Jen Stockett was the oldest of five children, born and raised in an active LDS family. She currently works in a small business with her partner, and spends her time outside of work outside with her horse as much as possible. Jen’s blog
As a child, I had no interest in boys. My friends all had crushes on boys they thought were cute. I didn’t. I was just not interested. I felt different and maybe a little weird, but not entirely out of place.
As a teenager, I was terrified of boys. I knew I was supposed to be dating. I was sixteen and that’s what sixteen year old girls do, but I had no interest. I had the opposite of interest. I wanted to run the other way. I went on (maybe) one or two dates in high school.
Besides not dating or liking boys, I didn’t really fit into what a girl was supposed to be. I loved math. I loved being outside. I wasn’t afraid of snakes or spiders, and I didn’t mind getting dirty. I didn’t wear makeup, and I preferred jeans and extra-large men’s sweatshirts or flannel shirts. I had no interest in marriage or children. I wanted a career (though I wasn’t sure what). Friends, teachers at school, parents, church leaders, all pointed me to the church teachings. A woman’s purpose (and her worth) come from being a wife and a mother. Nothing else mattered. To go against that, was to go against God’s plan. I became more and more confused and more and more depressed.
When you know you don’t want or fit the model of the only way to have worth and purpose in this life, what do you do? I prayed for God to make me different. Make me into someone that can be what I am supposed to be.
I went to treatment for an eating disorder and depression. They pushed me to embrace my womanhood. Wear makeup. Wear dresses and “girl” clothes. They gave me the goal of dating. We talked a lot about the importance of marriage and family and the eternal nature of gender. People were very proud of me when I got a cute haircut and bought some dresses and more fitted clothes. Their praise felt good. I wanted to be loved and accepted. I didn’t want to feel broken or weird or different.
I went to college, and moved into a BYU ward. There were lots of boys interested in me. I was desperate to progress in my life. I wanted to show that I was worth the money spent on treatment. I wanted to show that I was good. In the church, a good woman gets married. That is her ONLY choice. I took the next step, and got married at 19. For the next 2 years I endured a very abusive marriage.
I became overwhelmed, angry, depressed and suicidal. And I thought I had no reason to feel this way. I thought that the violence and forced sex were normal, and that I was the problem. I thought I was selfish for not wanting to give him what he wanted. I don’t know why I thought that. Maybe because no one ever talked about sex except to tell me to abstain. Licked cupcakes, crushed roses, and chewing gum didn’t help me to figure out what was healthy after marriage. Being surrounded by women at church who never mentioned sex, I thought they all had marriages like mine. I thought they all felt like me. I thought I was broken, because I couldn’t make myself just take it (like I thought all other women could). I thought my aversion to sex was normal. NO woman likes sex. It is just our duty. Men go to work and provide. Women clean the house and let their husbands use their bodies.
After two years, I told him I wanted a divorce. It was the scariest thing I have ever done. I was afraid of being a worthless woman without a husband. I was afraid of what people would think of me. I was afraid of what he would do to me. It was also the best thing I could have done for myself. Thank heavens I got away from him.
Once the divorce was final, I didn’t question my next steps: Date. Get remarried. Follow the plan.
I went on several dates and had a lot of guy friends, until I met D. We dated for two years. We went camping, slept in the same tent just the two of us. We went on vacations and stayed in the same hotel, and sometimes slept in the same bed. I stayed at his house overnight on more than one occasion. And we never had any “morality problems”. Because I was raised a good Mormon girl, I honestly believed that the fact that D and I were never tempted by sex meant he loved me and respected me. We had a deeper kind of love, the kind that doesn’t feel sexual attraction.
I didn’t realize, nor comprehend that a lot of people get married because they want to have sex. It may not be the only reason, but apparently it is a big reason. They tell you to have a short engagement. They tell you not to be alone together in a bedroom. They tell you all the ways to keep yourself safe from having sex, because sex before marriage is bad, and most people really like sex. I didn’t get married so we could have sex. I got married, because it was the next step. I wanted to progress in my life, and once again, the only way I knew to progress was to get married.
I was so happy that he didn’t force himself on me. I was relieved that he wasn’t sexually violent, and instead was gentle and respectful. I thought I was the luckiest woman on the planet. I really thought most men were violent rapists, and the lucky girls got someone who wasn’t. His gentleness didn’t make me like it. It just made it more possible to endure. He really wanted kids, and I thought I wanted them too. I was willing to lay there while he planted his seed, but once I actually got pregnant, I realized I did not want children. I miscarried at eleven weeks and felt a strange combination of guilt, panic, relief, and confusion.
I started having nightmares, panic attacks, and dissociative episodes. I became depressed, suicidal and anxious. I was in physical and emotional pain. I was confused. Nothing made sense. I stopped eating. I started over-exercising. I fell into a horrible, deep, dark hole, and I wasn’t sure there was any way out.
I started going to therapy. Therapy was hell. I worked hard to face my fears, my beliefs about myself and my world, to talk about the emotional, physical, and sexual abuse, to let go of the shame. It seemed the harder I worked, the more hard work there was to be done.
Years passed. D wanted and hoped for a sexual relationship with his wife. He wanted an intimate physical relationship. I knew that was a reasonable thing for him to ask for, and I also knew deep down it would never be anything but a chore for me. I tried, but really, I couldn’t make myself like sex any more than I can make myself like liver and onions. (Who eats that anyway?) He kept expecting me to change. I kept expecting me to change. Only, I didn’t know how to change that. We finally divorced three years ago.
I thought about claiming the title of lesbian for a while. It would give me the freedom to never marry again. The church tells its gay and lesbian members to remain celibate for the rest of their earthly lives. (Although there are still some who promote heterosexual marriages, which I find to be silly.) I wanted abstinence, and as a homosexual, abstinence was not only accepted, it was expected. I also felt like I fit better in that category than in the category of straight girl. When I talk to gay or lesbian people, I can relate to the pain of not fitting in, feeling confused, questioning, and trying to change something that seems impossible to change. And like many of them, I have prayed and prayed to “not be so selfish”, only to continue to just be me. I feel like my parents can relate to the struggle of having a gay child. I will never have the life my parents wanted for me. But I don’t really fit the definition of gay or lesbian. I couldn’t (and can’t) really picture being with a woman. The idea of sex just made me nauseous.
So, if I’m not straight, and I’m not gay, what am I? Asexual. Is that even a thing? Is there anyone else like me?
Am I only this way because of abuse? I don’t know. But what difference does it make? I can’t go back and change what happened to me. Forcing myself to have sex wasn’t really making me like it. I’ve tried looking at porn and masturbation, and I’m not a fan of either of those things.
Could all this change as I continue to heal? Yes, but I’m not counting on it. I have a desire for intimacy and companionship, but I feel no sexual desires. I feel pretty lucky to have found a friend that is happy with our intimate emotional relationship. He loves ME, and I love that. We live together, work together, play together, and plan our lives together. Our partnership/relationship/whatevership feels almost magical. I trust him in a way that I have never trusted another human being. I don’t know what the future holds. Right now, I feel at peace with myself and my sexuality (or lack of it?).
I was raised to believe that sex was bad until it was good. I was raised to believe that my spirit was female, and that I was destined to be a wife and mother for all eternity. When I didn’t fit into that world, it was just one more thing that was wrong with me. But the truth is, there is nothing wrong with me.
I am a beautiful, strong, compassionate woman, and I don’t need to change a thing.