Eliminating the "Squick" Factor
Welcome back to the blog. I’m back from Ecuador, and once again writing to you from my old writing haunts in South Dakota. Thanksgiving is upon us once again!
Now, before our short hiatus, I had spent a lot of time critiquing the purity movement – the idea that one must stay completely pure until marriage, and the untenable burden that places on women and how it screws up our view of ourselves as sexual beings. And today, I’m going to attempt to start putting something positive into the conversation: addressing how one can approach sexuality in a healthy manner and approach it positively from a Christian perspective. I’m going to spend the next few days addressing positive approaches and explaining what they look like.
The first positive approach is quite simple to say, but extremely hard to do correctly: Talk. About. Sex.
I don’t mean talk around sex as we do so much in high school youth groups and church meetings where they message ends up just being “sex is good; don’t do it.” People in the church are not immune from having questions about sex, and many of them will seek out answers in unhealthy places – such as porn.
Don’t talk around it; talk about it. Answer questions, be willing to look up answers from reliable sources, and help people (especially fellow Christians) to understand what sexuality and sexual activity mean in all their different forms.
One of the things that leads to sexual repression and an unhealthy view of one’s sexuality is the inability to discuss openly what one is experiencing or thinking about. In attempting to get people to keep sex for a marriage relationship, we’ve shoved sex and sexual discussion underground. We’ve created an environment hostile to a healthy discussion of sexuality, for fear talking about it will make people want to do it. Instead, we end up just creating a generation of women who end up with UTIs the week of their honeymoon because they don’t know they should urinate after sex because no one bothered to have an open and frank discussion of sexuality.
And here’s the thing: by refusing to even address the topic in an open and honest conversation, we fail to impress the seriousness of the decision upon people. It wasn’t until I started reading things up on my own and started learning about sex that I began to realize how truly serious such a decision was. Having a frank, open discussion without judgment with friends (atheist friends, at that) helped me to understand sexuality much more than any abstinence talk in the church did.
Growing up, I never felt I could approach anyone in the church with questions about sexuality, simply because “if you’re asking about it, you must be thinking about doing it, and if you’re thinking about doing it, then you’ve already crossed the line into lust and promiscuous thinking and REPENT SINNER!”
If we want to really affect people to approach sexuality in a holy, and healthy way, we need to create an environment in which people feel they can discuss it. It frustrates me that the only conversations I had surrounding sex growing up consisted of “It’s great and awesome…in a marriage.” Seriously. My parents never had “the talk” with me, and I didn’t even learn essential details like the UTI prevention thing until I was 23, and then it was only because it happened to a friend and she, surprise surprise, talked about it.
Many people consider discussing sexual activity a license to begin doing it. But what gets ignored is that if we refuse to have the conversation, we’re not doing anything to prevent it. All it does is sends people into a situation without knowledge of how to protect themselves from unwanted pregnancy, from sexually transmitted diseases, and from date rape (remember that conversation about consent and an “enthusiastic yes”?).
Yes, talking is awkward. Talking is awkward because, let’s face it, once someone starts asking questions about sex, it makes you recognize that “hey, this person is a sexual being” and we don’t want to think of our daughters and sons as independent sexual entities. It’s squicky and it’s uncomfortable, but actually having a discussion can remove that squick factor – your son or daughter will, at some point in his or her life, discover sex. And it’s best to equip him or her with the right tools (this may mean literally helping them find the right condoms, but it doesn't have to) to approach sexuality in a healthy and productive manner.
So, get over it. We do no good when we create an environment where people feel they can’t come to the church for answers about their real life situations or curiosities, where they feel they cannot speak about their life decisions. If we want a healthy, and vibrant church community, we need to talk about everything that makes a person a person, including his or her sexuality (I’m including asexuals in this as they do fall on the Kinsey scale as a form of sexuality).
And, by the way, by “talk about it,” I don’t mean preaching from the pulpit that wives have a Biblical duty to give their husbands a blowjob, Mr. Driscoll. That’s not a frank and open discussion. That’s just stupid.