Sexy Sex talk. Read at your own risk. Also, for some tips on how sex actually can be a magical unicorn, with wings even, please check out this comment on yesterday’s post. There’s a couple of great links from Hunter on non-intercourse sex.
So, over the last two days I’ve been explaining why sex isn’t the magical, mystical experience we’re often taught to expect. I’m wrapping it up today with a bit about how we can stop both overrating sex and shaming people about it.
In my quest for information, I watched the documentary Let’s Talk About Sex. I don’t necessarily agree with all of the conclusions of the filmmaker. I’m not convinced, for example, that the Netherlands is the country we should emulate when it comes to sex education. But I agree that we have a problem in the U.S.
Our country is an oddity. Our culture is saturated in overt sexuality, and we have the highest rates of adolescent pregnancy and sexually transmitted diseases of any developed nation. Yet our method of handling the crisis is to yell more loudly and more often that everyone should just abstain until marriage. The bad news is, the yelling isn’t working. Upwards of 90% (some figures closer to 95%) of people aren’t waiting.
There is a truckload of guilt and shame attached to sex. Recently, I heard one (Christian) girl explain the reason why pregnancy is more common among conservatives is that they are taught that everyone makes mistakes. Therefore, getting caught up in the moment is acceptable. Only “bad” girls would plan ahead or use condoms, proving that they were intending to sin. Does anyone else see the problem with this line of thinking?
As several people have commented on this blog, this is something we need to talk about.
I see two places we can begin. First, we can make sure that within our families, we are providing an open, caring atmosphere where sharing about sex comes as naturally as sharing about any other subject. Second, we can make public education and religious education two sides of the same coin, rather than opposing forces where one imposes its will on the other.
One of the best ways to take the shame out of sex and sexuality is to speak about it honestly. Now, I don’t necessarily mean with strangers on your blog. Well, okay, maybe I do mean that. But that’s not the only thing I mean. It’s easier, sometimes, to be truthful about our feelings and experiences when we don’t have to do it face to face with people we know. But we have to move past that, or we will never see any real change.
As I’ve said before, parents need to take play an active role in their kids’ sex education. I don’t mean being involved at school or church, I mean being the first person your child talks to about sex. Parents need to be well-educated on the subject. Make sure you have accurate information. I’ve provided many wonderful links you can use to increase your own knowledge, and others have added theirs to the comments. Feel free to add your own here. (Please be aware that I will remove anything that has obvious false or intentionally misleading information, however.)
In addition, parents should be ready to be honest with their kids about their own histories. Don’t lie in the hopes that your child won’t make your mistakes. If you feel you’ve made a mistake, own it. If you feel that what you did was right for you at the time, be truthful about that. You don’t need to volunteer anything you don’t want to, but don’t cover it up if your kid asks.
When it comes to sex education, the church and the school should not be at odds. The school should provide accurate, comprehensive sex education from a health standpoint. This should include information about how to prevent pregnancy and disease. I don’t see this as any different from schools teaching the theory of evolution. Lots of conservative Christians disagree that evolution is a valid theory, yet it’s still taught. There is no reason why sex education can’t be improved.
Meanwhile, the church should stay out of attempts at explaining physiology, especially when it’s used to make a point about the “nature” of boys and girls. I’m not kidding when I say that I’ve seen real damage done with misinformation masquerading as “moral values.” I’ve seen boys who think it’s excusable to blame girls for rape, and I’ve seen girls who think there’s something wrong with them because they experience arousal. Leave the physiology lessons to the school and stick with talking about spiritual, ethical, and moral expression of sexuality.
Instead of treating sex like a rather mysterious and wondrous prize, we need to begin seeing it as a normal part of human experience. Only then will we be able to think and speak of it in a way that is both God-honoring and healthy.