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.

  • Steve

    Well, now I feel like an ass for not understanding the earlier post…

    • Calah Alexander

      Oh, don’t feel like an ass! Yours was one of the few expressions of confusions that actually had a point. It was a little confusing that I didn’t come out and say, “this is what we should do instead” and then give a game plan. I just don’t have one yet. That’s a lot different than high-fiving me in the combox for sticking it to those fundy Christians.

  • Jessica Mendoza

    Thanks for this post – and the first one! I was led to the original “Sloppy Seconds” post from a Facebook share by someone who I don’t think advocates the Church’s position on abstinence. I hadn’t read your blog before and so I was interested in trying see where you were coming from. And then you said “theology of the body” and I high-tailed to your About Me section. You nailed it – an abstinence only education that teaches you have less worth because you have had sex, completely misses that we have inherent worth and dignity through being made in God’s image, and will do nothing to promote true chastity. I also read your comments section, and I’m sorry that so many people failed to see what you were really saying – I think they only read what they wanted and interpreted it in a way that would jive with their world view. But don’t give up on the blogging – there is good being done here!

  • kel

    I’ll take a guess for the Christians, they are probably too focused on the ends and not the means, the end and maybe best scenerio would be that we all male and female would be nice if we wait until we marry, the means of that teaching is the problem, some of that teaching will include things like theology of the body, chastity, or even why this situation is ideal (and not because the church says so, I don’t even use that excuse to my 3 year old, I always try to explain, albeit in simpler sesame street terms for reasons why something is wrong.) but, we’d have to also mentioned god’s mercy, our human fallen nature and that there is evil in this world (especially when someone else forces something against our will) because we all do fall short of what will be an ideal scenerio.

  • dabhidh

    I gotta admit, it took me a couple of minutes to understand your original post on this, but once I got it, it made me think. Thank you. It’s amazing how one can read a criticism of “abstinence education” and immediately conclude that the critic rejects chastity.

  • Brigitte

    Original post was great. Don’t back down or apologize. This is the stuff I come to your blog for. I raised four daughters and couldn’t agree with you more. After much agonizing and also handing my firstborn granddaughter reluctantly to adoptive parents ( not my choice but my daighter’s) and also seeing my daighter narrowly escape the tragedy of abortion I think there is a lot of gray area when it comes to contraception and immature youths. These adamant opponents of yours probably don’t realize their church pews are full of sad girls who have had abortions. I know you are not championing contraception though. These are my comments. I believe I raised them in the spirit of catholic teaching you described. I also think that once someone has rejected the teaching contraception is better than pregnancy or abortion. I would,not have said this when they were young and innocent, or rather when I was an innocent mother.

  • Theresa

    I think you’re so right that sex ed isn’t one “the talk” and then you’re done. It’s an ongoing discussion. I think it starts when children are young and start noticing that there are boys and girls. It’s talking about those differences respectfully, discussing appropriate behavior and it’s also talking about each person’s value- and even more importantly, it’s the family modeling that respect all the time! I think even things like, “Son, don’t hit your sister.” and “Daughter, you need to speak nicely to your brother.” are important parts of this spectrum as well. We teach our kids to have self-respect and respect for others. The virtue of chastity stems from that, I think. Great posts (this one and “sloppy”)!

  • Newp Ort

    BE AWARE, as here I may offend, but however frightening it may be (and that ye be a-fear-ed is evidenced by the conspicuous absence of comment on this elephant in the room) let it be known:


    KNOW ALSO THAT the finest teen-aged scientists and philosophers have verified beyond all reasonable doubt that TEENS ALREADY KNOW EVERYTHING, and most authority figures are FOOLS, and could not hope to understand their UNIQUE perspectives and life situations.

    CONTRARY TO the apparently widely held belief of many comboxers here, NONE OF YOU emerged aged, wise (well aged anyway) and fully formed from thy mother’s womb. ALL OF US were at one time young, and probably were much smarter then, as the HONEST among you will likely recall thine TEEN-AGED self once also KNEW EVERYTHING.

    AND SO to those among you overflowing with DIVINE KNOWLEDGE, such that you so desire, even perhaps consider it thy HOLY MISSION, to educate teens on MATTERS SEXUAL, I would pose the (RHETORICAL) question: WHO IN HELL DO YOU THINK YOU ARE? And I would IMPLORE you, embrace humility and admit that whether they be CHASTE or enthusiastically PROMISCUOUS, the number of TEEN-AGED minds you will change will be quite few.

    IT THEN BECOMES OBVIOUS to all but the most thick-headed and imaginedly HOLY individuals that we MUST educate TEENS employing only FACTS on ALL MATTERS SEXUAL, not only abstinence. Thus TEENS who are assured in their knowledge that SEX IS KOOL and are bound and determined to awkwardly fumble their way past theirs and their partners’ UNDERCLOTHES may be FOREWARNED, indeed FOREARMED against the myriad DANGERS that await them as they embark on their FRANTIC and DESPERATE quest to GET IT WET and GET UP ON IT.

    to be concluded…

    • Fiddlesticks

      Don’t disagree with anything you’ve said here. My problem is that a lot of teen sex education isn’t just facts like STDs. It often includes non-factual advice, like that the decision about when to have sex is all about how you feel. That’s quite different from the advice that the decision about when to have sex is very little about how you feel and much more about whether you and your partner are in a stable relationship and financially able to bring up a child. See the hugely different perspectives here?

    • tedseeber

      And if some of these kids will do it anyway, the best thing we can do is provide *living wage jobs for teenagers* and teach the fathers to be responsible.

      I fully agree with *completely* educating kids, and monogamy being a backup to abstinence, while teaching chastity.

  • Aurora

    I just want to say, that’s a creepy hamster picture. Where’s the fourth paw?!

  • Jess Cathofeminism

    Yes. Love the follow up. That is all.

  • CS

    Since I missed this in time to listen, is there a place to re-listen?

    • ME

      You can probably go to and find the podcast. They have podcasts of most of the shows but I don’t listen to this show so I don’t know for sure if they have it. Relevant radio has lots of great shows so I listen to the station a lot. Just not in that time slot.