I'm going to be honest – until recently, the word "sex" scared me.
I chose abstinence at a young age, but my continued commitment to the practice had more to do with fear than piety. I've had more than one moment where I looked at friends and thought about how happy I was that my partner and I chose abstinence, because that meant I didn't have to deal with looking, touching, or even thinking about anyone's body but my own – and, more importantly, no one else got to think about me. I've always been big on personal space.
You see, I tend to think in terms of larger scopes. I always try to consider the implications of what I do outside of myself. And sexual activity? That has huge implications. I've never felt ready for them, and I still don't.
But back to the "larger scopes" thing – I do think my feelings about sex, my discomfort with trusting myself and others with my body, has larger implications than personal introversion. I tend to think we all – and by we, I mean my collegiate peers – have problems understanding sex in all its forms and implications.
I've seen evidence of this throughout my life. Before college, I assumed all of my friends didn't have sex. This was reasonable, because we all knew who did; the language used to describe them was sometimes subtle but always different. In college, I found out that a lot of my previously abstinence-touting friends were more liberal than I realized. In college, where hook-up culture abounds, we're all ready to get some. Right?
Wrong. We all still make choices – with our bodies, with our minds, with our spirits. To me, the environment of college hasn't been sexually freeing; it has exposed more terrifying implications of our uninformed sexual culture.
The state of Tennessee holds very limited, unrealistic sexual education policies. These abstinence-only policies create a highly stigmatized culture that vilifies those who engage openly in sexual activity and encourages others to lie. This stigma effectively closes the possibility of a healthy dialogue internal and external to relationships, generating a dangerous environment for young peoples' inevitable sexual experiences.
It is this system which caused my friends to engage in unhealthy, uninformed sexual relationships as teenagers and which causes my collegiate peers to hide experiences of sexual harassment and abuse.
This culture, my friends, is called sexual negativity.
Now, I am not arguing for more comprehensive education for teens – although I could and will under other circumstances. But I do believe some sort of sexual education opportunity, provided to adults who may choose or not choose to take it, makes a lot of sense in a culture ridden with sexual issues. I have been deeply saddened to see many rise up against such education in the name of my own religion.
When I think of Jesus, I think about who he spent time with: prostitutes, thieves, tax collectors, the diseased – the list goes on (note: I'm not calling anyone who's involved in Sex Week a prostitute). If the church intentionally marginalizes a group while touting Christian values, we are contradicting Christ's ultimate mission: to spread love and forgiveness rather than condemnation. As John 3:17 states, "God didn't go to all the trouble of sending his Son merely to point an accusing finger, telling the world how bad it was. He came to help, to put the world right again" (fromThe Message: The Bible in Contemporary Language). As a student, I believe that my classmates must be better informed and that Sex Week provides an appropriate, safe venue for that education. As a Christian, I can only see Sex Week as an opportunity to open a healing dialogue with my hurting peers.
My challenge to my fellow Christians is this: come to one Sex Week event this week. Come to "Can't Touch This: Abstinence" to discuss your own definition of abstinence and its effects on your life. Come to "Longterm Intimacy: Commitment & Sex," co-sponsored by Cru, our campus' largest Christian organization. Come to "Sweet Talkin' Son of a Preacher Man: Religion and Sexuality Panel" to think critically how religion and sexuality interact in your life.
The bottom-line is this: Sex Week does not encourage students to be sexually active (many already are). Sex Week is a group of students at a flagship university addressing a ubiquitous social issue in the best way they know how: more education.
As a Christian, I can only applaud their efforts, and I certainly can't help but chime in.
Amy Prosise is a junior in human resource management. She can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.