Guest Post: How Mormon Purity Culture Failed Me
Guest Post by Anonymous. Anonymous lives with her husband and son and is a lover of music, good books, and chocolate desserts.
It was the spring of 2016 and I was happily engaged. I was living with my parents in the heart of Utah Valley and made an appointment to see my mom’s nurse practitioner about starting on birth control. After researching, I’d decided that an IUD would make the most sense for me.
I’d been given the standard sex ed: one big talk in my early teens as well as whatever the schools were allowed to tell us. I was going into the appointment with some questions, but I’d been led to believe that medical providers were experts who would know the answers and know what was best for me.
The appointment started off well enough. The nurse practitioner seemed nice and she listened to me as I explained how I was apprehensive about how sex was going to work given the problems I’d had with inserting tampons. When she assured me that it wasn’t a big deal and that there was nothing wrong with me, that I wouldn’t have any problems, something felt off but I believed her. She was an expert, right?
Then came the time for the IUD. The nurse got out a disposable plastic speculum and inserted it. The horrible ratcheting noise matched with the horrible pain I felt as she forced it open. As she attempted to insert the IUD I felt the most extreme physical pain I have ever experienced to this day. It felt like I was dying. I cried out.
“Be quiet. This is nothing. Just wait until you have kids.” Then the nurse and her assistant proceeded to swap their natural birth horror stories until “Oops.” The first insertion hadn’t worked out. Did I want them to try again with another IUD? And I said yes. I didn’t know I had vaginismus, a legitimate medical condition that causes involuntary contraction of the vaginal muscles. I didn’t know that this nurse had never inserted an IUD before; she wouldn’t tell me that until later. I didn’t know that experience actually makes a huge difference in the pain of IUD insertion. I was working with only a small portion of the facts and assumed that I didn’t really have much of a choice. And so I said yes.
It was just as painful the second time, but at least that time it worked. The nurse seemed very annoyed with the noises I had made and sent me on my way.
As I reflect on these experiences I know purity culture has failed me. I’d been trained to be uncomfortable with my sexuality. I’d been taught not to question authority. I didn’t have the tools to defend myself, and I suffered as a result. I share this not because it’s a crazy and rare experience, but because it happens all the time. Having talked to other vaginismus sufferers and others who’ve gotten an IUD (especially in Utah Valley), I know these things happen to others and that they will keep happening if we don’t do something about it. I believe that nurse practitioner was also a product of Mormon purity culture and was just part of a society where women’s health care isn’t valued and women’s pain isn’t listened to.
I resolve to do better with my children. I resolve to teach them more fully about sexuality, not just have “the talk.” I resolve to teach them to pay attention to their intuition and to the Holy Ghost, and to question authority if they feel prompted to do so. I firmly believe that change is only going to happen if we make it happen.