The Sex Talk
By Sarah Frank
At age 21 I feel as lost about sex as I did at 15.
Raised in a strong Christian community in a tiny Texas town, my sex education focused on abstinence. I can’t recall having a formal conversation about sex with either of my parents. The majority of my knowledge on sex came from the two days we covered it in health class and conversations in the girl’s locker room.
When I was in high school, my church briefly ran a program on Sunday nights where the girls and boys would separate and discuss passages from the Bible. One week, we had a Bible study over relationships and dating. Our group leader took the time to tell us about her past relationships and how difficult her love life was growing up. She explained that the first man she kissed she ended up marrying and described how much happier she was because of the fact that she waited. She encouraged us to do the same – to wait to kiss or do anything physical until after, what now seems to me to be, an obscene amount of time has passed in the relationship.
Meanwhile, in the next room over, the boys talked about sex and masturbation. The teaching was far from scientific. For example, we girls put our ears up to the door and overhead the statement “Every time you masturbate a kitten dies.” Whether the boys also got the speech about waiting to have any physical contact in a relationship at all, I do not know, but it is clear to me the boys and girls were hearing vastly different things and neither group was being given any understanding of what a healthy sex life looks like.
None of these conversations in health class, church, or in the home ever taught me how to have safe sex. In fact, these conversations have had a more damaging effect on my love life and in my relationships than a positive one. Growing up, I have been ashamed of my natural, human emotions because every older member in my family and in the church taught me that this desire was sinful. I never felt as if I had someone to talk to about sex and, consequently, I treated sex as something to be feared and not as a loving connection between two consenting adults.
As young adults my friends and I struggle with figuring out sex and taking care of our reproductive health. Abstinence-only sex programs didn’t work for us. Fear mongering didn’t stop us from exploring our basic human drive, it only made us terrified to speak with our parents or other adults during the time when we needed the most guidance. These programs avoided teaching us how to prevent pregnancy and STDs which is information we all, even married couples, need to know.
Even now as twenty-somethings, the closed-off approach to sex we were taught growing up continues to influence our sex lives and our relationships. Some of us are afraid of sex and intimacy even in long-term relationships because we were taught these desires are bad.
In retrospect, I see how important it is to talk about sex in an open and honest environment. As uncomfortable as it was to speak with my parents about sex, being able to have that open communication would have been better for me in the long run. I didn’t know where to set my boundaries, and I didn’t know what constituted sex. When the time came to practice my values, I didn’t know what they were. I had no one to talk to about this because I felt as if the adults I knew would only judge and condemn me. An open approach to sex would have given me someone to speak with and may have saved me hurt and stress.
I believe that sex should not be such a taboo subject in the home. Instead there should be open and honest discussions about safe sex, family values, and how to determine personal values surrounding sex and relationships. Instead of learning about sex through fear tactics designed to prevent sexual activity, I would have benefited more from being taught what a healthy relationship looks like and why healthy relationships are important regarding sex and intimacy. It is my belief that every person deserves to have a healthy and safe sex life when they are ready and this comes through proper teaching and open and honest communication.
In the 2016 Waco-McLennan County Community Health Needs Assessment it was discovered that 62% of women in McLennan County have their first child by the age of 21. For more information about teen pregnancy awareness and prevention, please visit: www.wacofoundation.org/AboutUs/OurSmartBabiesInitiative.aspx
Sarah comes from Abilene, Texas and is a senior at Baylor University. She studies Psychology and Professional Writing and hopes to pursue a career in clinical research. She is a dog lover and is known to pull over in her car to stop and pet a dog. She has a hunger for travel and has visited 8 countries and hopes to go to more. A pessimist by nature, but with hope for a better future, she is passionate about civil rights and dreams of a future without borders, hunger, and war.