Tag Archive | Sex negativity

Sex is not a poopy diaper, part 3

Warning: Yeah, more sex stuff.  Seriously, it’s fun to talk about.  Try it some time.

Question of the day: Why are we often so willing to admit our rebellious teenage behavior, but we can’t talk openly about sex with our closest friends?

If your friendships look like the ones on TV and you get right down to it talking and supporting each other when it comes to intimate relationships, more power to you.  But most of the people I know don’t do that, especially Christians.

When I was young, I was the worst combination of extremely uptight and very strong-willed.  So I rebelled against my parents by becoming more conservative than they were and by “getting religion.”  I bought into a rather severe view of purity which led me to believe that virtually nothing was acceptable.  I only had a handful of rather hushed, giggly conversations with several other girls who shared that mentality.

I remember vividly the first Christian I ever met who was open about sexuality.  We were talking about wanting to be in relationships, and she spoke candidly about experiencing arousal—and how she . . . *ahem*. . . addressed it.  She asked me if I knew what she meant.  My mind went, “OMG . . . OMG . . . she didn’t really just say what I think she did.  Did she?  Crap, she did.  What do I tell her???”  I’m sure that I mumbled something intelligent like, “Squeak!” and nodded, just to move the conversation on to safer topics.

See, I had the impression that being turned on was bad, bad, bad unless you were with your husband.  If you were feeling aroused, you were supposed to try thinking of something really unsexy, like school cafeteria pb&j sandwiches.  (But not the fiestada; because fiestada is damn sexy.)  The very notion of having any sexual feelings was inextricably linked to feelings of guilt, because it was a clear sign that one was “lusting.”

I have no idea if that was the intent of the people at my church.  But it was certainly the result.

We’re constantly told that “the world” (or whatever term is popular for non-Christian culture) is responsible for emphasizing sex.  Sadly, we just don’t seem to get it that Christians share equal responsibility for elevating sex beyond where it needs to be.  It’s reactive, rather than taking the initiative: Culture (movies, books, TV) encourage sexual immorality; the church pushes back with an emphatic no.  But the harder we push back, the tighter we grip, the more likely we are to cause a cycle of rebellion, sin, guilt, and promises to stop.  It’s a losing battle.

Not only that, the very people the church makes responsible for teaching sexual morality are often the same people who lack education about basic biology, feel embarrassed discussing sex, or are dealing with their own addictive sexual behaviors.  (I’m not judging anyone; I’m just saying that if a person has not yet addressed his or her own trauma or addiction, it can be hard to move beyond it to instruct others.)

The struggle with ethical, moral sexuality doesn’t end when a person moves out of his or her parents’ home.  We need to begin helping our Christian adults to be able to talk openly about sexuality with each other.  The more we do that, the safer the church will be overall.  We will end up with many adults who have healthy attitudes toward their bodies and sex, and therefore children and teens with healthy attitudes.

This is one place where we need each other.  Too many people have too much guilt, shame, and fear piled on.  Let’s end the cycle of hurt by being open with each other.  Instead of another tired lecture about sinful sex, we could just encourage people to begin talking, to hear each other’s stories.

At least it’s a start.

And that’s a wrap on this series.  Tomorrow brings my usual weekly highlights, and then I’m going on vacation.  Weee!  I’m not sure how much I will post while I’m away, but I’ll try to stay in touch.  See you on the other side!

Sex is not a poopy diaper, part 2

Warning: There’s stuff about sex in here. You can read it and take notes, read it and blush, read it and pretend you didn’t, or just skip it entirely. Up to you.

Yesterday, I talked about how we often introduce shame about sex early on by failure to communicate clearly about anatomy. Today, I’m advancing the conversation to adolescence.

By the time I was old enough to start getting any real “sex education,” I discovered just about everyone seemed to think sex was something to be ashamed about. In school, all I learned about sex was that if I had any, I could get a disease. Heck, they didn’t even talk to us about pregnancy. I think that’s because, despite what some think, I live in a conservative area. As an adult, my understanding is that teachers weren’t supposed to talk to us about contraception, although they could tell us how not to get sick. The emphasis was definitely on Things That Can Go Wrong. With pictures. In full color.

Most churches offer some variation on the theme of waiting for sex until marriage. While I have no disagreement with encouraging waiting, the way it’s taught nearly always promotes that sense of guilt and shame, along with the idea that sex itself is something dirty and embarrassing. There’s always a list of rules, mostly things you’re not supposed to do:

  • Don’t think about sex.
  • Don’t look at anything sexy.
  • Cover up any part of your body that might even remotely be sexy.
  • Don’t think about sex.
  • Don’t do anything with your partner except polite, chaste kisses.
  • Keep your hands to yourself.
  • Keep your hands off yourself.
  • Don’t think about sex.
  • Looking is the same as sex.
  • Don’t entice people with your body.
  • Don’t be aroused, and if you are, pray it away.
  • Don’t think about sex.

There’s some really big problems with that.

First, it makes some assumptions about boys and girls in relation to one another. It sets boys up as predators and girls up as temptresses. So instead of girls being able to discern which boys really are predatory, they learns to see them all that way. It also teaches boys that if they’re aroused, girls are at fault. Gee, I wonder what the scary implications of that might be.  (For a fictional rendition of this, see Twilight.  There’s some seriously creepy stuff in there.)

Second, it ignores basic biology. Ever been a teenager? Maybe it’s been too long. Maybe you had a lot of this guilt piled on. But all those surging hormones create a lovely playground for sexual arousal. Telling kids that the changes their bodies are undergoing are bad or that they should fight them is . . . weird. I’m not suggesting the way to handle hormones is to go have as much indiscriminate sex as possible. But c’mon, let’s work with biology here, not against it. If more kids understood that their bodies were normal, that would be a great start.

Third, it takes Scripture out of context and legitimizes the encouragement of guilt and shame. Remember that whole “lust is just as bad as adultery” thing? Yup, Jesus said it. But let’s get this straight: He wasn’t talking about getting a little hot over the cute next-door neighbor. This has been used time and again to shame people for having sexy thoughts. It’s even used within the context of relationships. Because of the whole “sex is bad until the wedding” mantra, dating couples struggle with the very idea of being physically attracted to each other. Instead of acknowledging it, they stuff it down. The expectation is that it’s a light switch—turn it off until the minister calls it, then turn it on when you get to the honeymoon suite. Sorry, doesn’t work that way.

Lust is an entirely different beast. It’s a willful, possessive way of looking at another person. It’s a way of reducing a person to nothing more than a body that might be available for our own pleasure. It is not a normal, ordinary biological process. It is not a fleeting thought. It is not a mere attraction to someone nice-looking. And the best way to handle it isn’t to simply stuff it down and repeat, “I will not lust; I will not lust; I will not lust.” It’s best handled by learning to value and respect other people.

Finally, the laundry list of don’ts is exactly that: An anti-to-do list. A set of rules. A no-no checklist. That view of sexuality is entirely negative. When the message is that it’s bad until the wedding night, it can be pretty challenging to suddenly see it as a good thing. There’s a host of terrible consequences in that.

I think most people would be very surprised by the number of people (particularly women) who are hiding intense fear and shame. Often, their spouses don’t know about it. It has a huge and lasting impact on the loving relationship between spouses. Trust me, I know it’s true, both from personal experience and from the experiences of others. In fact, the guilt and shame piled on related to sex and sexuality are so deep that people feel it even if they were not Christians at the time they first experienced sexual intimacy. I’ve met many people who have told me that they are deeply ashamed of their past, even though they were acting on the moral values available to them at the time.  And even though they believe their sins are forgiven, it’s often the one thing they can’t let go.

This isn’t healthy, in any sense. I don’t have any easy answers. My hope is that we can begin to talk about ways to bring about a less damaging way to handle purity and fidelity without pre-shaming people into the Just Don’t Do It camp.

Join me tomorrow when I address another layer of sex as a four-letter word.

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My apologies that I’m not adequately addressing the unique feelings of my LGBT brothers and sisters here; I have no experience and feel that I cannot speak to this particular subject within your marriages and relationships. I am not trying to further marginalize or alienate you. I’m open to discussing those issues, though, so if anyone wants to write a guest post on the topic, message me.

Sex is not a poopy diaper, part 1

Warning: In this post, I use correct anatomical terms for private body parts.  If you find that squicky, go read someone else’s blog.  Or play Words with Friends.  Whatever.

From the way a lot of Christians treat it, one might get the impression that anything to do with sex is embarrassing and dirty.

The aversion starts early and goes right down to failure to use proper terminology when referring to body parts.  The number of people (especially girls and women) who have no basic understanding of their anatomy is shocking.  I mean, guys are pretty simple.  I think most boys reach adulthood knowing the proper words for their external genitalia.  Maybe they couldn’t give details on the internal plumbing, but they’ve got a pretty good idea how things work.  Girls, on the other hand, tend to be familiar with their internal physiology.  That can’t be helped.  When you need to take out stock in maxi pads for at least thirty years, you get to know what’s going on in there.  Not so much with what’s on the outside, though.

I really don’t understand why parents don’t make the effort to teach their kids the right terminology.  We explained from the time the kids could identify what they saw that boys have a penis, girls have a vagina and a vulva.  My daughter has no notions that hers are called a “cootchie,” “hooha,” “flower,” or “front butt.”  (Yes, that last one is real.  You take any two or more moms waiting for their kids to finish a community-based class, and by the end of it, at least one of them will have overshared about their kids’ private parts and/or bathroom habits in some way.  I have no idea why this mom felt the need to explain to me what her daughter calls her genitals, but she was rather proud of this bizarre euphemism.  When asked, I politely explained that I used to work as a nurse and my daughter is familiar with the correct words.)

Seriously, people, just call a spade a spade.  Take the mystery out of it.  And if you aren’t sure what everything is called, there’s this handy thing called Google.  You can even see a diagram.  (Yes, I know it comes from Planned Parenthood, which every good Christian knows is run by Satan’s minions.  You know what?  Deal with it.  It’s a pretty good diagram.  Although I gotta say, those colors are a little scary.)

I honestly feel that a good part of helping kids navigate these things is being proactive as a parent.  I would really rather that they hear about their bodies and about sex from us than from anyone else.  Church can’t (and shouldn’t!) provide the anatomy and physiology, and school shouldn’t be responsible for providing the morals.  That makes it our job as parents to talk frankly with our kids.  We’ve started early, just understanding their bodies, because it helps all of us feel like this is something we can discuss.  Having two parents who know basic biology also helps build our kids’ trust that we will be able to give them answers to more challenging questions.  Trust me, if you come off like it’s painful and humiliating to talk about it while your kids are young, they won’t want to talk about it when they’re older and really need you.  And when they find out you don’t even know the same basic stuff they can find in their textbooks, they won’t believe you when you offer other information—even if it’s true.

Time and again, research demonstrates that the single biggest factor in kids making wise, healthy choices about their bodies and sex is having parents who are actively involved in the conversation.  It’s never too late.  Take some time to become familiar with the correct information about physiology, the part that carries no moral or spiritual implications.  Figure out your own feelings, and deal with your own past, first.  Practice with your spouse, significant other, or a friend.  Role-playing sometimes lessens anxiety.  When you’re ready, open it up and talk to your kids.  You won’t regret it.

Join me tomorrow when I talk about how shame and guilt have led to an unhealthy view of sexuality.