From nun to sexologist

Dr Fran Fisher was convinced she was pregnant after an older boy encouraged her to touch his penis when she was aged 14 or 15. 

"I used to be on a swimteam, I was an avid swimmer. There was a man there, he was probably 18 and I was 14 or 15. He kind of walked me away from the crowd and took me down one of the back alleys (in Manchester, England). He took out his penis and I touched it. I ran home. I was so terrified and I thought I was pregnant because I had touched a penis." 

Riddled with guilt, she told her mother the next morning. 

"I realised my mother took advantage of that opportunity and put the fear of God in me and it really worked because I knew sex would ruin my life and my whole focus changed to working hard to get an education and knowing that I would never do that again." 

Entering a Catholic convent seemed like a natural choice after this experience and some time spent in the workforce. 

"I wanted a different life than the one planned for me. I really wanted an education and that wasn't really an option." 

When she was 18 she became a nun. The first six months were extremely hard. 

"I didn't realise I wouldn't be able to see my family or have any visitors for the first six months." 

Dr Fisher went on to enjoy some of her time as a nun, but soon realised it wasn't for her. After less than two years, she left and soon after that she met her husband Richard. 

He was her second boyfriend. They fell in love and later moved to Scotland and then the United States. Dr Fisher became a nurse and later a sexologist. She completed a PhD in sexology and spoke to former nuns about their experiences. 

She wanted to investigate how they were raised, what happened with their sexual development during their time as a nun and wanted to find out how they found the transition back into sexual relationships after leaving. 

Dr Fisher was shocked by some of the stories and was keen to give the women a voice. She learnt about nuns who formed same-sex relationships within convents, she learned about nuns who had sexual relationships with priests and she learnt that each and every one of them had major issues with the concept of masturbation.

 "Even the ones who said they didn't have an issue with it, didnt' do it," Dr Fisher said.

She said she was surprised by the intensity of these relationships that were formed within the confines of the convents they were living. 

Dr Fisher said it gave weight to the argument that priests and nuns should be allowed to marry as humans are sexual beings. 

She also learnt about a nun who was thrown out of her convent for whistleblowing. 

"She was working as a social worker in the city and she became aware of a professor who was giving permission to the young seminaries to do whatever they wanted sexually with young people in the parish," Dr Fisher said. 

Dr Fisher said her another story came from former nun Lua Xochitl. 

"She became a revolutionary nun and when she left the convent she went to Cuba to cut sugar cane," Dr Fisher said. 

"At the age of 52 she had her first sexual experience with a man." 

Lua was very sad she had spent so many years of her life as a nun. Dr Fisher said she sees many people whose sexuality has been negatively impacted due to their religious upbringing. 

When she first released the book In the Name of God, Why?, Dr Fisher admitted she was afraid of the reaction from the Catholic church. 

"I don't feel like I'm on my own any more," Dr Fisher said. 

She said she was pleased to hear about the impending Royal Commission into institutional responses to allegations of child sex abuse. 

"Now there's a rising force and I'm adding my voice to it."

What do you think? Join in the discussion at www.connectpink.com.au.

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