The topic this week, is definitely out of my wheelhouse, so I’ve brought on expert, Julia Postema to talk about sex and religion.
Julia grew up in a super insular community, she spent all summers at christian camps, and went to a tiny christian school. So she had very little exposure to the outside world. Now she's a sex therapist working with clients on the broad spectrum from abusive religious communities to super healthy religious communities.
Who can experience things like shame or guilt around sexuality?
She has clients who will experience these things even if they didn’t grow up in a religious household, sometimes because they grew up in a time when purity culture was at its height.
What is Purity Culture?
Purity culture tends to focus on rigid expectations around gender, abstinence only education, and very little support and understanding the basics of biology and physiology.
How does she help clients overcome the feelings of shame or guilt around religion and sex
There isn’t really an easy answer for this. A big part of the initial work is just unpacking how people first learned about sexuality.
The first part is naming what we first learned about ourselves and what we learned about our body, and then hopefully learning what else might be true, and what other narratives exist around sexulity.
Can sex and religion coexist in a healthy way?
They definitely can, and she honors however her clients decide to integrate or not integrate faith into their lives as they pursue a more holistic sexual identity.
Whether they decide to try to make their religious traditions and sexuality coexist or decide to leave their religious all together, they're doing really brave work.
What would you say as they’re going through the journey of reclaiming their sexuality, what challenges are they faced with?
Even if a person doesn’t experience a specific acute sexual trauma, growing up or being exposed to negative messages around sexuality, can take the form of cumulative trauma.
If a person continues to hear the message that female sexuality is dangerous, that their bodies are dirty, that sex is something to avoid, and all the other negative messages that people hear, it can have the same impact as acute trauma. So it can take a similar kind of work to heal and reclaim sexuality.
What would you say are some of the biggest changes you can see in your clients?
Sometimes clients will have really big exciting therapeutic revelations or experiences, but often the change is tiny baby steps in the right direction. Progress takes time, clients have to be patient. Quite a bit of the work is just giving ourselves the permission to be sexual people.
In all of this work with clients who are working through their own baggage around religiosity or clients who are simply trying to do good work around sexual development, at its core sexuality is about our ability to access our own humanity, so reclaiming sexuality is a way that we are literally saving ourselves in order to live the life that we are worthy of living. Sexuality is a birthright.
Shameless - Nadia Bolz-Weber
Pure - Linda Kay Klein
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