My own perceptions of sexuality have been influenced by various aspects of my family background and upbringing. I have had a fairly typical upbringing in some ways, but in other ways I have had an atypical experience. Overall, I sense that I have developed a healthy understanding of sexuality that takes into account various elements of the model. With this in mind, my own background is the appropriate place to begin to understand my own views of sexuality.
I was raised in a fairly typical middle class white home. I was originally raised as a Catholic, even going through confirmation classes. While Catholicism would normally be a major part of any young person’s views on sexuality, this is not so much the case with me. Catholicism tends to impact a person’s perceptions of intimacy and of sensuality, especially in regard to body shame and body image. I broke from the Catholic tradition early in my life, however. I quickly stopped practicing after going through confirmation, and though I would not consider myself anti-Catholic, I have been out of the loop on the church issue for many years now. With this in mind, I felt as if I was going through the motions as a young person, and I do not think that the Catholic norms on sexual repression have had an impact on my own ideas about sex and sexuality.
My parents were never married, and this has had some impact on my life. My father has been a part of my life, though I have had some problems with my father and his raising of my half sister. For much of my life, I was an only child, and I remain the only child of my two parents. However, my dad eventually had another child with another woman, and because my dad is the primary parent for my half sister, he has long given her more attention. I have been raised mostly by my mother and step father, so there have been some times when I have not gotten the love and attention from my natural father that I expected to get. This has had an impact on my ideas of intimacy. Intimacy can be shaped by many things, including one’s perception on how other people tend to care for them. My father’s unwillingness to truly get close to me has had an impact on me personally, and it has in some ways kept me from entering into intimate relationships in the past. Sexuality to me is about more than just sex, of course. It is also about trust. A person can find it difficult to enter into close, intimate relationships if a person is not able to trust the person on the end of the line. I have had problems with trust because my relationship with my own father, and this has ultimately had an impact on the way I enter into relationships with men.
I have had a positive relationship with my step father, and I have seen some things modeled for me that have been positive. His relationship with my mother and the way he has raised me as a father figure have both been very helpful for me in my life. They have helped me re-develop some of those ideas that I might have otherwise lost with my family’s background. Aside from that, some of the confidence that I have is because of how I have been raised. My body image and such are positive in part because I have been blessed with some supportive parents at all points in my life. Despite the somewhat disjointed nature of my family, I have experienced various levels of support over time, which one might not expect with the way things have played out.
One element of sexual identity that has been important for me is my own idea of gender norms and gender roles. As a white, straight woman who is in a monogamous heterosexual relationship, I have in some ways been a conventional person in relationships. I have seen fairly standard gender norms play out over time. My mother, for instance, has long been a caretaker in our family. I have, of course, seen men, including my natural father, play the role of parent. I have also seen strong women who have had the opportunity to explore careers and the like. As for me, I identify as female, and I have tended toward a more modern interpretation of what that can mean. I do not feel boxed in by my gender, and I feel that I can accomplish what I want to accomplish. This relates to my sexual identity and my idea of sexuality because it empowers me to take control of my own sexual life. I am not in a situation where I feel dependent on a man to take control in either a relationship or in a sexual situation. I feel empowered to be my own woman with agency and autonomy, even though this may not be the most popular thing in some cultures. Surely I have pushed aside some of the Catholic influence in order to achieve this open view of sexuality.
Ultimately sexuality to me means the various ways in which one understands his or her own body, his or her own gender roles, and his or her ability to connect with other people in various ways. I have been given a good background in which to explore this. Though unconventional in some ways, my background has given me a good foundation to move forward.