My life there and afterwards

Sex was suppressed at CJ. It was denigrated and laughed at. It was seen as an evil force that had to be denied. The more you denied it and the expression of it, the holier you were. The body had to be covered up in order to prevent the mind from thinking of sex. No cleavage at all could show, and more than that, too much chest was also bad. High necklines were the norm. No sleeveless tops. Men had to wear shirts at all times. No bare chests for them, even when swimming. Nothing shorter than Bermuda shorts. We wore our skirts halfway between knee and ankle so that if we crossed our legs, nothing would show. For a while women could not wear pants, then it was allowed for gardening or berry picking, then eventually it was allowed, but not preferred. No shorts were allowed.

Coffee hours were a practice we used to have, where from 3-4 every weekday afternoon those of us on the property would gather to have coffee and snacks and fellowship. Nice idea, but I was always so uptight about doing something wrong I could never relax. Either I would express some opinion that wasn’t conservative enough, or my kids would be too loud in their play, or I didn’t have anything spiritual to talk about so would feel “out of it”. That was a favorite phrase we bantered around a lot if someone wasn’t fitting into the norm. One of the ministers took it upon himself to monitor how the ladies were sitting. This was before the length of the skirts had been dictated, and if a lady crossed her legs and wasn’t careful, someone on the other side of the circle could see up her skirt. The minister’s grandmother would always sit this way and not care, so he would call out “Grandma Gertrude” to the woman in arrears. Not long after that summer is when one of the leaders called all of us women in and laid down the law about the length of skirts. We had to stand in front while she eyed us and measured how long our skirt had to be to look the best on us and be decent enough. We were given the number of inches from the floor, and all our skirts had to be that length. For a while we were wearing skirts with an extra border around the bottom because we had to lengthen all the skirts we already had.

We made our own swimsuits because all of the ones for sale were too indecent. Our suits looked like tennis dresses. On one occasion, at a public pond, a couple was quite concerned and upset that our girls were swimming in their tennis dresses, that it was not safe to swim with that much material. We soon stopped going to public places to swim, and only swam at the beach in front of the complex.

I think suppression is a lesser evil than sexual abuse, but it also has many problems. When it is taught that sex is dirty, sinful, a chore, and unnecessary except to procreate, this shuts off a whole normal area of the human experience, and drives a wedge between married couples. It certainly tainted my relationship with my husband. They taught that unbridled passion was lust. Even in marriage if you allowed yourself to fully enjoy the experience, you were giving in to your lust, and that sin would contaminate everything else that you did. They taught that it would become obvious, and everyone would know that you were a lustful person. They brought up the sins of our past as proof that we were not free now of the same sins. Because after high school I was experimental and a bit promiscuous for a while, they said I had the nature of a whore, and that had to be denied, even in a marriage setting. It totally affected my ability to be loving with my husband, and drove a wedge between us. It was part of the reason we stopped talking with each other, and eventually led to our divorce, which the leaders and those who were counseling me all encouraged me to go through with. And oh yes, the missionary position was the only acceptable one. Anything else was Kinky and shameful and sin, sin, sin.

Later when I became a sister, I saw how it cramped and warped the attitudes of the young ladies who had never been in love. It put a whole layer of guilt on them because they did not know how to handle their normal biological hormonal drives. Instead of intelligent education and counseling, they were made to feel dirty and guilty. The leader said once to a group of the young sisters that having sex was like “having a broomstick shoved up your ass”. She made it seem like the dirtiest, most uncomfortable, abusive thing a woman would ever have to endure, and that they were much better off never having to experience it.

The sisters were told to suppress and deny their sexual feelings, calling it lust, and those who had trouble doing this were a scandal. One young lady could not stop having trouble. She was told to wear gloves to bed, to pray extensively, to confess to one particular sister every single time it happened, to confess every single sexual thought or fantasy she had. This put her into a constant state of shame and guilt. It also drove her to be perfect in other areas to prove that she wasn’t a totally depraved person. She was very uptight and driven.
If any flirtings or misdemeanors were discovered, and they were, it was quickly hushed up and covered over, but the people involved were made to feel shamed and rejected. There was no healthy counseling that I know of. I certainly did not experience any until in recent years, after I left.

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