Teaching Sex Without Shame

by Kristie on November 12, 2013

in Parenting, Self & Body, Sex & Relationships

I never thought, as the mother of a three year old boy, that I’d have to spend so much time angrily fighting for his future right to explore his sexuality without judgment. Sadly, the internet is full of articles shaming teenage girls for taking selfies in their bedrooms, arguing that homosexuality is a choice, and, most recently, this little gem that uses a high school sex ed class as a springboard for railing against premarital sex and those who have it.

The overt meaning of this most recent article, by Matt Walsh (an expert, because he has tattoos and used to be a DJ), is that abstinence is great and without shame. I have no problem with this message. I wouldn’t cry myself to sleep if my child chose not to have sex until he was married. That’s a great idea, in theory. It’s the underlying messages in the article with which I take issue.

Underlying message #1: the teacher in question was teaching that abstinence is outdated and shameful.

A less charitable translation of her actions would lead me to the conclusion that she was actively attempting to pressure and humiliate people like you.”

–A realistic translation of her actions is that she was acknowledging the very real fact that abstinence-only education is unrealistic and a time-tested failure. Studies have proven time and again that anstinence-only education doesn’t result in fewer instances of premarital sex, but it ALSO increases the likelihood of teen pregnancies and STD exposure by reducing the use of condoms. The fact is, teens have sex. I was a teen once. I had sex, despite my parents, teachers, and church leaders telling me that it was a good idea to wait until marriage. That advice goes out the window pretty quickly when biology starts surging hormones through the body, and your wrestler boyfriend has super-hot abs. So it’s a damned good thing that my teacher ALSO chose to fumble her way through putting a condom on a cucumber, or I’d have a whole bunch of offspring tromping around right now.

Underlying message #2: premarital sex will ruin marital sex for you and your partner.

Are you satisfied that what you give to your spouse is now secondhand?”

–The truth is that sex is different with each and every combination of people. You and your new partner will have different, special, unique, and wonderful sex, even if you already had sex with someone else in the past. Unless you are running a train, there is no such thing as “secondhand” sex. Anyone who will judge you for having sex in your life before meeting them, isn’t someone who deserves to have sex with you right now. One could argue that having premarital sex teaches you what you like, what you don’t like, and who you will click with sexually. Although that part isn’t necessarily something I’d tell my son…I’ll let him figure that out on his own if he so chooses. Bottom line: sex isn’t something that gets used up or goes bad once opened. Sex with your spouse is special and new and delightful, regardless of what you maybe did during college.

Underlying message #3: Having sex outside of marriage makes you worth less.

What, we’ve broken the Shackles of Purity and Love and run gleefully into the Meadows of Pornography and Herpes? Because that’s all that our sexual liberation has wrought. A lot of confusion, a lot of porn, a lot of disease, a lot of emotionally desperate, psychologically battered, spiritually broken people wandering around, searching for another stranger who’s willing to go in for a few more rounds of sterile, shallow, pointless sex.”

–Of all the judging that takes place in his article, the worst for me is the judgment that people who have had sex are broken, damaged, and worthless. Elizabeth Smart was a child who was kidnapped and repeatedly raped by her captor for 9 months. She was rescued, and now speaks out as a victim’s advocate. She was raised in an abstinence-only education environment, and her exact words on how that education effected her thinking during captivity are as follows, “I thought, ‘Oh, my gosh, I’m that chewed up piece of gum, nobody re-chews a piece of gum, you throw it away.’ And that’s how easy it is to feel like you no longer have worth, you no longer have value,” Smart said. “Why would it even be worth screaming out? Why would it even make a difference if you are rescued? Your life still has no value.” What a harmful, hateful message to send to our children. Considering the statistics that 1 out of 4 female children and 1 out of 6 male children will be sexually abused by the time they are 18, we are loudly devaluing a pretty large percentage of our children by perpetuating the message that Matt Walsh presents. Sex, like any experience, doesn’t change your value.

I am not a DJ, and I only have one tattoo (a tramp stamp, thanks for asking), but as a mother and a sexual human being, I feel comfortable speaking to my son openly and from experience. I hope to teach him that sex is something he can share with his partner, when he and his partner are both ready. That it’s a way to show love. That it should always involve respect and joy. That it’s a big responsibility, and with it comes the responsibility to protect himself from STDs and unwanted pregnancies. That everyone is ready at different times, and there’s no shame in waiting. That sex is beautiful, and when he chooses to have it, it will change his relationship, hopefully for the better. I cannot instill an override to his hormones. I can only install a sense of respect for himself, his body, and his partner. And if he makes a mistake in choosing with whom he shares it? Well, that’s okay, too. He’s still a pretty awesome human being, and anyone will be lucky to have him as a spouse someday.

1381537_10151913285040546_357872558_nKristie Webber is a stay-at-home Air Force wife and mom who writes sarcastic commentary and swear words about food, fitness, and babies at The Spiteful Chef.  She feels qualified to do so because she’s a Culinary Institute of America trained chef, an ACE certified personal trainer, and the mother of a wildly impulsive toddler boy. She enjoys eating cake, drinking wine, entering and losing athletic races of all kinds, and being a giant nerd. You can also follow Kristie on Twitter and Facebook.


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Catherine November 12, 2013 at 8:16 am


Jen November 12, 2013 at 8:27 am

My thoughts exactly!!

LouisianaMeredith November 12, 2013 at 8:39 am

I do love this one.

Brittany November 12, 2013 at 8:41 am

So many fist in the air moments in this post. THANK YOU.

I fully intend to support my children in their choices, and arm them with as much information as I can.

Erika November 12, 2013 at 8:41 am

Perfectly said. I agree 100%!

Nuala Reilly November 12, 2013 at 8:50 am

What a fabulous article. I feel the same way as you do and have raised my kids in the same open environment of being sex positive, body positive and with all questions being allowed and welcomed. And now my oldest daughter is going to university to study to become a sex educator.
How refreshing to know that there are people like you out there trying to raise our kids with self worth rather than shame. Bravo!!

Nikki November 12, 2013 at 8:50 am

Amazing article! Thank you!

Katie November 12, 2013 at 9:01 am

I don’t think that the original blog post from Matt Walsh was advocating a puritanical view of sexuality. Instead, I took from it that he was encouraging the teenager writing in that waiting until marriage was okay. I feel like he was reminding the readers that sex is indeed a special thing – not something that should be viewed as so casual that it’s not to be valued. The teen who wrote to him felt as though his teacher was poking fun at him for choosing to save himself for marriage. That’s definitely not okay, and I think that’s what the blog post was trying to say. The sexual pendulum seems to swing between pure abstinence (almost anti-sex) and pure hedonism. I feel like the blog post was encouraging us to find that healthy middle place where we aren’t so buttoned up and repressed, but also are not so casual with our bodies that sex is no longer special. Sex should be discussed so much more than it actually is. Great thoughts on both sides for such an important issue!

Heidi November 12, 2013 at 12:02 pm

I love this.

mandie miller November 12, 2013 at 9:06 am

AMEN! which is an appropriate response, since i feel like i’m ruined sexually because of my Catholic upbringing. i still have so much shame when it comes to sex, that i struggle to find my voice before, during and after. i have body issues as well, so it’s all just a hot mess. and i feel horrible because i’m married to the most wonderful person of all time. he makes me feel gorgeous, and desired, and special. but because of so many years of being told it’s gross, and dirty, and shameful, that even as a married woman, those thoughts are so engrained in my head. and i wonder if they’ll EVER leave.

Kristin November 12, 2013 at 9:48 am

Thank you!

Jen Smith November 12, 2013 at 9:49 am

AMEN! Love it! And btw, who the freak is Matt Walsh and why is he so freakin angry? Don’t you find the most “Christian-like” people are oftentimes the most negative, judgemental people you’ve ever met? I didn’t read a lot of his blog, but just a few entries were plenty to reinforce that sick feeling I get in my stomach when someone calls themselves a “Christian.”

Ashley November 12, 2013 at 12:38 pm

I love most of your points in the article. I don’t think we as people should be judged by our choice to have sex or not have sex. And I don’t think we should have abstinence only education, but I whole-heartidly disagree with the part you said about Elizabeth Smart and her feeling worthless because of her abstinence only education. In fact she never says if that was her only education. She may have had sex-ed in school. There may have been cucumbers and condoms, we don’t know, all we know is She was raised in a family that believes in no sex before marriage, but her feelings of worthlessness comes from the act of being raped, not her former education. She states almost right after the part you quoted about how she knows her family loves her, she know because of the things her family believes that she is not worthless. All that knowledge, the sureness of her feelings are not enough to overcome the feelings she has about being raped, not because of her education, but because she was raped and there is a HUGE difference. She didn’t chose sex, the choice was taken from her. You cannot equate the feelings of a rape victim to the feelings of a person choosing to have sex after being taught not to.

Carol November 13, 2013 at 2:01 am

I was one of those girls who was waiting until marriage for sex. I was 15 when the first guy I dated took my virginity. So I never dated any other boys. My mother told me that men didn’t marry girls who weren’t virgins, and I believed her.
So I married that boy. He was a horrible man. When we had sex, there was absolutely no love and no foreplay. He took what he wanted, nothing more.
I spent 16 terrible years and had two broken kids before I had the courage to leave him. I dropped out of my advanced classes in high school and never went on to the university because that was what he wanted.
How different my life would have been had I never met that terrible guy who seduced me.
When I remarried, my husband was and still is the love of my life. After 31 years, we are still happily in love.

Remember Sarah Palin has a grandchild from her daughter’s abstinence only sex education.

Jordan November 18, 2013 at 8:14 pm

I’ve seen this Matt Walsh article circulating through my circle of friends.

I go to a conservative Church of Christ college that has a tendency to see people married off by the time senior year comes.

I’m someone whom of her own volition has decided to wait til she’s married to have sex, much to my Mama’s chagrin.

I HATE this article. I was pretty pissed off when I read it, actually. So much shame, so much judgement. I’m a Christ believer, and I don’t think Christ taught or lived out of anything this guy said. It was so hurtful, and it shouldn’t have been.

Why does someone have to make their point by pointing a finger? Why do we have to make a mockery of people’s choices and try to shame people into believing that that’s the only way to do it?

I’m a believer in abstinence- FOR ME. It’s what I want, what is best for me and my life. It was a faith based choice in some ways, but it was 100% my choice. Not my family’s, not my church’s purity classes, but all me.
I’m also a believer in teaching protection and sex ed, because not everyone is going to make the same choice I am- and who knows, my thoughts may change. Things happen. It’s important to know these things whether sexually active or not. Knowing how to protect myself doesn’t automatically make me want to go out and have sex- it just helps me not be ignorant for if/ when the time comes. Ignorance is NOT bliss in this area, and believing otherwise just hurts people.

I’m going to do what’s best for me. I refuse to let people like Matt Walsh shame me into being something I’m not- OR judging others for decisions that are none of my business anyway. (sorry this is so long!)

Catherine November 26, 2013 at 8:43 am

I love the line “Knowing how to protect myself doesn’t automatically make me want to go out and have sex- it just helps me not be ignorant for if/ when the time comes. Ignorance is NOT bliss in this area, and believing otherwise just hurts people.” Too many people think that knowing = permission. Thank you for your stance. I wish more people were like you.

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