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Fornicating While Latina: Why I Was Deeply Ashamed of Sex and How I Got Over It

I've worked through the sex shame imposed by my traditional Mexican upbringing.

Like many women, I've been sexualized since before I really knew what sex was. The honking, leering and whistling began when I was about 11 years old, and it happened almost everywhere in my Mexican working-class neighborhood. On a few occasions, men followed me in their cars, and as my heart thumped in my chest, I prayed they wouldn't come out and hurt me.

These men didn't care I was only a child. It didn't matter that I didn't even have breasts yet. It didn't matter that half my face was engulfed by gigantic glasses (bifocals, mind you). I hadn't even menstruated yet, and I was so dumb and innocent I still thought a penis was covered with hair. I was a nerdy kid who read fat novels, loved "Saturday Night Live" and hid her pudgy body with gigantic band T-shirts.

But to these men I was already a sexual object.

Every Mexican kid I knew grew up watching “Sabado Gigante," a game show in which a pervy old host (who somehow hasn't aged since I was five) would ogle the crap out of the scantily clad models. Our parents also watched Telemundo or Univision where the news was delivered by women dressed like high-class hookers. In mainstream American media, I rarely ever saw a Latina who wasn't hyper-sexualized, and not much has changed since then.

Sex was everywhere, and yet many of us were taught that that sex was dirty and sinful. I never even noticed these contradictions until many years later.

In high school, I was anguished everytime I had a sexual encounter. Even dry-humping sent me into a spiral of shame. I was convinced that letting a boy touch my boob made me a slut. When I told my therapist that I was overwhelmed with guilt when I engaged in any sort of sexual activity, she didn't seem to understand the deeply seated shame of a Mexican childhood. She kept asking me why I felt this way and I had no idea how to respond.

When I was a senior, my mom found a condom in my pocket when she was doing laundry. She was so angry, I seriously contemplated running away from home. How could I face her after that? By having sex, I had betrayed her. I had always been a bad Mexican daughter, but this really broke her heart. In her eyes, I'd soon be knocked up like so many girls in my community. It didn't matter that I was having  safe sex. I was ruined.

Thanks to the Catholic Church, Mexican sexual attitudes and behaviors are strongly influenced by  marianismo, the model of the obedient and docile woman. We are to emulate the Virgin Mary, mother of Jesus, and sacrifice our own needs for the sake of our husband and children. If you're not a saint, you're a whore. There was no in-between. By Mexican standards, I was an outspoken selfish slut.

One of the most popular Mexican insults is hijo/a de le chingada, which translates to son or daughter of a fucked mother. In the essay "The Sons of La Malinche," Octavio Paz writes, “Who is the Chingada? Above all, she is the Mother. Not a Mother of flesh and blood but a mythical figure. The Chingada is one of the Mexican representations of Maternity, like La Llorona or the 'long-suffering Mexican mother' we celebrate on the tenth of May.”

In traditional Mexican culture, sex is one of the worst things that can happen to a young woman.  Though the numerous creeps in my community freely sexualized me and my peers, girls who had sex, dressed sexy, or even socialized with boys were often called pirujas, putas and cualquieras. Men were rarely implicated.

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