Thursday, February 02, 2006

I love questions...

...because they give me a starting point for the next post. Thanks, Tonja.

After my last long, rambling post, Tonja posted some interesting questions. She asked me if I would feel the same way about my kids and sex if my children were all boys instead of girls. Fair question. I read the question earlier tonight and I had an immediate answer. Still, I waited for a while before I answered to see if a little time would change my perspective. It hasn't.

I would raise three boys with the same if not more fervent desire that they refrain from being sexually active until they were truly ready for the responsibility that goes with it. I would do my dead-level best to not let them think of women as "conquests" so cheering them on in such conquests would be out of the question. I would want my sons to grow up with a healthy sexuality, too, and to realize that waiting until they were prepared for the consequences wouldn't deny them their chance to have it and might save them some grief along the way.

As for what I was like at 14, 16, 18... it's almost a moot point. I was raised in such a strict atmosphere and it was a different time. Teenage sex was still something only a few bad girls did (or at least that's what most of us thought) and it always seemed to end badly. I was raised to believe that not only did the big he-god forbid it, he was watching and you would be found out, no matter how you tried to hide it. I didn't even consider having sex as a teenager and was 20 before I got around to changing that. I kissed, made out a little... but no intercourse, no alternate activities.

When I was 20 and I had my first experience, I honestly felt like I no longer had the right to say no. I mean, after all, my moral integrity had been compromised. If I did it with one, what right did I have to say no to anyone else? It wasn't quite that stark, but it was close. The next year or so I had more sex than a lot of women have in a lifetime. And you know what? I was in free fall. I had no clue what I was doing or why I was doing it, save that I enjoyed it...most of the time. It amazes me that I didn't end up pregnant or dead, because I took chances no one should take. Why? Because I didn't have anything to anchor to. I had a religion I didn't believe, parents that just said no and got angry that I even thought of sex, much less considered actually doing it, no concept of who I was or how to look inward and find it.

It's interesting, too, looking back on that time. I looked at having sex as almost a healing thing. Guys seemed to need it so badly, and I had it...why shouldn't I share it? I enjoyed it, they enjoyed harm, no foul, right? Well, the world didn't always see it that way, and it devestated me when someone didn't respect me, especially someone I had been intimate with. Had I had a stronger sense of myself and a better perspective on the world around me, that would have been different. With those tools in place I would have made better choices about who I shared myself with, picking those who would respect the exchange for what it was, and would have been strong enough to overcome it if they didn't.

Does society prepare us for other milestone events like driving, voting, drinking, moving off to college? No...and yes...and it's different. As important and risky as those things are, I don't think any of them carry the emotional weight of sex. And while some of them carry the risk of ending life if mishandled, none of them can create life. That's a huge difference for me.

Of course, that begs the question about same-sex relationships. The danger of pregnancy is gone in those cases, but the emotional vulnerability is still there. And while pregnancy is certainly one of the biggest of the consequences one needs to be prepared for when deciding to have sex, it's not the only one.

No matter how I look at it, I come back to the same answer every time. Waiting is better. If you're going to do something that may create emotional turmoil, wait until you have a good emotional foundation under you. If you're going to do something that carries the risk of disease, make sure you're old enough and educated enough to understand the risks and take the proper precautions. If you're going to do something that might bring a new life into the world, make sure you're prepared to care for that new little person - emotionally, physically, and financially.

You don't get to drive when you're 12, even if your feet can reach the pedals.

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