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This is the third of five essays written to summarize my first year working in Korea. I lived and worked in the most unusual environment of my entire life, and while I am grateful that I experienced a lot of uniquely difficult situations, it took a long time to conclude what it really is that I had experienced with 50 other foreigners. For those that experienced that year with me or for those who have always wondered what even happened to me that year— this is to enlighten you.
Essay III| Sex and Deconstruction
It was a steamy July night in Daegu, South Korea, I was drunk and sweaty and so was he; his lips smashed into mine without warning. His kisses stunned me, and I could feel a rush of butterflies all the way up my spine. He was sloppy, kind of wild, but tender where it counted, and it was a lot of fun. It wasn’t just a kiss, and not because it had led to several more. It wasn’t just a kiss because I eventually fell deeply in love with the boy who gave them. It wasn’t even just a kiss due to the subsequent kisses after that night and all the transactions of affection between us. It was more than a kiss because that night that boy’s kisses meant everything to me. It was the first time I’d been kissed with no swindling, deception, or fright of sin in sight. Sure, we were drunk and maybe it was just silly, but it felt so wondrous. He was a new hired teacher, and I was the first girl he had kissed at our compound job thus far. It surprised me, I felt special, I felt noticed, and there wasn’t anything forbidden about this kiss. It was ripe, palpable, and I could feel every kiss down to my toes.
He kissed me.
He kissed me.
He kissed me.
I couldn’t stop giggling into my dreamy sleep. He kissed me.
There weren’t many boys before him that had kissed and held me like he had that warm night. I have never quite fit with any boy, I was too unconventional for any guy from my Christian world to understand or find me kissable. I think I am a little too strong minded, eccentric, curvy, tall, or black to find a fit from my Evangelical Christian world that I remained in (reluctantly) before I moved to Korea. My past kissing and sexual history was full of scandal—there was always some kind of sinful shade tainted on all my experiences. I’ve lost count on how many guys, who have said something like, “I just don’t think you’re the girl I am supposed to be with.” What they meant was, not the God chosen kind of woman, I was just the girl for the stolen kisses that should remain secret. There were many things that frustrated me about the church world I was enfolded in. But for the longest time, I have been too ashamed to admit that the largest motivating thoughts that propelled me out of the Christian world, was this: “if I stayed in this church world I may never kiss a boy who wanted to kiss me, or worse yet I’d die alone never finding a companion that wanted me for me!” I felt trapped by my synchronous feelings of fear to dabble in the non-Christian dating world, and even worse was my fears to see myself as a non-Christian.
My mother’s past was full of sex-capades that I knew some or part of, but I knew the result of it all was heartbreak, mental illness, and folly. This all led her to the Lord Jesus Christ who saved her from herself and the love of Christ was ‘shed abroad in her heart’. She had numerous boyfriends and dysfunctional sexual partners, and she didn’t want her daughters experiencing anything near what her experiences were. She got her wish, I as the eldest, was devout to my faith and was trembling with fear when it came to anything sexual. I had early sexual experiences, but for the majority of my high-school and college years I stayed out of the dating world apart from crushes and wedding daydreams. Attending Christian schools my whole life, I was in a community, that demanded a boyfriend and a wedding as a rite of passage, I had always felt without a sense of full womanhood only having secretive kisses from other girls’ boyfriends and sneaky underpants stuff that I was too ashamed to tell my best friends or mother about. My Caribbean mother is a beautiful, strong, faith-filled Christian woman with good reason, and I always understood why her faith was important, and tried my best to emulate it as much as I could. However, by twenty-five, I was far too frustrated with my own experiences of feeling overlooked in the church when it came to dating, and I felt angry that I couldn’t convey to my parents that the very place of safety they brought their daughters into, had betrayed me and my sense of self.
When I came to Korea I could face my questions and although my Christianity was already staggeringly unorthodox, I still got the chance to further my grappling doubt, and I now had the space to make conclusions. There were massive things I had to face like if Christian was what I wanted to be identified as, when I doubted most of the Bible. Was I just hanging onto Christianity for the sake of my family and friends? Why am I hanging onto these strange rules of sexuality because of ideologies from a book that I don’t adhere to? That was probably the scariest thought to cross my mind. Other questions arose while I was in Korea that I hadn’t even known were issues for me. Could I kiss a boy that didn’t believe in a God (that I barely did myself) — could I kiss a boy that never ever and will never believe in God? Deconstruction of religion plays mind games with you. It’s funny what rules and regulations are stubborn enough to hang on. I didn’t believe Christ was a deity, yet was more afraid to kiss a boy who didn’t identify as a Christian— more than having sex with a guy who did.
I brought along a hodgepodge of contradictions when it came to sexuality and my waning faith with me to Korea. I was too afraid to tell anyone that I masturbate and have for years. I could do some stuff with boys if it didn’t mean anything, but sometimes kissing seemed to matter more, in my head. I could kiss girls because that felt more empowering and cool rather than sexual. I could be a feminist and vote pro-choice. I could watch porn and not feel ashamed. I was even okay kissing and much more with Christian boys (if they let it happen—which was rare to find). But I was still too afraid to do a lot of sexual things that meant all my questions and doubt in my faith were real.
That balmy summer night cloaked by stars and perspiration, an atheist kissed me. His kisses unfettered something inside me that night. He later became one of my closest friends, he wasn’t just open minded—his mind soared. I couldn’t keep up, but I was incessantly learning from him and his experiences. It seemingly felt like each weekend, I’d scamper to him after a crazy night and report back all the lurid details that I had gotten myself into, things I was all too afraid to do just a few short months before I met him. He’d lean back, eyes wide and sparkle, and laughingly cheer me on. “Good for you! How was it!?” Then he’d sensationalize me with his own licentious affairs of his weekend. He was free, and he not only accepted my newfound freedom, he celebrated it. He showed me what shame free sexuality looks like, and I couldn’t have been more mesmerized. I felt infinite once kissed by him. There was no such thing as a wrong sexual act. There was no one that I couldn’t kiss. There wasn’t anything off limits. He’d laugh at my drunken promiscuity and high-five me. He’d snuggle me after a night with some other guy, listening to all my stories, smiling. This atheist kissed my shame away, and I’ve found meeting him indispensable for my post-faith sexual liberation.
I couldn’t be more grateful for that clammy, sticky, July night— and those kisses that were all for me.