As a Satanist, it is important for me to know my own body. But even in this day and age, knowing one’s own body, especially for a woman, is a luxury not many enjoy. It is an unfortunate fact that many young women and girls (and young men and boys; the fact that circumcisions are standard rather than a rare operation in the case of medical emergencies, because it’s easier for them to clean/parents don’t want to take the time to explain to Junior why he has an extra flap on his penis Daddy doesn’t have, is clear evidence of that) are ignorant of their own bodies, thanks to the influence of Christian churches.
I’ve seen and experienced this firsthand. When I was still in college I took a summer job as a camp counselor. This was before I became a Satanist, and the camp in question was a church camp. I was cabin counselor for a group of sixth and seventh graders; about ten girls eleven to thirteen years of age. Every one of them were wrestling with the wretched beast known as puberty. Remembering the horrors of puberty, I felt some sympathy for the girls, and being on my period, I decided it was a good idea to get extra tampons and pads in case they were needed.
It should have raised a red flag when I could not get pads and tampons at the convenience store on site, and had to get a ride to the nearest Walmart.
I expected some questions. The girls’ bodies were doing things they had never done before, and it was painful and confusing and irritating, and I was an adult with answers. What I was not expecting was for one of the girls to pick up a tampon after seeing me go into the bathroom with one, look at me, and ask, “So are you not a virgin?”
At the time, I was angry. In Christian communities, inquiring about a single woman’s virginity, or lack thereof, is an insult. When asked if one is a virgin, the assumption is usually that the answer is no, and that the woman being asked is a slut to be judged and taken advantage of. Reading my expression, the young woman asking quickly elaborated: “I mean, don’t you have to break the hymen to get them in?”
Then I understood what was happening. All the other girls in the cabin noticeably perked up, because what preteen doesn’t want to see one of her peers chewed the fuck out by an adult, and I realized that not only would getting angry solve nothing, it would only contribute to the problem. I decided instead to educate. I explained that the hymen doesn’t completely cover the vaginal opening, and that most girls tear their hymen at a young age going about their normal little kid activities (the first time I remember tearing mine I was climbing on something I shouldn’t have), and like any tissue, it heals. So the presence of an untorn hymen is not an accurate physical indicator of virginity, and that the only way to lose one’s virginity is to have sex with another person.
I left out the idea that virginity is a social construct meant to control women and in actuality means nothing. It was a concept I was struggling with myself at the time.
I announced lights out after our discussion in basic female anatomy, and went to bed confused and upset. My own parents were not exactly a wealth of information when it came time for me to learn about my body, but they didn’t exactly leave me helpless when it came to navigating that crucial step of growing up. I had plenty of up-to-date anatomy books and Chicken Soups for the soul, and I knew how to figure out my own bra size. Though when I was younger I preferred pads, I still knew how to insert a tampon, and no one had tried to convince me that to use one was to sacrifice my virginity for my future husband. That these girls were being given such a Victorian-age education in 2010 unsettled me.
I have no doubt in my mind that Christian churches are behind the continuance of such outdated views. It is Christian politicians and lobbyists who push for state-funded abstinence-only sex ed programs, despite the fact that it is continuously being proven that abstinence-only programs don’t do anything except increase the teen pregnancy rate. Christians are the ones trying to get Planned Parenthood–an organization that not only provides abortion services and cheap contraceptives, but also breast exams, STI treatments, even erectile dysfunction and infertility treatments for men, and more importantly sexual and reproductive health education for those who can’t get it otherwise–defunded. Let us not forget that Project Blitz is a very real threat to religious liberty in the U.S.
Bodily autonomy is useless without bodily knowledge. Knowing your own body, and knowing that it is yours and only yours, is the first step to personal freedom. Don’t let the churches take that from you.
One thought on “Body Autonomy and Body Knowledge”
Sad facts … and I agree. I could write on and on about it, given the time, but people could be more knowledgeable and responsible about medications, for instance, and harmful chemicals in the food and water supply. I won’t rant, but from my perspective, it is all connected.
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