What does this religious puritanism do to people? It screws up their lives with needless guilt. This is a kind of oppression of the mind, where women are inculcated with unrealistic and shameful views of their own bodies.
Mental purity is a state of mind Renaud came to after years of struggle. When she was 10, she discovered a dirty magazine in her older brother’s bathroom. She had never seen male genitalia before; she became increasingly curious and began to search for pornography. When she hit puberty, she says, her curiosity turned into compulsion, and she added masturbation to her porn-seeking behavior. At 15, she attended a Christian summer camp and heard the pastor talking about “a Father in heaven who loves you unconditionally regardless of what you do.” From then on, she became active in the church and vowed to end her masturbation and porn habits.
“I’ve been sober for seven years now,” she says of her masturbation-free life.
Although some married women participate in Dirty Girls Ministries, Renaud’s crusade is largely for single women like herself. The majority of Dirty Girls’ members are in their 20s and 30s, but many teenagers and preteen girls, some as young as 11, have also joined. Technically speaking, most are virgins, but because of their below-the-belt explorations, they report feeling tainted, undesirable, and perverted.
Being orgasm-free is not the same as being sober, and masturbation does not make someone tainted or undesirable. There are, of course, extreme cases of sexual obsession where the behavior can interfere with day-to-day, productive living, but that isn’t the case in this story: this “Dirty Girls Ministries” regards masturbating or even reading a romance novel twice a week as a dangerous case of excessive addiction. Given that attitude, I suspect they’d regard the Pharyngula readership as a nest of decadent, pervy wastrels obsessed with sex. You should be proud.
But the reverse is true: having a fairly casual attitude towards sex — it doesn’t define you, and your worth is not a function of abstinence — is healthy, and this weirdly repressed perspective inflicts unforgivable pain on ordinary human beings.
Indeed, guilt and shame are emotions commonly expressed by the women involved in Dirty Girls Ministries. “Once I’ve actually committed the sin (of porn and masturbation), I find myself feeling such sadness, frustration, disappointment, anger, shame,” writes one anonymous commenter on the Ministries’ forum. “It makes me feel sick and unworthy,” writes another. One girl even reported feeling guilty after simply dreaming about masturbating.
Isn’t that just the most wonderful thing about religion? Once you’ve infected someone with it, it’s incredibly easy to put them to work punishing themselves for you.
You’ve got a choice. Either you accept the artificial guilt of an ancient dogma and stop doing a perfectly normal, harmless, and universal behavior, or you stop accepting the guilt and find human happiness in being who you are. Rational people choose the latter. Deluded people follow the former, and suffer lifelong for it.