Wednesday, May 6, 2015

Let's Talk About Sex

While I know it has been a while since I have written here I feel like the world has made it difficult to actually express myself in any real way.  I cannot understand how to express myself on some matters but several recent stories in the news and in my life has me thinking once again about how screwed up our culture has become about sex and sexuality.  But the story that has pushed me out of slump is one that would make me angry if it wasn't so clearly comical.  You see it is another example of the failure of the lack of sexuality education that is meaningful.  In Texas a high school has had a huge outbreak of Chlamydia.   Their approach to sex education is "Don't Do It" and they will talk about if for a total of 3 days each year.  This does not prepare young people for the reality of the fact that we are born to be sexual beings and that those drives, feelings and subsequent behavior is often ignored. 

We are born to have sex, it is a primal drive and it extremely pleasurable.  It is also something that uncomfortable for people to fully discuss in our culture.  Virtually everyone is sexual to some extent and those that aren't often see themselves as wanting to be able to explore that part of themselves.  In fact it drives much of human behavior throughout our evolutionary history and sexual desire can be blamed for both great tragedies and great accomplishments over the millennia of human civilization.  But as we evolved as a species and as societies developed, how we approach our sexuality has changed.  Most human cultures don't simply act on sexual desire without conscious thought and we can find someone attractive and even desirable without abandoning the civility that has created our own structure of how sexuality works.  While there are in fact some communities that open sexuality are the norm, they are often hidden from the larger society and even when known are seen as an aberration and not ubiquitous.  But we know that we all have the desire and even if you are married and deeply in love you can still easily find someone else attractive but that doesn't mean you have to act on those feelings.  That is what it means to be human.  One of the things that clearly separates us from the other members of the animal kingdom is the fact that we have evolved beyond that need and we can control our desires, sexual and others.

so what does that have to do with education?  Well that is a learned thing.  The social contract that we all agree to, especially in Western culture, is that we are not rampant sexual beings and we approach our sexuality as more than a physical thing.  Our behaviors must have thoughts associated with them.  We can talk about being in love, but in the current human condition, expressing our sexuality requires us to take on responsibility.  For young people, understanding that responsibility means learning about it.  The physical, emotional, and dare I say spiritual aspects of being as sexual being are all learned and how we incorporate them into who was are as a human being is an important goal. 

Now one can argue that this should be the exclusive purview of the parents.  Frankly I wish that were something that was done. It use to be.  Parents talked to their children about sexuality, to various degrees. Mothers helped daughters understand what to expect from their first sexual encounter and some cultures, even today, teach how to pleasure a partner when they are married or coupled in the fashion of that culture.  Human sexuality was part of the education even in religious cultures that spoke of sexuality as part of the covenant of marriage.  But like many things we have professionalized the most basic of human growth and development.  I fear most people are no longer equipped to have serious conversations about sex and sexuality with their own children.  Evidence of this is a commercial for an anti-drug campaign.  A boy comes home to find his dad with a display to talk to him about his surging hormones, the discomfort is abated when the topic switches to talking about drugs instead of sex
It appears talking to our kids about sex is so taboo we would rather do anything else.  Thus we want the schools to do it, but that became classes about plumbing and disease.  The problem is there is another aspect of our culture that revels in sexuality as a sales tool and sign of popularity.  It sells so much that a horribly written fan fiction of Twilight that had a BDSM theme sold a million copies and currently is spawning two movies that we titter about.  So young people who see value given to the child stars they followed coming out of their shell and doing explicit performances like Brittney Spears,  and Miley Cyrus or the fact we have made cultural heroes of people like the Kardashians confuses students when the only learning they are given is to have a teacher emphasize waiting to experience sex until marriage.  (Leaving out the fact that many places some of those kids can still not get married).  We also question young men who pledge virginity but that is a different post.

So what do we do?  I wish I had a magic bullet, no one does.  But what we know is that comprehensive sexuality education from an early age will in fact help make our young people grow into more mature and responsible sexual beings.  Discussions of sex not as a necessary evil but as a much of a pleasure of our existence as anything else; while at the same time discussing the amazing responsibility that comes with being sexually active at any level.  That is what works in other countries including Canada and frankly much of northern Europe.  We can do better.  Perhaps we need comprehensive sexuality education for all of us, at every age.  We can discuss not only how to view our own sexuality but how we pass down needed information and support for the next generation.  I don't know.  But stories like the Texas school are not as rare as we think.  Two decades ago it was suburban Atlanta that caused a firestorm.  Then came the idea of rainbow parties and high school kids playing a scary game on the internet meeting strangers for sex in an online 7 minutes in heaven kind of game.  As a culture we must continue to try to understand the issues of sexuality and the fact that we cannot stop young people, especially with the freedom they have today, from exploring their own growing sexual desires at younger ages.  We must also not assume that saying no is the answer.  Can we get past our own discomfort and find a way to do it?  What do we need to do it? 


I Don't Wear My Kippah at WalMart

Several years ago I was sitting in a cafe with someone who suggested I take off my kippah.  The neighborhood we were in was a predominantly...