Friday, October 7, 2011

"Protection" and the First Date

Yesterday, I told a co-worker at work that my son was going on his first date Saturday.  I was shocked, though I suppose I shouldn't have been, to hear her response: "Be sure you give him protection before he leaves the house". I just stared at her. I couldn't believe my ears. I shouldn't have been shocked, but I was.

Finally, I said, "I have given him the best protection. I have taught him to abstain."

To which she said, "Oh, come on, like we listened to our parents".

To which I replied, "Yes, I listened to my mother. My mother said sex was for when you love someone. Not very good guidance for a teenager, who falls in love every other week with a different person."

After that I dropped the conversation before I might fire back with some very unfortunate words that would not have gone over well and would not make the case. Sometimes silence is the best response.

What shocks me the most about people who have that attitude toward their kids, as if our kids are animals who lack self-control and do not listen to a word their elders say, is how ignorant that attitude truly is.  Kids listen to EVERY word you say. I can verify this because they will later throw it back in your face during arguments.  That's when you know they've been listening, even if you didn't see the evidence.

Kids can control themselves, and we expect them to do it in almost every situation EXCEPT for sex. That amazes me. We expect them not to steal, not to cheat, not to drink, and not to do drugs.  We don't equip them with "protective devices" to help them give in to their vices on those things we believe are within their control.  For instance, we don't provide them with clean needles and instructions on the best locations to insert the needle and the best techniques to ensure they don't blow a vein. We don't provide them a list of "safe" dealers from whom to buy their drugs.  We teach them to say no, teach them the consequences of saying yes, and do our best to show them how to live a life that doesn't include drugs.  We monitor the friends they hang out with to be sure that those friends aren't involved in drugs.  In other words, we protect them by educating them, monitoring them, and setting the example.

The same works for sex education. I have told my son since he was old enough to understand that sex is something you save for marriage. I have demonstrated a lifelong commitment to one man.  I have told him that with sex comes lifelong consequences, and that if you aren't ready for those consequences or if you aren't in love with a girl enough to want to make that kind of commitment, then you do not take your penis out of your pants.  It's that simple. I've also told him that if you love her enough to want to make that kind of commitment to her, then respect her and yourself enough to wait until you have made that commitment before you engage in intercourse.

I've made sure that he has a thorough understanding of the Church's teachings on sex, instructing him in Theology of the Body for Beginners, so that he understands the Church's prohibitions aren't so that he misses out on the good things of life but are there to ensure that those good things can be enjoyed to the fullest when the time is right.  After all, sex is a foretaste of heaven when done right. It is that perfect union of two people so in love that their love has the power to create a third life.  It is a prayer that asks three things: That God might join the two together even closer than before, that God might increase their love for one another, and that God might bless their union with children.  If you aren't willing to receive the gifts that sex naturally brings, why pray for them?

I know my co-worker meant well. I know she probably had the rudimentary sex education that I did, that kind that tells you about STD's and condoms and birth control and things of that nature. I'm sure she also missed out, just as I did, on the more important facts about sex because nobody taught them in school.  I'm sure she doesn't realize that there are chemical hormones released by men and by women during sex that cause the partners to form bonds with one another.  These bonds grow stronger every time we have sex with that same partner.  However, if we have sex with multiple partners the brain becomes confused, weakly bonded to many but increasingly unable to form strong bonds to a single partner.  Like tape that has been stuck and then unstuck too many times, the bonds that make marriage easier are too weak to help and only God can intervene and fix things.  It's never just sex. Sex always leaves a lifelong mark on the mind, the body, and the soul.

That's because sex is a power tool, meant to help bring about the creation of new life. It's not meant to be a toy. Used correctly, it can be a powerful tool for bringing joy and unity into a person's life. Used incorrectly, it can cause serious damage to not just the two people involved but to everyone around them.  The first casualties when sex is used incorrectly are children.  Abortion is evidence enough of that, although the statistics on children raised in single parent homes is another piece of alarming evidence.  Grandparents, aunts, uncles, friends, and communities all suffer when sex is used incorrectly.  It's not a play thing.

I am sending my son to his first date with the very best protection any Catholic mom can offer - a knowledge of right and wrong, the expectation of self-control, and a strong teaching on respect for himself and for women. Anything else would invite disaster.

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