10 June, 2008

"If you'd stop using your private parts as toys..."

"If you'd stop using your private parts as toys, you'd be a grandfather by now!" Quote about fellow driver's immaturity from truckdriver on Ice Road Truckers.

I am so tired of reading about the fight between "abstinence only" and "comprehensive sex education". I really am and here is why.

I was raised by a nurse.

It is as simple as that. From a very young age (when she was expecting my sister when I was about 3 1/2) I learned about sex. Certainly, the terms changed. I specifically recall, "special hug" being a phrase used for my growing toddler mind. But my parents never shied away from teaching us about sex and our bodies.

When I got to pre-adolescence, my mother bought me a book about my body during puberty and opened up the dialogue. I read about things like masturbation and contraception (natural and artificial) and I asked questions. She answered them. Dad answered them (sometimes with discomfort, but never a refusal). Mom taught in my health classes at the Catholic school. I distinctly remember a hands on tampon demonstration with a glass of water that was a huge hit for the gathered group of young women. At 13, I knew more about sex and my body than most 65 year old women.

But my mother also taught me respect. She taught me that my body, like hers and my dad's, was special and unique. She taught me that I need to learn my body and trust it above all. She taught me that someday I could carry a child. She taught me an undying respect for the procreation process and for the man that was going to walk that journey with me; my husband.

The reality is that there is no avoidance of knowledge in this day and age. So how to we manage their acquisition of knowledge? How do we want them to learn about sex and all that goes with it? They are going to learn it, but do we want them to learn it with an attitude of respect and awe, or from an attitude of flippance and disregard. If we don't teach them about condoms, they are still going to know they exist. But do we want them to view condoms as candy: quick, convenient, and with little consequence, or do we want them to view condoms as expensive champagne: available, but much too costly in multiple respects??? (I don't want any grief over comparing condoms to expensive champagne...I am not making a complete analogy here, just partial...I am not implying that condoms should be considered a luxury for special occassions...so don't be so silly as to suggest it.)

There is a physiological science as well as a material science involved in sex education. Sex during fertile days without natural (abstinence) or artificial contraception makes babies. To deny that is to show a certain level of ignorance. My point is, the knowledge is available, but should the debate hinge on the level or amount of scientific and material sex knowledge a program provides, or how the act of sex itself affects the person and interpersonal relationships?

First teach them the respect, then give them the knowledge, then give them some credit.

I am sure that most will find it interesting that my parents chose to use birth control. I did not know this until I had to wrangle with the idea of birth control to manage a health condition at the age of 18. Even as an adult, we had conversations around the issue. She supported me when I reluctantly (on moral grounds) chose to begin taking "The Pill" and she supported me when I triumphantly chose to quit "The Pill" because of the way it was affecting the natural rhythms, physcial and emotional, of my body.

If I hadn't been taught about all of my options I might have felt trapped, confused, and alone when faced with such difficult medical decisions. Instead, I made two opposite choices that I have never regretted and in fact, I have felt empowered by. Moreover, I was a virgin on my wedding night even though I had learned about artificial contraception and sex. And if that isn't enough, I can now personally testify to my husband,that NFP is the ONLY way to go for us because I refuse to be controlled by a substance that also impedes my ability to accept the gift of children God wants to bestow on me.

And I don't want to hear, "...you're different..." or "...you're special..." or "...you're an exception...". The only reason I am different, special, or an exception is because somebody taught me to be.

I don't want to teach my kids to simply avoid sex or use a condom. I want to teach them to be different and special by respecting themselves, a future spouse, and the amazing emotional and physical union that is sex.