Monday, October 29, 2012

Falling *Updated 8/19/2015*

** This post has been updated on 8/19/2015, and has been edited from it's 10/29/2012 post  to reflect the version published in the 3rd issue of SANDY THE ZINE, "SLUT" back in September 2014. Reprinted with permission**

As a female child, I was already being slut-shamed before I was conceived. We've all heard about how Eve made poor life choices, dragging the highest form of creation (Adam/man) into her fruit-eating sinful lifestyle. Upping the shame-game, members of the Unification Church believe the fruit from the Tree of Knowledge of Good and Evil was metaphorical. That the actual fall of man was when Eve was seduced by Lucifer the archangel (in studly-man form, not snake), thus leading her to seduce Adam and destroy the platonic innocence between them.

Reverend Moon wasn't very fond of women and he especially didn't like American women. They were the opposite of the dutiful and pious Korean women, who were now apart of the new chosen people. In a 1996 speech, he declared that American women had inherited the lineage of prostitutes, because they enjoyed having sex for pleasure - instead of regarding it as a wifely and duty to God. Many of the first generation of men to join Reverend Moon's church in the 1970's, my dad included, hoped to be matched to an Asian woman. To be matched to an American woman was to link arms with someone of a lower spiritual cast.

Being a 2nd generation girl raised in this belief meant that we had to limit our contact with male peers (or "brothers".) We were expected to avoid any type of physical, romantic, or sexual relationship with a male until we were matched and married. Losing one's virginity before marriage was the worst sin imaginable, probably ranked above murder and drug use in the eyes of the Unification Church. Adam and Eve were banished to the darkest pits of hell for committing such a sin. Inspired by the "Purity Knife" tradition of Korean noblewomen, girls in our church community were encouraged to kill themselves if they encountered a compromising situation which could result in being sexually assaulted. Death would have been considered a blessing. As a female, my only value was my sexual purity. Women in the church held so little power that their husbands made all of their decisions for them, from getting your ears pierced to access to a college education.

I lost my virginity right before I turned seventeen. I had been enduring a crisis of faith since I was fourteen. As I began to question everything about the way I was raised, I also began dating a boy from my middle school. I continued dating and exploring my developing sexuality into high school. 
Even if one were to remove the threat of irrevocable spiritual damnation, losing my virginity was still a miserable experience. My boyfriend at the time was a complete creep who pressured me into having sex when I was still of a kissing/hand-holding mindset. Afterwards, I sat on his bed and sobbed. He dropped me at home. My big sister was very confused when I entered our room practically in hysterics, and I eventually confessed to my parents via email. They reacted with silence. They could not believe something this horrible could have happened to one of the perfect children Reverend Moon had promised them.

My sister was traveling across New York State to Buffalo and nanny for a church family that lived there. I accompanied her, hoping to simultaneously escape my parent's disappointment and my own shame. I fluctuated between crying on the bed we shared, and trying to distract myself by helping with the babysitting. I spent the solitary moments venting to my sister. I thought if I could just keep talking at her, some lifeline would remain to save me from impending insanity and being ripped away to hell by forces from the spirit world. I returned home on a Holy Day called "God's Day". AS I stood next to my mother, bowing to a photograph of Reverend Moon and his wife, I sobbed, feeling like the world's biggest failure. My mother told me that in hell, Hitler is tied to a post and all the people he killed during the war tear him apart again and again, in an endless torture. I imagined something similar awaited me upon my death for giving away my "most precious" gift.

Everything began to fall apart. An opinionated church member who ran a "boarding school" in Texas (which I once had the misfortune of visiting friends there,) had informed all my peers of my sinful mistake. Now everyone in the church community was gossiping and knew I was tainted. Not only was I my parent's shame, but I was now the shame of all the friends I had made in the Unification Church. I emailed one of my closest friends to explain the story from my perspective, but after weeks of no response I finally received a curt email stating that I was dead to her and that she was no longer allowed to contact me. In the few church events that I attended I received sidelong glances from my peers and their parents. I was the girl who had "done it". I was the girl who had "fallen" from grace.

A few years ago, I retold this story to my therapist, sharing the emotional anguish that I had endured when I thought that I had done irreparable damage to both my soul and God's heart by sleeping with a boy. I explained the nightmares and panic attacks that felt like Satan had me by the throat. When I finished, my therapist leaned back in his chair with his hand over his mouth. Processing, we sat in silence for a while. Finally, when he spoke; "I want you to understand that what you're coping with is trauma."

I can't help but be angry when I slowly open the door and peek at those damaging memories lurking in the dark. Even as a now-atheist, I struggle to remind myself I do have value and purpose in the world outside of my parent's religion. I have worked so hard to normalize myself. I put myself through college, I got my ears pierced, I learned how to swing dance, I taught myself to cook, to paint, to meditate. I toughed my way through two very competitive internships at The Juilliard School and The Santa Fe Opera. Now, I'm a career makeup artist in NYC who works in film, TV, and Broadway. I have an attentive boyfriend who supports me through all my weird hang-ups and baggage with love, patience, and understanding.

Up until recently, my mom would periodically email me with information about upcoming "forgiveness ceremonies", which the Unification Church held for those who have 'fallen' (i.e. had sex with someone who they weren't married to.) For a hefty sum, I could be elevated from my lowly status in the church to somewhere near the 1st generation status of my parents. I would not be allowed to marry someone from my former second generation peers. Clearly, I was still tainted goods to my mother.

But I am not ashamed of who I've become and how I have gotten here. 


  1. This is one of the most beautiful things i have ever read