Marked as a Slut Forever (The Opposite of Love is Shame: Part 11)

In the Episcopal Church, when a person is baptized, they are “marked as Christ’s own forever.” But I wasn’t baptized Episcopalian. Long before I ever took the vows of the Episcopal Baptismal Covenant both when my children were baptized and when I was confirmed, I had already been labeled as a slut forever.

While I was married to my husband, I truly thought that I was an “ex-lesbian” and so that’s who I told the church I was. They were not thrilled, but as long as I had gotten saved, they supposed it could be forgiven, as long as I stayed on the straight and narrow. I was supposed to be a trophy of God’s grace, that if God could forgive even someone as disgusting as a lesbian and make her straight, then God could forgive anybody.

In her book Educated, Tara Westover recounts a time when she figured out that her family and church saw her as a whore even though she had never had sex (she had no knowledge of the fact that you had to have had intercourse to be able to get pregnant). “Days later, when it was confirmed that I was not pregnant, I evolved to a new understanding of the word “whore,” one that was less about actions and more about essence. It was not that I had done something wrong so much as that I existed in the wrong way. There was something impure in the fact of my being.

It’s strange how you give the people you love so much power over you, I had written in my journal. But Shawn had more power over me than I could possibly have imagined. He had defined me to myself, and there’s no greater power than that.” (2018, p. 199 italics in the original). Letting others define who I was is how I survived in the cult. The designation of “whore” could totally ruin a fundamentalist girl’s life, and just dressing in a manner that the men of the church deemed as “immodest” would give you a label of “whore” forever. Another name that I began to be called as I grew older was “Jezebel” which is another fundamentalist insult because Jezebel was a rebellious woman and met her demise by being thrown out of a window and fed to the wild dogs.

But being an ex-lesbian did not come without its own set of consequences. I was still denying my sexuality, and so the shame still cut deep. It still sucked the life out of me just like Dracula sucked the life out of his victims. The fundamentalist church we were in for about half of our marriage would not let me work in the nursery (I had no desire to anyway) but they also warned any new people that came to the church that they should not let their kids be around me because I was a pedophile. In their twisted minds, being gay automatically made you a pedophile because it was unnatural.

Eventually I left the fundamentalist church and my husband came along although he was not as sure as I was that this was what was he wanted. We started attending a conservative Southern Baptist church and at the time we arrived there, we felt so free. This was the church we were in when our marriage fell apart completely, and I filed for divorce. Since I was the one who officially filed for the divorce, the very minute I was allowed to after the mandated six-month separation period in my state, that further ingrained the label of a rebellious woman on me, and it fed the shame vampire even more.

Dianna Anderson recounts what she has learned about the sex-shaming of women in fundamentalist and evangelical churches. “I listened to story after story of being unable to feel close to God because of shame, being kicked out of one’s home, losing friends, separation from one’s faith community. No atonement was good enough, no sacrifice or apology could erase the shame these people bore. They were forever marked with the scarlet brand of “slut” because they had not waited until their wedding day.” (Anderson, 2015 p. 5).

References:

Anderson, Dianna E. Damaged Goods: New Perspectives on Christian Purity. 2015: Jericho Books.

Westover, Tara. Educated. 2018: Random House.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

Blog at WordPress.com.

Up ↑

%d bloggers like this: