John Doe Nobody’s rapid fire video shows just how often we comment on a boy’s worth as it relates to their sexuality. From penis size to penchant for porn, a boy is told exactly what his sexuality should be and the best possible ways to express it so that everyone else sees he is normal.
But, I would like to focus upon the three concrete expectations laid out in the video. John Doe Nobody says that boys are taught sexuality should be “Secret, Shameful, and Overwhelming.”
I was taught all of these, repeatedly. For years growing up in an evangelical church, there was no subject more taboo than healthy expressions of sexuality. Purity culture was in full swing, as we talked about “courting” rather than dating. Ideal couples waiting to kiss until marriage. So, if you felt any kind of sexual feelings, it was a secret that you could not divulge. But, the secret was so big that everyone could see it and shamed you for it.
My first real kiss was in the back of a van on the way home from a youth group event. Through a lot of sloppy and probably pretty loud kisses, as a full van navigated the suburbs of Cleveland, we knew the other passengers were shocked at our display. It was shameful and it was not right. And, I was told so in no uncertain terms by a few of my closest church friends. They wrote notes to me that were followed up with long phone calls. This was a secret, a shameful and uncomfortable secret that I wanted to touch and be touched by someone else.
And yet, paradoxically, I was also taught that my budding sexuality should be overwhelming and ever-present. I should be thinking about sex at all times, and if I wasn’t, then it wasn’t normal. From American Pie at the movies to conversations about porn addiction that were a regular fixture of male youth group retreats, my formative years pressured me to have sex or release sexual tension as often as I could.
But, none of it was about being happy or finding companionship. None of it was about the hard work that it takes to build and maintain a lasting relationship. None of these expectations for keeping secrets, bottling up shame, or having an overwhelming need to release helped me to know what I actually wanted, or even who I was. Never once was I asked how I wanted to be touched, or better yet, loved.
The expectations to simultaneously put away our feelings and force them upon others in a race to devirginize ourselves, ensure we don’t know what we want. By keeping these secrets for years and never telling others about our needs, we come to believe we are not worthy of having them. Or, we lash out and commit violence against others, claiming that we are owed sex after repressing it for so long.
We can unteach these things. We can show our children that sexuality should not be a secret, it should not be shameful, and it should not be an overwhelming emotion that you cannot share with anyone or inquire within about. If Patriarchy is taught, then we must unteach it just like this.
Thank you to John Doe Nobody for his inspiring thoughts. Please take the time to watch the video and follow him for more on patriarchy and religious deconstruction.