I grew up in Florida, during a strange time, especially when I think about the attitudes toward sex. Culturally, the seventies were sexually open in our laid-back beach town. Actually as I remember the television shows (Love American Style, The Love Boat, Three’s Company), everybody seemed to be feeling quite liberated.
Although my parents weren’t swingers, my parents’ friends (from what I could glean) were sexually promiscuous. Of course, no one gossiped about the husband and wife who stayed completely monogamous, but I got an earful regarding the open marriages that these people could somehow juggle. They were all church-going, Bible-study-in-the-livingroom Christians.
I grew up in the Baptist Church, until I was about 13, I think. Then my parents started attending the huge nondenominational church. About the same time, I found out that our pastor (also a famous writer) had been kicked out of the Baptist church because of his multiple affairs. He had a house out in the country that he frequented with the women of the congregation. When the husbands found out about it, he was canned.
He repented and planted another church. It grew quickly and I’m pretty sure it was one of the first megachurches in the US. They were definitely using the overhead projector before anyone else. People would leave their homes and jobs, pick up everything, just so that they could move to the area and attend this congregation.
My parents didn’t stay there long. The church split, and they left with the parting few to begin another congregation in a neighboring town. And then, the new pastor got caught up in a sex scandal.
Meanwhile, as I went to high school, the eighties grew late, and we were beginning to hear more and more about AIDS. It was scary. I wasn’t having sex with anybody, but they also didn’t know much about the disease. Could it be transmitted by any bodily fluid? By tears? Could you wind up with AIDS by kissing someone?
When I attended Christian camps or concerts, they always scared us with horror stories that went like this: A young, innocent, virgin girl is taken out for a romantic evening by a dashing, handsome guy. They have sex. The next morning Romeo is gone, but he’s left a tiny velvet box and a card on the pillow. The girl opens the box to find a necklace, with a coffin charm. And when she opens the card, it has six simple words printed on it: “WELCOME TO THE WORLD OF AIDS.”
Now, I don’t care who you are, at the age of 15, that’s a scary story. Until, like, the 14th time you’ve heard it, and then you begin to wonder if it might be an urban legend (yeah, I’m very gullible that way).
So, between AIDS and abortion, the church began a high-pressure virginity campaign, which seemed to be targeted mainly at the girls. It was just beginning of a movement that would grow much stronger in the years to come, but the messages were still clear:
If a girl had sex, she was forever tainted and bad.
If a girl did not stay a virgin, she would never get married.
If a couple had sex before marriage, their relationship would be utterly doomed for the rest of their lives.
While our Youth Group leader decided that it was best for us to never date at all, in high school assemblies at the gym, they passed out cartoon books with condoms stapled to the back of them.
It was a very confusing time.
the photo’s of my hometown beach, right after a shuttle launch, by jethaden