Sloppy Seconds Sex Ed


Last week, the conservative circles of the internet were abuzz in disapproval over Elizabeth Smart’s recent criticism of abstinence-only sexual education. Speaking at a forum on human trafficking at Johns Hopkins University, Elizabeth said that the abstinence-only education she received left her feeling “so dirty” and “so filthy” after being repeatedly raped.

The reactions to this were infuriatingly predictable. Good people, people who have proven to be thoughtful and compassionate, immediately shut down in the face of any criticism of abstinence-only sex ed. Their responses to Elizabeth Smart were irrational, ignorant, and stunningly condescending. From accusing her of “casting blame” to snarkily suggesting that we teach “bestiality (oral, anal, etc…) as an alternative to those worthless, dirty, filthy feelings”, there was a mob-like mentality on display. People stubbornly defended her religious parents and reminded each other how she had held on through her captivity so she could get back to them, without bothering to explain what that had to do with the point she was making. People insisted that the shame and unworthiness she felt was solely the result of the abuse she suffered, and by making her emotional trauma about abstinence-only education she was doing a disservice to other forms of abuse. People claimed that she was using her platform irresponsibly, and should have thought through the impact her words would have on the abstinence-only sex ed movement.

What almost no one did was hear what she said. No one was horrified at what she had been taught in her abstinence-only sexual education. No one acknowledged that the direct, logical result of such an education is a sense of shame and unworthiness after having been “used.” No one showed even a hint of sympathy for how she had suffered, not only at the hands of her captors, but at the hands of a degrading philosophy of human sexuality. Such a callous indifference to human suffering is appalling. It shows that too many Christians, too many proponents of abstinence-only education, have put their concern for the welfare of a quasi-political movement above their concern for the welfare of a human being, of human dignity itself.

For some time, I have thought that the reason more people aren’t speaking out against this “purity culture” is that they are unaware of it. After last week, I’m not so sure. The mainstream message of abstinence-only education got press far and wide with Elizabeth Smart’s denunciation of it, yet I saw no shock, horror, or disgust.

Let me be clear about the particular type of abstinence-only education Elizabeth Smart is referring to. I’m not entirely convinced that there is another type, but just in case, this is the abstinence-only message that Elizabeth Smart received as an adolescent:

“Smart said she grew up in a Mormon family and was taught through abstinence-only education that a person whose virginity was lost before marriage was considered worthless. She spoke to the crowd about a school teacher who urged students against premarital sex and compared women who had sex before their wedding nights to chewing gum.

‘I thought, “Oh my gosh, I’m that chewed up piece of gum, nobody re-chews a piece of gum. You throw it away.’ And that’s how easy it is to feel like you no longer have worth, you no longer have value. Why would it even be worth screaming out? Why would it even make a difference if you are rescued? Your life still has no value’.”

(Read the rest here)

Perhaps there are some people out there who think this mindset is an abberration, who are not responding to this because they genuinely believe this is a rare exception to typical abstinence-only curricula.

It isn’t.

It is absolutely crucial that Catholics, Christians, and all proponents of abstinence-only education get their heads out of the sand on this. This is not some sort of freaky Mormon glitch in the abstinence-only train. This IS the abstinence-only train.

When I heard it, it was glasses of water. Women (and only women, mind you; the boys got a separate talk about cherishing each woman as if she were the prized treasure of another man) were like glasses of crystal-clear spring water. If you “fooled around” before marriage, it was like someone spit in your glass of water. If you had sex before marriage, it was like someone took a huge drink of your water, swished it around in their mouths, and then spat it back into the glass. The more sex you had, the dirtier your glass of water got. “So think of that before you have premarital sex,” we were admonished. “Think of the gift you’re going to give your husband on your wedding night. Do you want to give him a pure, untouched glass of delicious water, or a dirty cup of everyone else’s backwash?”

For one of my friends, it was an Oreo cookie that had been chewed up and spat back out. For another friend, it was a pair of custom-made shoes that had been stretched and warped from being worn by people they weren’t made to fit. Cups of spit. Plucked roses. It goes on and on. I’ve heard a million variations of it, but always the message is the same.

This does not teach anyone chastity or purity. “Abstinence-only” sex ed is a fundamentally flawed concept, beginning with its very name. It teaches children to negate an act, to deny a fundamental part of human nature until such a time as it’s permissible to indulge. It 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. It doesn’t teach a boy that sex is primarily about the giving of himself, and that he can’t fully give himself to his wife unless he learns how to master himself first, how to wait, how to have patience, how to love her instead of using her as a vehicle for pleasure. Actually it teaches boys the exact opposite of that; that a woman is a trophy, a prize, that a good one (one worth keeping forever) will be untouched, but that there are plenty of dirty water-glasses walking around that have been ruined for any decent man anyway, and they might as well be used up since they’re not worth saving.

And what does abstinence-only sex ed teach girls? It doesn’t teach girls anything. It conditions girls into conforming with a sick, “religious-ized” chauvinism that masquerades as concern for moral purity but is really just plain old abhorrence of sloppy seconds. It says nothing to a girl about her inherent value as a human being, about her precious and vital role as life-giver, about her unique feminine genius that is inextricably linked to her sexuality. Like Pavlov’s dog, girls are told over and over in abstinence-only education that sex before marriage will make them dirty and worthless. The conditioning definitely works as intended on us pieces of chewed-up gum; our sexual relationships within marriage are usually fraught with psychological blocks, feelings of worthlessness, and fears of abandonment. It also does a number on girls who have been raped, like Elizabeth Smart. But here’s the thing: it totally screws up the “good” girls, too, the one who wait until their wedding night. You can’t tell a girl that having sex is like being a chewed and regurgitated Oreo and then expect her to be totally excited when it comes time for her husband to chew her up and spit her back out. You can’t teach a girl that her sexuality is a prize for a man, that the whole purpose of her existence as a sexual being is to be used by someone else at the “right” time and in the “right” way, and then wonder where these silly girls get their “objectification” martyr complexes.

It’s time to have a serious conversation about abstinence-only sex ed, and how it is not only failing but damaging our youth. It is screwing up our cultural understanding of human sexuality just as thoroughly as the hedonistic effects of the sexual revolution are. There very well may be some good abstinence-only sex ed courses out there, but they are certainly not the norm. 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.”

The question is not whether or not abstinence-only education is working. I’m not even sure what proponents of it mean by “working.” In the incarnation I’m familiar with, it certainly doesn’t seem intended to do much beyond shaming kids into not having sex using the crudest, most psychologically destructive means available. Research is pretty clear that it’s not even managing to accomplish that. The only thing abstinence-only education is accomplishing is entrenching misogynistic, licentious attitudes toward sex in a whole new generation of kids.

There is no excuse for Christians to close their eyes and pretend that abstinence-only sex ed is even a tolerable thing, much less a good thing. This dehumanizing approach to sexuality is not an acceptable alternative to the Planned Parenthood-driven over-sexualization of our kids. I will not settle for my kids learning anything less than the full theology of the body, and neither should you. You don’t need to defend abstinence-only sex ed from attacks by girls like Elizabeth Smart; you need to defend girls like Elizabeth Smart from the psychological effects of abstinence-only sex ed. It is not “education” in any sense of the word. It is shallow, sickening cultural conditioning, and we owe our kids enough to admit it. There are two whole generations of young adults who have been psychologically and emotionally damaged by the widespread and complacent acceptance of abstinence-only sex ed. Let’s not make it three.


*I am still getting used to our new comment system, which requires a great deal more moderation than I usually do. If you post a comment and it disappears, it got caught in my spam filter, and I will release it when I check in periodically. I don’t delete comments.


Christos Anesti!
Little Girls Who Body-Shame
Charming Charlie and Her Bad Daddy
Land of the Freeish, Home of the Tattlers
  • Heidi Hess Saxton

    What I love most about the “Theology of the Body for Teens” High School and Middle School programs (Ascension Press) is that it applies the concept of authentic love — an authentic self-gift between a man and a woman — in a way that responds appropriately and constructively to the cultural messages that swing to the other end of the spectrum: That virginity is something to “get rid of” as quickly as possible. The value of any human person is not in whether they have abstained from sex — on the other hand, how many hearts and lives have been damaged, permanently, because they gave their hearts and bodies to someone who was not prepared to make that kind of self-sacrifice, offer that kind of authentic love?

    If we are going to give the next generation a chance at experiencing the kind of love God wants them to have, the kind that mirrors the divine love of God, we need to safeguard against both errors: On one hand, that a woman is worth no more than a hymen, and on the other, it doesn’t matter how often she gives herself away. It does matter. She was made for authentic love, not a damaging counterfeit.

    • elizabethesther

      i need to read this version of TOB. I read Christopher West’s and it was….sorely lacking. To put it mildly.

      • Heidi Hess Saxton

        Christopher has fans and detractors alike within the TOB community — I came away from his presentation at the TOB Institute with mixed feelings because the focus seemed so strongly slanted toward male sexuality.

        However … speaking as a survivor of sexual assault, I think he is closer to the mark than many other “abstinence” speakers out there. I understand the worthless feelings Ms. Smart describes … and the liberation and healing that comes from human love as God designed it to be: free, faithful, total, and fruitful. THAT is a love worth waiting for — and that is difficult to offer if one regards sex as nothing more than scratching a biological “itch.”

        Humans are sexual beings, so why did God design sexual expression to be reserved for marriage? Virginity and celibacy are both states of life that are honored by the Church– recognized as a relinquishment of one good for a greater good– because they point to our ultimate destiny, which is heaven (where we neither marry nor are given in marriage). Marriage is also highly esteemed, for the sacrament images the love of Christ the Bridegroom for his bride, the Church. Through TOB, we learn that our state in life anticipates our ultimate destiny, which is heaven. (If we lose sight of this, it becomes easy to reduce marriage — and sex– to whatever we want it to be.)

        Chastity is an exercise of daily virtue that is not pre-determined by yesterday’s mistakes (or circumstances). It is a daily offering of self, a free and joyful “yes”! Because we are human, we were “wired” for love. Sometimes in our brokenness seek it out in ways that damage ourselves and others — there is no pretending otherwise. To the degree that we accept this and turn to God for healing and forgiveness, we can experience that freedom that is found in Christ. Yet the consequences of love “counterfeits” are real. We cannot make our children’s choices for them … All we can do is teach our kids that they, too, were made for love — and that they can experience it best by offering themselves first to God, and then in loving service to their families and communities.

        If we do this well, we can put PP out of business in a generation.

        • rogerrramjet

          That is the dumbest damned thing I have read in a while. And why would you want to put Planned Parenthood out of business? They do so much good to poor and sick women. THAT is what is wrong with your thinking. ALL Christian Sharia Law type of belief is what you are pushing with that nonsense.

          • nettwench14

            Yes, any sex education presented in schools should not be based on religion. What many people who are religious do not understand, is that atheists and agnostics have ethics, too. Ethics that are mostly the same, but also adding the ethic that it is not my right to push my beliefs onto anyone else. PP is a great organization, and the whole move to destroy it is based only on the fact that some clinics provide abortions, but it a very small percent of what PP does overall. The religious right wants to close down clinics no matter what, even if they don’t do abortion, which is still LEGAL in this country. And the whole federal funds argument is ridiculous. I don’t get to pick and choose where my tax dollars go. If drones kill innocent bystanders, I am not too happy about that. It is what you have to live with as a member of a diverse country. The Christian right does not respect other beliefs. They do not respect the separation of church and state that this country is founded on. Teach your TOB courses in your churches and Sunday schools, but they do not belong in schools.

            Some of the concepts sound useful, but teaching that sex is only for married people is basically still teaching abstinence. Teach people to wait for love, wait for respect, but don’t teach them that marriage is the only place for sex. That still assumes that having sex outside of wedlock is “bad,” which is ridiculous.

        • Frank Malaka

          This argument that you give being reserved for marriage and virginity honored by the church still buy into the concept of a god who will unleash a plethora of retribution upon one if not adhered too. Again unleashing guilt and scorn for ones own so called weaknesses. Why can’t we step away from the religious mind guilt games and let us look at God as a kind gentle one who has made us as we are and loves us for who we are despite what different theory’s expound regarding our sexuality Can we not acknowledge that. we are sexual Beings who need to keep that as a healthy aspect of our own nature without giving us hangups regarding it, in such a way that we won’t get fixated on it forever after in our lives. Never accepting who we are as individuals and never coming to understanding who we are either. Why should we not learn the doctrine of no harm to others, kindness towards others and acceptance. In that type of doctrine lies the tools to enable the spirit of one to grow and evolve to doing the right thing automatically. Because as long as we keep blabbing that God expects or wants this way or that we sow the seeds of non-acceptance and intolerance


    • TheBlondeFury

      “…it doesn’t matter how often she gives herself away. It does matter. She was made for authentic love, not a damaging counterfeit.”

      I appreciate this point and agree that we should be teaching sex in relation to healthy relationships. However, there are lots of women who want and enjoy sex outside the context of love, and that’s okay too. As long as she isn’t physically or emotionally harming herself or her partners, it really doesn’t matter “how often she gives herself away.” Whether or not someone considers love a necessary predicate for sex is completely personal, and valid either way. I think that’s a pretty key point in breaking down the detrimental shame that comes with abstinence-only sex education: once safer sex practices and respect are covered, you get to choose the kind of sex life that makes you happy.

      • Faith Roberts

        Sorry, but it is not normal to appreciate sex outside the context of love. That is abnormal. The truth is that if you can detach yourself from intimate feelings and trust in having sex you’ve got emotional problems already. Having sex is not the same thing has any other physical exercise and inevitably you suffer harm when having it in such a detached way. Either you further your own inability to bond in a psychologically healthy way to another or you inevitably wind up with feelings of shame or you wind up justifying your using and objectifying another human being. There are so many screwed up people in the world; part of the walking wounded who wouldn’t know intimacy if it hit them in the face because of your kind of misunderstanding of sex and its role in human society. Quit spreading your myopic and ultimately self absorbed view of sex. You are poisonous.

        • TheBlondeFury

          Why is my view self absorbed? How does having sex outside the context of love damage a person’s ability to bond in a healthy way? Why do you have to “detach” to have sex outside the context of love? Honestly, I mean that with no snark. I just want to know your reasons and evidence for believing what you do.

          • tedseeber

            Experience in my case. The oxytocin is addictive.

          • Melanie Bettinelli

            Every time one has sex the hormone oxytocin creates an emotional bond with the sex partner. Oxytocin creates emotional bonds. Oxytocin is released during sex and during breastfeeding and during childbirth. It’s how we are wired. If you think you can have sex without creating emotional bonds, if you claim sex has nothing to do with love, you are lying to yourself and to your partner. Is it really possible to not create an emotional connection with a sexual partner without screwing up your ability to make deep emotional connections at all? I’d like to see examples of people with multiple sex partners who are truly happy in their relationships, who aren’t looking for something more or trying to fill an emotional void with sex, sex, and more sex.

          • TheBlondeFury

            I’m aware of oxytocin and it’s effects. While it certainly can play a role in sex, the “cuddle hormone” also plays a role in bonding with friends, siblings, and even pets. Hugs, kisses, and other forms of less sexual touching also release oxytocin. When I give a casual acquaintance a hug, my body can release oxytocin. Does that damage my ability to form deep bonds with other people? Because I no longer have the same oxytocin-forged bonds with close childhood friends, is my ability to bond with new friends screwed up?

            I can honestly say, neither my ability to form bonds nor my happiness have been damaged by my sexual activity. I treat my partners with respect. I still value love, kindness, intimacy, and strong emotional bonds my family and friends. I love myself, my friends, and my family in a very fulfilling way. I’m not trying to fill a void. Although, I can say that in my youth I was pretty damaged by the idea people who have sex for the sake of pleasure, not love, are emotionally void and utterly damaged.

            However, I realize this model doesn’t work for everyone. If someone feels and thinks sex should only exist within the context of a deep emotional bond or marriage, and that makes them happy, fantastic. That’s a perfectly valid choice and I’m genuinely happy for them. My ultimate point is one-size sexuality does not fit all, and we shouldn’t force a size on someone whom it doesn’t fit (even if we don’t personally like or agree with the size that does fit them).

          • Eric Specht

            Wow The BlondeFury, when I read that post I think there was a massive release of oxytocin into my bloodstream and now I’ll have a hard time identifying with other people’s posts.

          • Alexis D

            There are plenty. Maybe explore a poly group, and see how its members fare? It’s more complicated than monogamy, and not without its vicissitudes, but neither is monogamy. I think you’ll find many people are capable of numerous rich, emotionally mature, meaningful relationships this way.

            Or try a college campus? Many people find the multiple sexual partners they have during those years are important formative experiences that teach them about themselves, and maintain meaningful relationships with those people long after the college years are over.

            It’s not hard at all to find people who have multiple sex partners that aren’t trying to fill a void at all. On the contrary, in every important way, their cups runneth over.

          • nettwench14

            I have found personally that oxytocin makes me emotionally vulnerable. but you cannot make that judgement for everyone else. Is it possible? Yes, for some it is, but not for me, and maybe not for you. But I don’t judge what other people do based on my personal feelings and choices. People are individuals, and relationships are learning experiences for all of us. I do think the topic of emotion and emotional vulnerability should have a place in sex education.It is more than bodily mechanics.

        • Nick Sheridan

          There is so much negative judgement in the above post, so much hatred, and no evidence behind the many statements.

        • rogerrramjet

          Nope the only poisonous view is yours.

        • angie497

          “Sorry, but it is not normal to appreciate sex outside the context of love. That is abnormal.”

          And thus the reason there have been untold thousands of people who have committed to miserable, toxic relationships that damage one or both parties involved – because one or both have them (usually the female) have been taught that if they enjoyed fooling around, they *must* be in love.

          Sorry, Faith, but sex is a physically pleasurable activity that normal human beings are going to want to experience, whether or not they are ‘in love.’ There are so many screwed up people in the world, and part of the walking wounded who wouldn’t know intimacy if it hit them in the face are because of YOUR misunderstanding of sex and its role in human society. There can be intimacy in a sexual relationship, there can be sex in an intimate relationship, but sex and intimacy don’t have to go together, and often don’t.

      • tedseeber

        Sex outside of the context of commitment and love will *always* result in pain.

        • Barry Daniel Petersen II

          Not if, or ONLY if you do it right.

          • tedseeber

            There is no right way outside of the context of commitment and love, that will not eventually result in pain.

          • Eric Specht

            This may be your experience but it’s not everyone’s experience. The only reason to make such a statement is that you WANT people who have sex with no strings attached to experience some sort of pain. That’s because you’re another one of those loonies who thinks that everyone who disagrees with their religious beliefs should be punished in some way.

          • tedseeber

            Apparently you are the one CAUSING the pain.

          • Barry Daniel Petersen II

            Right, and if you do it right, that can be fun too. Fuzzy handcuffs are really just… not even half as good.

        • Jenny Ziv Scott

          Really? Always? My husband and I engaged in pre-marital sex before we knew each other well. It was a lot of fun.

          • tedseeber

            You are lucky he didn’t leave you. Every one of my girlfriends did until I learned that sex wasn’t commitment.

          • spinetingler

            maybe you just weren’t very good yet.

          • tedseeber

            Or maybe, getting dumped is the cost of having sex without commitment.

          • spinetingler

            If you were “dumped” that implies some form of “commitment.” Your logic doesn’t hold.

          • tedseeber

            There was always commitment on my side. There was hardly ever commitment on the other side, until I insisted on an 18 month engagement with RCIA and pre-Cana.

        • Nina Perez

          good thing marriage is a safe bet then. how many wives have been in pain from marital infidelity? these things cannot be guaranteed to work or fail because we are humans. sometimes we get things right, sometimes we don’t. marriage is not a gurantee of love and commitment

          • tedseeber

            Like I said, sex outside of the context of *commitment* and *love* will *always result in pain*. Thus marital infidelity, being outside of commitment and love, will result in pain.

          • spinetingler

            “Like I said, sex outside of the context of *commitment* and *love* will *always result in pain*”

            Hmm, I had “sex without commitment” last week (although, we were VERY committed while doing it).
            It’s 99.9% likely that I’ll never see her again (since I don’t know her
            last name and it was in a country that I’m not likely to return to any
            time soon). I don’t feel any pain, and I rather doubt that she does either. We parted on rather nice terms.

            You should probably not generalize from your bad experiences.

          • tedseeber

            I’m pretty sure she does, if there was true commitment- you did the equivalent of leaving her at the altar, and that kind of thing has a tendency to breed grudges.

          • Nina Perez

            your context of commitment and love are never a guarantee though. one can never truly *know* their heart of a partner, no matter if it is a one night stand, or a 20 year long marriage. is celibacy the only real option then? there are no gurantees.

          • tedseeber

            Celibacy is indeed the only real option to parenting. If you become a parent, then you have a very real example of your partner’s heart at one point in time- your child. And only idiots abandon their children.

        • Alexis D

          Wow. You say that with such certainty, it genuinely makes me feel sad for you.

          I think it is important to talk about what we mean by “love” and “commitment.” Usually people who use this language mean a specific, formally legally recognized monogamous relationship with very specific roles, etc…

          Those of us, like myself, who differ with that, might speak of sex that works for us as “outside” the context of “commitment and love,” because it is outside of that specific definition.

          But I don’t think it’s proper to say that it’s not committed or loving. I think it’s more accurate to say that love, for us, is a richer, more inclusive thing. We love lots of people. We do not pick just one, marry them, and that is the person we love.

          Loving lots of people also means accepting that maybe our sexual relationship is something that makes sense for a season, and then we move on to other things. Maybe it lasts just for one night. Maybe we will make a traditional marriage of it. Or not. It’s fine; we are content to let the form of it unfold in whatever way brings both partners the most joy, including going off and doing other things.

          • tedseeber

            “Wow. You say that with such certainty, it genuinely makes me feel sad for you.”

            More from experience. I once believed like you. I realized in my 20s that I wanted something better. Without the traditional commitment of heterosexual marriage- love just produces heartbreak. Over and over until you commit suicide.

          • Alexis D

            Jesus. LOL. That’s quite a world view you have there. Heartbreak and suicide? I just have to laugh.

            I’m not trying to negate your personal experience; I wish you a personally fulfilling life with deeply satisfying relationships of whatever form works for you.

            But I do think you are trying to negate the personal experiences of others who make different choices than what you describe, and who do not consider the results anything like “heartbreak” or “suicide.”

            Maybe we’re just not as thin-skinned as you; I don’t know. But you’re painting a picture that strikes me as deranged and in direct conflict with reality as I’ve experienced it, and numerous counterexamples of wonderful people.

          • tedseeber

            If you’ve never been dumped,then you are the one causing the pain.

          • Alexis D

            I’ve been dumped. It happens. It’s part of life. Sure, it can hurt (or not- I’ve been dumped and it didn’t bother me in the slightest). Lots of things can hurt. But we get over it.

            I’m trying to find a gentle, compassionate, non-dismissive way of saying this. I think perhaps you have a very thin skin. This also is a reality for many people, and I suppose it deserves respect, because we all deserve to have our experiences respected. I believe our lives are a precious gift to us, and what we do with them ought to be an endeavor to share that gift with others.

            To me, that does not work well when we are overly averse to negative emotions. The strength to be present to them, and to learn from them and gain confidence in the strength of our spiritual centers, is a wonderful thing. I am grateful to many ancient wisdom traditions and wise people, like my grandmother, for helping me learn this.

            The learning is constant, and I believe it goes on forever, including after we are finished with the body we have been given for this go-round.

            Another way to say this, of course, is what Shelly says to Albert at a particularly ripe moment in Pogo Possum: “Don’t take life so serious, son. It ain’t nohow permanent.”

          • tedseeber

            I’m saying being dumped *always* hurts much worse with sex than without it, due to the effect of oxytocin withdrawal on the human brain.

            It isn’t a “thin skin” and it isn’t imaginary- it is a scientific fact that monogamy avoids most of this effect.

            Of course the traditions of our grandparents *told us this* long before science ever could- and I don’t see how ignoring the traditions of our grandparents can ever be termed respecting them.

          • Alexis D

            Well, that’s one way of explaining it to yourself. I would never claim that hurt is imaginary; of course it’s real. And I agree with you about the scientific basis.

            What I don’t think you’re seeing is that in fact, monogamy can, and often does, aggravate this effect, while having many rich, deep, intimate relationships with lots of people- some sexual, some not- stabilizes us from this, because we are not chemically locked into just one source of equilibrium.

            People who live in warm, affectionate, healthy communities and big extended families can handle some bumps along the way. They happen. It’s fine. Personally, I prefer a richer, more densely woven fabric of relationships to a few rigidly defined structures.

          • tedseeber

            Oh, ok. Then if I’m thin skinned, you’re just shallow and bound to cause more pain as you go about destroying other people’s TRULY deep and intimate relationships in favor of your adulterous one-night stands.

          • Alexis D

            Wow. That’s a lot of anger and some unfair, unfounded accusations thrown in for good measure. Nobody said anything about adulterous one night stands except you.

            Listen, we see things differently. It’s been interesting talking with you. I wish you happiness. We just seem to get ours in different ways.

          • tedseeber

            Yep. I get mine while respecting a woman’s needs. You get yours while using women as objects.

          • Alexis D

            Ted, I have tried very hard to be fair and give your point of view a sincere hearing. You continue to throw unfounded accusations at me.

            Considering that several women on this thread alone have said that “their needs” are different from the model you advocate as ideal, I would suggest you consider the possibility that you may be projecting something onto women that you believe is true about all of them, but may only be true for some of them.

            I consider that controlling behavior on your part, of a pattern familiar as “patriarchy.” Personally, I have been fortunate to know a great number of women on intimate terms. And when I say “intimate terms,” in some cases I mean sexually, and in other cases I simply mean we have enjoyed a deep, authentic emotional connection and candidly shared things close to our souls.

            In the course of all that, I have found that “women’s needs” are not monolithic, and resist formulaic rules of conduct. That is because women are human beings. And that means we share some deep, profound commonalities, and also that we are unique in other ways. For us to learn to get along best as a species on this planet, I believe we need to embrace that mystery, and be open to learning from each other what it means to respect each other. That is a creative act.

          • tedseeber

            I don’t know any women who, when they get older and become wiser, say that they wanted to just have fun with no thought for the future.

            I’m familiar with the modern bigotry against men that you display with the use of the code word “patriarchy”.

            I don’t see anything “deep, authentic emotional connection” in anything you write- I just see you using women as objects to fulfill your needs, with NO respect for motherhood or human beings at all. And to call such contraceptive sex a creative act- is nothing more than the sad heterophobia of the sexual revolution- and all the incredible damage and abuse that caused to the human family.

            I will pray for your soul, because it is clearly most in need of divine mercy. Such moral relativism is repellant at best.

          • Alexis D

            I see we’re getting nowhere here. If you continue to reserve the right to define other people’s experiences even when they are directly telling you that’s not what they are experiencing, you have power and control issues.

          • tedseeber

            There is an objective morality regardless of our subjective experiences- and that objective morality has consequences regardless of what we think we feel. If all you want to do is try to combat the bedrock with a sandblaster, go right ahead, but in the long run, it won’t do you any good and all you will be remembered as is a deadbeat.

          • Alexis D

            Ah, now we are getting to the nub. You believe there is such a thing as “objective morality.” I do not.

            I believe in the morality of “Ubuntu-” “I am because we are.” It is a morality of empathy, and of respect for the sacredness of each others’ experiences. People who think like you, I have found, have trouble with this because it does not translate to absolute rules of behavior. To those who believe there must be some “objective morality,” this is dissatisfying; you think it is license to do whatever we want. It is not.

            It requires that we be present to the creation of each moment, and participate in them with reverence. It means sometimes we will get it wrong, which is a central tenet of Christianity- our weekly services involve a shared, spoken prayer acknowledging that we have fallen short. This is ritual, because it is always true, no matter what we have done during the week.

            I have also found that people who believe in “absolute morality” also like to use it abusively, as a cudgel, which is precisely what you are doing here with your ongoing unfair accusations and denigrations of me. I would submit that this is profoundly unChristian behavior; in fact, that it is precisely what Jesus most directly addressed himself to correcting in our moral understanding.

          • tedseeber

            “Ah, now we are getting to the nub. You believe there is such a thing as “objective morality.” I do not.”

            So there is no such thing as human DNA and an objective reality?

            Oh, yeah, just Ubuntu- irrational superstition.

            “you think it is license to do whatever we want. It is not.”

            It’s a license to do whatever you want because you just made up the rules on the spot to fit your subjective emotions. Want to kill somebody today? Ubuntu is fine with it because that is your “morality of empathy”.

            Hint: Empathy doesn’t exist. It is just rationalization of your behavior. All emotions are confined to your own head, you are NOT telepathic and you don’t know what other people are feeling.

          • Alexis D

            Wipe your mouth, Ted; you’re foaming.

            A) There’s a difference between “objective reality” and “objective morality.” And physics calls even the existence of the first into question.

            B) Never mind, I don’t have any more time for this conversation.

            I feel a lot of anger and need for control from you, Ted. I wish you well.

          • tedseeber

            1. If objective reality exists, and human beings exist in reality, then objective morality exists.
            2. Any physics that calls into question the physical has crossed from being a hard science into myth.
            3. Of course I’m angry- people like you are destroying more than you are creating.

          • Alexis D

            Sorry, we’re done. I can’t believe I hung in there so long with this conversation.

          • tedseeber

            I can’t either. At least I have the excuse of Asperger’s related OCD and a need to have a logical, concrete world that neurotypical emotional chaos and the imaginary superpower of “empathy” can never provide.

            And it is your chaos that is the most destructive power the world has ever known, having killed more people now than any other philosophy of the 19th and 20th centuries; far oustriping by orders of magnitude the supposedly horrific authority of the Inquisition.

            Without Order- without Objective morality- all morality is impossible.

        • Eric Specht

          It’s never caused me any pain at all. It’s almost always been quite pleasurable and fun. Statements like that are just plain old ridiculous.

          • tedseeber

            Really, you’ve never been dumped?

    • Nick Sheridan

      “authenic love” is just your definition of love. I wish, instead of absinence only education, all our children could be taught logic and reason, so they can see arguments like this as just opinion, even if supposedly factual words are interspersed.

      • Alexis D

        The thing is, it troubles me when people speak of logic and reason as a superior substitute for emotion, rather than a partner of it.

        Logic and reason are powerful tools for evaluating the truth or falsity of a premise. But they are value-neutral. We still have to listen to our hearts, to experience the ineffable in ourselves, and just trust our response to the flavors of life. Those things inform how we use logic and reason; without them, logic and reason are just arbitrary machines floating in a void.

      • tedseeber

        Shouldn’t logic and reason be founded on objective morality rather than subjective feelings?

    • Barry Daniel Petersen II

      Which part of the bible is your “authentic love” coming from? Should we be telling our daughters to continue their bloodlines when their fathers become widowed without any sons, by then getting him drunk and mating with him?

  • Matthew Loftus

    here’s a good rebuttal of this sort of education: (starting around 1:50)

    • Nick Sheridan

      Don’t bother listening to this arrogance

  • Jess Cathofeminism

    For what it is worth, I wrote about this issue last week, and I heard Elizabeth loud and clear. She has a point! Thanks for also writing positively on the issue!

  • Genevieve Dempre

    This piece was interesting and engaging… until the last bit about Planned Parenthood promoting an “over-sexualization” of kids. Um… wut?

    Planned Parenthood is a health provider that provides fact-based information about sex as well as related medical services. This does not sexualize kids, and that part of this article was irresponsible, as was the false equivalence between “hedonism” and shaming.

    Sex for pleasure is not inherently immoral, and there are a lot of reasons people choose to have sex. You’re more than welcome to have your opinions about sexual ethics, but when you attempt to treat them as universal, you’re engaging in a similar type of shaming as those whose words you (rightfully) disagree with- just a milder form of it.

    Sex between consenting adults is not something that should be open to public scrutiny or judgment, and sex ed should focus on how to have sex in a safe, healthy way and on promoting healthy dynamics around consent- and that’s it. Parents can discuss personal morality with their children all they’d like, but in a classroom environment, discussions of “licentiousness” and “hedonism” are always going to trend towards unhealthy slut-shaming.

    • Dale Price

      The notion that there is no moral aspect to sexuality is precisely the problem with PP and its defenders. The very notion that consent is the only guide is itself a moral judgment. Licentious, but no less a statement of a moral worldview for all that.

      • heirsinhope

        PP also teaches teens to have sex & introduces them to various types of sex. licentiousness & hedonism may be attractive to some but we ought not be spending our tax dollars to teach children to treat themselves & others like objects.

        • Genevieve Dempre

          Planned Parenthood does not “introduce teens to various types of sex”. Sex, in all of its forms, is readily accessible in our culture and depicted in many places. Making scientifically accurate medical information available to those who seek it is responsible- and so is making sure that there’s a safe, non-judgmental place where everyone can afford to see a doctor or a nurse practitioner for sexual health needs.

          And as I stated above, the decision about when to have sex and who to have it with is intensely personal and something that every individual should be able to make freely without the risk of being shamed or judged by others- as long as it’s a decision freely entered into by the individuals involved.

          I stand by that, I always will, and as I’ve said: the idea that there should be barriers to medically accurate information about sex and that there’s some universal rule set about what a positive sex life looks like- it’s harmful and the burden of that is disproportionately placed on women.

          The beginning of this article was a good start. The conclusions it drew towards the end were very problematic.

          • Dale Price

            The things is, you think you are the objective one on the issue, but to get there, everyone else has to accept your chain of moral judgments and assumptions.

            All of which tends to undercut any input from parents regarding questions of “personal morality”–it’s simply a physical function engaged in by consenting individuals. Indeed, it detaches sex from any such concept of morality apart from consent, all in the name of alleged non-judgmentalism. Which, sadly, seems to be the point. And thus the debate continues to fracture and breaks down as it does, every single time.

          • nettwench14

            You cannot expect a medical provider to teach morality, and if your children lack that aspect that is YOUR fault, not a medical provider’s. PP is no different from any family practice or GP medical provider. Why would information from your family doctor “undercut” parental teaching about morality and responsibility and ethics? Providing medically correct information is not an “indoctrination” into anything! You act like healthcare providers are telling children to go out and have lots of sex. That is LUDICROUS. Far too often people seem to equate just giving people this information as some kind of heinous crime. You want to know what a really heinous crime is? A 13-year-old with gonorrhea of the throat, because no one ever told them that could be a possible consequence of ssexual activity.

          • Alexander S Anderson

            Hahaha… Medical provider. PP definitely encourages things like mutual masterbation from their supposed “morally neutral” standpoint.

          • Mollie

            Have you looked into the activities of PP? They claim to believe that
            parents should be the primary educators of their own children in sexual
            matters. Yet, hiding behind its reputation as a beneficial organization,
            PP has infiltrated our public (and some private) schools and used this
            position to push their ideology on our children, even without their
            parents’ consent If you don’t believe that, check out this article and

          • nettwench14

            That is complete BS. You people are just afraid of sex education of any kind. How did you get to be an adult with such blinkers on? “Push their ideology?” Health care and education are not an ideology. There is no value system attached to rational information. NONE. Medical professionals are trained to be non-judgmental. They are trained to give people straightforward information about how their body works. And much more thorough information than is possible for any parent, unless that parent is a doctor or nurse. Most parents and teachers have no idea of what to teach their children. These people are trained to do that.

            It is YOUR JOB as a parent to instill your child with moral values, to tell them about how relationships work, what marriage is about, as far as your personal religious beliefs and own experience are concerned. If you are so afraid that someone teaching your children about sex is going to undermine the values you have taught them, then you haven’t done a very good job. If you are not prepared to answer the kinds of questions your child might ask you, then you are neglecting to give them information that they NEED to navigate life. If a nurse comes to the school for I DAY to talk to kids and answer questions, I highly doubt that is going to undermine your own influence on your child’s life.

            You really need to be teaching children enough to protect them against sexual molestation and rape, from the age that they start leaving your care and going to daycare and kindergarten. Girls start getting their period at age 9-11 years old, far earlier than they would begin dating, but they need to know that unprotected sex can get them pregnant. The rate of young girls getting raped these days in high school is pretty high. If you don’t have an honest relationship with your child, they might not even tell you if something like that happens to them.

            Don’t send your child out in the world without the knowledge they need to protect themselves. Educators are doing this for a reason, and you can live in a bubble and put your head in the sand all you want, but this is the world we live in.

          • Leila Miller

            Planned Parenthood most definitely sexualizes children and teens, and deliberately. All one has to do is read through their web info aimed at young teens and make an assessment on that:


            The idea that all children are somehow already sexualized and that PP simply exists to give those already-sexualized children “scientifically accurate medical information” in a “non-judgmental” way is just untrue.

            I told a liberal, agnostic/Jewish, Obama-voting female relative some of what PP puts out there for kids, and she was shocked and then horrified. She had bought the PP line that PP is simply about “health services” and “information”.

            Most parents have no idea what Planned Parenthood is saying to their kids in schools, on the internet, and in its materials. With the promotion of books like this (below) to kids as young as ten, I have no idea how anyone could argue that there is no intent to sexualize children:


            For the graphics on that, go here:


            International Planned Parenthood is even worse, with its campaign for even very young children’s “sexual rights” around the globe. Again, read all the “principles” in their pamphlet very carefully to see what this organization is really about:


            By the way, great post, Calah!

          • tedseeber

            True medically accurate information about sex is that it is always a risk and is the primary method of getting pregnant.

          • Alexander S Anderson

            Seriously? I distinctly remember being introduced to the idea of anal sex by a PP pamphlet, handed out in class, in 6th grade. 6th graders can probably wait a little longer before knowing that exists.

          • Barry Daniel Petersen II

            Unless they are already having, or planning on having anal sex, and then the pamphlet is likely a useful educational tool.

          • Alexander S Anderson

            The comment I was replying to contended that PP didn’t introduce children to different types of sex. I was pointing out that is exactly what happened to me.

          • nettwench14

            “Introducing” is the wrong word. Giving the information that this is a sex act that some people do is just information. If your child just happens to be gay and male, and they could be infected with HIV if they have unprotected sex, could protect their health. They pee and they poop. That is just information.

          • Alexander S Anderson

            Let me be clear then, too. It wasn’t presented as a neutral thing, that this is just something some people do. In many ways it was presented as better than actual sex, because you couldn’t get pregnant. This was especially true with what they called “outercourse” (mutual masterbation) that was positively encouraged. (To 6th graders!)

          • Barry Daniel Petersen II

            Kay. My bad.

          • rogerrramjet

            Seriously? What school and what year was this?

          • Alexander S Anderson

            2001/2002 and at a public school in suburban Iowa.

          • rogerrramjet

            WHAT public school? Because I sent an email to PP and asked them and linked to your comment and they said they have NEVER done any such thing.

          • Alexander S Anderson

            I guess I could be mistaken, and the pamphlet could have had a different source. But it definitely detailed oral, anal, and vaginal sex and described the risks of each, and it was definitely sixth grade. I had thought it was from PP, and it seemed to fit the information available for kids on their website.

          • Alexis D

            You think anyone makes it to the 6th grade unaware of the existence of anal sex? What universe do you live in?

          • Alexander S Anderson

            Um… I did. Maybe it’s harder to be 12 now without knowing all the sexual activity you can do… but I managed it ten years ago.

          • Alexis D

            LOL. Jeez, I feel sorry for you. The third graders explained it to me when I was in second grade. A lot longer ago than 12 years. We thought it was among the many things that make the world a wondrous and miraculous creation. :P

          • nettwench14

            Not if they are already at risk of being raped and abused. Possibly by one of their own family members. It happens far younger than 6th grade. And far more often than you think.

          • Alexander S Anderson

            Then they should tell children how to know when they are abused and where to go if that happens maybe they told the girls. I don’t remember it.

        • J_Enigma32

          I suppose you’re anti-war, too? Since, you know, hedonism and people enjoying life can’t possibly be any worse than taking lives in a most violent manner.

          I fail to see why that’s a bad thing. Some people WANT to be treated like objects. If that’s what gets you off, cool. Consent. That’s it. That’s the only word you need in sexual ethics – anything else is garbage that can go take a flying leap off a bridge.

      • Guest

        I disagree that this is a problem. Morality is up to the person to decide- where they determine this understanding and whatnot may come from a variety of elements. Planned Parenthood has no responsibility to paint a picture of the beauty or horror, or whatever your worldview of the idea of sex is supposed to be, in whatever outside culture. It’s simply a basic understanding that if people have sex, it’s better to plan ahead, instead of forcing people into horrible circumstances of abortion or adoption, or early marriage. It’s based on a more mechanical principle, and does not conflict with outside worldviews. If you are offended by the ‘morality’ of Planned Parenthood, then likely you are looking to BE offended.

      • Alexis D

        I think you are making a mistake here. First, you are putting words in Genevieve’s mouth. She never claimed there was no moral aspect to sexuality. Neither has Planned Parenthood, from what I’ve seen.

        Second, you state that treating consent as “the only guide” is licentious. This is a sloppy assertion, and one that I hear often from people who I feel are willfully trying to shut down discussion of what might be valid reasons for consent, because they want to redirect the conversation back to their reasons, which they feel are the only right ones.

        A full, rich discussion of valid reasons for consent would, I think, cover a lot of valid reasons, some of which people would find better than others, etc… Genevieve is looking to “promote healthy dynamics around consent,” which I think are excellently chosen words that point toward rich, diverse, healthy intimacy in many forms. And they mean something very different than your restatement, that “consent is the only guide.”

        • tedseeber

          Planned Parenthood may not, but you certainly have above. There are no good reasons for consenting to be killed.

      • J_Enigma32


        Consent is all you need. That’s it; it’s the end of the argument. Morality? It’s a matter strictly between consenting individuals.

        Anything else is baggage that can be thrown off the boat.

        • Alexander S Anderson

          Thank you for illustrating why PP-led sex-Ed is so dangerous.

      • nettwench14

        Do you ask your family doctor for “moral” advice? PP is a healthcare provider. That’s not what they do. People have to get their moral values and education from another source, like their parents or their church. I cannot even BEGIN to tell you how many parents are in such denial or even so neglectful that they teach their children next to nothing. This is why basic sex education should be done in school, but people who want more information their parents don’t even know have a place to go, and that is PP. It’s really getting ridiculous how much people are demonizing them because they are a last resort for people who can’t get this information anywhere else. Some people seem to be afflicted with so much SHAME around natural body functions that they want to shut down any source that provides that information. Your attitude will result in more teenage pregnancy and venereal disease.

    • tedseeber

      I think you mean pornography based, not fact based.

    • Melanie Bettinelli

      I dispute the very notion that one can have sex with multiple partners outside of marriage in a “safe, healthy way.” To engage in sex without commitment is the very opposite of safe. It isn’t safe for your emotional health. There is no form of birth control that will protect you from a broken heart when you form a deep sexual bond with someone who dumps you. And there is no such thing as a form of birth control that is 100% effective. There is no form of prophylactic that will protect you 100% from an STD. If you keep having sex long enough with various partners in uncommitted relationships you will eventually get at STD and/or get pregnant no matter what contraception you use. To deny that is to deny reality. In fact, the argument behind the legalization of abortion was precisely that women need to have a backup when their contraception fails.

      • spinetingler

        “If you keep having sex long enough with various partners in uncommitted
        relationships you will eventually get at STD and/or get pregnant no
        matter what contraception you use.”

        How long and how many? I haven’t gotten either and I was rather active from 17-32 (when I got married), and as I spent part of that time as a touring musician I can assure you that there were a lot of “uncommitted relationships.”

    • Christy Marie

      I believe the author was writing from a catholic perspective, not a secular one. That’s the difference.

      “Sex between consenting adults is not something that should be open to public scrutiny or judgment,”

      So in your opinion, the Catholic Church doesn’t have the right to teach the flock that adultery is sinful, since it’s done between consenting adults?

      • Alexis D

        Wow. “The flock.” I am trying to be respectful here, but I have to say, it amazes me that there are people who willingly participate in an institution that refers to them as “the flock.”

        I find that breathtakingly condescending and paternalistic. I’d be out the door before you could say “boo.”

      • Stev84

        They aren’t just teaching “their flock”. They are trying to force their views on the entire population and legislate it into law.

  • Dwija Borobia

    It’s frustrating to me that the phrase “abstinence only” has come to mean the dirty glass/chewed gum type of education. Because if we teach the fullness of the Theology of the Body, we will also be teaching abstinence before marriage but will we be able to even use the phrase “abstinence” without worrying that we’ll be lumped together with those who don’t understand the fundamental dignity every man and woman? I don’t know. I hate when useful words are usurped by a particular group. Does that make sense? After this hub-bub, I can’t very well go around saying I support abstinence-only, for fear I’ll be misunderstood, but I certainly can’t go around saying I DON’T support abstinence before marriage either. What we need to do is take back the phrase, that’s what. Make it mean what it OUGHT to mean in the fullness of truth.

    Anyway, I’m rambling now. I’ve been stewing about this every since her story broke (although I never read any of the Christian stuff. I only read it in light of progressive politics.)

    • Broken Whole

      To be honest, I’ve never been a fan of the term “abstinence” since it focuses on what is lacking (sexual intercourse), instead of what is present (a fully embodied sexuality which is not, at that time, being expressed through sexual intercourse). I much prefer “chastity” as a term.

    • Calah Alexander

      I agree with Broken Whole. Abstinence is a negative term. It’s the absence of sin, not the presence of virtue. We should use chastity, because one can be abstinent without being chaste, but for an unmarried man or woman to be chaste necessarily involved abstinence. It’s just so much more than that. We should be trying to build up the virtue of chastity instead of focusing on abstinence, lack of sex, etc.

      • Jennifer Ayars Bush

        But, the reason we talk about abstinence with teens is because they should be abstaining from sexual activity! In the context with which this is taught, it is appropriate. And yes, both girls and boys who have premarital sex are dirty. They have been soiled and will not be pure for their future spouse, if they are called to marriage. What is wrong with saying this? Why is it wrong to make someone feel dirty or sinful if they have engaged in premarital sex (which is dirty and sinful)? It is shameful and dirty and their experience will be baggage that they bring into a future marriage.

        • Calah Alexander

          Jennifer, it is extremely important to distinguish between “dirty” and “sinful.” It’s even more important to remember that Christ died for us so that our sins could be forgiven, and they are, through the sacrament of confession. You are showing less mercy in this comment than God himself shows. That is not ground I would want to tread upon.

          • Jennifer Ayars Bush

            I never meant to insinuate that the person can’t be forgiven, nor do I presume to judge anyone. Anytime anyone sins (all of us, all the time) we are all “soiled” or “dirty” as a result of that sin. Through the sacrament of confession we receive the mercy and forgiveness of Christ. I also never said that we should treat other people unkindly. I just think we need to regain our societal and cultural disdain of premarital sex. If we are going to teach sex ed in the schools it should be abstinence only. It is up to the parents to address the spiritual and moral aspects.

          • Josh Metheney

            Really? You aren’t judging anyone, except you are. You are judging those who have premarital sex by claiming they are “dirty” and “sinful”.

          • Jennifer Ayars Bush

            Objectively speaking, they are.

          • Agar Frank

            Sex before marriage doesn’t make much of a difference, does it? After all we’re all born ‘dirty.’ 6000 years ago a naked woman condemned us all when she listened to a talking snake and ate from a magic tree. Remember?

          • Brenda Be

            “objectively” I think this word does not mean what you think it means…

          • traceytlw

            Sweetie, making someone feel dirty – your words – IS treating them unkindly.

          • Sandiphete

            You may not feel you are treating people unkindly, but by teaching abstinence only, you are conditioning women to think unkindly of themselves if they engage in premarital sex. You’re also teaching men that it’s ok to treat women unkindly.

            Of course we should teach sex education in schools. Health class can’t just be from the waist up. People need to understand the physiology of sex and how their bodies work. We can RECOMMEND abstinence, but you have no right to judge people who choose a different path based on your religion.

          • N G

            cultural disdain= culture of shame

          • Opus42

            “If we are going to teach sex ed in the schools it should be abstinence only. It is up to the parents to address the spiritual and moral aspects.”

            Air ball! Completely missed the point of the article.

          • spinetingler

            “Jennifer, it is extremely important to distinguish between “dirty” and “sinful.””

            Is that like the difference between using a feather and using the whole chicken?

        • Michael Aberg

          Because that’s YOUR personal religious belief. Do not pawn off your dogmatic shame onto the public education system. Want your kids to learn what you think about sex? Tell them yourself, or bring them to the church to learn about it. Public education should be a place of objectivity and learning, not of religious beliefs.

        • Joel Baccus

          What’s really sad, Jennifer, is that while I agree with your position that “people should wait until marriage,” you apparently think that God gave His blessing upon you to shame someone that made a mistake. It is not your right. It is not from love that you speak such derogatory words to people that made a MISTAKE. You have no right to cast stones and “make someone feel dirty” (John 8:7). Only God can judge, not you. Only God can bring purity to your life after you have sinned. If God has brought purity to someone’s life, how can YOU say that they are still soiled? I hope you don’t believe that God can’t cleanse your sins. I hope you don’t really believe that God can’t turn that “cup filled with spit” back into the purest water. If so, I pity you.

          • Let’s Talk

            Great insight, Joel. Too bad more people do not approach this issue and others with more grace. It is justified to have a conviction, but it is not intended for us to use that conviction to judge others. For those fortunate enough to be blessed with the discipline to obey their conviction, you should encourage and support others to begin making positive decisions through your example with love.

          • maybebat

            Thank you so much, @facebook-1034736192:disqus!!! Thank you! That is exactly what I’ve been trying to get through to people for years and you just summed it up so eloquently I’m amazed. Thank you.

          • Renae Lange

            I would dare say that women will experience some amount of shame and “being used” WITHOUT a “Christian” influence or abstinence-only education driving it. No one wants to experience shame, but it is a natural consequence of a wrong. We look to get rid of the shame, often times by blaming an outside source for the shame we feel. And yes, there may be outside sources contributing to the shame, but there is a better alternative to getting rid of the shame: experiencing forgiveness. I pray more people come to the understanding of God’s grace and forgiveness that you mentioned, Joel. The Bible has some prominent stories of women who have been “used” that God has brought to do marvelous things.

            Rahab the prostitute protected the Israelite spies. She is one of the few females mentioned in the lineage of Jesus. Another woman in the lineage of Jesus is Tamar, who was sexually used by multiple husbands (she was widowed a few times) and then resorted to disguising herself as a prostitute to finally have an heir. The point of sharing these stories was not to say that what they did was necessarily right, but God at NO point deemed them as “useless” or lacking worth.

        • Melanie Bettinelli

          The problem with the “sex is dirty” mentality is precisely that
          impression it leaves that sex within marriage is also dirty, just less
          so. And it creates new baggage for the person who has sinned to bring into marriage. If a young person makes a mistake, it will inevitably create problems in a marriage, but those can be worked through, especially if both persons have access to the sacraments and practice forgiveness. But the problems will be compounded if that young person has a misguided understanding of God’s mercy and forgiveness, which is what the “dirty” mindset creates. It leads to the notion that one is damaged goods and therefore should be treated as a
          second class citizen within marriage if they weren’t “pure”. It
          overemphasizes physical impurity, physical virginity and under
          emphasizes the spiritual aspects of self donation and the one flesh
          Christ makes all things new and sacramental confession washes away our sins. Although it’s true that there are temporal effects of sin that aren’t completely washed away by sacramental confession, a better metaphor for those temporal effects might be one of brokenness rather than dirtiness. And even that brokenness can be healed with genuine love and forgiveness. Real, sacramental marriage is possible even if both partners have sexual sin in their pasts. If we don’t teach that, we are lying.

          • spidey

            The problem is not with the truth of abstinence being the right choice. The problem is what it does emotionally to the girls who try to do the right thing, who don’t want to be that wrapped birthday present that everyone has torn a bit from, and yet they become victims of rape, or even non-rape sexual assault or molestation. The sin is not theirs, but you better believe they carry the shame as though it were.

        • Brian Barone

          Oh get off your high horse. Morality doesn’t come from the bible, nor Jesus. Marriage isn’t necessary to have sex, nor does having premarital sex make one dirty.

        • Barry Daniel Petersen II

          Everyone has baggage. Everyone is dirty. The world produces sinners. That much we know is true, because the bible says so. Having a healthy appreciation for sex, like alcohol, promotes positive activity including it. You want a person to never cheat on their husband or wife, and never get a divorce? Let them understand what life with other people is. Give them cause to never wonder.

          Jesus talked with prostitutes. We shouldn’t treat our own children as less.

        • Guest

          Having been sexually assaulted in college, I can say I’m glad I experienced a loving relationship before that horror happened. Otherwise I might have thought as Elizabeth did. No woman (or man) needs to feel horrible because they do something through love or because they have had something horrible done to them. The only person who should feel horrible is the perpetrator of that crime–the rapist.

        • ac22591

          Jennifer , only YOUR religious beliefs define it so . Who are you to pronounce anyone dirty that has performed a wholly natural act . I hope you never meet and try to shame my grand-daughter

        • Josh Metheney

          So, we should really tell our kids that sex is a dirty thing instead of it being a nature thing that can be done in a relatively safe manner? That’s great. Let’s just overlook the issue. In states that have abstinence only classes, the rate of teen pregnancy is double that of states with safe sex classes. In my case, I went from a school where ten percent of the senior females got pregnant per yer to a school where we only had one senior girl get pregnant in three years. What you do, instead, is continue to tell them that they aren’t good enough if they have been touched. You are still shaming them. You are still making them feel bad for having natural urges. You want to know what’s not natural? Abstinence.

          • Jiggy

            What no one addresses is that telling teens (or anyone) what’s forbidden makes it SEXIER.

        • Jean Guenther Piccirilli

          Why is premarital sex the only sin that incurs this dirtiness? We are all sinful people, all our lives, whether we have sex outside of marriage or not…why is this put out there as the worst possible thing? I also agree that kids should not be having sex when they are unable to deal with the consequences of it, but none of us are pure and sex is not the worst sin there is.

          • Eric Specht

            Why is premarital sex the only sin that incurs this dirtiness?

            Because it’s fun and there are no permanent ties to the sex partner. Mostly because it’s fun, enjoyable and free and doesn’t hurt anyone as long as both people consent to it.

        • Paula Steiner

          I feel sorry for any daughters you might have.

        • Phoghat

          “And yes, both girls and boys who have premarital sex are dirty”
          I really feel sorry for you

        • Carey

          Not only did I have sex before I was married, I had a child. So I guess that makes me dirty and my oldest son a b*stard right? Why is it wrong to make someone feel dirty or sinful if they’ve engaged in premarital sex? Because it’s none of your business!! The only “baggage” I brought with me to my marriage was a four year old, and I don’t consider him baggage, and neither does my husband.

          • bintalshamsa

            So did I. I thank God every day that I had that “premarital sex” (also known as sex). If I had waited until the perfect partner came along, I wouldn’t have had any children as I got disabled and couldn’t bear any kids by then. My partner would have been left without a child to help raise and that would have made him unhappy as he’d always wanted to be a dad.

            That child of mine just graduated from high school this week, with honors and an award. That “b*stard” of mine has never been in trouble, in school, with the legal system, with our church. I couldn’t be prouder. If what I did was a sin, then why would my God have made it the best thing that ever happened to me?

          • Billy Ten Eyck

            That is exactly what God does with ALL things – sin and goodness – He turns them into something than can glorify Him – in this case, your beautiful child.

        • angie497

          Girls and boys who have premarital sex are dirty and have been soiled? Wow. Nothing like tossing millions of people into the dumpster.

        • Guest

          That is your religious belief. Also in my experience quite a few of my friends who have followed the abstinence only path have jumped into marriages before they were truly ready. Why because then it was ok for them to have sex! They wouldn’t admit that being a main motivator but you could tell that it was. It is a problem that we are not properly taught about our sexuality because of religion.

        • Tina Marie

          It is unwise to try to “make” someone feel anything…just because it’s what you want them to feel. Your desire for someone to recognize their sin is not the same as “making someone feel dirty.”

          In the end, it is the job of the Holy Spirit to convict us of our sin. The Holy Spirit is the living, breathing, spirit of God Almighty, and I can guarantee you that you will never, through all your sermonizing and chastising, do a better job than God Almighty at convicting another person of their sin. Moreover Luke 6:42 is no joke: “How can you think of saying, ‘Friend, let me help you get rid of that speck in your eye,’ when you can’t see past the log in your own eye? Hypocrite! First get rid of the log in your own eye; then you will see well enough to deal with the speck in your friend’s eye.”

          Do not think to claim the right to judge, as judgment belongs to the Lord. Please, friend, if you want to “make” someone feel something, love them in the name of Christ and leave conviction for their sin to the Holy Spirit, who will convict them in the way that will move them to salvation.

        • Kathy Stuart

          I mean really, that sh*t is hilarious, (and yet, so so sad). For those of us who partook of sexual activity before our marriages (which is, always has been and always will be normal) and never once felt dirty or used let me explain this to you. Do you know what we brought to our marriage? We brought experience and joy. We brought knowledge of what is normal functioning and what is not. We brought passion and understanding of the human sexual response. We did not bring baggage.
          It is my opinion we need to teach our children that sex is normal and wonderful but comes with responsibility. That is why we teach them about respect for both the male and female. We teach them about birth control and preventing disease. We give them all of the tools they need to navigate in the world when it comes to the sexual nature of being human, especially when your religious brainwashing fails. And we teach them that whether or not they choose to have sex before marriage is up to them based upon what they have been taught at home and what they believe.
          To teach abstinence is to teach religion.

        • Tyson Wardleigh

          You are a fawking clown you religious half wit.

        • Anony-mouse

          Jennifer, it concerns me that it appears that you view people who have premarital sex as uniquely dirty coming into marriage: “Why is it wrong to make someone feel dirty or sinful if they have engaged in premarital sex?… It is shameful and dirty and their experience will be baggage that they bring into the future.”

          It appears that this statement either is ignorant or refuses to acknowledge that every person comes into marriage with sexual baggage. Abstinence breeds the question: “How far is too far before I cross the line?” and ignored the purpose of our embodiment. Better to ask the question, “How can I honor my Father, in whose image I am created, with my body heart, and intellect?”

          The problem with “abstinence-only education” (I am speaking about the Church), is that it teaches what men and women should and should not do, rather than cultivating a heart that knows what and why sex is.

          Sex is not merely “bodies in motion,” nor is marriage as trivial as a legal bond (again, I speak for members of the Church). Marriage reflects the relationship between Christ and His bride in covenant relationship and therefore, sex in the one flesh relationship that is a covenant renewal to one another in remembrance of that covenantal bond that unites husband and wife as Christ and His bride are unified.

          The reason why sex outside of the marriage is tragic (again, for Christian people) is because it misrepresents the relationship between Christ and His bride. Christ doesn’t leave His bride, He doesn’t cheat on His bride, He humbly serves her (not only the atonement, but His present ministry of intercession and the work of HIs Spirit in her). However, neither does He shame her. And neither should we, as brothers and sisters, shame another person for breaking covenant. Lovingly come alongside, walk with, and rebuke if necessary, but never, EVER are we to shame one another.

          Jennifer, I don’t pretend to know your story, but I know that you and I and prostitutes and prisoners and pastors and plumbers are all the same. You are affected by the Fall–broken, helpless, and wicked beyond your own comprehension, just as the rest of us are. Your sins might manifest themselves in different ways than others–maybe you’re not sexually promiscuous, but harbor some other sin that no one can see and pass judgment on the outside. However, you and I and every other person on this planet are guilty of idolatry–that’s spiritual adultery.

          No one is beyond the reach of God’s restorative grace–not you or I, and not those who have broken covenant in this way. They don’t need more shame; we pursue sinners in love, as we were pursued by the One who is the lover of our souls.

          To you, and anyone who may read this comment, it is so detrimental to the health of the church to stop shooting our own wounded. Pride is a more insidious sin than sexual promiscuity, and it is plaguing the Church. There is something intrinsically wrong when sinners don’t feel welcome in the Church–our Bridegroom spent countless hours with the shamed, broken, and sinful in society without shaming them.

          I’m not excusing sinful behavior. I am, however, condemning equally sinful responses to sinful behavior. We’re all in the same boat, and the Savior pursues us no matter what our baggage looks like.

        • Barry Daniel Petersen II

          Judge not, lest ye be judged. Maybe we should make you feel dirty for all of your sins, hun, because you’re a disgusting sinner who has done wrong in the eyes of God. Maybe we should venture into your life and just rip you apart for what you may have done, and remind you of your infidelity to The Lord.

          That sounds fun. Please, cast the first stone, thou who art sinless.

      • Jennifer Ayars Bush

        Calah, it just occurred to me that you make no distinction between sex within marriage that is open to life and sex outside of marriage that is lustful and sinful. A woman who engages in sex within marriage that is open to life isn’t going to feel dirty or used and rightly so, for she isn’t perverting the act. A woman who does engage in premarital and/or contraceptive sex may feel dirty as she should. It is that “dirty” feeling that would hopefully lead her to repentance and a change of heart. We need to get away from the modernist idea that we can’t criticize or hurt someone’s feelings.

        • Christina Austin

          “It is that “dirty” feeling that would hopefully lead her to repentance and a change of heart.”

          or, suicide after having been assaulted.

        • guest

          Wanna bet? My own mother couldn’t talk about sex and she couldn’t talk about how it should be in a marriage, and she said she never engaged in anything before and I completely believe her. Not talking about sex, reproduction, sexuality, the body parts, etc, leads people to remaining shameful about sexuality and sex, even within a marriage. My mom is now gone, but father is quite shocked that mom never talked to us about sex or marriage. Thank goodness we grew up on a farm with livestock (and livestock that exhibited homosexual tendencies at one time or another–steers mounting steers, etc).

        • Jean Guenther Piccirilli

          why is it only the woman who “should” feel guilty and change?

          • Hintermoon

            It’s really pathetic how these religious fanatics think it’s ok to condemn anyone else. Worst is the women who spout this crap, you are so brainwashed. It’s time women take over the running of things and stop treating their little boys like they are something special no matter what they do, the answer is always “Boys will be boys” Whatever the hell that means in reality. It’s time to punish the abusers and not the victims.

          • Jennifer Ayars Bush

            It’s not.

        • Carey

          Jennifer–If your sex doesn’t feel “dirty” every now and then, you are obviously doing it wrong :)

        • dom

          Do you even listen to yourself? What is wrong with you? You’re advocating that you abuse people emotionally so that they will convert to religion!
          A woman SHOULD NOT feel dirty or ashamed for her life choices. I note that you make no mention of men, even though they are conventionally not made to feel the same way about their behaviour – even though it takes two to tango.

          Your “advice” is horrible and wrong. There IS no distinction between whether sex occurs outside of or inside of marriage. It’s also NONE of your business, you have no right to emotionally abuse people’s sexlives – especially so they can “have a change of heart” (codeword: be emotionally manipulated into a religion of your choice)

          What is WRONG with you that you’re okay with doing this?!

          • Canth Decided

            I’ll tell you what’s wrong with them.
            They’re religious.
            They believe there’s a great big cop in the sky who made them with genitals and sex drives, and then tells them they’re going to be filthy and dirty if they use them without the cop’s permission.
            As soon as you bring to the table an imaginary entity whose word cannot be falsified, an obsession with cleanliness, and the desire of a man to be sure the kids he’s supporting are ‘his’ (as if children were possessions in the first place), you get this.
            You’re always going to get this.
            Marriage is nothing more than a contract to designate heirs and distribute property after death, and that’s why adultery is such a big deal. Because in a patriarchy, the only way a man can know his kids are his is by controlling utterly the means of production, i.e. women.

            What’s wrong with them… is they’re religious.
            They believe in Iron Age fairy tales, and they’re afraid of the cop in the sky.

          • barry

            You sir are a hypocrite, you down others because of what they believe and in the same hand say they are looking down at others. You liberals make me sick. You think your own rules do not apply to you. The poor girl feels dirty because some sick piece of trash used her not because a few words spoken in a class. She is not a bad person even by religious beliefs for what happened to her. Abstaining is the best way, will most fail, yes I know I did but I am not trash are dirty just human

          • 19 yr old Guest

            Thank you so much for saying this. I am of the generation that is currently coming of age and abstinence programs are just a scare tactic used to shame my generation out of having sex. It doesn’t work, but it does make us feel worthless if we do. I am not married but I have had sex before marriage and no one can make me regret that decision. Why because I made that decision after making sure I was informed about what having sex before marriage entailed. Honestly, I think abstinence programs should be taking out of school and all sides should be taught in such a program. We should educate our children so they can make an informed decision for themselves when the time comes. Maybe that decision won’t be abstinence but it might be. Why is everyone so afraid to educate students full on this matter? Because you are afraid you will be condoning us having sex? Too bad we do anyways.

        • Eric Specht

          Why does sex outside of marriage have to be lustful and sinful? That seems awfully narrow minded. BTW, sin only has meaning to those who care so that’s not really much of a point. Open to life? Sex combined with the use of contraceptives is a responsible thing to do as it helps prevent unwanted pregnancy. No woman “should” feel dirty for having sex that she has consented to so you’re completely wrong there yet again. So, who you’re referring to is a woman who subscribes to your particular brand of Christianity, and only her. Your faith is something that you’ve convinced yourself to believe and nothing more – something you personally believe to be true without having any hard evidence or facts apart from your Bible or what your preacher has told you. Seems like a pretty lousy way to view sex.

        • Brenda

          “A woman who engages in sex within marriage that is open to life isn’t
          going to feel dirty or used and rightly so, for she isn’t perverting the

          Bullshit. The sex I had towards the end of my marriage, with a very nice man who I was not in love with but was taught that it was my “wifely duty” to stay married to him, to fulfill his physical needs, and to not “break up a happy home” made me feel miserable, dirty, and used. I felt more whorish for that sex than any other sex I’ve had in my life, because I was only doing it to avoid hurting him and “causing trouble.” Now that I am divorced and I understand better that I am completely in control of my own body and don’t owe sex to anybody for any reason, my sex is much better and I am much happier.

        • shameless

          I engage in premarital and contraceptive sex and feel neither dirty nor shameful. I feel empowered because my sexuality is my own and belongs to no other. I do with it what I choose and what I choose is no ones business.

        • Sarah Lanier

          Sorry, but you’re wrong about this. Many, many women continue to feel guilty about sex after they get married. It took me 6 years of marriage before I started to feel the guilt during and after sex ease off. You cannot continue to drill “sex is a sin” into someone’s head for their entire life and expect them to adjust their thinking once they are married. It doesn’t matter if you tack on “unless you’re married” on the end, because the bulk of the message is usually that sex is sinful, lustful, wrong, and dirty.

      • Christy Marie


      • Peter H. Coffin

        But does that rephrasing of the goal change how the people that fail? Does it matter to them whether they are that unchaste isn’t *really* like being used gum? Or is that just prettier label for the same wastebin, in their minds? Never mind what the actuality may be: most of the people your post is trying to help are melodramatic teens.

    • Belle Vierge

      Churches and parents should be teaching chastity. Public schools should NOT be teaching abstinence-only education. Abstinence-only education should be criticized and associated as negative. These programs do not teach factual information about sex. My public middle school followed the abstinence-plus educational model. We learned all the FACTUAL information about sex: puberty, reproductive organs, STDs, various forms of contraception & their pros/cons, etc. The emphasis, however, was that abstinence was the only 100% guaranteed way not to get pregnant or an STD. The boys and girls were separated for this three-week course in middle school (taught by gym teachers, IDK why). I thought it was a great program, and I wish all public schools were teaching this. It was so long ago that I don’t remember if the teacher talked about consent. That’s the only other thing I would add to the instruction.

      • Lara @ condom monologues

        Totally agree that abstinence should be taught as only one option. I would add consent as a necessity too. And that Sex ed needs to be made inclusive and relevant to LGBT and queerpersons.

        • julia

          Well, you might disagree with most of this, but we were taught the “Four F’s” of sex as Full, Faithful, Fruitful, and Free self-giving. Full= holding nothing back, giving love as well as the physical. Faithful= monogamous, not cheating. Fruitful= being open to the creation of new life as a not unlikely natural result of having sex. Free= not being coerced or forced in any way. So, we did have consent in there!

      • Bettyann Matkowski Frederick

        Churches need to stay out of people’s sex lives. Period.

        • Christy Marie

          Churches have an enormous responsibility to care for the children that sexual unions produce, when the parents (often single parents whose significant other had sex and didn’t want the responsibility of caring for a child) can’t afford to take care of them on their own.Churches have the responsibility to teach the dignity of each person. Churches are also there to provide counseling for couples whose marriages are on the rocks due to adultery.

          I’m not sure how you think a church can assist their parishioners with all of the aforementioned issues without addressing sex. Let me know how you would do that.

          • Peter H. Coffin

            Talking about the shamefulness of sex feeds not children or the poor. It only feeds the ego of those giving the lecture. Many organizations feel that it’s a fair price for the poor to fed, to be lectured at and shamed for their very human flaws. But that’s hardly pure charity.

      • Abby Hogan

        My schools had a similar program but they started in elementary school. Elementary though was mainly about the changes we would go through as we hit puberty, then in middle and high school it focused more on the STIs(newer name for STDs) and pregnancy. I thought it was a really great way to teach the subject as well.

      • Peter H. Coffin

        Churches and parents teaching chastity (essentially abstinence for any person not legitimately married in the eyes of *that particular church*, not even just *any* random church) are no better for the purposes of the discussion that Alexander raises than teaching the same in school. Unless one expects that teachings of parents and church have only insignificant influence in forming the minds of children, but I doubt that many here so think.

    • catholicscholar

      You know, the language of “dirty” and “unclean” goes back to the earliest Hebrew scriptures. See Paul Ricoeur’s The Symbolism of Evil.

      It is an attempt to express the inchoate and perhaps inexpressible experience of the way that sin leaves one seemingly unable to master his or her will, to master themselves. Our catechism calls chastity the “apprenticeship in self-mastery.”

      Do we not see that chastity is about our will, not the physical act of sex?

      I can’t help it that modern pagan culture has turned “dirty” into a metaphor for the actual physiological aspect of sex that occurs in both marital sex and the horror of rape. That interpretation is not my doing. That is the doing of non-Christians. They revel in the animal sloppiness of sex. They celebrate it in their advertising and their jokes.

      For us, the “dirty” connotation of sex is the decision to compromise one self. It is precisely the same “dirtiness” as the pain and frustration of the alcoholic who tries to have just one drink but can’t stop. Similarly, the person who wants to abstain from sex but finds themselves giving themselves away repeatedly, and is entering despair.

      The woman who expressed pain over the “dirty” metaphor of this video is understandably hurt. To be blunt, the rape she was subjected to left the perpetrator dirty. She is pure. This is an objective fact. Her will played no role in the crime.

      But her hurt is not due to the Judeo-Christian idea of sin as “dirty”, it is due to the secular-hedonist reduction of sex to body parts.

      I am horrified that Christians are unable to see this distinction. Sin is an act of the will, it is not the physical residue of sex, and for God’s sake it is not the physical residue of rape.

      I do not accept blame for the connotation the woman took from the symbol of uncleanliness. Her construction of what the symbol means has nothing to do with Church teaching.

    • PassinThru

      Abstinence education is not education – it’s endorsement of one narrow option that is rarely discussed thoroughly. True sexuality education would include a discussion about abstinence as one response to the societal pressures reagarding sexuality. True sexuality education would also address the difficulties of a commitment to abstinence as well as a discussion about the potential guilt, shame, and self-forgiveness if abstinence should fail. Abstinence does not equal chastity, nor vice-versa, as someone else her has pointed out. Chaste people make mistakes, too. They can also change their minds, or even choose varying degrees of moderation regarding their own, personal sexuality.

  • heirsinhope

    the word “abstinence” is woefully misleading. chastity is what TOB teaches: sexuality as a gift to be cherished & also a gift that cannot be stolen. the Church makes it clear that rape does not affect virginity, only an act of genuinely free choice results in fornication. what Elizabeth Smart was taught was a lie & Christians need to understand that. she was not free to choose. even had she been an adult, that would have been true. as a child, she was even less free.

    I know her feelings & her pain because I was raped & serially abused as a child. the book I am working on is for her & all the other children who have been forced to take it. we must keep Elizabeth in our prayers & please pray for me too. it’s hard work writing about evil, even when one has survived & found healing. thank you for this post.

  • Laurel

    Calah, you are right on. Teach girls that sex is “dirty” before marriage and then all of a sudden it’s not after marriage? Teach them that if they have sex before marriage they are “dirty” too? Teach boys that only “dirty” girls have sex before marriage? Then wonder why domestic abuse happens and why women allow it… it is so wrong.

    • Eric Specht

      It’s not just the women that are taught that premarital sex makes them dirty but everything is fine after marriage. I was raised a Jehovah’s Witness and they teach that same line of crap as well. It caused all sorts of problems in my first marriage. It’s hard to think of something as being okay and fun when you’ve been raised to think of it as dirty and sinful. Nowhere in the Witness literature is it ever mentioned that sex is pleasurable, fun or enjoyable. It’s only mentioned as a sin and something to avoid. What a horrible outlook for any young person today.

      • bintalshamsa

        Eric, I was also raised as a JW. Everything you said is true. For many years, it stunted my development as an adult with a healthy sex life. I’m glad that we both got away and I hope that more folks like us will find articles like this one and start considering whether what they’ve taught is really the whole story. Take care!

        • Jazzmyne

          That is crap! i’m a jehovah’s witness and it does say that sex is a sin, OUTSIDE OF MARRIAGE!!! there are many jw articles that say that if your partner wants to share a sexual experience with you, you shouldn’t withhold that from them because your body is theirs, and their body is yours to share. If what you said were true about sex being a sin, why would Jehovah have said that we should be fruitful and fill the earth with humans. Why would he have made a reproductive system in us if sex was a sin? Isn’t that what it’s for, SEX?

          • Katy Larson

            Jazzmyne, clearly you don’t realize that “if your partner wants to share a sexual experience with you, you shouldn’t withhold that from them” is just as unhealthy as thinking sex is dirty. Healthy human sexuality and healthy relationships include the ability to choose when NOT to have sex just as much as the ability to enjoy it when it is wanted.

  • Broken Whole

    Like Pavlov’s dog, girls are told over and over in abstinence-only education that sex before marriage will make them dirty and worthless. The conditioning definitely works as intended on us pieces of chewed-up gum; our sexual relationships within marriage are usually fraught with psychological blocks, feelings of worthlessness, and fears of abandonment. [...] But here’s the thing: it totally screws up the “good” girls, too, the one who wait until their wedding night. [...] You can’t teach a girl that her sexuality is a prize for a man, that the whole purpose of her existence as a sexual being is to be used by someone else at the “right” time and in the “right” way, and then wonder where these silly girls get their “objectification” martyr complexes.

    Calah, I can’t thank you enough for this piece and especially for the bit I quoted above! I don’t think people realize the truly relentless degree of psychological damage that this type of rhetoric does—and how remarkably counterproductive this shaming really is. Do folks really think that telling a girl who had sex before marriage that she is a “chewed up piece of gum” is going to lead her back to chastity or to any experience of a healthy sexuality? Our hypersexualized culture degrades women by treating them as objects and—in my experience—abstinence-only education only furthers both the degradation and objectification.

  • James

    I think most Catholics are horribly unaware of just how different “abstinence-only” is from Catholic teaching because the Catholic Church DOES teach that people should refrain from sex before marriage.

    “Purity”,”Modesty”,”Chastity”, even “Virginity” all have different meanings in the Catholic world than in “abstinence-only” circles. But most people, Catholic or not, aren’t aware of this.

    • Calah Alexander

      I agree. That was my motivation to write this post.

    • Catherine Seiwert

      As someone who works in the abstinence only field and is Catholic, I can tell you that they really don’t have different definitions. They might have various ways of explaining it though. As I said in an earlier reply, abstinence-only as a descriptor is to make a distinction in the public sphere to comprehensive sex ed (condoms, abc, exploring sexuality, etc). It is causing a false dichotomy to compare it to programs like TOB that teach a faith based perspective and chastity.
      Most in the abstinence-only circles are Christian who (some more or less than others) have a holistic view on sex and share a basic understanding of God’s purpose for us. Those teaching it now grew up most likely being told sex was dirty and they, through those mistakes, understand the need to teach the positive reasons to wait as well as the negative things that will likely occur if you don’t.

  • Petro

    Excellent and revelatory post. I question whether the Theology of the Body industry is the answer to this, as you suggest. I would be interested in hearing your thoughts on why you feel it is the answer.

    There are other Catholic perspectives on sexuality that are not being sold by Christopher West’s interpretations of Pope John Paul II’s deeply theological and often abstract lectures. There are even other interpretations of those lectures. I would be hesitant in suggesting that it is the solution here.

    • James

      Christopher West’s interpretations are those of Christopher West’s, not JPII or the Catholic Church. I have a LOT of problems with West’s presentations and find they are as likely to confuse as to enlighten.

      I agree that Theology of the Body is too abstract for people to get practical advice from. Besides, the work was never meant to be a treatise on sexual ethics.

      Sexual ethics was, however, the focus of JPII’s earlier work, Love and Responsibility. In my opinion, TOB doesn’t make much sense without the background of L&R. Dr. Edward Sri has some great material based on L&R.

      I am curious what other perspectives you are referring to. The old Natural Law ideas aren’t very convincing to modern audiences. All the other perspectives I have heard become a series of “thou shalt nots”, leading to Catholic versions of this “Purity culture”.

      • Petro

        Usually these perspectives come in the contexts of larger works, rather than ones dedicated solely to sexuality. A recent one I read that I found to be profound was in Ronald Rolheiser’s The Holy Longing: The Search for a Christian Spirituality. In a chapter on the topic, he addresses sexuality in its totality in order to incorporate it into spirituality.

        In essence, sexuality lies at the core of all life-giving and creative action. While a part of this activity is intercourse and procreation, one does not need to have intercourse nor to procreate to act upon one’s sexuality—and I don’t mean masturbation.

        From Rolheiser:

        “Sexuality is a beautiful, good, extremely powerful, sacred energy, given us by God and experienced in every cell of our being as an irrepressible urge to overcome our incompleteness, to move toward unity and consummation with that which is beyond us.”

        There is a certain piece of this in West’s work in which he discusses our needs to be loved. His angle on this, however, is that sexual relationships are some form of substitute for the divine love rather than the human form of participation in the divine love.

        Rolhesier goes on to extol how these energies allow us to be co-creators with God: “mothers and fathers, artisans and creators, big brothers and big sisters, nurses and healers, teachers and consolers, farmers and producers, administrators and community builders.”

        In essence, we are empowered by our sexualities and not hampered by them. The problem is that—as Spiderman would note—with great power comes great responsibility. The sheer power of our sexualities often overcomes what we are able to handle alone.

        Nouwen often wrote about the need for us to maintain a tension in our lives. He notes how our avoidance of these tensions often compounds itself into an avoidance of God. Without a proper outlet for our sexual energies, or a willingness to abide in tension, we are driven into emptiness, typically resulting in the cheapest and easiest release of these energies through having casual sex or masturbation.

        Nevertheless, the only outlet for this sexual energy is not homosexual marriage. This energy is not primarily a production of the body, as Theology of the Body might suggest. Celibates are not just happy because they have made a choice to be vowed to the Church or Christ alone. They are joyful because they channel their life-giving and creative energies—their sexual energies—in ways that move beyond the most concrete form of sexual expression.

        Equally, those who are celibate but are not employing their sexual energies in constructive ways can find themselves lost and resort to the emptiness as discussed before.

        Those are a few ideas blended together from two well-known Catholic priests and theologians. There is a lot more out there. These perspectives approach sexuality in the context of something greater than intercourse and procreation. I think Catholicism, better than any other spirituality, has demonstrated the Truth of this. Christ’s choice of celibacy does not reject sexuality, but opens it up to be far more than the exchange of bodily fluids.

      • Anna

        Oh, when is everyone going to get off the Christopher West hate band wagon? He may have been a little rough in his early days, but he has honed all of his presentations over the years, with the guidance of some of the top scholars of JP II/Thomas Aquinas (Michael Waldstein, in particular), and the fruits of his work in the lives of dozens of people I know personally, not to mention the thousands I don’t, are nothing less than wonderful.

        • Petro

          It’s not hate. It’s acknowledgement that his perspective is one particular perspective with strengths and weaknesses.

          Its biggest strength is that it gives many Catholics a context in which to discuss sexuality. That’s a really good thing.

        • James

          I’ve read West’s “Good News about Sex and Marriage” and heard a few of his lectures.

          My problem with West isn’t that he’s unfaithful (I agree with Sr. Helena Burns that he gets about 90% of it right.) it’s that he’s hard to understand. He likes to use hyperbole in his lectures to make his points. The problem is that for a very literal-minded person like myself, his rhetorical style detracts from and distorts the message.

          West’s lectures gave me the feeling that I was being subjected to “hard-sell” tactics and was being presented a view of sexuality that simply doesn’t match reality. Having been subjected to the “sloppy seconds sex ed”, I felt like I was getting the Catholic version of the same. It had the feel of “if you follow the rules, your life will turn out rainbows and sunshine, and if you don’t, you’re cheating on your spouse and killing grandma.”

          West’s lectures weren’t wonderful at all, but made me very cynical of the Catholic view of sexuality.