Tuesday, February 26, 2013

On Sex and Shame


I’m going to say something that might be controversial, but that I wish someone had said to me when I was a teenager: sex is not inherently immoral, even outside marriage.

I’m not going to address anyone’s religious reasons for wanting to wait until they are married to have sex, or have the desire to only share their body with one person. Beliefs are personal; I’m not sharing mine and I’m certainly not discounting yours.

I am going to say that the reason that ancient texts (including religious texts) insist that women save themselves for marriage have a very specific reason for doing so—in the ancient world, inheritance was a monumental concern. Nothing was more important than ensuring that property was passed down to legal heirs, and the only way to do that was to ensure that a woman never had sex with anyone who was not their husband.

So, sex was confined to marriage mainly to ensure property inheritance stayed within a family.

Nowadays, we have a nifty little thing called genetic testing, which negates previous (legitimate) inheritance concerns with multiple sex partners.

Now, there are still significant mental and physical health concerns when it comes to who and how many people you share your body with, and I would argue that the best way to stay healthy (as a female), mind and body, is to choose those partners wisely.

But if you have sex with someone you love but are not married to, and you’re smart about it, you are not dirty, disgusting, slutty, or any other pejorative name that comes into your mind. The act of sex is not, in itself, wrong or evil or immoral. It’s human. It’s biology. It’s genetics.

It’s sad that we’ve spent centuries telling women that something is wrong with them because they have the desire for sex. Shaming young girls—scaring them into not having sex for by using the wrong argument—can stall healthy sexual development and give them a complex, even after a marriage, that a normal sex drive should make them ashamed.

No, I’m not a psychologist, I don’t have a degree on the wall or hours of research under my belt.

But it happened to me.

So, if you have a daughter or teenage girls that respect your opinion, please consider using reasons other than shame to talk to them about choosing sexual partners wisely. If they give in to their natural desires before you think they should, you’ll be risking their self-image, self-worth, and ability to form healthy attachments if you don’t. If you are a teenage girl struggling to make the decision about when to have sex, my advice is to consider carefully. Think about whether or not you want to do it before you get into the situation where your body can convince you otherwise.

Consider the consequences, but do not, in those considerations, wonder if having sex makes you a bad person.

If you read Broken at Love, you’ll hopefully see a portrait of a confident, strong young woman who knows exactly what she wants. Emilie isn’t ashamed of her attraction to Quinn, and she doesn’t feel shame after sleeping with him, even though she’s aware their relationship might be short-lived.

Part of me wrote Emilie because I wish I could have been more like her. And if I can show one single girl that being like her is totally acceptable and healthy, then the book is worth it.

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