Twenty-five things church-based “abstinence-only” sex education never taught me

Purity Give me sex JesusThe film Give Me Sex Jesus is out, and streaming for free on Vimeo. This documentary on the Christian (sexual) Purity Movement asks adults who were raised in that movement, pastors and religious leaders, and academics to talk about the after-effects of Christian sexual training that focuses exclusively on abstinence. It’s a must-watch for all ministers and congregations. I will offer a review of the film itself in another post, but first I have to get something off my chest.

I was not brought up in the “True Love Waits” culture of purity rings and pledges (thank God) but the sex education I received at church was heavily focused on abstinence until marriage. Based on my personal experience and observations of others, I have come to believe many of the things I was taught about sex through the church were wrong, or at least based on incomplete information. Here is a list of some of the things I now believe are true that either I was not taught, or that are opposed to church-based abstinence education.

1.) Sexual activity is difficult to define and may range from light touch like hand holding to kissing to petting to all forms of penetrative sex.

2.) “Petting” means mutual masturbation. (Why do we still use this ridiculous and outdated term? For the longest time I thought it had something to do with dogs and cats.)

3.) Not all kids are “doing it” but at least half of kids have “done it” by age 17.

4.) Sex between teenagers or young adults of compatible age and maturity is a normal and healthy part of human development. Churches should help young people navigate choices and develop a sexual ethic with this reality in mind.

5.) Different forms of sexual experimentation can be tried without automatically leading to intercourse. These should be encouraged as ways for young people to explore their sexuality while still avoiding the risk of STI’s and unplanned pregnancy.

6.) Birth control works. IUD’s and injections that take human error out of the equation are the most effective. Teenagers and young adults should have unobstructed access to birth control and condoms with or without parental permission.

7.) You can still have your heart broken even if you don’t have sex before marriage.

8.) Virginity is a social concept not a physical reality.

9.) Having sex will add a dimension to your life, but will not fundamentally change who you are.

10.) Guilt and shame, used by churches and families to prevent sex before marriage, do not automatically go away with marriage, and may actually cause harm to healthy sexual relationships within marriage.

11.) You cannot know on your wedding day if this is “the person I will spend the rest of my life with.” A marriage can only be entered into with good intentions and then lived day by day.

12.) Sexual incompatibility is a real thing, not just a “hang-up,” or “neurosis” that can be counseled or prayed away. It can end a relationship as surely as any other form of incompatibility.

13.) For this reason, if churches are serious about preventing divorce, sexual exploration between couples prior to marriage should be encouraged.

14.) If you find all your sexual needs met by only one person over your entire life, you are probably as fortunate as you are virtuous.

15.) “God’s plan for your life” may include having sexual relationships of varying degrees of length or fidelity before you are mature enough to meet and recognize “the right one.”

16.) People who once loved each other deeply can drift apart and fall away. Although this is sad, sometimes people outgrow each other.

17.) Even if you followed all the rules and didn’t have sex until marriage, you can still have an unplanned pregnancy.

18.) Even if you followed all the rules and didn’t have sex until marriage, you can still be incapable of having a planned pregnancy.

19.) Many Christians find monogamy to be the most deeply spiritual expression of their sexuality.

20.) Many Christians find non-monogamy to be the most deeply spiritual expression of their sexuality.

21.) Many people find the love of their life and form abiding, long-term relationships, but do not wish to get married.

22.) Sexual orientation and gender identity are real things that you must figure out for yourself. Getting married prior to figuring these out can be devastating for all involved.

23.) Some people feel blessed to have been married heterosexually before discovering their homo/bi-sexuality or trans identity because it allowed them to have children and a larger circle of people to love.

24.) Same-sex couples can practice sexual ethics that are as “traditional” or “contemporary” as any other couple.

And, just for fun…

25.) According to research at Ohio State University, men think of sex a median of 19 times a day, and women think of sex a median of 10 times a day. This means your pastor or priest, if male, thinks of sex a median of 19 times a day, and if female, a median of 10 times a day. Sometimes even in church!

Check out the trailer for Give Me Sex Jesus. Watch it today, and pass it on!