At this particular moment, I have a strong desire to thump my head against the wall a few times in exasperation and disbelief. What prompts this response? I read an article that Harvard University would be hosting its first ever (and dear God please, last ever) Sex Week.
During the week, there will be speakers, seminars, and movies "that explore topics such as love, sex, sexuality, gender, gender identity, and relationships." Moreover, a student organization will handing out free "safer sex supplies" and educational materials and providing peer counseling. In case that description doesn't excite a co-ed, there will be daily drawings for "sex toys, t-shirts, books, lotions, and sunglasses." I admit to being slightly perplexed by the sunglasses.
However, I am very perplexed that Harvard is now following Yale's example of having a whole week featuring sex to largely unmarried students who do not need sex education so much as they need -- oh, I don't know -- education. Having gone to college myself, I guarantee that no one was clueless about the birds and bees at that point; everyone knew how to get safer sex supplies; and the last thing we hormonally charged young adults needed was a whole week devoted to copulation. We were already devoting 52 weeks a year to the subject in our minds and, for some, bodies.
There continues to be an outspoken perspective in our world that great sexuality is having a specific set of information and tools to do it well. So why not a seminar and some handouts? Surely, that will make for a fabulous sex life!
Now I'm obviously not opposed to sexual knowledge, since I dispense some of it myself on this blog. And a tool or two (e.g., lubricant) can be a lovely addition to the marital bedroom. However, none of what Harvard Sex Week teaches will result in the best sexuality. The best sex comes from a loving, committed marital relationship that has ongoing discovery, layers of intimacy, and giving to one another as its core. (See Do Good Girls Have the Best Sex? from Intimacy in Marriage.) It comes from following God's Word on what perfect love looks like and taking that attitude into the bedroom as well. (See The Gospel in the Bedroom.)
So how should Christians combat the wrong messages out there being pushed by not merely the porn industry, film makers, and Cosmo magazine -- but now by higher education institutions? We must present the right message. We must speak up and present a better way.
What should we teach our young adults and singles instead?
Sex is not merely a physical sensation. Sheila Gregoire made a great point of this in her book, A Good Girl's Guide to Great Sex. You can also check out her post on The Act of Marriage, in which she insists that there are three components to sex -- physical, emotional, and spiritual. Stripping it down to the physical components only may create some feel-good moments, but you won't reap a good sex life. That comes from relationship, connection, intimacy.
If it was only about the climax, most of us gals could get there faster with a bottle of KY and a battery-operated device. Treating sex like it is merely a method to reach physical nirvana is essentially treating your partner like a sex toy. You keep him around as long as he pushes all your buttons just so. That attitude completely misses the very best part of sex -- the deep connection between two individuals in love and doing life together.
Sex is an emotionally bonding experience. The phrase "casual sex" is an oxymoron. God designed sex by its very nature to be intense and intimate. You can't experience that with another person at the same level as a casual handshake or even kiss. You're naked, for heaven's sake! When we have sex, our bodies secrete oxytocin, a bonding chemical. Men have a huge surge of this post-coitus, and women experience it with stimulation as well. This is the same chemical that mothers' bodies secrete when they nurse their babies.
As soon as you have sex in a relationship, you have upped the stakes. You have intimate knowledge of that person that other people (largely) do not have. You have physically experienced an intense connection, and that emotionally impacts your response to the person. One, or both, of you will feel invested in that connection now because sex has an emotional component. That emotional intensity is best saved for marriage.
There is no method that is 100% guaranteed to keep you from getting pregnant or contracting a sexually-transmitted disease. I have known couples who conceived while on the pill -- yes, taking it correctly. There is a failure rate for every form of birth control, even if it is small. But if a method is 99% effective, that 100th time you go at it, you're unprotected, darlin'. That's basic math.
Despite years of touting the glories of slapping on a prophylactic to prevent the spread of disease, the Center for Disease Control reports about one out of six people, 14 to 49 years of age in the U.S. have genital HSV-2 infection. Chlamydia is the most common sexually transmitted disease, and in 2010, 1,307,893 chlamydial infections were reported to the CDC; however, this bacterial infection is substantially underreported because most people aren't even aware what they're dealing with and don't seek testing. Then there's syphilis, gonorrhea, HIV, etc. My point is that STDs spread with sexually active people -- through genital-to-genital contact prior to the barrier being applied, through mouth-to-genital contact, through digit-to-genital contact, etc. Unless you put your whole body in a prophylactic suit -- or better yet, stick to one partner -- you are at risk.
Sex is better when you practice long-term with the same partner. I read a great book a few years ago titled The Talent Code about what distinguishes the incredibly talented among us. It cited a wonderful study showing that to truly master a skill, you need 10 years or 10,000 hours of practice. Hey, hey! Wanna get really good at physical intimacy? Pick a long-term (marriage) partner and get to practicing!
Seriously, there is something to this. Movies often depict that first night of lovemaking as the most passionate, ideal interaction between a couple. Often, however, the first time is intriguing but awkward. As you grow in your relationship and knowledge of the other person through ongoing contact, sex gets better. You can figure out what pleasures your mate, try new things, and be more open and free as you grow in your comfort level. For most couples, sexual satisfaction goes up after being married for a decade or more.
Sex is worth waiting for. Take note, Harvard U and singles: It's worth the wait. We do a lot of waiting in life -- for traffic to clear, for our food to arrive, for the main performer to take the stage, for our turn at the doctor's office, for the roller coaster ride, etc. When you finally get what you were waiting for, some things are worth it and some aren't. This one is. I love what a friend's son said after getting married: "Believe me," he told a group of singles, "Now that I'm married, I am not thinking, 'Boy, I wish I'd done this in high school.'" He was content, or rather enthusiastic, about making love to his wife after the vows. It was worth waiting for.
What do you wish singles, especially collegiates, knew about sex within marriage? Why should they wait? And what do you think about "Sex Week" being sponsored by universities?