
[00:08:25] Narrator - Dad: At one of those special love times, the sperm from the man's body can go into the woman's body.
[00:08:30] Narrator - Mom: Sometimes a sperm and an ovum join in the mother's body. That is when a new baby begins.
[00:08:36] Narrator - Dad: And that's why a baby belongs to both its father and its mother. That's how God planned it. Both mother and father have a part in making the baby, but God has the biggest part.
[00:08:47] Santiago: So yeah, just like the VHS tape I watched, this video is extremely basic and doesn't cover the specifics of penetration. It even avoids using the words urethra and anus for some reason, I mean, come on, really?
[00:09:01] If you listened to the last episode, you'll remember that one of Abby and Ami's friends was left pretty confused by a book her mom bought for her. Because while it at least described penetration with words, it didn't give a visual explanation and she was just left confused and anxious.
[00:09:19] So while I understand why our parents may have tried to spare us from some of the details or use resources that were kind of vague, my opinion is that we should give kids as much information as is developmentally appropriate for them so that they're not left with all of these questions. And if they have questions, they should feel comfortable asking them. If for some reason you want to hear the rest of the video I just played, there's a link in the show notes.
[00:09:46] I know I mentioned it in the last episode, but I want to highlight again that for any parents or folks who didn't get sex ed, there are inclusive sex education resources for kids, teens, and adults linked in the show notes and on our website.
More Adventist Experiences
[00:10:02] Santiago: With that said, I'm going to read a few comments that people shared on my last post on the ex-Adventist subreddit for last week's episode.
[00:10:11] This comment is from someone whose mom worked as a registered nurse but refused to talk to them about sex. Quote:
[00:10:19] Santiago (Narrating): I grew up being indoctrinated in a very conservative SDA family that lived in an SDA "self-supporting institute." I was never once taught anything about sex as a child, and my parents never had "the talk" with me.
[00:10:37] I was never allowed to watch TV, read non-SDA books, be around any friends without an adult present, et cetera. I guess my parents felt that I would never be exposed to "secular things" so they never bothered to have the talk with me.
[00:10:55] My mother was an RN and when I was 10 years old, I came across one of her clinical nursing textbooks. I flipped through it and stumbled across the chapter about reproductive anatomy. That's how I learned about the birds and the bees.
[00:11:12] A few years later when I was around 14 or so, something came up in conversation between my mom and some family members that was covertly sexual, and she immediately tried changing the subject because I was in the room.
[00:11:27] That's what I told everyone that I knew what they were talking about and they didn't need to try to be so discreet. My mom angrily asked me who told me about sex and when I said I read about it in one of her textbooks, she just said, 'Oh.'
[00:11:43] The next day, all of her medical textbooks were gone out of the house. And that was the only time I ever talked to my family about sex.
[00:11:55] Santiago: End quote. This actually reminds me that my own mom told me that she never got "the talk" from my grandma. My abuela had a rough childhood and did not have a formal education. So in some ways, I can understand why she fell short in this area. But it's amazing to me that someone could be a medical professional and refuse to tell their own child about sexuality.
[00:12:22] Of course, not all Adventists take this approach. Sometimes they overshare. Another comment on the same post talked about how one Adventist church thought it would be a good idea to have a married couple talk about their problems in front of the whole church.
[00:12:41] This person was visiting their sister and they went to an Adventist church that is tied to an SDA boarding academy. It's Sabbath, the sanctuary is packed, and academy students, families, and children of all ages are there.
[00:12:58] Then, this married couple goes up on stage and for about 30 to 45 minutes, they talked about their experience with the husband's addiction to porn. And they got so specific that they talked about the categories of porn he was addicted to and how he would hide, lock the door, and then masturbate. And this was only part one. They were planning to continue the talk next Sabbath. The commenter wrote quote:
[00:13:29] Santiago (Narrating): The whole thing was surreal as I watched the expression, especially on the teens. It was about the most inappropriate thing I have ever experienced in my life. Purity culture is incredibly fucked up and harmful.
Purity Culture, "Nice Guys," and #ChurchToo
[00:13:47] Santiago: I couldn't agree more. Purity culture fosters an environment where everyone is ashamed of their sexuality. I've mentioned before on this podcast that straight guys like me tend to have it easier than most other folks, especially with things like purity culture. However, I don't want to be dismissive of anyone. I know personally that shame can be pretty universal and this is especially true for quote unquote "Nice Guys."
[00:14:17] Dr. Robert Glover is a therapist, educator, and relationship coach who wrote a book called No More Mr Nice Guy, where he explains what he calls the Nice Guy Syndrome and then gives advice on how to get past it.
[00:14:33] While the book has a silly title, it does have some good insights that helped me personally. And even though his writing is mainly for straight men, he has also worked with gay men and includes examples of the people he's helped in his book.
[00:14:48] According to him, Nice Guys have a primary goal of making other people happy. They're dependent on external validation and avoid conflict like the plague. They subconsciously have three core beliefs that drive their actions:
[00:15:07] 1) "If I am a good guy, then everyone will love me and like me, and people I desire will desire me."
[00:15:16] 2) "If I meet other people's needs without them having to ask, then they will meet my needs without me having to ask."
[00:15:27] 3) "If I do everything right, then I will have a smooth, problem-free life."
[00:15:34] When we hear this out loud, it's obvious these beliefs are false. That's why for Nice Guys, they hold these beliefs unconsciously. I would argue that purity culture, especially in Adventism, reinforces these beliefs.
[00:15:50] We're taught that we should please Jesus by not sinning. We're taught to seek external validation from others and avoid conflict by following the rules. And we're taught that if we do the right thing, we'll have a better life one day.
[00:16:06] There was even a poster hanging in my old church that said JOY in all capitals and big bold letters. And it was an acronym for "Jesus, Others, You." The culture we grew up in told all of us to put Jesus and others first, and to put ourselves last. But when we don't take care of ourselves and fully love ourselves, we aren't capable of truly loving and caring for others.
[00:16:35] As you can imagine, this type of worldview can really mess with our sexuality, guilt, and self-worth. Chapter eight of No More Mr Nice Guy focuses on how Nice Guys think about sex and I'm going to read part of it for you now. Quote:
[00:16:53] Santiago (Narrating): Many Nice Guys discovered at an early age that sexual arousal was a good distraction from the isolation, turmoil, unrealistic demands, and abandonment experiences of their childhood.
[00:17:09] Unfortunately, when Nice Guys bring their sensual security blanket into adulthood, it prevents them from experiencing intimate and fulfilling sex with another individual. I have found Nice Guys to be prone to hidden compulsive sexual behavior.
[00:17:26] I have developed a theory that states "the nicer the guy, the darker the sexual secrets." I find this to be consistently true. Sex is a basic human drive. Because most Nice Guys believe they are bad for being sexual, or believe that other people will think they are bad, sexual impulses have to be kept hidden from view.
[00:17:52] The Nice Guy's sexuality doesn't go away, it just goes underground. Therefore, the more dependent a man is on external approval, the deeper he is going to have to hide his sexual behavior.
[00:18:07] Santiago: End quote. In the book, Dr. Glover gives several examples of men he worked with directly, and they include devout Christian men. One of the men he worked with taught Sunday school and was an elder in his church. And another was an active leader in his youth group at church.
[00:18:25] I personally know a man who was my Pathfinder class teacher and later, we worked side by side as fellow Pathfinder staff members. We always got along well and we slept in the same tent on many camping trips, and I never noticed anything wrong.
[00:18:44] But it turned out that he had a very dark sexual secret. I only found out about this after I had stopped volunteering as Pathfinder staff, because I was busy with work and I was also actively going through my deconstruction. But finding this out shook me and brought close to home all the other whispers I'd heard of abuse within Adventism and religious institutions, and I'll cover that more in a future episode.
[00:19:13] Now I don't agree with a hundred percent of what Dr Glover wrote in his book, or some of the analogies he chose to use, but overall, I personally found it helpful. Especially the parts on setting boundaries, moving beyond being a people pleaser, and facing conflict in a healthy way. So, if this sounds like you or someone you know, you may also find it helpful. There's a link to the book and relevant videos in the show notes.
[00:19:42] I also read a book called #ChurchToo: How Purity Culture Upholds Abuse and How to Find Healing. It's written by a woman named Emily Joy Allison, who was a pastor's kid and grew up homeschooled in a fundamentalist Evangelical Christian family.
[00:20:02] When she was 16 years old, she was groomed by a youth leader in her church. This man was in his thirties, so about twice her age. And yet when her parents found out, they made her apologize to him.
[00:20:18] Inspired by the #MeToo movement, she outed her abuser on Twitter in 2017 and started #ChurchToo. The book is written from a Christian, but very progressive perspective. And it's a great resource for understanding how purity culture contributes to the abuse we see in churches and other religious organizations.
[00:20:43] She also gives some really important context for why quote unquote "sexual purity" has become a major political focus for Evangelicals and illustrates how a lack of sex education contributes to sexual abuse and rape within churches and other religious organizations. Here's a preview from the first chapter of the audio version of her book:
[00:21:08] Narrator: How does purity culture uphold a culture of abuse? Imagine a community with tons of eager, well-meaning young people who really want to please God. Imagine that this group of young people has little to no sex education and may not even know words like "consent" or the accurate names for their own body parts.
[00:21:28] Imagine that sex is viewed simultaneously as the trophy at the end of the race toward which they strive, and the monster hiding in the closet that could destroy them without warning. Now, further imagine that the young women in this group have been told that they are the gatekeepers of the young men's sexual purity.
[00:21:45] Imagine that they have been told that it's their job to dress modestly and enforce sexual boundaries because men are "visual creatures" and can't help getting turned on by beauty. Imagine that they've also been told that men are the God-ordained leaders in relationships and that good women practice submission.
[00:22:04] Imagine that they've been told this is all required according to the way the people in power interpret a sacred book, and if they don't fall in line, they are putting themselves at risk. And now imagine that all of this takes place in a community where those people in power are very concerned about looking good to outsiders.
[00:22:23] Imagine that some of those in power are more committed to being in power than to doing the right thing. Imagine that they have little understanding of the difference between a sin and a crime, and imagine that a violation of the sexual ethic they hold so dear is the worst thing they can think of.
[00:22:40] Imagine that they have made their communal purity the hallmark of their identity. Imagine that they have so much internalized shame around sex, that they are determined that everyone else should be shameful about it as well, and just keep their mouth shut so that we don't make someone uncomfortable or ruin someone's life.
[00:22:57] And imagine that they publicly laud the virtues of love, forgiveness, and second chances as central to what it means to be a member of that faith. Now, not to put too fine a point on it, but is this not a giant flashing welcome sign to predators, abusers, narcissists, and people with ulterior motives of all kinds?
[00:23:19] I'm picturing one of those light up arrows outside a motel reading "Vacancy" except instead it says, 'You will definitely be able to find your next victim here, and we probably won't even press charges!'
[00:23:31] Sadly, most of us know that this thought experiment is anything that hypothetical. Many of the churches and religious communities we grew up being a part of represented some, if not all, of the factors I mentioned and still others that I didn't. And those of us who are survivors know intimately just how toxic this kind of environment can be.
[00:23:53] Santiago: If you are struggling with the effects of purity culture or if you have kids and are wondering how to talk to them about sex without passing on the toxic ideas you were raised with, I highly recommend getting this book. Emily also recommends getting another book called Beyond Shame: Creating a Healthy Sex Life on Your Own Terms.
[00:24:17] Both of these books are linked in the show notes. And if you have a Netflix account and want something a bit more entertaining, there's a show literally called Sex Education which is hilarious and is actually pretty informative.
[00:24:32] With all of that said, I want to echo what I shared in the last episode. You do not need to be ashamed, no matter how little or how much experience you've had. And if you're the survivor of abuse, know that you are not alone. Your feelings are valid and even if the people closest to you refused to believe or support you, there are other people who will.
[00:24:57] I'm now going to turn it over to Abby and Ami's episode where they chat with Ami's husband Alex on his experiences with sex education and the attitudes he was raised with. And at the end, you'll hear them ask their friends if they got sex education.
Abby, Ami, and Alex on Sex Ed in Adventism
[00:25:18] Abby: Hi, this is Abby,
[00:25:19] Ami: and this is Ami.
[00:25:21] Abby: And you are listening to the Seventh-day Atheist Podcast! We are recording this on June 22nd, 2014. And today we're gonna talk about...
[00:25:29] Ami: Sex... Yay...
[00:25:32] Abby: Again!
[00:25:33] Ami: [Laughing]
[00:25:34] Abby: This time, we have Ami's husband, Alex. Can I say all those things?
[00:25:38] Alex: Yeah, absolutely.
[00:25:39] Abby: We're using first names but not last names.
[00:25:41] Alex: Oh, okay.
[00:25:42] Abby: Um, it'll get bleeped out if you say it. Um, we want to get the male perspective on some of the things we talked about in the last episode. So, sex education, general attitudes towards sex and masturbation and pleasure. The Adventist church definitely treats guys and girls somewhat differently, and so now we've got a guy to talk about it.
[00:26:03] Alex: Well, I wish that I had... wish that I had had sex education in school to really enlighten you on how the Seventh-day Adventists went about it.
[00:26:13] Me and my brother-in-law were discussing this earlier that we each had a, had a similar experience in that we both went to Seventh-day Adventist church schools that were tiny, small two room schools where you had grades, at my school, it was grades one through nine in two rooms.
[00:26:31] So I think in room one was first through fifth, and then sixth through nine was in the other room. And I received exactly zero formal sex education from that system, like exactly zero. I remember there being an anatomy chapter in one of our science books that our teacher had us skip.
[00:26:56] Abby: Wow.
[00:26:57] Alex: And me and my friends, you know, obviously forbidden fruit that it was, you know, looked through it. But I mean, it was just anatomy stuff. It wasn't, it wasn't about, you know, there was obviously nothing about sex and sexuality in it. It was more about "this is what a uterus looks like," you know? Um, this is the cross section of...
[00:27:18] Ami: Such a turn on!
[00:27:20] Abby and Ami: [Laughing]
[00:27:21] Alex: I mean, we jerked off to it...
[00:27:23] Abby and Ami: [Laughing]
[00:27:24] Alex: Um, but yeah, so formally, absolutely zero. In terms of like attitudes about it, we obviously picked up that this was something that you don't talk about. Obviously what we internalized was that's, that's a subject that's off, off sides and out of bounds.
[00:27:43] Abby: When was the first time you had a clear idea of what birth control was and what the options on that might be?
[00:27:49] Alex: What birth control was?
[00:27:50] Abby: Because you said you learned about sex from porn. There's not a lot of condoms in most porn? Maybe I'm wrong?
[00:27:56] Alex: I remember I saw a condom in porn and was like, 'What's that on his dick?'
[00:28:00] Abby and Ami: [Laughing]
[00:28:01] Alex: And then, you know, I had heard of condoms before, I mean, this is probably when I was, I don't know, between eight and 12? I don't... I couldn't say exactly when, but I remember thinking, 'What's that thing, why does that guy's dick look weird? What's that on his dick?
[00:28:14] And then kind of remembering that there was a thing called condoms that I had maybe picked up through, I don't know, TV or pop culture, or somewhere. Somewhere I'd heard of condoms and it kind of clicked 'Oh, that must be a condom.' And I knew that that was to prevent pregnancy. But I, I mean, I didn't really know what it...
[00:28:30] Abby: We grew up during the height of the AIDS crisis, did you not know that that was a...
[00:28:34] Alex: Maybe that's where I had heard of condoms before.
[00:28:37] Ami: See, I think that that is a reason that one, Abby and I both went to a bigger school. So we didn't have, you know, nine year olds in the room with high school freshman trying to talk about sex, because you obviously would talk differently to a fourth grader about this than you would...
[00:28:58] Alex: I think specifically that's a reason, that it was avoided was because there were literally, a difference between children and high schoolers in the same room and obviously, I think our teacher was just not willing to broach that subject.
[00:29:10] Ami: Well, we also had a few teachers who were maybe a little bit more on the liberal side. So when we got sex ed, I can specifically remember being taught about condoms that they were used to prevent pregnancy and STDs. Not taught about condoms to the point of like showing you how to put one on a banana or something, but taught what they were and taught...
[00:29:32] Abby: Lube in the tips, that was definitely not...
[00:29:35] Ami: Taught what their purpose was, which I think was because we were getting this education in the very early nineties, so at a point when the AIDS crisis was still very terrifying to people. And we knew enough about it to know that there were some ways to have safe sex. That it wasn't something that was just a curse on, you know, "evil homosexuals" or something.
[00:30:00] But the idea of there being a cure or there being drugs that could make you able to live a long and productive life as a person with HIV or AIDS was still a long time in the future. Yeah. And it was so scary that I think that they felt obligated to give lip service, at least, to safe sex.
[00:30:23] But it was always presented in this like, 'Okay, so you can use condoms and that is better, whatever, but it's still, that's not perfect. That could still fail you, that could still, you can still get pregnant, this is, this is only, you know, 70% effective' or whatever. You know, they told us probably a little bit fudged.
[00:30:44] Abby: I think for the people who raised, at least for my early education, there was a lot more emphasis put on the prospect of landing in hell than the prospect of being pregnant or diseased. Like they trusted that fear to be more effective, which I think in some ways it was because I was much more concerned with being damned for having sex than...
[00:31:06] Alex: Oh my god, I'd much rather go to hell than have a kid!
[00:31:08] Ami: [Laughing]
[00:31:10] Abby: Yeah I mean, yeah, I wasn't... I don't know. My, my main concern was righteousness, not whether or not I would get pregnant...
[00:31:18] Alex: You and I were very different children, Abby.
[00:31:20] Abby: or have a disease. My childhood pet, my cat, contracted FIV when I was probably like, 10?
[00:31:26] Alex: What is FIV?
[00:31:28] Ami: It's feline AIDS basically.
[00:31:30] Abby: Cats were one of the first non-human creatures...
[00:31:32] Alex: So it was having sex with other male cats, is that what's going on?
[00:31:35] Abby: He was neutered late in life, which may be, um, where he got it. You can also, cats can also get it from fighting cause there's definitely blood to blood contact during fighting, which also comes with not being neutered. So we really didn't know where he got it. That was an exposure I think other kids didn't have...
[00:31:48] Alex: Sounds like "bad lifestyle choices."
[00:31:50] Abby: AIDS was, well, AIDS was explained to me in much more detail than I think other kids that age. And, and I loved this cat. Like this was my, this was a cat that when my brother was born, I didn't get a doll, I got a kitten and that was this cat.
[00:32:01] And so, I remember thinking things like, 'I've slept with someone who has aids,' you know, 'cause he would curl up with me and go to sleep. And like, it was really horrifying but then again, um, Socks ended up living until he was like 14. So he actually lived out a normal life, which also put some doubts in my mind about how much we really understood about this disease.
[00:32:17] 'Cause they told me it worked a lot like human aids. And yet he, aids didn't really, um, overtake him until he was weak and old. There were no drugs for it. I don't even know if they have, um, feline drugs for it now. But it just wasn't very well understood and that was made very clear to me by the situation with this cat.
[00:32:34] And my parents, also, it wasn't, I mean, this was still at a time when people with hemophilia who got AIDS were driven out of town because people were afraid you could get it from tooth... My mother knew someone whose kid had hemophilia and they were literally driven from their community because he got aids from blood transfusion and people didn't know whether you could get it from toothbrushes.
[00:32:52] The blood supply at that time was heavily infected because it wasn't being well tested 'cause we didn't understand the disease very well. So people with hemophilia in that time period, almost all of them got aids. There was like this huge amount of fear surrounding it.
[00:33:05] But because this cat contracted this and my parents were smart enough and progressive enough not to just put the cat to sleep like most people would've, you know, they did some research on it and they were very worried about it, but, I would've just never forgiven them if they'd put this cat to sleep, and they knew that. And it turned out okay, like none of our other cats ever got it. And he lived out a normal life. And I certainly didn't somehow get feline aids. But it was a risk, like in their minds it was a risk.
[00:33:30] Alex: But you had to learn about, you had to learn about what that disease meant.
[00:33:34] Abby: STDs, what are STDs, and it really was, in retrospect, it was a vehicle for my sexual education that I would never have thought of being a vehicle for it. And it was something I was also ashamed of. Like I didn't wanna tell anyone that my cat had this disease that everyone was afraid of.
[00:33:50] Alex: Oh my god. That's interesting that you were, that you were ashamed because your cat had aids.
[00:33:56] Abby: Yeah, yeah.
[00:33:57] Alex: How, how fucked up is that? That's...
[00:34:00] Abby: I felt sexual shame...
[00:34:01] Alex: That's pretty fucked up that you felt shame because your cat had aids.
[00:34:05] Ami: 'My friends won't want to come over to my house because they'll be afraid of cat aids.'
[00:34:09] Abby: Mm-hmm, mm-hmm. Even now as an adult, I'm like, I feel like, I don't, I never tell people this.
[00:34:18] Alex: It's still...
[00:34:19] Abby: Still bothers me.
[00:34:19] Ami: That is the level of fear that was surrounding those topics. And I think that an interesting side effect might be...
[00:34:29] Alex: Your parents being more of a product of the sexual revolution and my parents being more of the grumpy people who were mad at people over the sexual revolution... I didn't get a lot of fear about AIDS. Like I got that through the media and through like through third parties. But it's not like my parents ever talked...
[00:34:45] Ami: Well I don't remember talking with my parents about that kind of stuff, although my mom was very, uh, you know, very encouraging about birth control and stuff, in terms of family planning.
[00:34:55] Alex: I mean, I was, I didn't get that talk 'cause obviously I'm not gonna, I didn't, the possibility of me getting pregnant was significantly lower. I don't know if my sister got that, that talk. Maybe she did, we've never talked about it, but, um, I didn't get a lot of fear of aids in my family.
[00:35:12] Ami: But do you remember, because you and I went to high school together and one thing that I do remember distinctly, was they held an assembly when we were probably like juniors or seniors in high school. Probably seniors 'cause I think it was when we were dating. And they held this assembly where I think somebody from like the health department or something came in and they gave this just appalling slideshow of STDs, you know? And just all these, 'Here's a closeup picture of...'
[00:35:42] Alex: 'Here's what your dick will look like if you have sex with a girl who has herpes or whatever.'
[00:35:46] Ami: 'So I'm not saying that you can't have sex. I'm just saying...'
[00:35:50] Alex: 'Your dick will rot off!'
[00:35:52] Ami: This is, you know...
[00:35:53] Abby: Oh my goodness. In college, one of our classes, one of our microbiology classes, they decided to do this to us one day. And emphasize the fact that, um, you could get genital herpes from oral sex. That's why oral sex is wrong and bad, because...
[00:36:08] Alex: Oh, that's why?
[00:36:08] Abby: You could, yeah, yeah. It's why God, God in his wisdom...
[00:36:12] Alex: Gave people mouth herpes?
[00:36:14] Abby: Told people not to have oral sex. They neglected to mention where he told people not to have oral sex. 'Cause I don't think that's actually in the Bible.
[00:36:21] Ami: I don't remember him mentioning it too much....
[00:36:23] Abby: But, uh, clearly anything other than missionary was wrong...
[00:36:25] Ami: But I might have been too busy having an orgasm to be paying attention when he was talking about that.
[00:36:30] Group: [Laughing]
[00:36:31] Abby: So I wanted to ask you, did you get a clear idea that masturbating was wrong?
[00:36:37] Alex: No, again, it was like, like in my family, like to this day, my parents have not given me a sex talk. Like, I assume that my parents think that I don't know what sex is.
[00:36:46] Abby: Oh, that's so interesting.
[00:36:47] Ami: We had a kid, which kind of, you know, we figured some things out on our own.
[00:36:52] Alex: Right, masturbation for me was one of those things that like, uh, it was a natural thing. Like, 'Hey, my hand's right next to my dick. Well, that feels pretty good.' You know, through natural means, I guess, I learned about masturbation. And I perfected my technique and, and enjoy it to this day!
[00:37:12] Abby: As young as first grade, though, I remember teachers talking in cloaked terms about how it's wrong to touch yourself.
[00:37:19] Ami: When I was a baby, and my mom always laughed at this... I don't know what her attitude about masturbation is. I have no memory of us ever discussing it, except that she would tell me this story as an illustration of how ridiculous my grandmother was. When I was an infant and like, would touch my belly button because you're a baby and you're curious about your body and you...
[00:37:43] Anyway, when I would touch my belly button, my grandmother told her, 'You should put tape over her belly button because if you don't, the next thing you know, she'll be masturbating.'
[00:37:52] Abby: That's amazing.
[00:37:54] Ami: And so my mom told this story of like...
[00:37:56] Alex: What kind of brain fucked person thinks that babies are gonna be masturbating because they touch their belly button!?
[00:38:01] Abby: Someone who is really obsessed with sex and... every time they see something go into a hole, they're just like, 'Oh my god, sex.'
[00:38:07] Alex: Right!?
[00:38:08] Ami: Yeah, so an infant, like, you know, less than a year old child, this is not a thing that I remember. This is a story that I remember being told.
[00:38:18] Abby: That's so funny.
[00:38:18] Ami: Um, you have to prevent this, like tape over it. Do something. I mean, this is not as dramatic as 'put acid on your genitals' kind of thing, but it...
[00:38:28] Alex: But it's from the same place.
[00:38:29] Ami: But it's in the same mental space, I think.
[00:38:32] Abby: I do remember when I was like four, five, and six, my mom making disparaging comments about other kids who were touching themselves in public. I do think that there is a, I think there's a level of adult embarrassment that gets mixed up with this.
[00:38:46] Like, not even a religious element, but just like your kid's gonna embarrass you in public. You know, your three year old's gonna put, stick their hand down their pants, you know, in a moment of boredom, start playing with themselves and like, that's embarrassing. Uh, you know, awkward.
[00:38:59] Ami: That was the conversation that I had with my daughter about masturbating. When she was, you know, probably three years old or so, and I was giving her a bath and I, you know, she was big enough that I could step away for a second and come back and I said, 'Hey, what are you doing?'
[00:39:16] And she was like, 'This feels good.' And I was like, 'Yeah, it does. Um, that's something private, you know, you should do it...'
[00:39:25] Abby: 'Please don't do it at the public pool.'
[00:39:26] Ami: '...by yourself, and, uh, you know, wash your hands before and after.'
[00:39:32] Abby: And that's, that's, I think, the right way to handle it. I think like, when you're a religious person, you believe, you know, your child's gonna go to hell for doing this, like that guilt gets tied in with just the general embarrassment of, that fear that your child will publicly embarrass you, it all just sort of gets mixed together.
[00:39:49] Ami: Sometimes maybe you're, you internalize some shame or something, which is just your parent being startled and embarrassed when you ask a question they weren't prepared for, or, I don't know. We all screw up our kids somehow or other I guess.
[00:40:07] Alex: Oh, there's no hope.
[00:40:09] Abby: Unavoidable.
[00:40:09] Alex: Yeah, like there, that was never broached. Like I remember, I remember like when I was old enough that my parents would allow me to be in the room while they were watching a rated R movie. And there'd be like a sex scene in a rated R movie. Like, and you know, like occasionally there'd be boobs. You know how movies are like...
[00:40:28] It's not like they're explicit. But occasionally there'd be boobs. But mostly it would just be like lighting effects and making out, and you could tell that two people were naked even though it wasn't explicit. But I remember my parents just like, like being really uncomfortable during scenes like that in movies or TV.
[00:40:50] And they would say things like, 'Oh, this would be a pretty good movie if it wasn't so filthy!' And they would use the word "filth" when it came to stuff like that. And so, like, I think that if I was internalizing anything, it was that it was, that there was a dirtiness to this and that it was gross and that it was filthy.
[00:41:09] Abby: I remember those comments. You know, even consensual sex between married people in movies like...
[00:41:15] Alex: Filthy, filthy.
[00:41:16] Ami: But probably that is another thing that's coming from their sense of embarrassment.
[00:41:22] Alex: Yeah, totally.
[00:41:23] Ami: From an awkward, it's awkward to sit there when, you know, when you have a sex scene sprung on you in a movie or something.
[00:41:30] Abby: I remember watching some movie with my mom when I was, I don't know, young teenager. The movie was about three sisters and none of them were like evil people, but one of them was more wild than the others. And she had sex with this guy at some point.
[00:41:45] Like, it was not explicit at all, but like, you knew they'd had sex and mom was like, 'I just don't know why they had to have the in there, I guess just to show she's the bad one?' Like, you know... [Laughing] And I remember it in my brain like, 'That's what the bad one does.'
[00:42:00] Alex: 'That equals bad.'
[00:42:01] Ami: Did you get any talks about sex, like specifically in the dorm, in high school? Because they had us in these separate situations.
[00:42:11] Alex: Are we doing, are we doing the dorm episode now?
[00:42:13] Ami: Oh we, the dorm will have to be...
[00:42:15] Abby: Oh no, just the sex part of the dorm.
[00:42:16] Alex: Okay, but just the sex part of the dorm is like, like, I'm gonna need like counseling for the rest of my life to get over that shit.
[00:42:21] Abby: Okay, not what the kids did, what the adults did.
[00:42:25] Alex: Um, okay what the adult...
[00:42:26] Abby: Jizzing on doorknobs out for now.
[00:42:29] Alex: The jizzing on doorknobs is really the most mild thing that happened. Um, without getting into it, like there was...
[00:42:36] Ami: That's just to keep people listening for...
[00:42:38] Alex: There was a trend, and I feel like I have to explain this because this...
[00:42:42] Abby: 'Coming soon, the dorm episode.'
[00:42:44] Alex: Dear god, it's gonna be big. There was a trend in the dorm when I was there, among others, that you would grab someone by the back of the neck and shove their head towards your crotch and...
[00:43:00] Abby: Wow.
[00:43:01] Ami: This was like smacking somebody with a wet towel or something.
[00:43:03] Alex: This is like a hazing thing, just like a, just like a 'What's up?' And you'd grab somebody by the head and shove and shove their head towards your crotch, and then you would say, 'Yeah, you just got raped!'
[00:43:14] And there was this, there was this, that's what, that's, you "raped" somebody when you did that, it was, you "raped" somebody and the joke was even funnier if you could quote unquote "rape" someone in front of their girlfriend. So if somebody was talking to a girl, you'd go up to 'em and then grab their neck and shove it down your crotch and be like, 'Oh, you just got raped in front of your girlfriend, hahaha!'
[00:43:34] Well, anyway, this got, amazingly got back to the faculty at the school or the dean and we had a whole discussion...
[00:43:44] Abby: On how to really rape someone.
[00:43:45] Alex: Well, we had a discuss... We had a discussion on what was going on. And the problem is, and again, this is, the dorm is literally a can of worms that we probably want to open later.
[00:43:57] Abby: Dominance displays between wild animals...
[00:44:01] Alex: The discussion was not about rape. The discussion was about homosexuality.
[00:44:07] Abby: Oh my god!
[00:44:08] Alex: And why that was wrong.
[00:44:09] Abby: Oh my god.
[00:44:11] Ami: So the problem was not that you were quote "raping" each other, but that you were "gay raping" each other. That you were putting another guy's face close to your penis.
[00:44:22] Alex: Yeah like I said, I mean, this is a can of worms. You know, and I would want, I would want my brother-in-law here who could corroborate a lot of these discussions to really get into that.
[00:44:31] Abby: The dorm episode has to have you and Ryan.
[00:44:34] Alex: Yeah, absolutely. So what I got from high school and the dorm talks was mostly about homosexuality because there was a bunch of boys.
[00:44:44] Ami: With these dominance displays which can get "a little gay."
[00:44:48] Alex: Very gay.
[00:44:50] Ami: Which are based on homoeroticism and homophobia.
[00:44:56] Alex: Yeah, right!
[00:44:57] Ami: And just rampant testosterone of teenagers.
[00:45:00] Alex: And dominance, I mean, for the most part, I think it was about, more about dominance than it was any sort of sexuality. But I remember thinking even at the time when I was definitely in a different head space than I am now, 'Maybe you should be discussing why rape is wrong.'
[00:45:13] Ami: Well, this, uh, kind of, this is interesting to juxtapose this with a girls dorm story. So, you know, we went to the same boarding school in high school. So on the other side of campus, nobody was getting quote "raped" in the girls dorm.
[00:45:31] It was a kinder, gentler place than the boys dorm for sure. But the, the girl's dean, her attitude was that boys were terrifying sex monsters, basically.
[00:45:47] Alex: Well, they were "raping" each other.
[00:45:49] Ami: Well they were raping each other all over the place. So, my roommate, you know, had her first boyfriend, you know, like our junior year of high school and she and this guy got caught kissing in a stairwell and they got put on "social" which was kind of embarrassing, you know...
[00:46:06] Alex: What is social?
[00:46:07] Ami: Social restriction, if you guys didn't go to Adventist boarding school, you might not know what this is. Basically, if you got caught doing anything, you know, mostly like kissing, making out, anything that was considered inappropriate.
[00:46:22] Abby: Touching each other, at Bass, you know, skin to skin contact. Holding hands would count...
[00:46:28] Ami: But not so severe that they were going to, that they were gonna kick you out or something, or suspend you or anything. You were put on social restriction, which meant that for typically two weeks, you weren't allowed to have contact with this person. You weren't allowed to sit with them at lunch or, you know, send notes to them. You weren't allowed to go call them in the dorm or anything like that, which is such a weird...
[00:46:52] Alex: They had no concept of absence making the heart grow fonder, by the way.
[00:46:56] Ami: Yeah.
[00:46:56] Alex: No concept of that at all.
[00:46:58] Abby: It was like a restraining order, basically.
[00:47:00] Ami: Yeah, it was for like two weeks, but not because this person did anything that you didn't want them to do, because you guys were caught kissing in the stairwell. So they get caught and that's kind of humiliating. You got caught kissing somebody by an, an adult and you got in trouble for it.
[00:47:15] Everybody knows because you're not allowed to sit together, you're not allowed to talk to each other. So everyone in the school knows that this has happened, which I think that it is, a lot of it, the punishment is humiliation.
[00:47:27] Group: Yeah.
[00:47:28] Ami: But that wasn't really enough. And I think specifically because my roommate was considered to be a quote, "good girl," the dean called her into her office and like bawled her out about this, but she called her into her office every night for a week. And sent her back to our room every night for a week in tears.
[00:47:53] And basically the point she was getting at was that 'You have no idea what could have happened. You don't know what he was thinking. You don't know...' And the, she said, you, 'We were just kissing,' you know? And she's like, 'Well, maybe you were just kissing, but you know that boys, you know what they're thinking.'
[00:48:14] Apparently, you know, he, in the dean's mind, he had lured this nice girl into the stairwell so that he could sexually assault her.
[00:48:22] Alex: Goddamn.
[00:48:23] Ami: And she really, she...
[00:48:25] Abby: He was gonna grab her head and shove it towards his crotch,,,
[00:48:28] Ami: And say, 'Haha, you got raped!' And then run back to high five all his dorm friends. Eventually after she's bullied about this by an adult for about three days, what they finally say is that, you know, whoever the adult was who caught them kissing when they, you know, leapt apart from each other, as they were caught in trouble, he adjusted his crotch.
[00:48:54] And the adult who caught them said that he thought he was zipping up his pants, which...
[00:49:00] Alex: He was trying to hide his boner!
[00:49:02] Ami: He probably had an erection and was trying to hide the fact that he had an erection from making out with his girlfriend. And now was, you know, caught by the Bible teacher and didn't want to be seen with an erection. But this was taken to mean that, you know, this kid was probably trying,
[00:49:19] Abby: To slip it in.
[00:49:21] Alex: 'Well, he was a sex criminal, clearly.'
[00:49:22] Ami: That he was a "sex criminal" and that she, and that she, of course, is this oblivious innocent girl who has no idea that secretly her high school boyfriend, who she thinks is a nice boy who wants to kiss her and write her sweet notes and stuff is secretly, what he wants, is to lure her into the bushes so that he can rape her. Which is just, just so fucked up, right?
[00:49:44] And so that is the attitude that is being communicated to the girls on campus is that 'All men, no matter how nice they seem to you, no matter how they have treated you up to this point, they are opportunistic sexual predators.' And the attitude that's given to the boys is...
[00:50:02] Alex: Don't fuck each other.
[00:50:03] Ami: Don't fuck each other.
[00:50:04] Group: [Laughing]
[00:50:05] Abby: Well, okay, so that seems like a good place...
[00:50:06] Alex: 'Fuck them, not each other, Jesus Christ!'
[00:50:09] Ami: 'Look, it's not that hard to lure a girl into the bushes!'
[00:50:13] Group: [Laughing]
[00:50:14] Abby: So my brother, so at Bass, my brother had this experience and I don't think I told it on the last episode. If I repeated myself, I'll cut one of these out or maybe I'll just tell it twice.
[00:50:26] Ami: It's messed up enough to tell twice.
[00:50:28] Abby: So the girls and guys were always separated for sex ed at Bass. And by sex ed, they meant sex terrorization. There was no real sex education that went on. If they split you up, you were, you were gonna get an earful, that was just how it was.
[00:50:43] The actual sex ed was actually done co-ed. The health class was totally co-ed. They split you up, you were, you were in for a lecture. So, he was four years behind me, so he had a different group of people than I did.
[00:50:53] But when they split his group up, they called the two hairiest guys in the room to the front, didn't tell 'em what they were gonna do. They put duct tape on their arms and then suddenly ripped it off. As they were gripping their arms and whimpering, they announced 'This is what sex feels like to a woman!'
[00:51:13] Alex: Jesus! Is that what it feels like, you guys?
[00:51:15] Ami: Just to clarify, for anybody who doesn't know, that's not what it typically feels like. If that's what it feels like when you have sex, girls...
[00:51:24] Alex: You're doing it wrong.
[00:51:24] Ami: ...you need to go see a healthcare professional about this. This is not what it ought to feel like.
[00:51:30] Alex: If having sex feels like ripping duct tape off your hairy arm, you're doing it wrong.
[00:51:34] Abby: So my brother, when he told me about this years later says, 'So the message that was communicated to me was, you wouldn't wanna do this to someone you loved, right?'
[00:51:49] Alex: Well, that's what they were getting at, right? They wanted you to think that, that...
[00:51:52] Abby: 'Save this for your wife!'
[00:51:53] Alex: If you love, if you love this person, you don't want to hurt them.
[00:51:58] Ami: Well, so this is an attitude that is only going to work on someone who is a decent human being and not a horrible sexual predator.
[00:52:06] Abby: But it's cruel, it's cruel.
[00:52:09] Ami: It again, is something based on humiliation.
[00:52:12] Alex: I mean, that's literally physical and emotional abuse.
[00:52:14] Abby: That's physical and emotional abuse.
[00:52:16] Ami: Yeah, it's putting into this person's head that sex is not pleasurable to your partner and that if you want to have sex, you must be a bad person in some way because why would you want to do this? Why would your pleasure be significant enough to you to make you want to hurt someone else in this way?
[00:52:37] Abby: I'm sure he didn't completely buy it 'cause he isn't a complete fool and he has been out in the world. But, it still made an impression. It clearly made an impression 'cause he told me this story kind of years later, like, you know, without making eye contact.
[00:52:50] When they split us up when I was there, one of the faculty who was one of the younger faculty that we liked better, got up. And we had a couple of these kind of episodes, but this one sticks in my head. He, he gets up and he's like, he's talking 'Now girls, there are men out there in the world that are very smooth operators.'
[00:53:09] Alex: Guilty as charged!
[00:53:10] Abby: 'I know how these men work, and these boys will make you feel so good that the next time you will not be able to say no. There are men who can give you an orgasm without touching you anywhere they're not supposed to.' I remember that sentence specifically and thinking, 'Where can I...'
[00:53:28] Alex: Teach me!
[00:53:28] Abby: 'Where can I find these? Where can I find these men?'
[00:53:31] Ami: Is there a website?
[00:53:33] Alex: Someone teach me how to do that!
[00:53:35] Abby: To this day, I wonder what he was talking about. Like when you're really young, you can kind of get off with just a knee between your legs if you're really turned on.
[00:53:42] Alex: I think what he was talking about was ear lobes, clearly.
[00:53:45] Abby: Possibly.
[00:53:46] Ami: Nipples?
[00:53:47] Abby: That's somewhere you're not supposed to... I mean, like I was, I was baffled and fascinated by this revelation.
[00:53:52] Ami: It started a lifelong quest!
[00:53:54] Abby: The way he presented it was like heroin! He's like, 'They'll do this and then you'll want more. But they won't settle for just what they did the first time, the second time.' And he's like...
[00:54:05] Alex: What are they gonna do next!?
[00:54:06] Abby: Yeah, yeah like, like seriously! It was like, 'They'll give you one hit for free.'
[00:54:12] Alex: Wow.
[00:54:14] Abby: And, and he presented this whole presentation, like...
[00:54:17] Alex: I like the idea that you're, you're sitting there building this character in your mind. This like James Bond, like, of sex. This guy, like, there must be a school that he went to or an agency he's a part of that like learns how to give women orgasms by touching them in places they're allowed to touch 'em.
[00:54:36] 'Oh, just hand me your elbow, darling!
[00:54:39] Abby: That, so that was kind of funny, it also, you know...
[00:54:43] Ami: The terrifying power of female sexuality.
[00:54:47] Abby: Yeah, and of, and of the, the magical horny male who will just give you this addiction that you'll, you'll just become a total whore.
[00:54:56] Ami: This is all based on like, romance novels, right?
[00:55:00] Abby: It's gotta be!
[00:55:01] Ami: It's such a common trope in trashy romance.
[00:55:05] Alex: What does that teach you as a kid?
[00:55:06] Abby: So to the guys they're like, 'This is agonizingly painful, you never wanna do this to someone you love.' And to the women, they're like, 'If you, if you take even one kiss, you'll be a sexaholic.'
[00:55:18] Abby and Ami: [Laughing]
[00:55:19] Alex: Wow. I mean, what is that, like... I'm trying to think like, best case scenario, what do they think that you would learn from that?
[00:55:27] Ami: I think what it ultimately teaches you, there's an idea that sex is this powerful force that you ultimately don't have any control over. Which, you know, like, as if, if I were just caught up in the moment and turned on enough and passionate enough, there would be nothing I could do. And I guess I would just have to give in and, you know? And that's kind of the attitude.
[00:55:52] Abby: Uncontrollable.
[00:55:53] Ami: Men are uncontrollable sex monsters and women can easily lose control. And so you have to be... It makes the whole...
[00:56:02] Alex: But it teaches the woman to be like... In a positive sexual relationship of a marriage, it teaches a woman to be absolutely submissive, right?
[00:56:12] Abby: Yes.
[00:56:13] Alex: Like, I mean, that's what you would get from that, right? If the man, if you've been taught your whole life that the man controls this...
[00:56:19] Abby: Yeah, 'You have the break and he has the accelerator' is what I was literally told more than once.
[00:56:25] Ami: Well, that you have...
[00:56:26] Abby: He's not required to, to mess with the brake at all. That's really your business, your problem.
[00:56:30] Alex: Wow.
[00:56:31] Abby: I was told that by some people. I'm not saying that was a consistent message, but I did hear it...
[00:56:35] Ami: I think it was a consistent message and not only in Adventism. I think that there's, there's a broader cultural...
[00:56:40] Alex: Well, the puritanical religions are definitely anti-sex.
[00:56:45] Ami: 'Good girls don't want to have sex.' So unless they're sort of coerced by someone who's such a smooth operator that they lose all control and they, you know... And as a girl, you're taught that in order to have sex, you have to have this loss of control, almost. And so you end up...
[00:57:07] Alex: That you have to give up...
[00:57:08] Ami: ...kind of craving that a little bit? I don't know. I think that it ends up playing into this kind of rape fantasy kind of thing, on both sides.
[00:57:17] Abby: Yeah, it's the origin of the rape fantasy for sure.
[00:57:19] Alex: See, that's what I was getting at, and that's extraordinarily disturbing.
[00:57:23] Abby: It is disturbing. But yeah, the idea that if...
[00:57:27] Alex: That they perpetuate this rape scenario.
[00:57:30] Abby: They do and the idea is that, you know, if you want sex, you're a bad person. So the only way, the only time that it's okay to enjoy it is when you have no control of what's happening to you.
[00:57:39] Ami: And you either have no control because you are literally being raped, or because you have surrendered your control to your husband. Presumably because you have such a beautiful connection and you're so in love and this, this, you know, you see Jesus in his eyes and all that nonsense. Or because you are so swept up in hormones and emotion and this manipulative, you know, the very smooth, scary man...
[00:58:11] Abby: He touches your elbow and it's all over.
[00:58:13] Alex: So we can agree though that like, that's not unique to Adventism.
[00:58:17] Ami: I don't think it is.
[00:58:18] Alex: This scenario that we're talking about.
[00:58:19] Abby: No, but boarding academy...
[00:58:21] Alex: I was gonna say boarding academy is somewhat unique to Seventh-day Adventism.
[00:58:24] Abby: It is now.
[00:58:25] Alex: And my... The way I was raised with the, with the tiny church schools, I think is unique to Adventism.
[00:58:31] Abby: Yeah, I think Catholics could maybe share some of that, but I don't think there's many denominations that have an entire school system from kindergarten through college in the way that the Adventist church does. Catholics do.
[00:58:44] Ami: The boarding schools they have you, so, you know, so much of the time, so much control of everything that happens to you. And without a whole lot of... You don't have your parents there to sort of mediate some of that and to say like...
[00:59:04] 'Cause there were plenty of things that I can remember an adult at church saying, and then my mom you know, being like, 'Well that's her point of view.' Or like, 'Well that is maybe a little bit exaggerated. This is where that's coming from, this is the lesson to take from this, don't take it literally.'
[00:59:20] But when you're away at boarding school, you had a lot less of that. Your parents who presumably love you and are a little bit more concerned about your, the state of your emotional health, they're, you know, hours away and they don't necessarily know what's happening every day.
[00:59:37] Abby: Could you call any time? We couldn't, there was only a certain window in the evening when you were allowed to use the phone and often it was busy the whole time you had to get in line.
[00:59:43] Ami: If you had a free period during the day or something, you could use the payphone, but you had, you had to sign up for the time in the evening when you were allowed to do it. And you could have like 10 minutes that you were allowed to use the phone. And your parents would like frantically try to call and get through, and of course they never could.
[01:00:01] Abby: Yes, uhhuh, uhhuh.
[01:00:03] Ami: We weren't allowed to, I mean, cell phones were not particularly common in the, you know, mid to late nineties anyway. But like, but you weren't allowed to have any, any cell phone or anything like that.
[01:00:17] Abby: It was before internet or at least before internet at Bass.
[01:00:20] Ami: Yeah, I think we, we had...
[01:00:21] Alex: We got a CB radio and, and one of the guys had a CB radio in the dorm. And Narissa had the other CB radio. It was Ethan and Narissa had CB radios, and so we could talk with the girls dorm. It was pretty sweet.
[01:00:34] Ami: And we got, our senior year, they installed a computer with internet access in the library. And so I got my first Yahoo email address my senior year of high school. And you could, again, though, you had to take turns and you had to wait until it was free and sign up for your five minute slot to go...
[01:00:53] Alex: Yeah, communication with home was few...
[01:00:54] Ami: ...be able to email you at Southern.
[01:00:55] Abby: Yes, yes!
[01:00:57] Alex: Yeah, yeah. We didn't have a lot of communication from home.
[01:01:00] Abby: And you're right, like when my parents were a little bit more aware of what was going on, some of those things they would be like, 'Well, we don't really agree with that' or 'There's more than one way to look at that.'
[01:01:13] Alex: Well, I remember my parents saying stuff like, like, not necessarily about the sex stuff, but being like, 'Yeah, don't worry about it.' And, and seeing that they had more of a casual stance on it, whether or not it was true, what the other person was saying, but my parents just being kind of casual about it, made me go, made me feel a little more relaxed. Which was more emotionally healthy than being stressed and tense all the time.
[01:01:37] Ami: Yeah. The dorm though, that is a, that's a whole other thing.
[01:01:42] Alex: Yeah, we'll have to get into the dorm thing and we can talk about rave in the dorm. We can talk about, you know, the, the, the act of grabbing someone's head and shoving it to your crotch as "rape." And then we can talk about rubbing your butt hole in people's faces. There's a minefield there. And I think a lot of that was, you know, had, had to do with... Yeah, Adventism and...
[01:02:10] Ami: There's certainly a sexual element to it.
[01:02:12] Abby: Part of it definitely is that dorms are weird places and FLA wasn't quite as... So, listeners of the podcast, Alex and Ami went to a, a rougher high school, a rougher boarding academy that was nevertheless in a metropolitan area. I went to a, in some ways, gentler boarding academy that was much more isolated. That was in a very rural area, much more of a closed system. So there's pluses and minuses for...
[01:02:39] Ami: I know like on our, we had one day a week that we were allowed to walk to town and you could like walk to Taco Bell.
[01:02:45] Abby: Yeah, there was nothing like that..
[01:02:46] Ami: There was nothing like that at Bass.
[01:02:47] Abby: At Bass, it was, it was rural Mississippi. It was a closed system and there were a lot of people there that I think under other circumstances, these faculty might have been fairly decent human beings, but they had been essentially corrupted by being shut off from peers...
[01:03:04] Because there's only a few of them there. So like if you just don't happen to make friends with the other adults there, you're really very alone. And then you give these people who often, in my opinion, are sexually starved themselves, you give them complete control. Absolutely, Milgram experiment level of control over a bunch of horny teenagers.
[01:03:26] And that sort of situation is just, that is just bound to end in abuse behaviors. And it's just, there's no way that's not gonna end poorly. So I think there, some of that is just human nature, but it is the insular Adventist church mentality that sets up that situation.
[01:03:43] Alex: And I think that the way that our boarding academies functioned was specifically Adventist. Like, I don't, I don't see... I mean, obviously there are other private schools, there are other boarding academies that exist outside of Adventism. But anytime I tell somebody I went to high school and lived in a dorm, almost universally, they're like, 'What the fuck?'
[01:04:07] Ami: Well, and their mental...
[01:04:08] Abby: It's like Harry Potter.
[01:04:09] Ami: You know that their, you know that their mental picture is not what we experienced because they either picture like, New England prep school full of rich kids. Or they picture like, reform school. And it wasn't either of those things.
[01:04:26] Alex: No, and I think, and I think it not being either of those things was specifically an Adventist construct. Not necessarily that it was one of the fundamental beliefs, but that it was a byproduct of the church.
[01:04:37] Ami: A cultural element of Adventism.
[01:04:39] Alex: Certainly, which we can get into later.
[01:04:42] Abby: In the dorm episode. Okay guys, join us next time for more talk about heads in crotches and...
[01:04:51] Alex: More jerking off, I hope!
[01:04:53] Abby: More jerking off and, I don't know, less arm hair pulling. Talk to you later!
[01:05:04] Ami: I wanna know about your Adventist sex education. Did it include anything other than, you know, 'Don't do it?'
[01:05:16] Guest 1: It didn't exist. There was no, it, it was, you're a kid and there's, you know, pornos to be found, and that's about it.
[01:05:25] Ami: So you didn't, you didn't have any...
[01:05:26] Guest 3: Not, not like, like teachers though, right?
[01:05:28] Guest 1: So you're asking me, did I ever find pornography at school? I can't answer that question honestly, unless I say, of course I found pornography at school!
[01:05:36] Group: [Laughing]
[01:05:37] Ami: But you didn't have any sex education that was like, 'This goes here and this is what this is.'
[01:05:43] Guest 1: The first time I had sex education maybe was, uh, in high school. By the time I got to high school with health class, there was a, uh, a PE teacher who taught a very short, like week or two that was sex education. That's the first time I recall it being organized. Like in, in elementary school, never.
[01:06:00] Guest 2: I remember there being classes on anatomy? But I don't remember ever once sex being mentioned.
[01:06:10] Ami: What about you? Because you are a little bit younger.
[01:06:13] Guest 3: Yeah when I was in fifth grade, the county sent someone...
[01:06:20] Guest 2: Wow, what a cop out! So the school was just like, 'Yeah, let the government handle that one.'
[01:06:24] Group: [Laughing]
[01:06:24] Guest 3: I mean, it was a, it was a, um, because the three counties right around where we grew up are the highest rates of teen pregnancy every year.
[01:06:33] Guest 2: Where are you now, separation of church and state?
[01:06:36] Group: [Laughing]
[01:06:37] Guest 3: Every year these counties are one, two, and three, and they like switch places, but always one, two, and three. And so there was a big push in those three counties to do better sex ed. And so they had nurses come in and do sex ed in all of the schools.
[01:06:53] And they asked private schools if the private schools wanted them to come in and Walker had them come in. So in fifth grade we had sex ed. Interesting fact, our teacher refused to be in the room.
[01:07:04] Ami: Huh!
[01:07:05] Guest 2: Coward!
[01:07:06] Guest 3: I think that part of it might have been that he was a man and he felt uncomfortable because they were...
[01:07:11] Ami: Was this separated with girls and boys or?
[01:07:14] Guest 3: We had both together. It was very, very, very heavy on STDs and didn't really talk about how sex was accomplished. I remember that the woman giving us our sex ed...
[01:07:26] Ami: There were no pickup lines?
[01:07:27] Group: [Laughing]
[01:07:29] Guest 3: No, no pickup lines. The woman who was like conducting it, ugh this is a terrible story. She was talking about how sex is best in like loving and committed relationships, specifically married. But even in marriage, she specifically said, 'Girls, you have to be careful because you don't know where your husband will have been.'
[01:07:49] And so she told us the story about the first time she had sex, which was with her husband, the condom came off and got stuck in her. And that was the only like practical bit in fifth grade was you're supposed to use...
[01:08:08] Ami: In fifth grade, telling you about condoms getting lost in your body!?
[01:08:12] Guest 3: 'You're supposed to use condoms, but they'll get lost in you. So maybe you just shouldn't have sex. By the way, this is what gonorrhea looks like.'
[01:08:20] Ami: I remember getting the scary STD slideshow thing in high school. But when we were a little bit younger, I do remember some talk about condoms and whatnot, but it was always with this little hint of suspicion or like, 'If you're gonna do this, this is okay, but you, just so you know, it's not a hundred percent effective. Like this is fallible, this could still bite you in the ass.'
[01:08:49] Guest 3: But we also had sex education every year from fifth grade on. Again, this is, this was like a countywide thing that happened, that these women would come in every year. And it's funny 'cause fifth, sixth, and seventh grade, we were not separated, but in eighth grade we were.
[01:09:06] Ami: Huh, that is interesting.
[01:09:09] Guest 4: Growing up Catholic, you know, of course she was very liberal, on the very liberal side of things. Which again, I'm thankful for because if, again, if you know, you grow up, you're like, 'Don't have sex until you're married,' and then you're gonna have 14 gajillion kids because you can't use birth control.
[01:09:26] She's like, 'Fuck that shit, have sex before you're married, and control if you want to have children or you don't wanna have children.' So I always felt very comfortable in that.
[01:09:36] Guest 5: Yeah I wanna say my parents did advocate safe sex, and you know, if you find someone you cared about, then it's a natural expression of that love. But you know, be careful as well.
[01:09:48] Guest 4: Yeah, I mean, you know, absolutely. You wanted to be careful because again, if, if you're doing it, obviously you're going to do things, not usually at a younger age, but at, at an age where you wanna have fun and you don't wanna actually be, have the responsibility of raising a child when you are a child and, and making those decisions when you wanted to make those decisions.
[01:10:14] Ami: So tell us what your sex education was like.
[01:10:16] Guest 6: The extent of my sex education was old, married, Canadian couple coming to Haiti and telling us unless sex was between man and a woman, and married, it was disgusting and it was like being like dogs. And that was it.
[01:10:30] Ami: [Laughing] That was it!?
[01:10:32] Guest 6: That was the end! That's how much sex we talked about throughout my entire high school, yes.
[01:10:39] Ami: Wow. Let me ask you a follow up question. At what point did you understand what sex meant? Like what was intercourse?
[01:10:51] Guest 6: Oh, way earlier than that, obviously, I had, 'cause your body gets curious and so you know that these old people are kind of full of it.
[01:10:59] Ami: Okay [Laughing]
[01:11:00] Guest 6: So it wasn't a traumatic experience. More like, 'What are they on!?'
[01:11:05] Group: [Laughing]
[01:11:07] Guest 6: So it wasn't traumatic, thank god.
[01:11:09] Ami: You got over it.
[01:11:10] Guest 6: Yeah, so it was just like, 'What? No, no.' Very early on, very early on, probably because I went to an all boys school, porn magazine circulated very early on, like 11 years old. So maybe not the best introduction to sex.
[01:11:24] Ami: Maybe not, but you leave it up to that or weirdo Canadians.
[01:11:28] Guest 6: Oh my god, it's really bad, yes.
[01:11:32] Guest 7: Um, there was none. And then lo and behold, I'm in like fifth grade and there was a disturbance at school and there was something going on and we all knew something was underfoot because teachers were leaving the classroom and having these like, nervous whispered conferences in the hallway.
[01:11:52] And then they came back in and we had a very nervous red-faced teacher who clearly didn't wanna do the job that they had to do. And lo and behold, they had to let us know that there were two students who were not going to be at school. And it turned out that the daughter of the principal at the academy had been caught trying to have sex with a fifth grader.
[01:12:22] They were both like this age and that they'd been suspended and the staff didn't know what to do to tell us. So they sent this teacher in, they decided it was time that we have sex education, but they didn't really want to talk to us. So she went in there with this book like it was poison, and said, 'You need to read this!'
[01:12:46] Group: [Laughing]
[01:12:47] Guest 7: And put it down, and went flying back out in the hallway to declare that she had accomplished her mission. By the way, we all leaped on the book.
[01:12:58] Ami: So this is probably a...
[01:12:59] Guest 7: But it was a dry, boring, very academic... It was nothing interesting. We were looking for details.
[01:13:07] Ami: So this is probably a stupid question, but I assume there was no talk of safe sex? No talk about condoms or birth control or anything like that?
[01:13:15] Guest 7: No, no.
[01:13:17] Ami: Okay.
[01:13:18] Guest 7: No, it was just a, "this is egg, this is sperm, they meet." So I was convinced that every time somebody had sex, they got pregnant. And I continued to believe this for several years. So about a year... oh, the summertime during that year, we had these neighbors who had a kid in college, and the woman has this, um, they, they have only one son, he's in college.
[01:13:46] And then she became pregnant. And so I'm like, I hear the adults talking about it. And they said that it was, this was a surprise, this baby was a surprise. So I hear everybody talking about this and I knew that everyone was amused. The adults were so amused that this couple were like, got pregnant late with this other one.
[01:14:10] And you could see that the women were kind of smug about it, like, 'Hmm hmm, hmm!' You know? And so in my mind, I'm looking at it, I'm going, 'I can't believe this.' It's a professor, right? I'm like, 'I can't believe Professor Hicks would crawl on top of his wife in the night when she's asleep and have sex with her without even waking her up!'
[01:14:33] Group: [Laughing]
[01:14:34] Guest 7: And that he was having fun and he didn't even invite her to have fun! 'What a selfish man!' Some more time goes by and we are going on a trip. And we're going to this small town where we're gonna visit relatives, where I am the fourth of five. And at that time, I don't think my other little sister had been born yet.
[01:15:02] And so my siblings each take me aside separately thinking that they're the only one that has done this, and they're going to give me the sex talk. And they are like, 'Okay, we're going to this place where there is this nasty uncle who will try to get... He'll, he'll try to get nasty with you, and we're, we're warning you and protecting you.' And I'm like, 'What is he gonna do?'
[01:15:24] Ami: So they're having the sex talk...
[01:15:25] Guest 7: They're having the sex talk with me to protect me. And so they're like, 'If he tries to do anything or he makes you uncomfortable, you just run and scream, okay?' So we get up there and we're at this house and I'm the little one, right?
[01:15:41] And so, my "egg donor" who is always oblivious and not protecting us or watching us, she, she went somewhere, I don't know where she was. And we are left at home and I look out the door and I see his car pull up and I scream, I'm like 'It's uncle Willis is here!' And I'm like, 'Everybody run!'
[01:16:02] Group: Laughing]
[01:16:04] Guest 7: So all of a sudden everybody goes run, run, run, run, run. And we all go flying up the stairs and there's this like secret little cabinet that goes to the attic from the bathroom. It's like the Harry Potter stairs, but it's, it's an attic instead of under the stairs, it's over the stairs at the top. So we all go up there and we're in there hiding and everything.
[01:16:25] And Renee, who is probably only like, I don't know, 12 or 13 at the time, something like this, she is like, just like gripping my hand. And it was her proudest moment that I did this. And she, to this day, if you ask her 'What was one of your proudest moments?' she will be like, 'It's when you ran screaming.' Like, 'He's coming!'
[01:16:47] Ami: From the pedophile!
[01:16:49] Guest 7: From the pedophile! And the reason is because no one had ever made her feel like she had the right to do that. And she felt so empowered to see that she had empowered me.
[01:17:00] Ami: Quickly before I lose battery life, I'm gonna ask Jim about your sex education. I assume it was awesome 'cause you went to Adventist school.
[01:17:10] Guest 8: Ironically, I actually taught some sex education today to some students, and I'm contrasting what I teach from what my experience was in high school. Now, one thing that my Bible teacher taught me about sex education in high school, which isn't completely untrue, is that our largest sex organ is between our ears, not our legs. And that actually held some value to me.
[01:17:40] Abby: Oh, that's accurate.
[01:17:41] Guest 8: Yeah, not too off base there, okay. But in, in college, basically what I got was, uh, 'Don't. Don't.' And that was pretty much it.
[01:17:54] Ami: That's the "important part."
[01:17:56] Guest 8: The funny thing about that was that it actually didn't help us do anything other than 'Just don't,' and 'God would cry a tear.'
[01:18:04] Group: [Laughing]
[01:18:07] Ami: Jesus with a single tear in the corner of your bedroom.
[01:18:09] Guest 8: Yes, and so the emphasis was on virginity. But what if you weren't a virgin? Then it's just like anything goes, there was like no middle ground. It was like all or nothing. But there was no real education that I got as far as the 28 day cycle and the ovulation, and then the egg is only viable for about 24 hours after it's released. It was more like, you know, 'Dancing leads to pregnancy.
[01:18:38] Group: [Laughing]
[01:18:40] Ami: That's factually accurate as far as I know.
[01:18:43] Guest 8: That's how I was raised, yes, yes.
[01:18:45] Abby: Holding hands also can lead to pregnancy.
[01:18:47] Guest 8: Yes watch out that, that's the gateway drug, is holding hands.
[01:18:50] Ami: Thinking about boys in their bikini area...
[01:18:57] Guest 8: I don't remember much discussion about masturbation other than 'Just don't.'
[01:19:02] Ami: Don't, really, don't even think... Like, pretend you're a Ken doll. Don't even think about that.
[01:19:07] Guest 8: The peeper is off limits for sure.
[01:19:10] Ami: That's not helpful.
[01:19:11] Guest 8: Yes!
Haystacks & Hell Outro
[01:19:12] Santiago: Thanks for listening. If you have a story to share about your Adventist or fundamentalist experience, we'd love to hear it. You can submit stories on our website at hell.bio (that's H E L L dot B I O) or leave us a voicemail at 301-750-8648 and we might feature it in a future episode. Thanks to Abby and Ami for their original podcast audio, and thanks again for listening. We'll see you on the next one!