Actually I Don’t Hate Christians, Virgins, God, or Hamsters

Maybe I do hate hamsters a little bit. They’re very creepy.

I’ll be on Sheila Liaugminas’ show on Relevant Radio again tonight, talking about abstinence and abstinence-only education with Elizabeth Duffy, Sam Rocha, and Marc Barnes. In preparation for that, I spent a little time reading back through my post that kicked off this sexy party, Sam’s and Elizabeth‘s responses, Marc’s two pieces on the purity culture, and then my own (frightening) comment section.

Basically, most people seemed to be hopelessly confused about 1) why I wrote the post I wrote, 2) what I was advocating if I wasn’t behind abstinence-only as a sex ed movement, and 3) what the hell the words on the page even meant. I guess I’ll start with 3 first, since that’s the one that kept making me go

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I really thought that the inclusion of catchwords like “feminine genius” and “theology of the body” would make it pretty clear to my Catholic readers that I was not advocating teaching our children that sex is an all-you-can-eat buffet as long as you pop birth control like you would a Tums before the big feast, and maybe wrap that boy in latex to keep it all STI-free. But even if they didn’t catch that, I thought that including what I wanted our kids to be taught would clear the air a little. Here’s a few choice sentences that make clear the type of sexual education I’d like my kids to learn:

“It (abstinence-only sex ed) doesn’t teach children what sex is, what their sexuality means, how to understand it, or how to properly integrate it into a life of chastity both without and within a marriage.”

“We need to create a new way of teaching children about human sexuality, a way that emphasizes their essential dignity as rational, spiritual, and sexual human beings. We should strive to teach them to grow in virtue, to gain temperance, to master their passions, and to love for love of the other, not out of desire for pleasure, power, or possession. We should be teaching human sexuality as a series of positive moral developments that boys and girls must attain before sex can be truly enjoyed. We shouldn’t be teaching our kids to white-knuckle it through puberty and then glut themselves as soon as they say ‘I do’.”

About 98% of my comment box could be divided into two opposite-yet-similar reactions. Here’s the first one:

High-five, sister! Those religious wackos need to GTFO of everything, everywhere!

Here’s the second one:

Your problem is that you hate Christians and are secretly ashamed of your dirty, dirty sin.

You know, it’s times like these when I want to quit blogging forever and devote all my time, energy, and pennies to addressing the growing illiteracy epidemic in our country. It’s astounding that one blog post could produce so many reactions that were utterly ignorant of 1) what I meant, and 2) what I said. Usually when this happens, I go back and re-read my post and try and find the place or places where my rhetorical skills were sloppy or non-existent.

I did that here. The problem wasn’t with me.

I wish Disqus would add a new function to the comment section. You can vote comments up, vote them down, or you can put them into this

My blog has this handy, ground-breaking feature called an “About Me” page. You can click on it and see the part where I talk about being faithful to the Catholic Church’s teaching on contraception, which might be a hint that I don’t hate Christians. But if clicking on a whole new page seems like too much work, you could also just scroll on up to the top of the page, where you’ll see this:

Patheos>Catholic Channel>Barefoot and Pregnant

I didn’t write the post to hate on Christians. I wrote the post to educate Christians on what is happening in many abstinence-only sex ed programs. Guess what? Some of them didn’t know this was going on. Guess what else? If I didn’t know this was going on, I would sure as hell want to. Guess one more thing for me: what does it prove, that a blog post criticizing abstinence-only sex ed was interpreted by almost the entire internet as being critical of religion in general and Christianity in particular? It proves that Christians have become way too invested in the abstinence-only sex ed movement. That is crystal-clear in the comment section.

I never said that we should teach our kids to have ALL THE SEX before marriage. I thought my paragraph about chastity and virtue and moral development made that clear. I don’t think kids should be encouraged to express their sexuality until they are married. But I also think it is wrong, wrong, wrong, wrong, WRONG to teach them to associate their sexuality with something dirty. That was literally the ENTIRE point I was making, and the fact that so many Christians were unable to hear that over the roar of “someone’s criticizing abstinence-only sex ed MUST DEFEND MUST DEFEND” that filled their brains troubles me to no end.

Listen, it’s not just Christians. The liberal part of the internet was giddy over my post, and only tripped up over the criticism of Planned Parenthood. I assume that they skimmed right over the part where I talked about chastity, virtue, moral development, and especially the part about teaching children to master their passions. That really doesn’t fit into the left’s “sexual expression is healthy”  platform.

I didn’t actually advocate any solid position on sex ed in the post. The post was meant to make a point, not pitch an idea. Besides, I don’t really have a solid position on sex ed. Darwin makes the point that public schools can’t teach chastity. As far as public schools go, I guess my preference would be that they teach straight biology using only facts. (Hint: “masturbation is a normal and healthy expression of sexuality” is not a fact. “Masturbation is when a person gives him or herself sexual pleasure” is a fact.) Facts about condom use, birth control, teen pregnancy, etc. Putting a condom on a banana is not a fact, it’s practice, and I don’t want my kid practicing putting condoms on fruit.

Mostly, though, I think sex ed is the job of the parents. It’s not one talk and then hey, we’re done. It’s an ongoing, life-long conversation with your child. Is it awkward? I dunno, I’m not really there yet, but I’m sure it’s gonna be. So is teaching a 4 year old to wipe her own butt when her arms aren’t long enough. Guess what? That’s our jobs. If we don’t do it, no one else will…or in the case of sex ed, if we don’t do it, someone else will, and we might not like what they have to say.

That was the motivation behind my post in the first place. I’ve seen so many people champion abstinence-only sex ed without having any idea that the types of curricula I experienced are happening, and are happening in Catholic schools. It’s not just some Evangelical purity culture horror-story.

And for the love of God, everyone who freaked out about the fact that I accidentally typed “Catholics and Christians” instead of “Catholics and other Christians” to the exclusion of everything else in my post seriously need to re-evaluate their freak-out priorities.

I’ll be discussing it more tonight on Sheila’s show, if you want to listen. 6 PM Eastern. Please tweet at me if I start speaking “um” instead of English.

  • Julia Benson

    Hey Calah,

    I read and appreciated your original piece and posted it to my Facebook timeline. I got 2 reactions. One was of fascination from an Evangelical Christian who had never considered alternatives to the purity culture you speak of and is experiencing her own challenges as a result in addition to now walking through these conversations with her own teenage daughter. She was interested in more resources. The other was from an abstinence only educator in the public school system (didn’t know this existed) who heard only your critique of the whole movement in which she has invested a lot of time and energy. She shared with me the work that she does and it is much more in line with your total view of what sex education should be. Perhaps the conversation needs to be reframed around the purity culture specifically? That is what I heard in your post as well as a cry for a much more integrated view of the human person in regards to teaching human sexuality!

  • Ben

    I wanted to comment on your original post but this one could use some more comments. I think that your criticisms of the “abstinence only” sex education are valuable and worth pursuing, but I take issue with the assertion that these types of sex education have a cause and effect relationship with someone feeling “dirty and filthy” after having been used. Dirty sex makes people feel dirty. Children and young people who have never heard anything about sex will feel dirty and filthy after being abused, because abuse is a dirty and filthy thing. Bad sexual education might reinforce those feelings, but it does not cause them.

    I believe that the same is true within marriage (I am basing this on good evidence but on a small sample size of women). You blame teachers talking about chewed-up oreos and gum, but I would like to suggest that the main reason women feel uncomfortable-to-wrong about sex in marriage has little or nothing to do with their sex education, and everything to do with the way their husband approaches them.

    • Fiddlesticks

      I think the problem with the sex education Calah is talking about is that the message is not

      ‘if you allow someone to use you for sex you will feel like a dirty, chewed up piece of gum’,

      but

      ‘if you allow someone to use you for sex you will be perceived by every other man as a dirty, chewed up piece of gum and nobody will ever want you or love you’

      There’s quite a big difference in those messages.

  • Michelle

    I completely agree with it being a job primarily for parents. Why can’t it just be kept out of public schools completely? At parochial schools I would suggest an optional class that parents attend that provides resource ideas and presents a proper view of sexuality that they, in turn, can teach their children. It seems to me it really is not a good idea to be discussing all of this with teens that are most likely uncomfortable in a peer setting. It really is a topic for one on one discussion with a trusted individual over a long period of time. I do understand that that’s not always possible, though.


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