To start, I’m now 24 years old doing my masters degree in London. I grew up in an immigrant- Catholic community in Columbus, Ohio then moved to North Carolina for my undergraduate studies and first few jobs. I tend to choose long-term relationships and have committed myself to sharing sex exclusively in loving committed relationships.
I grew up in a divorced Catholic family, attended Catholic school from pre-K to high school, and only knew the immigrant Catholic community until I got to college. I had no sex-education until the 6th grade when boys and girls were split and watched “the period” video. Little conversation was had after the film and we were all sent home with a prompt for our parents. Parents were told to talk to us about how sex has fit into their catholic vocation. This is when my mom told me she had only ever had sex with my father and that is what God meant for two people who love each other. I was never told what exactly sex was until a high school health class. This health class emphasized the negative consequences of sex like STDs and unplanned pregnancies along with basic anatomy and heterosexual procreative sex. The catholic church continued to teach that loving married couples should only use the rhythm method and always be open to life in their sexual experiences together. In addition, our priest lectured the class about the role of sex in Gods calling to the vocation of marriage. What stuck with me most was a conversation about love and sex. We were told that when we get married, if we had sex with someone who was not our husband before marriage that there would be shame in telling him that we did not love him enough to wait for him to be our only sexual partner and that we had been selfish and self serving to give ourselves to someone else, therefore implying that we were imperfect in giving ourselves to the vocation of marriage if we had pre-marital sex.
I didn’t question sex much before my first relationship in high school. I was deeply in love with my high school sweetheart and we dated for the last two years of high school and the first year of college. We both grew up in the same Catholic community and often talked about sex and if it would be a part of our relationship. I struggled with intense fear that if we did have sex, time spent away from him in college would be even more emotionally challenging if we felt the deep connection that was supposed to come with having sex. These thoughts and my education around sex and love gave me a very unrealistic expectation of the beauty, emotional connection, and spiritual connection that sex was supposed to bring to a relationship. I never ended up having sex with my high school sweetheart, which remains a regret to this day.
The first time I had sex was in college with a guy that I dated for two years or so and was also deeply in love with. He had many sexual partners and thought of sex in a very different way than I did. He was used to one night stands and being able to disconnect an emotional intimate experience with a physically intimate experience. In this relationship I saw how my early sex education made me judgmental of his previous experiences. I really disliked that I harbored such judgment for someone that I loved. When we did become sexually active I was constantly disappointed that sex never lead to the earth-shattering emotional and spiritual connection that I was always told it would create. I often also felt that I would be judged to his previous experiences and that I was naive in my own experience, and that some how that made me “not good enough”. It scared me that although I am no longer religious and quite critical of my catholic upbringing that the values pushed upon me at a very young age still shape my sexual experience now.
I often wish that I had been taught differently and exposed to sex positive education. I often feel shame and regret in my heart although my head believes something very different about my experiences. I wish that I hadn’t been so influenced by my catholic absence only sex/love education and I actively try to reassure myself that sex is a positive loving experience that is okay to share with people I love, but it never feels fully comfortable.