It was February. Purity Month. A series of lessons on modesty and dating (and some hushed thoughts on sex) delivered every Sunday.

It was Sunday. We were in groups. The boys, the men, the dudes, heck yeah, on one side of the gym. The girls, the women, the girls. Somewhere else. What do you think they were talking about? Boys? Probably. 

We circled up. The teacher, or group leader, or adult volunteer, or someone’s dad started speaking. He talked about how sex was good, but it was bad for us. He loved his wife. We will love ours too. It felt so good. It was bad for us. 

“You’ll notice that lots of girls like to dress in tempting ways.” 

He said 

“There’s nothing you can do, but turn away and avoid sinning”

He said that too.

Nothing you can do. That’s what so many teachers said. Someone’s dad said. It was the girls’ fault if we had those Bad Thoughts. It was perfectly normal to be tempted by skimpy outfits. You can’t stop yourself. Just turn and run. They taught me that when girls dressed that way I was going to be tempted. I was going to sin unless I ran.

There were many ways the church vilified sex. But an egregious one was this: You can’t stop yourself. 

If we train our boys that they have no control. That they can’t keep it in their pants. Do we have a right to be surprised when they don’t? 

It was said over and over again. Girls will wear tight clothes, you’ll have no choice over what happens next. So don’t even put yourself in that position.

It was the woman’s fault for dressing so erotically. She was to blame, poor us. Why do women make it so hard for men to have a pure heart in this world? They’d say. 

I can only speak to my experience and in anecdotes. But what I know from my upbringing is that it is engrained in many parts of our society. And we continue to wonder why so many men who were taught to be afraid of sex find it difficult to control it. Men who were told they had no control. Who were told they were some disgusting type of Jekyll and Hyde. We wonder why our boys turn out so angry and confused about sex. In my experience, it’s because we often raise them to be so afraid of their own sexuality, they can’t imagine wrestling that nightmare. The nightmare always wins.