Wednesday, May 30, 2012

Sex, Relationships, and Marriage, Or It's All About Timing - Part One: Sex

Remember when I said I might post things that may push some buttons. Here we go!

I've been hearing a lot of conversations lately that relate to sex, relationships, and/or marriage. Who has them, who doesn’t have them, who shouldn’t have them, “why don’t I have them,” and so on.
I’ll address the “who shouldn’t have them” part first, in order to clear the air. It is not anyone’s place to judge when two consenting adults have sex, a relationship, or a marriage. End of story. That it is even an issue simply shows how far we haven’t come when it comes to civil rights.

Now, on to more relevant discussions. 

When it comes to sex, we as a society have developed a very irrational attitude. Time was, people were married by the age of fifteen or sixteen, so premarital sex was much less of an issue. You only had to go through two or three years of dealing with all the grown-up hormones before being able to act on those impulses in a way that was socially acceptable. Even having those hormones helped contribute to finding an appropriate mate (if there was a choice), so that worked out pretty well.

Nowadays, however, when someone gets married before twenty-five or thirty, we look at them thinking “they’re so young to be getting married.” So, that means that if we want to stick with the “no sex before marriage” plan, we have to try to ignore that biological imperative to attempt to procreate for around fifteen years before it is okay to act on it. 

Now, before anyone starts “getting biblical” with me, just hear me out. The Bible was written during a much different time (see above, re: marriage at 15-16). Its precepts in regard to this particular issue applied to a different culture and a totally different expectation. 

Sure, abstinence is the only 100% fool-proof way of avoiding babies. However, if you think that simply extolling the virtues of abstinence and condemning the sin of lust is going to keep all the kids from “doin’ it,” I have some ocean-front property for sale in Arizona you might like… Seriously, though, if that’s the only way the youth are hearing about to avoid pregnancy, they’re going to end up doing what young adults do and having to pay the consequences for the following eighteen years or so.

So educate them about other safe-sex practices. Help them to know that, okay, sure, having sex before you’re old enough to fully understand the potential repercussions of your actions isn’t the best idea, but if you’re going to rock “young and stupid,” there’s a smart way to go about it. I mean, is refusing to educate someone about the alternatives (other than “You’ll burn in Hell”), then seeing them having to deal with a baby really worth it just so you get to say “I told you so”? If you answered “yes” to that question, you are what is wrong with America. Furthermore, would you rather teach them about birth control and contraception or accompany them to the abortion clinic? 

Your call.

And that is only considering the young people who do go ahead and indulge. What about those who don’t? Granted, some who choose abstinence don’t really actively choose it so much as they are gradually nudged into it by their life situation/social standing.
However, many do it out of a desire for morality.

Sex is naughty, and people who do it are naughty.

Never mind that that is how continued perpetuation of the species happens.

Never mind that it has various physiological and psychological benefits above and beyond getting to push the snooze button the ol’ biological clock.

Sex bad.
Tree pretty.

*sigh* This taboo attitude, completely demonizing all “pleasures of the flesh,” is  extremely detrimental in the long run. What happens when this person, who has been eschewing all aspects of sexuality, finally gets married and is “allowed” to have sex? Do they just flip a switch in their head? “Well, I’ve been viewing this behavior as De Debbil for the last [fill-in-the-blank] years, but I’m married now, so it’s totally okay”? Unlikely. More likely, these people are going to either have to be convinced by their spouses that it’s okay and perfectly natural and blah-di-blah-di-blah, or they’ll have to have a therapist convince them that it is finally okay to let go of that iron-clad self-control and have sex. Also likely, they’ll have some serious hang-ups about it, including but not limited to awkwardness, guilt, accusing their spouse of perversion, or going off the kink end because they’ve repressed everything for so long. None of these are optimal.

Here’s a novel idea: teach children about consequences and responsibility for all of their actions. Help them to understand that everything you do in this world has an effect. 
Sometimes, it’s good. 
Sometimes, it’s bad. 
Sometimes, it’s small. 
Sometimes, it’s big. 
Sometimes, it goes unnoticed. 
Sometimes, it can’t be avoided. 
Sometimes, you’re the only person it affects. 
Sometimes, you’re not. 
Let them know that babies can be a sometimes unwanted side effect of sex. Help them understand that abstinence is the only 100% effective solution, but that there are other solutions for those who aren’t blessed with the self-restraint of a nun. (Side-note: let’s be clear. “You’ll burn in Hell” is not the only alternative to abstinence. Let them know that.) Teach them that for every action, there is an equal and opposite reaction. Help them to understand the value of sharing such an intimate experience with the right person, but for the love of all that is good and right in the world, don’t judge them if they do it because it’s fun.

Really, just don’t judge your children. They should be able to come to you for guidance without having to worry that they’re going to get a lecture/the third degree/the disappointed look whenever they do things you don’t expect.

Whoops. Sorry. That was going on to parenting. As I’m not a parent, I’m hardly qualified to tell people how to raise their children. However, as someone who has been a teenager and has dealt with a lot of teenagers in recent years as an academic peer or a teacher, I do feel confident that saying you shouldn’t be judging them is sound advice. Yes, you’re their parent, not their friend. That said, once they’re of an age where sex is a real concern, they are verging very closely on adulthood. They should feel comfortable talking to you about their life, as well as trust you enough to ask for advice. If they don’t, they’ll be far more likely to go and do something behind your back, and then where are you? You realize you don’t know who your child is while you’re bailing them out of jail or helping them raise babies. Food for thought.

That’s enough of that. On to relationships.

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