A Pagan Parenting Astonishment: What? You promote teen abstinence?!
Several years back, I partook of and facilitated a women’s group where we discussed various topics. A topic on teen abstinence came up and members of the group expressed bewilderment that I, a Pagan mother, promote teen abstinence with my children, alluding to the belief that only Abrahamic religion (majority Christianity) holds a monopoly on the concept and word. Yes, I was the only “out” Pagan mother on the page, a vocal one at that. It took me aback that individuals assume that the words virginity, virgin, abstinence, and chastity are perceived as Christian words and concepts.
“How do you promote abstinence in your belief?” was the primary question asked of me. I accentuated to the members that not all Pagan parents share the same methods, theos-doctrine, belief, or teach the same way. Similar to how many of them, who declare themselves as Christians, gave different responses. Some believe abstinence only until the covenant of marriage is the only way sex is prohibited. Some believe that masturbation is forbidden, while others would rather have their child masturbate than have sexual intercourse. The difference of parenting views on teen sex or sexual intercourse varies within Christianity as it varies within any parent, with or without a religion affiliation. It comes down to the values of the parent (and child).
With my own children, the sex talk began at a very young age with appropriate and inappropriate touching; whom is and is not permitted to see their reproductive organs, when, and causes of when, where, and whom. Causes such as their pediatrician is not permitted to see nor touch (examine) their reproductive organs without Mommy or Daddy present. Conversation on sex, sexuality, and reproductive function of organs has always been an ongoing dialogue within my home. I believe in the concept of “old enough to ask a question, you’re old enough to get an age appropriate answer.” Age appropriate answers are typically given in ways their minds can digest it. As a parent, my most important role is to nourish their true selves. A true self that is not societal, peer, or even dictated by me- influenced, but not dictated. My ultimate goal is setting the path of theirs that will blossom.
Since many pagan paths, not all, don’t believe in some outside force making the final decisions of the self (the devil made me do it) it was clear at the very beginning that my children’s will would make final decisions. Therefore, as I don’t believe in a devil making an individual do deeds that goes against their better judgment, so it is that I don’t believe in the concept of peer pressure. At the end of the day, my children made the final decisions to act and react. I’ve modeled this with my own shortcomings as a parent by apologizing to them for my own actions. They’ve seen Mommy apologize to others. Yes, my apologies do have reasons (justifications), yet at the end; they are not to be excused by me, but the one who is offended. As a rebellious teen, I recall being annoyed with my parents blaming, which is excusing, my behavior by pointing to my peers (“ever since you started hanging out with Molly…” “Ever since you started to listen to that type of music…”). Each time my parents chose to blame my behavior on peers, society, or culture, I pointed it out (blaming everyone but me) and became even more rebellious. Until, finally, they saw me. Once they saw their child blossom into a young adult and gave responsibilities and accountability on that young adult… the rebellion stopped. I promised myself, and thus far kept such promise, that when I become a parent… I will see my children as individuals outside of me. Nobody controls their sexuality nor their being, but themselves. As painful as it is, remembering my youth and those who came, left, and stayed upon my path, those experiences, positive and negative, were tools for me, as a parent, to remember that at the end of the day, only I was responsible for my deeds. I’m accountable for my sexual expression, sexual constraint, sexual liberation, sexual moderation, sexual reproductive organs, and my sexual identity (not to be confused with sexual orientation). There is so much power in owning up to this. This power and acknowledgement of such power I knew instinctively to pass on to my children. How can I teach them that nobody has the right to their bodies without their consent when I impose myself onto their bodies? It seemed hypocritical.
Accepting the fact that my children will one day be sexual creatures, I knew my role as mother is to assist them to feel confident and aware of this magnificent power. A power that can be corrupted like any other power but, at the same time, can be very much glorious. I did not shield them of the brutality, abuse, or misuse. I didn’t lie to them that sex can also be pleasurable under the right circumstance and with the right person. The virtue of compassion, empathy, charity, mutual love and respect are keys to a healthy sexual life. Such virtue is taught indirectly by my love and devotion to them since the moment of their conception and then directly introduced when we discuss sex, sexual responsibilities, love, and healthy relationships; with total honesty, effective communication, and trust. It’s their responsibility to harm none at all times (do onto others what you like done onto you). That includes knowing not only the intent of their relationship with self, moreover knowing the intent of others in relations to themselves. Does he/she love you for you? Or does he/she love the idea of love? Do he/she is giving themselves to you because that is what both of you desire? Or does he/she solely is giving themselves to you because that is only solely what they desire? Do you care for that person? Do you love that person? What is the understanding of your relationship with this person? Do you both share the same goals and/or end result? Like anything in life where there are actions, there are an equal and opposite reaction. So it is with sex. With our Wiccan Rede, “three times bad and three times good” explains the emotional and psychological effects of sex, romantic love, and relationships. As humans, we tend to personalize heartaches, mishaps, and joys… they truly do feel three times bad and three times good in the beginning (and at endings for that matter).
My children are ages 17 (female) and 12 (male), now. They both have the same talk regardless of their gender. It’s important for them to understand not only their bodies, sexuality, and expression, but also of others. The hormonal change, puberty, comes in a point of their life where they are beginning to shift through who they are in correlation and a part from me, friends, and community. Figuring out ones place in the world, within and without, and managing the hormonal change is very exhausting… to the point of overdrive and feeling of having too much to handle. The reasonable process of elimination, in my opinion, is to omit sexual intercourse at this pivotal point in a young and blossoming maiden and gent’s life alleviates the unnecessary overload of hormones. For the act of sexual intercourse brings in another increase and added chemicals. This is where I truly believe that science and spirituality truly coexist harmoniously. Never mind the surge of hormones, at times very euphoric, of puppy love, crush, physical attractions, and physical attractions plus the added bonus of compatibility. Hormonal balance and being able to know thyself to maintain such balance is too much.
I recall one day that I neglected to unlock the door for my daughter who was expected to come home from school (I actually overslept). I heard the door banging and immediately jumped up to open. The first thing out of my mouth was an apology… Out of nowhere, my 12 year old, sweet child became a three-eyed monster, enraged one minute and crying the next. Upset that the door was locked in anger, and crying-hurt that I would forget about her. I knew immediately the hormones were surging in her body were fairly new to her. Calmly, I asked her to sit down with me, breathe; I lit some frankincense and had her meditate. Meditate on her day and what she is truly upset with. Was the door being locked the straw that broke the camel’s back? Indeed it was. I understood that, at times, individuals displace their frustrations toward who they love the most. We spoke about displacement, conflict resolution, and her hormonal change that has magnified all these events. We mapped out a plan for such days (premenstrual, during menstrual, and post). What food to avoid and what foods to intake, and relaxation exercises that she can do in the middle of class unbeknownst to anyone. I’m currently working on this process with my 12 year old son and his change. The redirecting of frustration and low impulse control was something I had taught my children in the beginning stage of childhood, from toddler. Now, I had to reinforce those tactics, tune some up, and some we discard due to age appropriateness. As I continue the dialogue of “the change” I manage to slip into the conversation of sex… another added hormone that is better wise dealt easier to manage when the other change slows down or no longer to exist. Typically, those changes vary, but a rule of thumb in my home is early 20’s (20’s for the peak of the brain growth).
If I had to pick and choose my battles with my children, understanding and respecting their own their sexuality, I would much prefer for them to wait until after puberty to explore, in-depth, with sex. Sure, like many I do desire for them to experience this within wedlock. However, I would be hypocrite if I expected that from my children knowing damn well I didn’t wait for wedlock. As a parent, the realization that children will do what you do more often than what you say shouldn’t be taken lightheartedly. The argument of “Well, I’m an adult and you’re a child” doesn’t sit well with most teens who either, 1. Cannot wait to be an adult and would take that argument as a rite of passage of adulthood 2. Believe they’re an adult now just the parent refuses to see it. As a parent, I meet my children halfway, they’re in the middle… not a child, but not quit an adult. I would be negligent if I didn’t give them information on STI/STD, HIV/AIDS. I would be even more negligent if I didn’t give them information on how to protect themselves from STI/STD, HIV/AIDS, and unplanned nor desired pregnancy. In addition, I stressed to my children if they feel they cannot come to me, they do have their pediatrician who is obligated by law to confidentiality, even from me—their own mother. The only time they’re not bound by it is harm to themselves or others; responsible sex isn’t inside the confidentiality. It’s important for my children to know that I’m not the only reliable source they have. I chose to come to an agreement of a nonfamily reliable source, so I revealed to them the truth about patient confidentiality. Again, remembering my youth of hopping onto a bus, walking a few blocks, and into a health clinic and discussing personal matters to a complete stranger was very uncomfortable; so uncomfortable that I didn’t return. My children are comfortable with their physician. It’s my desire to keep it that way and, when it becomes time when they outlived their pediatrician, together or independently they must have a health professional they can trust and talk to.
Recent studies show the decline in teen sex and teen pregnancy. This may be good news and hallelujah praising for abstinence only until marriage campaign. It’s really worthy of acknowledging in the context of national statistics. Breaking it down to locations (such as school districts who only teach abstinence only vs. those who teach abstinence, sex education and birth control is not grim). However, are these statistics really accurate? Especially in the context of individuals who romanticized the era of our grandparents and forbears. If we really divulge into the past in regards of teen sex and teen pregnancy rates, it’s much higher than today. The only difference between our time and days of ole is that teens were having sex and becoming parents (most often females) within marriage. In our days, the thought of a 14 year old getting married is a disturbance, if not taboo. We no longer live in the days where our daughter’s only source of income is through marriage. We no longer live in an era where living until the age of 90 is infrequent. Our times shun teen marriages (especially prior to completing high school). In our times, we have a gap; infancy, childhood, pre-adolescent, adolescent, and adulthood. The times that some people romanticized didn’t. We’re truly blessed to live in our times, give and take. Yet, when it comes to sexual intercourse, sexuality, and balancing the change of childhood into adulthood… we and our children are pretty fortunate. Childhood goes by quickly, adulthood is much longer. There is plenty of time to enjoy sex within adulthood. Childhood, I tell my children, savor it. Even pointing to the example of how our society worships youthfulness and innocence, even the older folks (fyi: I’m in the demographics of older folks in my children’s eyes). Why rush something that most adults wouldn’t mind to relive from time to time? I couldn’t fathom the responsibilities that my forebears bare at age 13, 14 to deal with their hormonal change, marriage, sexual change, and pregnancy hormones all at once. I don’t envy them, at all. I admire their resilience, yes. Envy as in desiring to switch places? Nope. Our ancestors fought the stop of teen marriage for they understood the responsibility on a young maiden and gent. If we look at the teen pregnancy and teen sexual intercourse rates compared to our ancestors, we must be honest… it has decline. The difference is marriage being taken out of the equation. We already know the hormonal change of love and lust that is built up in teens was indirectly addressed in the past with the answer of teen marriage. Now that marriage is off the table. How do we, as parents answer address it (I previously address this in the beginning)? We really need to discuss openly and honestly about those feelings. Even to what I call share-gasm (sharing personal experiences, within limits, or experiences of others with our children, and using other peoples experience as teaching moments-with respect. I call it share-gasm for my children love it, to the point of excitement when I share. It’s orgasmic for them). With the way our society has been evolving, as of late, many people don’t really consider marriage until their late 20’s to mid-30’s. Even now, many people are marrying for their first time as late as 40’s, for career and financial stability are values and goals placed first. Many young women and men are seeing the struggles of their parents, many strive to be financially and career stable to afford the luxuries of rearing their own children; flexibility in workplace hours that affords them to spend quality time for children. Many are seeing that 20’s is the time to explore and discover ones true self. Through traveling and taking up hobbies without the obligation of family (family includes spouse with no kids and spouse with kids). After high school, if a child goes away to college, it’s a period in which one is beholden to mostly themselves.
Resurrecting the Primordial Virgin
Prior to the redefining of virginity, as we know today in the meaning of someone who had never had sexual intercourse. The virgin wasn’t determined by her sexual status of broken hymen, first time he/she penetrated/been penetrated nor the first time it was consensual loving sexual penetration. The virgin status was of a man and woman who was unbeholden to a child(ren) or spouse. The only moral obligation the virgin had was of his/her own conscience and/or autonomy. The virgin status exists from the time of birth until the time of marital union or becoming a custodial parent. Being a virgin for life wasn’t taboo nor to be looked upon in clemency. Being a mother/father wasn’t seen as surpassing the virgin either. Both archetypes and/or status were equal and each important for community, rarely at odds and rarely made to feel incomplete. What consenting adults do or do not do wasn’t made an issue. Who grown adults marry, do not marry, why you’re not married, why don’t have kids, and the likes was clearly the virgin and couple personal issue. The need to know of intimate details is a non-factor when virgins applied beyond closed doors (or public places with discretion). As long as the adults harm none, including themselves (unplanned pregnancy, STI’s, HIV/AIDS, self-medicating via the use of sex). It’s really not of anyone’s concern. Yes, as painful as it is… yours truly, as a parent, when it comes to my own children. My children’s happiness is my concern and their sexuality isn’t the whole of it. If they’re happy, truly happy with their sexuality and lifestyle when they are grown adults, I’m happy for them. That includes if they choose to remain the primordial virgin throughout their adult life.
Resurrecting the Vestal Virgins, Metaphorically or literally: 10 years of training, 10 years of service, and 10 years of training others
When my Abrahamic friends ask of what theos I use to promote abstinence until marriage, I immediately share-gasm the Priesthood (priestess) of the Vestal Virgins (retold to both my children of different genders). If we had the years the priestess served Vesta we come back to my ideal age of what I believe stable to “settle down” and/or have children. We know today that most marriages of teens and young, 20’s, adults end up in divorce due to still trying to discover self out, change of perceptions, values, and likes. I can honestly say that what interest me in my 20’s has changed dramatically since the time I’ve reached 30’s. Heck, what I believed at age 20 drastically changed when I hit 25. For 30 years the women of the priesthood devoted their time to Vesta. Metaphorically, for the first 30 years of life we dedicated time to discovering a huge chunk of ourselves. We will always learn about ourselves as long as we walk and breathe on this realm/lifetime. Nonetheless, the changes of the first 30 years is drastic vs. gradual. A period where I truly believe and desire within my heart for my children to remain symbolically Vestal Virgins. Discover who you are with confidence before huge familial commitments. Balance your natural gender hormones prior to dealing with the chemicals that surge during sexual intercourse and hormones released during pregnancy (for some males, decrease during fatherhood).
To conclude; yes, this pagan mother believes and advocates teen abstinence. I simply don’t demand abstinence only.
Your children are not your children.
They are the sons and daughters of Life’s longing for itself.
They come through you but not from you,
And though they are with you yet they belong not to you.
You may give them your love but not your thoughts,
For they have their own thoughts.
You may house their bodies but not their souls,
For their souls dwell in the house of tomorrow,
which you cannot visit, not even in your dreams.
You may strive to be like them,
but seek not to make them like you.
For life goes not backward nor tarries with yesterday.
You are the bows from which your children
as living arrows are sent forth.
The archer sees the mark upon the path of the infinite,
and He bends you with His might
that His arrows may go swift and far.
Let your bending in the archer’s hand be for gladness;
For even as He loves the arrow that flies,
so He loves also the bow that is stable.