TALKING TO KIDS ABOUT SEX
In a recent lesson from "Come Follow Me," we discussed "lust" and its potentially damaging influence, particularly with regard to pornography. We also talked about how sex between a married couple who love each other is a beautiful thing. We encouraged my two stepsons to come to us if they had questions about sex, rather than going to friends who probably don't really know anything or to pornography, which does not give an accurate picture.
Well, this morning, my 11 year-old stepson came to me and asked, "have you guys ever had sex?" I said, "me and your mom?" He replied, "yeah." I said, "yes, we have it often, usually about two or three times a week." He asked, "Is it only when we aren't here?" (They are at their dad's half of the time.) I replied, "We keep it private, but it is sometimes when you guys are here."
I tried not to chuckle at these sincere questions. But I am glad he came to me instead of asking school friends or finding heaven knows what on the internet.
The truth is, I WANT him to know that his mom and I have a sexual relationship and that we enjoy our sexual relationship. I want him to know that his mom is a whole person and not just a provider of services for him. I want him to know that Barney Stinson and Jerry Seinfeld are not having all the fun. He doesn't need to know the details of our sex life course. We wouldn't expose him to that in any way. He wouldn't be allowed to ask every day whether something happened the night before. Those details are more private. But I don't want the kids growing up thinking there is something shameful about lovemaking between married people who love each other deeply or believing that this is a dangerous or evil part of their natures. I want them to understand that sex is a bonding experience and an important and even a sacred sacrament of the marital relationship.
Friends, especially you who are single parents, you have a sacred responsibility to teach this subject. Many of us, in an effort to discourage our kids from getting involved in sex too early, unwittingly teach them that it is dangerous and evil, and it causes problems in a lot of marriages later on because people are taught to think of it as carnal, sensual, and devilish. Compared to that point of view, Jerry Seinfeld's TV personality seems to be a lot more fun. Single parents who are trying to live the law of chastity are limited in how much they can model the fruits of a satisfying and exclusive sexual relationship. However, you can teach and be an example of someone who keeps the law of chastity, while longing for that kind of love that you can only give and receive in marriage.
There are literally millions of voices talking about sex to our kids everyday. They are exposed to a variety of different beliefs and ideas from casual sex on TV sitcoms to violent pornography. The exposure of latter-day Saint children to pornography before the age of 18, is 100%. So they need a perspective from you that is uplifting and grounded in creating a future marriage that is united and loving. They need to know that dating and sex is not a competitive sport. It is a way of expressing feelings so powerful that words are not enough. It is also an important way of smoothing out some of the rough spots in marriage. Our children are not going to get these positive messages from the world. They are not going to get them on the Internet, on television, or in movies. If they are to get them, it has to come from you. Please, let it come from you.
I've posted content from Dr. Jennifer Finlayson-Fife before in this group. But, we are trying to undo a lot of damage that has been done by the way our culture almost always pairs sexuality with sin in our common discourse. For many of us, that even played a part in our divorces. This particular episode is about navigating sexuality as a single Latter-day Saint.
This subject is central to marriage. If your sexual relationship was not what you might have hoped during a prior marriage, your single years are a time for some deeper self-examination. Don't shy away from this topic because it is controversial. It is essential to a healthy marriage to get this issue right.
ON TRANSITIONING FROM MARRIAGE TO CELIBACY
There was a recent BYU article about "Transitioning from Sexually Active to Sexually Inactive" that got a good deal of well-warranted criticism. The author (who has never been divorced or widowed) gave a heartfelt and vulnerable apology for the insensitivity of the article. In fairness, she was assigned to write the article by a professor she worked for. The following was my response to her apology. I hope it was mostly constructive and helpful. That was my intent.
Paige, my wife Cathy and I are both divorcees and we have written a book to mid-singles, which will be released this fall. I think the biggest omission in your article is, honestly, an empathetic acknowledgement of how difficult it is to adjust to celibacy. There is NOTHING else in life that can fill that gap -- and an article suggesting that other things can compensate just fails to understand. Adult human beings are not designed for celibacy. Once we are used to being partnered, going back to celibacy is one of the hardest things we've ever done. Any other idea like, "just pray" or "exercise more," is not really going to help very much. You might as well be honest and just say, "it hurts like the devil, you deeply crave intimacy and can't have it, and you will be sorely tempted, and there is nothing you can do about it without breaking your temple covenants." That would be honest and empathetic. You can say, "We don't make covenants to follow Christ only when it is easy."
Writing to divorcees, you will get nowhere with unbridled Latter-day Saint idealism -- and making the gospel seem easy. Divorcees in the church have long since learned that it is not accurate to say, "If you just live the gospel everything works out." Be honest with them and show empathy and they will at least feel understood. Treating them like they have returned to adolescence with "For the Strength of Youth" lectures on chastity is guaranteed to turn them off.
I'm not trying to be critical at all -- just some feedback for future efforts.