Thursday, November 7, 2013
Conversations About Sex
This morning I read a thought provoking article about sex and sex education from the blog "Camels with Hammers." This blog made me think two things. First, it made me think, "Wow, I don't think I have ever blogged about sex. Why haven't I tackled this difficult and somewhat taboo topic? Huh." Then, I reflected on the actual content of the above mentioned blog and began to wonder if the Christian church's focus on abstinence has discouraged conversations regarding sex and in the process harmed our ability to have healthy sexual relationships?
I have also been thinking, lately, about young people who might stumble upon my blog. I wonder if the topics I write about are helpful to them. Do I raise ideas which they are not ready to ponder? Do I write about things of which their parents would disapprove? Do I get myself unfollowed when I use four letter words in my blog or blog title?
I take these issues very seriously because I care about young people. Yet I have come to the conclusion editing myself is not the answer. I agree with the above mentioned blogger when he writes about "abstinence only education" not being education at all. Withholding information from our young people is rarely the right answer. When we withhold information from them how can we expect them to make informed decisions? Often young people will find the information elsewhere and when they do, and realize adults have been withholding it from them, their trust in us is eroded. This is true in regards to conversations about God, the bible, cussing, and yes, even sex.
Even within more progressive church circles without the push for "abstinence only education" there are so many conversations we are not having. What constitutes a healthy sexual relationship? What about all those other potential experiences besides actual sexual intercourse? How does sexual behavior impact present and future relationships? What are the emotional and mental health risks and benefits of sexual relationships?
Perhaps we think as long as kids aren't having sexual intercourse and hence getting pregnant or getting diseases, the rest they can just figure out for themselves like we did. But I question if this attitude is not harming our relationships and perhaps even contributing to rape culture. When I was a teenager, sexuality, for many of us, primarily consisted of boys continuously testing girls' boundaries regarding sexual behavior and girls refusing until self-esteem issues, confusion, weariness, hormones or desire (though few acknowledged the last one existed for girls) took over. We were taught about abstinence. We were taught about condoms and sexually transmitted diseases. Maybe some of us avoided unwanted pregnancies due to this education but we certainly were a long way from receiving the information we needed to empower us to practice healthy relationships in these formative years.
I hope things have changed. I hope we have a better understanding these days of mutuality, respect, and consent. From what I hear in music and the media, I have my doubts. But, if things have improved it is with little help from the church. When sex is reduced to something forbidden until marriage on the conservative side or "if you must, at least take appropriate precautions" on the liberal side we miss out on conversations about healthy relationships, we allow horrid behavior to be the norm, and we set our young people up for unhealthy relationships. We need to be having conversations far beyond abstinence and pregnancy prevention. We need to have conversations about mutuality, respect, and open dialogue. We need to have conversations about mental health, emotional well being, knowing oneself, and decision making. We need to let go of sexist ideas and realize sexual behaviors can be healthy and desirable for all genders and are not uncontrollable impulses for any gender. "Just don't do it" has been an ineffective teaching method since...well one could say since Adam and Eve. "Whatever, just be safe," is little better.
What do you wish you would have been told about sex when you were a teenager? If you are a teenager, how is your experience different than what I described happening when I was young? What are the hallmarks of a healthy sexual relationship? And will I get all sorts of unhelpful spam after using words like sex and sexuality in my blog?:)
Posted by Sheri Ellwood