WARNING: The video with this story contains sexual themes and some nudity.
An Auckland teen's journey of sexual discovery while growing up in a strict Christian household sent her on a collision course, eventually leading to a "breakup with God".
Caitlyn Cook is the subject of a just-released Loading Docs short documentary, My Breakup with God.
Cook, now in her early 30s and based in Thailand, was raised in a religious household bound by the teachings of the Bible and beliefs of the Christian church.
"My parents are super kind, loving, and in love with God. Grace at every meal, praise and worship songs playing constantly. I was a quiet and happy child…I was always captivated by boobs and the prospect of being a grown woman, though," Cook said.
As a young teen, she found herself wanting to break free from the rules. But sexual freedom came at a cost. She faced significant judgment after losing her virginity at 13 and later began questioning her faith.
"I was sort of a sexual pioneer, being nearly the first to have sex in my year at age 13. The innocence and purity of my burgeoning sexuality was not well received or cared for however. …I was told, 'How could you?! Don't!' and was shamed, judged, and made wrong."
After leaving the church during her OE in London, she spiralled into anxiety and eating disorder.
"While I was thin, achieving good marks at university, and was ostensibly 'happy', I was living an internal hell of self-hate. At that stage I had developed a sort of allergy to anything 'spiritual'."
Then Cook discovered Tantra - a Hindu or Buddhist scripture relating to techniques and rituals including meditative and sexual practices - and so began her pursuit of sexual enlightenment and healing.
"I felt this massive call to explore mindfulness and eventually tantra. It was do or die, really. Through these paths I rediscovered my self-worth, self-love, and authentic desire… I discovered how spirituality can include Ecstasy, sexuality, grit, and joy."
Cook – now a mindfulness and sexuality coach who holds a BSc in biology, a BSc (Honours) in human geography and a BA in English/philosophy – opens up to her parents in the film and seeks their understanding of her juxtaposed beliefs.
"They said they were shocked at first… but then—totally surprising me—Dad broke into a chuckle saying, 'I can't believe I'm in an X-rated film in my late 60s'.
"What he said next really, really surprised me, 'If this film blesses our relationship and it blesses other people, I support it'. What?! Mum agreed and said, 'I'm just happy to be doing something that's part of your life'."
The director of My Breakup with God, Zoe McIntosh, said: "The film is a story of courage and a reminder to step to the beat of your own drum… There is still a taboo around women's sexual expression but Caitlyn forces us to question our ideas on female sexuality and our beliefs around sex."
Go to nzherald.co.nz/loadingdocs to view the Loading Docs short documentary My Breakup with God and other Loading Docs videos. To view all of the Loading Docs short documentaries, visit https://loadingdocs.net/shorts/