My feminist mindset ironically began one day while listening to Dr. Laura (I know, barf, I used to eat up every shaming word she spewed). A caller had called in about “duty sex,” and how her sexual relationship with her husband was not fulfilling — she just lies there to get it over with. This caller’s grief resonated with me. I had been married to my husband (high school sweethearts and both ill equipped in the intimacy department) for 12 years at this point and I could have been this caller. My head was nodding in an “I feel ya, sistah” sort of way, and I listened closely to what the wise old doctor would prescribe.
Dr. Laura’s advice was simple: if the caller was going to participate in the act of love-making with her spouse, then she should enjoy it too. She asked the caller why it is that we do it for the man’s pleasure only? If we are married and obviously going to be having intercourse, we women can certainly indulge ourselves in the act as well.
Now for the record, and I feel the need to specify this, Dr. Laura is hands down the epitome of female-shaming and after leaving the Church, I used to yell at my radio when she was on. But this piece of advice from her was life-changing for me. Instantly, I realized that I am a woman with a body that has sexual desires that I had not been acknowledging. My desires had been masked and shut down through many years of shame. I had no sexual identity of my own; duty sex was on the weekly list of wifely chores and God knew I wanted a gold star next to each finished chore.
I had no idea what it looked like to be a sexual being without shame or a submissive, timid approach. Sex was empty and time could always be spent doing more important things like balancing my check book or scheduling next week’s events. But now it could be different. I began to approach sex with the intent of finding out how much physical pleasure I could get out of it. I admit, at first it felt selfish, but if Dr. Laura prescribed it then I was willing to try it. I gave myself permission to lose myself in the pure, clean energy of sexual pleasures. It was uncharted territory that I discovered upon the terrain of my body that I never felt before – I didn’t even dare to look. I realized my own desires, once they peeked out from behind the rock they’d been shoved under, had just as much validity as a man’s.
My body began to sync with my mind and my heart. I realized that pleasure was mine to own and explore; it was not something to hide from myself or something to give the ownership of away to my husband or Church. The damage of the years in the Church was not easily overcome in one night – although once I allowed myself to be curious enough to get lost in pure, personal ecstasy, a whole new world opened up for me. I am beautiful, powerful and I love my feminine beauty – whatever it looks like today.
Women’s (and men’s) sexuality has been owned by the Church and governed by God since the early years in the Church. To find out, through personal bravery, that I actually owned my body was the pivotal point in changing my mindset. I began to build resilience to the shame all around me, especially from those in the Church. I later found that this resilience was the key to arming myself against the cultural stigmas. It was a path I was going alone, that was very clear.
I began to see the women in my family and close friends in the Church as imprisoned. Our bodies were locked behind the bars of patriarchy. Those bars were outwardly noticeable – long skirts, covered cleavage, no sign of shoulders, and frumpy styles. Where was the beauty in our sexuality? Are we too busy mothering our litter of children to put ourselves on the front burner? Is that selfish of us?
When you get a small enough group of LDS women together who feel safe to open up you find that you are not alone. This was the second step in realizing I was on the right track. I shared my new views and watched as the muscles in the faces of my friends and family responded as if I was speaking Chinese. I felt like a missionary in a foreign land preaching the Book of Female Ecstasy. Yes it can be yours, for free! Really free, you don’t have to pay 10% of your income to enter the Euphoria Kingdom.
This breakthrough trickled down to other things in my life. I began to realize that my whole life was set up around men. The duties listed under my responsibilities just because I have a uterus, the things required of me just because I am not a man, and the reality that our culture (in the Church) made it clear to me that no matter what or how hard I try I am not, and never will be, equal to men in God’s eyes.
This caused a revolt in my soul. I began to speak up to my friends and family and become the voice of advocacy for the oppressed women in my family – my sisters, my sisters-in-law, my mother-in-law. Even though it may have resonated, we each have to take that first step of allowing ourselves to see things outside of the bars. Some of them did, most of them did not. My husband was told to get his wife in check, my sisters-in-law frowned upon my disinterest in submitting at family get-togethers where all the women serve the men while they sit on their priesthood asses. I began to see just how much my new Self did not fit within the prison walls anymore. This was the beginning of the end of my marriage. My ex-husband always appreciated my bold personality but so long as it stayed within the lines. This did not work for me and who I really am. I was now awake and nothing was going to put me back asleep.
Although my awakening was caused by one of the biggest public anti-feminists, I am grateful at one time, during her younger years when she was a feminist, she found the power of her personal sexuality and shared it that day. I love that I can pinpoint the moment: it’s burned into my memory – driving in my Volkswagen down Madison Avenue just as I passed the local high school when the advice on the radio hit me to my core. It unlocked what my family viewed as a Pandora’s Box and I will be forever grateful.