I’m a Baptist. Churchy people understand.
Baptist born, Baptist bred.
And when I die, I’ll be Baptist dead.
You know, I believe in deacons and church mothers.
Trustees and a pastor’s aid committee.
BTU (Baptist Training Union) and Sunday School.
Missionary Baptists. Independent Baptists.
National Baptists. Progressive Baptists.
Southern Black Baptists are a culture. Get into it.
What I always noticed when I was deeeeeeep in the church as a child is that for sex to be so taboo, it was often the topic of discussion. It was really strange to me the way we knew we were not supposed to talk about sex, that it was wrong, bad, an abomination before marriage. I definitely knew I wasn’t supposed to DO it especially if I wanted to be married and have a good man. The trouble was that preachers talked about it alllll. the. time. No exaggeration. I remember hearing about the sin of premarital sex more than the threat of hell. The sermon could be about Moses crossing the Sea of Reeds and we were going at least other two places, the ‘wages of sin’ is death especially premarital sex and to the cross. Every. Single. Sunday.
Death and being an abomination were frightening. And yet, I was having sex by 14. (Sorry Ma!) Because puberty, curiosity and sex drive trump fear riddled interpretations of other people’s perspectives. Frankly, I was afraid of my Daddy and pregnancy not God.
I was afraid of the shame. This “public sin.” But there was a part of me that came alive in the private exploration. A part of me I didn’t quite know where to put or how to name.
But the fear was deeper than what other people could see.
I had been taught to fear my body.
To fear touching myself.
To fear looking at myself naked.
To fear what I knew to be true from erotic experience.
To fear the truths my body revealed.
Hell, to resent that I desired sexual interaction in the first place.
Fast forward 20 years. I have done it all. Had 5 year stints of celibacy being saved for Jesus. Prayed for my desires to shift to anything that didn’t leave me feeling trifling. Been in a long relationship with a man I knew I didn’t want to be with long term because he was nice. Been gay. Dated people freely. Been gay again.
A couple years ago, I started teaching a sexuality workshop I entitled ‘Southern Baptist Sex Positivity.’ Being on the journey of sexual and sensual wholeness, I realized that my aversion to myself as a sexual being was far more connected to embedded theological understandings than any other single source.
The ways being in the Black Baptist church was a barrier to my sexualities and sensual wholeness is a book, not a blog. The theological shifts it took me to land here, that too is a whole other topic. And, for me it isn’t quite the point. The more I did my work, there were so many ways being Southern and Baptist gave me tools to be a sex positive adult.
Autonomy as a principle I learned in the Baptist church. That I am a free standing, free functioning entity with all rights appertaining thereunto. (insert Robert’s Rules of Order) The other thing I learned in watching my mother, my aunts and my grandmothers get dressed for church, is that we need our bodies. We need them to feel and know. We need them to show up and show out. We need them to shout and experience God. We also need them for the beauty that is sexual. Being a Southern Baptist also taught me this, that abominations really only applied to girls and gays. We were not playing by the same rules as cishet boys. Nowhere in the bible did it differentiate and somewhere within, I knew God didn’t feel that way.
I started to think about my body the way my mother took the time to put her stockings on Sunday mornings, strong and delicate not fragile but priceless.
I started to move through the world the way I remember the chairmen of our deacon boards always being, resolute.
I decided what someone told me about my rules had nothing to do with me, and little by little that part of myself I experienced sexually felt more and more live a divinely created home. You know, the kind of divine creation that is made in the image and likeness of God so immaculately God looks upon said creation in pride and says that it is GoooD. “Do you wanna be made whole?” never came with a sexual exemption. This healing work doesn’t happen without our bodies and it cannot happen without the fullness of our sexual selves. Good sex. Sex from exploration. Partnered sex. Consensual, health and safe sexual play. Fun sex. Cuffing season sex. Married sex. Sex is for everyBody that desires it in healthy ways. Sex is for Southern girls too. Leaving any piece of my body or my truth at the altar of hetero-patriarchy is sin. I want all parts of me, each part is divine. I still believe Wholiness is right.