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“You can’t be pregnant – I didn’t come.”

His words hit me like a bolt of lightning. A thousand thoughts rushed into my head. “How could I not know this? He must think that I am a moron. Why didn’t I get a test instead of calling him?” I remember lowering my head and saying very softly into the phone, “Oh, I didn’t know.”

The reasons I didn’t know are pretty simple on the surface¾no one ever explained to me what happened when you had sex – not my mother, not my father, not my older sister, and not my friends. To make matters worse, there was no sex education of any kind in public schools in the 60’s in North Dakota.

My mother certainly had the chance to explain things to me:

  • When we went to the zoo and I asked, “Why are the llamas riding piggyback?”
  • When I ran into the house in fifth grade shouting, “What is menstruation?” at the top of my lungs after seeing the “girls” movie. She did explain the female parts, but held back on the male ones. By the way, I never shouted that word in the house again.
  • When I started my period.
  • When I turned 18 and went off to college.

Instead, here is how I gleaned the little knowledge I had.

  • I read Harold Robbins’ Seventy-Nine Park Avenue, stolen from my sister’s room. In this novel, a young girl gets raped by a storeowner. Oh, that’s what intercourse is.
  • I hung out in the bathroom longer than necessary at my cousin’s to read the Playboy magazines.
  • This same boyfriend and I had played around a few months earlier before I left for six months in Paris. Oh, that’s what a clitoris is. That’s what it means to masturbate. Let me try this.

What a long way we had come from our species’ early beginnings, where sex was a natural phenomenon without any taboos associated with it. Women were revered because of what their bodies did – produce new members of the tribe. Thousands of female figurines carved out of hard stone had to mean some kind of reverence for women. And imagine the wonder that resulted as they learned that woman’s menstrual cycles matched those of the moon. How cool is that?

But that changed over thousands of years of man creating religions, ending up with a book that proclaimed only one god¾a male. From the earliest chapters of the Old Testament, this new monotheist god put women to shame. Blamed for accepting a piece of fruit from a snake, banished from Paradise, saddled with pain in childbirth, it was not a good beginning. Later, woman’s normal bodily functions would make her “unclean” and banned from any duties in the temple. If the writings in the Bible were not enough, early church leaders took a particular pleasure in denouncing the female sex.

And do you not know that you are (each) an Eve? The sentence of God on this sex of yours lives in this age: the guilt must of necessity live too.”

“You are the devil’s gateway:

you are the unsealer of that (forbidden) tree:

you are the first deserter of the divine law:

you are she who persuaded him (Adam) whom the devil was not valiant enough to attack.

You destroyed so easily God’s image, man.

On account of your desert-that is, death-even the Son of God had to die.”[1]

Is it any wonder that this tradition so intricately woven into our culture avoided any discussion of what a natural process human sexual intercourse really is? And thanks to the stories in the New Testament, the only woman held in high esteem by Christianity was a virgin mother. Great. That’s really something a girl could really aspire.

Isn’t it time for women to say no to this teaching, to this book written by men, a book where men are always in charge? Why cling to an Iron Age story of some male sky god and give up any notion of a female divine? Because it is right? Please. How can this story win out over all the other thousands of religions? Talking donkeys, hundreds of people rising out of graves at the crucifixion, cities destroyed at the whim of god – how can anyone buy into this today? They shouldn’t any more than they should buy into the Flying Spaghetti Monster.

But this Iron Age mythology still holds sway. It teaches that sex is to be preserved for a heterosexual church-sanctioned marriage. Procreation is the main goal. And learning about how our bodies function naturally is just wrong. The Real Education for Healthy Youth Act sits idle before Congress today¾in 2016. This act requires a medically accurate, logical, rational sex education program in public schools. Will this bill pass? Unlikely. Instead, Congress puts millions of dollars into abstinence-only sex education. While we like to claim separation of church and state, too many in Congress grew up just like I did, in the throes of god worship¾a god worship that teaches that women must be virgins when they marry¾a rule that harkens back to women and children being the man’s property. To assure he knows if the baby is his, the woman must be a virgin and adultery is taboo. Even though students who experience abstinence-only sex education have sex almost as often as those who do not, we still refuse to teach people about their bodies.

This has to stop. I cannot express to you how I felt when my fiancé (by the way he dumped me after this call and I never saw him again in my life) said those words to me. I was a bright intelligent woman totally unaware of my body and its functions¾at least those functions that had anything to do with sex.

Let’s put religion out of its misery now. If you are an atheist, tell a friend, explain to them why you have given up belief in god and how you are living a perfectly normal moral life without him. Let’s not wait 50 years to catch up with Europe. Let’s do it today. Let’s not call ourselves “nones” or “humanists” or “secularists.” Let’s call ourselves atheists and wear the title with pride.

Karen L. Garst

The Faithless Feminist

[1] Tertullian in De Cultu Feminarum, book 1, chap 1.

About the Author Karen Garst

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