No sex education for married couples needed – Really Bad Advice!
In the early part of my marriage, I listened to a talk given by our Stake President’s wife at a women’s conference. Her talk was about marital relationships and she touched briefly upon physical intimacy. While I remember very little about most of her talk, this brief part stuck in my mind. I still remember it vividly. Basically, she said that most young couples embarking on marriage do not need to seek outside education concerning sex. It was not necessary to read “how to” books or talk to others to figure out how it works. Instead most couples living the gospel would develop close physical intimacy over time by coming together in their innocence, learning and opening up emotionally with each other through their own exploration and communication with each other, discovering sex together by experiencing it, and praying for God’s help when necessary. I remember being a little uncomfortable with her message that learning about sex, including reading “how to” books was not only unnecessary but also was not really a good ideal. I think in her generation there were many who believed the same misguided philosophy – including my parents.
Before my wedding, I received very little sexual instruction from my parents, possibly because I was already pregnant (oops) and they figured I knew enough already. They had opted me out of school sex education, so the only formal education I had on the subject was presented in a very clinical and limited form in biology class by a cranky old spinster high school teacher. I also managed to pick up a few bits and pieces of titillating facts from my friends, TV, and movies (we did not have personal computers in those days). My husband was raised with a similar lack of sex education. Our attraction and hormones helped us figure out how to accomplish “the deed” and we thought we knew all we needed to know about sex at the time. Actually, we were quite ignorant about it.
When troubles began to surface after we were married, we never considered seeking help or reading books to learn more, and there was no-one that we felt we could talk too. We just ignored the issues. Later on we bought some “safe” marital relationship books that proved to be not very helpful with the sexual relationship part. While I had discovered how to have orgasms from clitoral stimulation during masturbation in my youth, I did not learn what the clitoris was or it’s name until several years after I got married. Hubby figured out that I felt pleasure when he touched me in certain places, but for the most part he thought women felt pleasure and climaxed through intercourse the same as men. I thought I should respond that way too – but I didn’t. I was extremely naïve and had little knowledge about my own sexuality and the role it could and should play in my marriage, and was even more clueless about my husband’s sexuality and his needs. My lack of knowledge left me ripe for the negative attitudes I picked up and bought into which caused a lot of problems within my marriage. But that was not the full extent of the damage!
Lack of sex education not only affected me and my husband, our lack of knowledge and negative conditioning was also passed down to our children. We taught them what we believed and what we knew about sex mostly through our own discomfort and embarrassed attitudes. While we made a shallow attempt to teach them more about sex than our parents did – providing them with some books to read, along with having a few uncomfortable talks – all of it followed the context of don’t, don’t, don’t!! In some ways the current generation of LDS youth and young adults are way more educated about sexual mechanics and behavior than my generation, however for the most part I think as a society, we are still doing a very poor job of giving them a proper education on this subject and they are just as naïve about the complexities of sexuality and have as many hang ups as past generations.
I have come to the conclusion over the years that the advice given by the Stake President’s wife was extremely bad advice, and that kind of attitude is actually destructive to marriages. From my experience and from all the readings that I have done after opening back up sexually, I now believe sex education for young teens and adults is extremely important in helping them to grow and develop into healthy and mature sexual adults. We create an environment of sex being looked upon as “illicit”, “dirty”, and “evil” when we avoid or refuse to discuss it with our youth. Many believe the more you talk about sex with young people, the more they will be tempted to have sex. I have heard many young adults say they were advised not to talk about sex or read about it after they got engaged because it would make them too horny and tempt them to break the law of chastity. I don’t believe proper sex education causes people to be tempted – in fact I think it’s just the opposite. The more we teach about sex and sexuality, especially in the context of true Christian doctrine: how our bodies function and mature, that God created sex for the purposes of procreation AND marital pleasure and bonding, that sex is not illicit, dirty, or evil, but rather is a divine and wonderful gift within the proper limits of marital relationships, that our bodies (both men and women’s) were created by God to desire and feel sexual pleasure, that frequent sex has an extremely important and healthy place in marriage, that there is an important emotional aspect of intimacy and sex, etc. etc. – the more likely youth are to be less curious about it and will understand the reasons for not having sex before marriage and will more likely want to choose that path.
The people that I have come across, both men and women, who have the healthiest sexual attitudes and marriage are ones whose parents were very open in teaching them about their bodies and sex at a very early age. Their parents talked openly and honestly about sex and sexuality. They answered any and all questions their children asked, always providing a clear perspective, including the importance of sex within committed relationships. These parents were not ashamed about the topic of sex, or about their bodies, and were not ashamed to admit they liked sex and had it frequently, while also establishing the proper privacy boundaries concerning it. These parents did not shame their children for their budding curiosity nor did they shame them for their sexual feelings. Guilt was not their form of teaching, rather they taught them with positive messages – about the normalcy of sexual development and the importance of emotional maturity, along with the importance and advantages of making wise choices and understanding responsibility concerning their developing sexuality. These children, now confident adults, are teaching their children in the same manner.
In order for us to teach our children in a healthy way, we as parents have to be educated and have healthy attitudes about sex and sexuality. This is just one more reason for all LDS women and men to learn to embrace their own sexuality and to explore it and learn about it as much as possible (within God’s boundaries) – so that they can help educate and pass down a healthy understanding and appreciation of sex to their children. Just think of the difference we can make, not only in our own marriages, but especially in the future marriages of our children and in the generations to come. It is often said that education can cure many of society’s ills. Perhaps unhealthy marital sexual attitudes is one ill we can do away with through more education – starting with educating ourselves.