Learning How Boys Are Different From Girls - at Thirty
Copyright© 2014 by Sterling
Sex Story: Chapter 1 - The Holy Innocence Church has created separate orders of profoundly innocent monks and nuns to praise God, isolating them on nearby tropical islands. New novices are delivered each year by boat. Then the deliveries stop. It is left to the innocents to figure out if they should change their ways in an effort to keep from going extinct.
Our Lady was an island, three miles long and half a mile wide. Lush vegetation grew everywhere, with a clear spring at the base of the central hill. Warm breezes blew year round. Nature provided fruit and fish. With just a bit of work it was easy to grow rice, sweet potatoes and vegetables. The real work of the residents was praising God.
There was only one contact with the outside world. Every year on the vernal equinox, a rowboat appeared from over the horizon. At the oars was a single woman, dressed in white. With her was a 3-year-old girl. The girl was delivered to the sisters of Our Lady and consecrated to God. After a brief ceremony, the woman dressed in white rowed back over the horizon. She never spoke.
The consecrated women and girls of Our Lady were because of this all one year apart in age. Eventually the older ones died. Occasionally a disease or an accident claimed the life of one of the younger ones. But the population of the island usually consisted of 70 or so females, aged 3, 4, 5, 6, 7 ... with spaces becoming more the rule than the exception above the age of 60. There was no medicine -- God would claim them in His own good time. The older sisters delighted in the play of the little novices. They were not too strict with them, but prepared them gradually to assume their solemn duties as full sisters when they turned 14 years old.
Our Lady was the convent island of the Holy Innocence Church. Doctrine held that the way to a purer knowledge of Christ was knowing less of the ways of the secular world. They knew what the Church thought they ought to know to live the holiest life -- and no more. The sum of this knowledge was contained in the one Book of Innocence, mostly concerned with how God should be praised. They knew there existed a foundational book of Christian religions known as the Holy Bible, but they were only provided with a few excerpts of this book -- it had far more knowledge than was consistent with the holy life.
One excerpt from that book was that the two original people were Adam and Eve. They had eaten from the tree of knowledge against the wishes of God and had fallen. To reclaim paradise, the women of Our Lady were to be told only what God wanted his chosen to know -- in the best judgment of the Holy Innocence Church.
Eve was a woman, and Adam was a man. A man was another kind of human being, though they did not know in what way he differed. Children when created were destined to turn into either women or men, and the ones who turned into men were known as boys. This much they knew. In their spare time the novices and sisters occasionally shared fragmentary memories of the time before they came to the island. The Book of Innocence revealed that from the age of 18 months they had lived in a special Church facility. Some thought they remembered men, but the memories were very unclear. Some girls thought they had deep voices and never grew larger than a 10-year-old girl. Others thought they had scratchy faces and were very fat.
Barely visible on the horizon was another island. They knew it was called Our Savior and it was much like their island but populated with men and boys. The Book of Innocence expressly forbade them from leaving their island.
Our Lady was ruled by the Mother Superior, supported by the Council of Five Sisters. All the sisters and novices pledged obedience to the Mother Superior. In any dispute, her word was final. She designated her own successor and selected replacements for the members of the Council. However, sometimes age is not kind to the mind and judgment as any mortal ages, and the Council had the authority acting unanimously to remove the Mother from office and substitute another of the sisters -- who could not be one of the Council.
The Book of Innocence told them that the Mother Superior had a personal library in her private office in her residence, an office that no one but she ever entered. These books were a symbol of forbidden knowledge. Their presence was a temptation, and one burden of the office of Mother Superior was to resist the temptation of looking at them.
The original architects had designed the settlement of Our Lady to last. The buildings were all of imported stone set on deep foundations. There were storerooms with spare materials -- window glass, metal implements, rugged shoes, cloth, kitchen ware, and other small implements to support their simple life. The sisters prided themselves on how very slowly they drew on those supplies. The Book of Innocence promised that a larger boat with replacement supplies would arrive every 40 years. So far it had come just twice since the founding of the order.
And so the years had passed. The older sisters gradually grew older, grew frail, and died. But each year a new girl arrived in the rowboat, and in this way the circle of life continued.
But now not all was well. One year the rowboat had not come. The sisters prayed for order to be restored, trusting in God. But it had not come the next year either. Now, as February turned to March, the rowboat had not come for ten years. If it did not come again, the youngest of them, Kira, would become a full sister and there would be no novices. The supply boat had been due to make its third appearance four years earlier, but it had not come either.
There had been nine previous Mother Superiors, remembered by name in daily prayer. The current Mother Superior was firm that they must trust in God. If He intended them to die out, then that was His will. As others conversed in groups of two or three, some weren't sure this was the best course. Shouldn't they try to do something? They had no boats, and the Book of Innocence specifically decreed that they must not leave the island. But they knew rowboats existed and were possible. Perhaps they could fashion one from the materials they had at hand and make a voyage to Our Savior? They could find out if the boat to Our Savior had stopped coming too. They could share thoughts and ideas.
Julie, the one and only resident of the island who was 28, was one of the most vocal of this group. She found herself in heated discussion, arguing for action, for exploration. The order of their world had been broken, and surely it was permissible -- perhaps even required -- for them to be flexible themselves? Some of the other sisters reminded her that she was not being as humble and obedient as she should be. On two occasions the Mother Superior had accosted her and assigned her to do penance. The first time she was put in seclusion for three days. This time she had been in seclusion for two weeks, and she had no idea when or if she would be released. She prayed constantly for God's will to be done, trying to suppress her natural human desire to be free and rejoin the others. But as the Book of Innocence demanded, she strove to be slightly better than human. If God's will was for her to remain in seclusion for the rest of her life, she would try to accept it gracefully.
She awoke in the dark to the sound of footsteps outside on the path leading to her seclusion cell -- which was in a stone hut. She quickly rose and donned her habit. Then she realized it was not one set of footsteps, but several.
She heard the sound of the door being unlocked, and then a voice. "May we come in?"
"Of course," said Julie.
The first to enter was Sister Beatrice, followed by the other four members of the Council!
Surely this must be a very serious matter. Julie knelt and bowed her head. Hopefully she was not to be punished more harshly. There had been those screams from Sister Eleanor once after she had been in seclusion for a day. The rumor was that her offense had been touching Sister Anna in a way that she shouldn't.
"May the will of God be done," she said softly, with total conviction.
"You may rise, Sister Julie," said Beatrice.
When she had risen the six of them stood in a circle in the small hut -- there was but one small chair.
"Could you kindly tell us your thoughts on what Our Lady should do in light of the lacuna of the boats?"
She bowed her head and said, "I trust the judgment of the Mother Superior in all things. If I have said intemperate things in the past, it has been my sin. I have been praying constantly for greater guidance from Our Father. I dare to hope that I am making progress."
When she looked up, the others were smiling slightly.
"That is very good, Julie. The Lord would be pleased. Yet -- suppose the Mother Superior asked you honestly for your own opinion, laying aside anything she has said in the past on the subject, laying aside what any of the rest of us have said. What are your thoughts then?"
Julie was perplexed, fearing a trap. "Surely the Mother Superior would not turn for advice to one such as me, when there are so many more among you who are holier -- certainly including all of you of the Council!"
Sister Theresa spoke. "It's not a trap, Julie. I can see why you'd think that. We can promise you solemnly that no word of what we say here will ever reach the ears of the Mother Superior."
"But surely you wouldn't disobey the Mother Superior? You wouldn't keep a secret from her?"
The others smiled thinly.
"Think, Sister Julie," said Beatrice. "Think about the function of the Council. Think about our most important role in the order. Don't say anything, just think."
Julie thought, but she drew a blank.
Sister Rosa said, "Let's just say that when we report to the Mother Superior, it will not be to the person who before her elevation was known as Sister Catherine."
Julie's eyes opened wide. "But the Mother Superior ... She is not ill? Could this be God's will?"
The others shifted uneasily and looked away momentarily.
"The lacuna of the boats has changed things," said Beatrice. "It is with heavy hearts that we are nearly resolved to take this momentous step. So ... what do you think we ought to do?"
"Surely the new Mother Superior will know best? Or seek the counsel of those she trusts?"
"Ummm," said Beatrice. "Your opinions may influence who we choose to be the next Mother Superior."
Rosa said, "Sister Julie, there are different ways we can fail in God's eyes. There is failure of obedience and there is the sin of pride. Another is timidness, an unwillingness to think with an open mind and say what you think when asked. This is what we ask of you now. Do not be timid."
Julie thought. If her opinions could guide who they selected for Mother Superior, that could be a very good thing. After a brief silent prayer, she began. "I think we ought to start building a boat -- it may take several tries -- and learn how to row it. I think a small delegation of volunteers should go over to Our Savior and take advantage of the knowledge of the monks to jointly chart the best course for Our Lady."
Sister Theresa said, "Is it possible that the best course is to remain here in prayer on Our Lady until we all in due time go to meet Our Father in heaven?"
Julie was overcome by feeling. "Yes," she said through gritted teeth. "If that is what the Lord wills, then that is what we ought to do." Suddenly embarrassed, she blushed and said, "Forgive me, I ... I will try to control myself."
Sister Beatrice smiled in kindly fashion. "What other ideas do you have?"
"I think the Mother Superior ought to look through her library. It's a temptation, yes, but that applied to a world which has vanished. Sometimes when faced with a choice, the only option is the lesser of two sins. Along with the unholy knowledge, there might be some ordinary knowledge we don't have, some useful information..." She continued sharing her ideas for a few more minutes.
Sister Beatrice raised her hand to stop her, then looked around at the other four from the Council. There were nods and smiles. Then she got down on her knees, took Julie's hand and kissed it. The others in turn all knelt and kissed her hand. Was this some sort of cruel joke?
"I pledge to you my loyalty and obedience, O Reverend Mother," said Beatrice.
"Me?" squeaked Julie. No one under the age of 50 had ever been Mother Superior. No one under age 38 had ever been on the Council.
The others took the same pledge.
"It is our best judgment of the will of the Lord," said Beatrice.
"Are you sure? Why?"
Sister Theresa said, "Uncertain times call for new thinking. For someone whose strong inclination is not to wait for our order to die out. Yet one who is also very holy."
The others nodded.
Julie reflected that some of the other sisters didn't seem to take their calling all that seriously. Julie sinned, but she felt genuine contrition and desperately wanted to be a better person and serve the Lord better.
"But ... But..."
Beatrice continued. "And now, may the Lord give me strength for what lies ahead. Follow us, Sister Julie."
The six of them then proceeded directly to the Mother Superior's residence, Julie bringing up the rear, her mind spinning.
When at last the sleepy Mother Superior opened the door, she looked out at the six of them on her porch. Julie stood behind the others, trying her best to be invisible.
"O Reverend Mother," said Sister Beatrice. "After deep contemplation, we the members of the Council --"
The Mother Superior drew back, eyebrows raised in astonishment. "No! No you don't! I am not senile! I have not strayed from the path!"
"I understand that is your conviction, but --"
"I forbid it! I will have you all put in seclusion! This is against the Way. It is against the will of our Lord. You are under the influence of the Devil."
The others looked down. But Beatrice stood her ground.
"I am sorry, Reverend Mother," she said at last. "I have served you to the best of my ability and obedience for six years. But in prayerful contemplation, the five of us feel it is God's will to take this unprecedented step."
"And who is this other person behind you? Is this your choice? The pretender?"
The others stood aside, and Julie could retain no pretense of invisibility.
"Her! Who authorized her removal from seclusion? My orders were very clear."
Beatrice sighed, then turned to Julie and gave her a warm smile. Then she fell to her knees and once again kissed her hand. The other four did so as well, and then all looked at the Mother Superior -- the former Mother Superior. They waited for her to do the same. But Sister Catherine stood with arms folded against her chest.
Julie looked at her, fighting back tears.
"What should we do, Reverend Mother?" asked Beatrice. "One of the sisters refuses to bow before the Mother Superior."
"Um..." said Julie, when she realized she was being addressed.
"Could I make a suggestion, Reverend Mother?" said Sister Theresa.
"Certainly, sister -- um ... Certainly, my child?"
"Perhaps a brief time in seclusion will help Sister Catherine to contemplate God's will."
"Yes," said Julie with relief. "Yes, I think that would be wise. See that it is done."
Sister Beatrice gently took the candle from the hands of the former Mother Superior and handed it to the new Mother Superior. As the others left to escort Sister Catherine to the cell Julie had occupied a few minutes before, Sister Rosa turned and said with a little smile, "Go on in -- it's your residence now."
Julie watched them go, then crossed the threshold into the Mother Superior's receiving room. Whenever she had entered this room before, it had been with fear and trepidation. Rarely were the younger sisters invited in, and it was never for a friendly chat. The room had three sofas and the ornate carved chair reserved for the Mother Superior.
Slowly advancing, she opened the door to the Mother Superior's private audience room. She had never seen it before. It was a smaller room with just one small couch, one chair, and a small table. There was a door beyond. It could lead only one place -- to the private chambers of the Mother Superior. They were now her private chambers.
She stepped through into a small hallway. To her left was a bedroom, with the biggest bed Julie had ever seen. Two people could lie down side by side on that bed! To her right was the office, with a simple wooden desk, a chair -- and a set of bookshelves full of books.
All the little novices dreamed of becoming Mother Superior some day. They played at being Mother and Sister, giving each other orders. Julie laughed and grinned, then did a little dance. She was immediately embarrassed and prayed for guidance from God.
Returning to the bedroom, Julie looked at the rumpled sheets. No sister could ever leave her bed like that during the day. But then the Mother Superior hadn't dreamed that when she went to answer her door, she would never return.
When her breakfast was brought to her seclusion cell the next morning, Sister Catherine had relinquished her ring and cross pendant.
Sister Beatrice introduced the new Mother Superior at a general meeting of the order later that morning in the settlement's central square. Many were clearly surprised. The sisters filed by, got down on their knees and kissed Julie's ring. Most were hard to read. A few were clearly suppressing hostility, but more seemed delighted, especially among the younger sisters. Kira, the last remaining novice, had perhaps the brightest smile.
To try to adjust to her new role, Julie had private audiences with the Council members one by one. Sister Rosa related that Sister Catherine had also been quite unsure of herself when she first became Mother Superior, even though she was 64 at the time and had been the designated successor for three years. That made Julie feel better.
She hadn't even considered changing anything relating to the daily life of the community. But Sister Beatrice had told her the most important thing was for her to establish her authority, and that must be done with all the old rituals intact. Having had no time to prepare, Julie sometimes had to accept coaching in just what she was supposed to say in the various prayer functions she performed during a day. It took her less time than she would have thought to adjust to all the deference the others showed her, and the realization embarrassed her and sent her into earnest prayer.
A critical moment came 23 days after Julie's assumption of her office: the vernal equinox. They all knew that if the boat came, Julie's position would be radically undermined. She realized with deep shame that a large part of her desperately wanted the boat not to come. She wanted change!
On the appointed day, all of the order prepared to assume their assigned posts if one of the lookouts spotted the boat. But the boat did not come.
The next day she felt was the time to initiate her plan for boat construction. She made discreet inquiries through her Council and found some sisters who were eager and had some of the relevant skills, and then ordered them to work. They would take freely from the store room: lumber, rope, nails, and other items as needed. One sister thought that the gum of one of the island's plants could be used a sealant. The small crew would try to turn all of it into something that floated, and later into something that could be rowed.
What Julie did as soon as she was free from official duties on her first day was to explore the Mother Superior's desk. While all the sisters were familiar with the Book of Innocence, here was a book called the Mother's Book, consisting of instructions for the eyes of Mother Superiors only. It contained more on the history of the church and its teachings and the special role that Our Lady and Our Savior held. It also reiterated in somewhat more detail than the Book of Innocence how the rest of the library of 100 volumes was a temptation for the Mother Superior. Each book was wrapped in some thin plastic stuff that Julie had never seen before, but one could not read the book without breaking it, and evidently it could never be put back. It would be apparent to any new Mother Superior whether one of her predecessors had succumbed to temptation. She counted 100 sealed books. None had -- yet.
In the days leading up to the equinox, Julie spent long hours at her desk in prayer and contemplation. As a young girl she had gradually absorbed the teachings of the sisters, gradually learned her role in life, learned the rules she must obey. Although God lay behind it all, to a young sister the visible manifestation of God was the Mother Superior. Their goal was always to do God's will, but in practice the woman with the ring and the cross pendant was the one interpreting that will. As a novice, her fear had not been God's displeasure, but the displeasure of the Mother Superior. She had also striven to discern God's will directly, as she was taught, but the messages were always murky.
It had been one thing to tell the Council that she thought the new Reverend Mother ought to look at her library, but it was quite another when she was the person given that responsibility -- and when the plastic wrappings plainly revealed that for over 100 years her predecessors had all followed their orders. Any of them could have ripped open a book and blamed it on her predecessor. None had.
There was one passage in the Mother's Book that she read over and over. "The Lord God created you, the Mother Superior, as a creature of free will. You must act as the Lord God guides you. You and you alone are burdened with the temptation of the books. Adam and Eve ate from the tree of knowledge in contravention of the will of God. The prohibition on reading from the books of knowledge comes from the best judgment of fallible mortals, the founders of the Holy Innocence Church."
In thinking about the passage, she couldn't recall anywhere in the Book of Innocence where free will was emphasized, or where the founders of the Church were portrayed as fallible mortals. And then it struck her. The church had stopped sending a boat. That was a sign of its fallibility! Its vision had failed in some sense. The only thing that was supposed to end the plan of the church was the Second Coming -- which surely would not have bypassed their island! God was not telling her in prayer not to open the books, it was just the doctrine of a church which had been in shown in practice as well as theory to be fallible.
On the morning after the vernal equinox, Julie said one more prayer, then with trembling hands tore the thin plastic stuff off of book #1. There was no thunder, no voice speaking from the heavens. She picked up book #2 and tore the plastic off of it too. One by one, she unsheathed every single book. When she was done there was a pile of crinkly plastic. She compressed it as best she could and stuck it in a drawer of the desk. All the drawers had been empty, as befitted a church devoted to innocence. Now one wasn't.
First Julie read from the books at random but found that very confusing. Then she began a systematic survey of the books. She found a dictionary and encyclopedia and discovered which books were more basic and which more advanced.
Still, she struggled to make sense of what she read. The earth was not the center of the universe. The moon revolved around the earth, but nothing else did. The sun was the center of something called the solar system, but it was part of a galaxy, of which the universe had billions. Many scientists believed there were other planets with other kinds of life -- possibly billions of them. The book noted that these discoveries had weakened belief in God, and Julie could see why. Instead of one little world looked over by one God, He had to make billions upon billions of stars and planets, or else -- heresy! -- maybe each world had its own God?
All the sisters knew that the boat came from a bigger world. She realized that until then in her mind's eye the bigger world was maybe 50 miles long and 10 miles wide. When she saw world maps, she was astounded at how much land there was, how many cities, how many people. They were in a place called the South Pacific Ocean. A Church map showed Our Lady and Our Savior, but there were no other islands anywhere nearby. Her heart sank as she realized that a boat trip to anywhere else would be a very long one. She initially took heart from the fact that the boat that came to them was a small boat, and it must have gotten there somehow. Only later did she see pictures of giant ships and how they sometimes carried smaller boats inside them. That must be how it had been done.
From her reading of history, she found that things had not always been as they were. Civilizations rose and fell. Religions came and went. Religions were incompatible with each other. At most one was correct. What made the Church think they were the right one? It was a terribly heretical thought. But the fact that the boats had stopped coming was not a good sign. If the Church had followed the example of so many of its predecessors, it may well have vanished for good and the boats would never come back.
There were pictures of all kinds of people, and she realized that all of them on Our Lady were from Northern European stock and known as white people.
There were lots and lots of pictures of men! Among the first few pictures she saw were some that gave her a funny little tingle in her stomach. Men were bigger than women when they were grown and they had deeper voices. They had faces that were scratchy or else hairy. They were not usually fat. Some pictures showed them naked above the waist, and it seemed they did not grow breasts. She had been scanning books for some time before she came across diagrams of what men looked like naked. What really set men apart, the most dramatic difference, was what was between their legs. This hardly ever showed -- men and women kept their crotches covered up in the wider world too, not just on on the island. But in those few pictures in the encyclopedia, it was very different. There was a tube called a penis and a sack with balls in it called testicles.
Julie often had to take a break from her reading to pray, contemplate, and just plain think. So much was new to her. Sometimes she wondered if it was all true, it seemed so incredible.
After tangential references here and there to something called pregnancy, she finally found a full description of where babies came from. They grew inside women's bodies! What a bizarre thought! One could see pictures of a woman getting fatter and fatter as the baby grew. Then when the baby was big enough it came out between her legs! This made her wrinkle her nose. Babies coming into the world from that dirty place? The other stuff that came out there was urine, feces, and menstrual blood. She noted briefly that innocence about some things might really help living a holy life.
Half the time the baby was a boy and half the time it was girl. When the baby came out it was really tiny. Women's breasts produced stuff called milk that the babies drank. But apparently breasts only produced it right after a woman had a baby, which made sense.
So that would be one solution to their problem of the order dying out -- get baby girls to come out of their bodies and wait until they turned three and could become novices. But of course no babies came out of the bodies of the sisters on Our Lady. It took her quite some time to puzzle out what made a baby start growing, since there were no pictures of it. First, it required a man. Some fluid called sperm came from the man's body and went into the woman's to start the process, and the baby looked partly like the mother and partly like the father.
When she saw the cutaway diagram of a woman's body, she was fascinated. She had found as a young girl that there was an extra hole down there with no obvious purpose, but it was sinful to explore like that, so she'd only done it a couple times. As she approached puberty, the sisters explained that the opening was called a vagina and that blood would leak out of it every month. They explained how to contain the flow using the cloths that the order stocked for just that purpose. They reinforced the idea that it was sinful to touch oneself in that entire area except to keep clean. But now she was the Mother Superior. She made the rules. So with a vestigial wash of shame she pushed her finger up into the hole, and, encouraged by the diagram, kept pushing and pushing. The whole finger went in!
There were references to insertion of the penis into the vagina, but she didn't get how it would work. Could you thread the little floppy tube into the vagina like you fed a rope into a hole? Apparently it wasn't really necessary. She also read about this thing called artificial insemination. They could collect sperm from men, then stick it in a woman later and it could start a baby growing. All you needed was to get the sperm in there somehow. Feeding a floppy tube of flesh into a vagina seemed both gross and far more complicated than necessary.
Between her sessions with the books, she thought more broadly about their predicament. The boats were probably not going to return. They couldn't build a boat big enough to row to anywhere except Our Savior -- it would be no small task to manage even that. As she had planned all along, they could row to Our Savior to see if their boat had stopped coming too, and compare notes and share ideas.
But there was a way to make more little girls themselves. Could they manage it? They didn't have any technology to speak of. But there was no obvious technology involved in collecting sperm from men and inserting it into women. As she kept looking, she realized that humans used to live without technology, and even back then they had needed to produce more little boys and girls, and apparently they had succeeded, since they didn't die off. God had created Adam and Eve in a way that was unclear, but since then all babies had been created using the same method.
Suddenly it fell into place. Even if the men on Our Savior had no new knowledge, the key to survival of the order lay over there. They had the last missing piece: all men produced sperm. They'd get the men to give them some and they'd stick it in their vaginas. If one woman did that every year, she'd produce a tiny baby girl, and then when she was 3, she could take the place of the girls that didn't arrive any more. But wait ... half the time the babies were boys. But ... aha! They could make two babies a year and send the boys over to Our Savior so they wouldn't run out of men, and they could keep the girls so they didn't run out of women. But was that enough? All the women would still grow old and die so they couldn't have babies any more. The men would die so they couldn't produce sperm any more. But wait! The girls would eventually grow up and their uteruses would start working, so they could go over to the island and get some sperm. The little boys would grow up and make more sperm, and it would go on and on! She was dizzy for some time as she kept thinking of that plan from every angle. It was a workable plan for survival!
Our Lady and Our Savior would keep going indefinitely, praising the Lord as the Church intended. Mother Superior Julie had violated her sacred trust and read the books. But in them she had found what they needed. Wasn't that worth it?