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Do religious families breed sexual dysfunction? 

Dear Sexorcist,

I feel compelled to express my disappointment in your answer to the Madonna/Whore Complex column. I generally enjoy your articles and find your answers both funny and informative. However, your comment, “This brand of insanity is caused by growing up in a religious, conservative culture that sees sex as dirty, wrong or something to be ashamed of,” was a cheap shot that I find to be patently untrue.

I consider myself religious and conservative. I grew up in that culture and have raised my children in that culture. I do not find sex to be dirty, wrong or something to be ashamed of, was not brought up that way by my parents and don’t teach that message to my children. I was raised in the Baptist church, attended Catholic Church with my first husband and as an adult have found my “home” in the Methodist church. It’s been my experience at all three institutions that sex is considered to be natural, wonderful and very enjoyable.

While the implicit platform of your articles would suggest that you have an open mind, this comment suggests otherwise and may dissuade more readers than you think.

— Troubled

Dear Troubled:

I not only stand by what I said, I’ll go further: Religious families emotionally castrate their children’s sexual life.

And by “religious” I mean folks who believe in a literal or near-literal interpretation of the Bible. Let’s call them rigid religionists. They teach, through word and deed, that sex is shameful and disgusting. The result? Millions of women who have trouble experiencing orgasms (because they’re told sexual ecstasy is depraved), men who get infected with a Madonna/Whore Complex (because they’re told only “dirty” women have sex), and people who descend into alcoholism or contemplate suicide because they’re in love with somebody of their own sex (because they’re told homosexuality is immoral).

Nothing will create more sexual dysfunction than growing up in a rigid religionist household. You will be much more likely to believe that an erection going into the wrong hole will send you to hell, much more likely to be ignorant of basic facts about how your body works, and much more likely to feel guilty for experiencing sexual pleasure that isn’t tied to reproduction. You’re more likely to live in a house that’s hostile toward sex education, perpetuates double standards between male and female sexuality, and creates unnecessary teen pregnancies (teen birth rates are highest in the most conservatively religious states).

What was your point again?

Oh, that you can grow up in a rigid religionist household and have healthy views about sex. True. And not everybody who smokes gets lung cancer. I love it when the exceptions to the rule think the rule’s been imagined.

Children from rigid religionist homes wouldn’t experience so much sexual harm if they were simply exposed to their parents’ secondhand smoke. But the thing is, a lot of these parents like to stick the cigarettes in their kids’ mouths and make them inhale.

In Snellville, for example, a friend recounted a story that plays out all over the country: A father takes his 15-year-old daughter out to dinner and presents her with a “promise ring” in return for a pledge of virginity until marriage. Can you imagine the dynamic at that dinner? The creep factor alone would lift thousands of sex therapists out of the recession.

When I helped create FamilyAcceptance.com, a website that helps parents come to terms with their gay children, we weren’t exactly targeting religious families with a healthy view toward sex. We were aiming for rigid religionists. We’ve gotten about 10,000 e-mails over the years — nearly all from parents caught between the stance of their church and the love of their children. Sadly, more than half side with their church.

There are millions of religious families who observe a strong moral code without inflicting unhealthy views about sex onto their children. If you’re one of them, more power to you. But don’t tell me you’re the norm when the country’s littered with emotionally castrated people.

Shall I go on?

Got a burning or a why-is-it-burning question for the Sexorcist? E-mail him at sexorcist@creativeloafing.com. Midtown resident Mike Alvear hosts HBO’s “The Sex Inspectors,” blogs at mikealvear.com and teaches monthly blogging workshops with Hollis Gillespie.

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