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What do you wish you would have been taught about sexuality or creating your sexual ethics early on by your family, friends, or faith community?
I wish sex had been framed as being healthy and good, instead of being something that only has the potential to ruin our lives. While there certainly is risk involved in sexual relationships (as there is risk in all relationships), there is also incredible goodness that a sexual relationship can bring.
Dr. Tina Schermer Sellers
I wish my family, school and faith communities were more celebratory of cultural, gender and sexual diversities and intersectionalities. There is so much to know and celebrate in all the diversities in God’s creation, and to learn from how each other experiences the world. I feel like I had to wait until I was much older and my circle of friends became much wider until I could hear the myriad of stories from people’s lives, cultures and countries. This beauty is spectacular and filled with wisdom. On the contrary, the ignorance of not knowing and learning from this diversity causes us to be blind and causes so much unnecessary pain and hardship.
I wish my family and friends had taught me that expressing sexuality is a part of what it is to be human. I wish had been taught that sexuality is as natural as breathing and is part of everyday life. I would have love to have gotten the message that it is not something that need to be hidden away and never talked about. I also wish that my family and friends had connected the exploration of my sexuality to the exploration of myself. Just as they encouraged me to understand myself as a young person growing up in the world – what I liked and didn’t like, what I was good at and where my growing edges were – it would have been wonderful to be encouraged to understand myself sexually. I can imagine that age appropriate advice and boundaries would have opened the door to self-understanding and would have provided practical lessons in autonomy and self-assertion. I wish that my church had taught me the nuance surrounding the biblical verses that have to do with sex and sexuality. I wish they had been honest about the interpretive space surrounding these verses. Additionally, I wish they had not only focused on verses about “fornication” but would have also taught the spectrum of messages the Bible gives about sexuality from the rape of Tamar to Songs of Songs. Learning also that reason and experience -- in addition to the Bible and church tradition – were valid markers on the journey to know truth would have been a welcome message. Finally, I wish my church had connected my sacred sexuality to the incarnation of God.
When it comes to sexuality and making ethical decisions about sex, I wish I had been taught with more clarity and emphasis the importance of mutuality — mutuality is such a Christian concept, I shouldn’t have to learn about mutuality in sex from secular spaces! I wish that when I was younger, my family, friends, or faith community had taught me to “judge a tree by its fruits” when it comes to theology around sex. I wish had been taught less about black & white rules and trite metaphors (tape that won’t stick, chewed up gum) and more about honoring the holiness of the person I’m encountering and be faithful to love (God is love after all).
I wish that I had known that sexuality is not static! Maybe then I would not have been so taken aback when I felt attraction for a woman for the first time (or at least recognized it as such) at age 29. I also would have loved to have language to explain to my family that although the feelings were “new”, I was not “choosing” or being tricked into a new lifestyle. I wish our communities went beyond educating about sex in terms of avoiding the negative effects of disease and unwanted pregnancy. I wish there were spaces where peers were encouraged to share their experiences about deciding whether to have sex, pain during sex, masturbation, etc.
I grew up Catholic in the 1960s and ‘70s, when “gay” wasn’t even a thing I knew I could be – I thought it meant Elton John or women who hated men and lived in all-female communes. I was taught that the Church defined sexual ethics, along with everything else in the moral and ethical sphere. It wasn’t until I got to college that I learned the distinction between orientation and behavior, and that there could be differences of opinion among faithful Christians on what to do about both. It would also have been helpful to know some basic facts about the gender and sexuality spectra.