“Mom, they can’t play this commercial!” “Why, what’s wrong,” I asked. “They can’t say sex on the radio.” “They aren’t,” I replied. “This is for Sexton Orthodontics.” I hesitated. “Do you know what sex is?” “Yes my friend Billy from school said he’s having it.” I started to panic inside. My third grader may know what sex is and he didn’t find out from me. I pull the car into the garage, run inside and yell for my husband. Long story short, yes my eight-year-old has learned what sex is from another eight-year-old from school. I go into panic mode, mostly because I failed as a parent. Why is my son talking to another boy about sex and why is an eight-year-old bragging about his sex life?
I found myself panicking mostly because I didn’t know how to appropriately talk to my sons about sex. I don’t remember much about how I discovered sex. I think it was sex education at school that scared me about pregnancy and STDs. I didn’t get any education elsewhere. In terms of my Biblical and moral understandings I made my own conclusions about the “virgin” Mary and what wearing a white wedding dress meant. Most of my friends and I wanted to wait until marriage but that rarely happened. In college, my husband as part of his football scholarship at an evangelical university signed a “no sex” agreement. We made it to our wedding day, I could wear my white proudly, but in looking back, did it make a difference? I can’t honestly say.
I turned to my United Church of Christ denomination for help. I ordered some information called Talking With Your Child About Sexuality. I read it and realized that I had missed the boat. Talking with my boys shouldn’t just be a onetime event. I should have been giving them honest information from birth on. Yet I still wasn’t comfortable giving them information. I made an excuse that I would talk to my younger son when he entered third grade.
Now as a seminary student we have spent the last two weeks covering sexuality; all kinds of sexuality. And for the first time in my course studies I felt like a prude. I was reading about sexuality from different perspectives and I felt my face turning red; partly because I have been closed off to some of it before and partly because my youngest son is now halfway through third grade.
Why do I feel compelled to be a part of this big secret called sex? Sex has either been a big secret in churches or grossly misrepresented. Actually, many denominations demonize sex and sexuality outside of heterosexual marriage. But let’s be honest, that isn’t really working for most Americans. And no one needs another reason to feel ashamed. I think it would be far more helpful to everyone, including this mom, if churches would have open and honest discussion about sexuality.
Obviously, being secretive and demonizing about sexuality has not been beneficial for the church. It has been horrific; sexual abuse, cover-ups and silence. What more has to happen to children and others to get the churches to wake up to what is not working? Let us all go back to scripture and reexamine past interpretations. Adam and Eve did not get married, marriage was not about sex and love but a property contract with several women and Jesus did some very “loving” things with his disciples. Let us look back at art and see how sexuality was portrayed. Some of that art would be labeled as pornography today. Let us examine ourselves and discover what is truthful.
I know I’ve been trapped in this secretive mindset. If I want the church to be more open and honest, it has got to begin with me. I commit to talking to my sons about sexuality, puberty and what is safe. I’ve ordered books and I’ve got a plan. And I pray that I do.