Friday, 7 August 2009

Do you believe in sex?

The past week I’ve been working in Bristol, staying at the Premiere Inn at the Haymarket.

The train was on time, no snow and only a little rain.

A couple of nights ago I caught the tail end of a TV programme that featured two girls who were travelling around with parents and grandparents. Having missed the start of the show I’m not certain of the exact details. It seems, though, that the aim of the journey was to help the two girls decide if it was time for them to give up their virginity.

The UK, it appears, is a European leader in things such as teenage pregnancies, sex without condoms and youngest average age (for girls especially) to become non-virgins.

As they say … sometimes one thing leads to another.

The girls spent some time talking with 15 and 16 year old boys at a school. Expert advice indeed.

They said they wished that their mothers could be more open in talking about sex … in particular their own sexual experiences.

They visited Holland … which reputedly has a much more open attitude to sex than the UK. And also much lower rates of teenage pregnancy and a higher average age for loss of virginity.

They talked with a Dutch mother and her 16 year old daughter. The daughter had recently had her first full sexual encounter. Everyone was impressed with the  openness of the relationship between this girl and her mother.

At no point that I saw were the concepts of marriage and sex seen to be related in any way. Perhaps that idea had been discussed or dismissed earlier in the programme.

Soon after meeting the teenager and her mum they went on a walkabout through the red light district of Amsterdam accompanied by a brothel owner as well as the Television crew.

They saw ladies in shop windows … and the brothel owner explained a little about how the places work.

The reaction of the two British girls to this was one of disbelief. Shock. How could people? Isn’t sex all about love? They cuddled mum and cried and sobbed.

I’ve given this reaction some thought. It seems that they hadn’t yet discovered that the significance of sex can be very different to different people.

  • A mechanism for procreation
  • An expression of love
  • A source of pleasure
  • A thing to not talk about
  • A source of shame
  • A necessary evil
  • Something that should only ever happen between married people
  • Something to sell
  • Something to buy

And many other things.

Not all of the above are applicable to all people.

In fact all of the above are applicable to no people.

It’s definitely a some opinions to some people kind of relationship.

And peoples opinions sometimes change.

Once upon a time in the distant past I remember one of those debating sessions in an English class. Pre-puberty, early secondary school.

I am a panel member.

Non-panel members get a chance to pose the debating questions.

Janet Taylor raises her hand.

“Do you believe in sex before marriage?”

Janet Taylor wears the shortest skirts in school. Even shorter than Andrea wears today.

Her legs go a long long way. Maybe she was already post-puberty.

It was, though, more of a question than an offer.

My turn arrives to express an opinion.

“I don’t believe in sex.”

As I said. Opinions change. Puberty does that to a person.

Eventually I came to believe in sex.

At age 18 I was born again. Sex still a belief rather than a practical experience. The belief restricted to the confines of marriage. There were definite rights and wrongs about it.

Today I’m not so sure about the rights and wrongs.

The reaction of the girls in the television programme seemed to be strangely inconsistent.

There are things that I wonder about …

  • Maybe some cattle-market-like nightclub dance floors aren’t so different from the red light shop windows of Amsterdam. People seeking the same thing.
  • Boys at nightclubs will sometimes invent all kinds of stories to impress girls. At times maybe this is about romance. At other times maybe it’s a lot more basic.
  • Maybe a shop window in Amsterdam can be a more honest and safe way of people achieving the same ends without a need to tell lies to each other?

I think that the things that matter most between people include things such as:

  • Honesty
  • Respect
  • Love … in the sense of wanting to help rather than to hurt each other

I guess that in reality love encompasses the honesty and respect.

It sounds a little like things that I heard at Church.

But at Church this was supplemented by an additional framework of rights and wrongs that mattered even more than honesty, respect and love.

These included big stuff like not killing people. Unless of course it’s in self defence, or a “just” war …

And other stuff as well:

  • Do not be gay
  • Do not be lesbian
  • Do not dress in women’s clothing – unless, of course, you are a woman

And you can’t even do these things during a war or in self defence.

Mostly I’ve discarded lists of absolute don’ts.

It’s not that I think that everyone should do them. More that it “depends”.

Sex, like almost all other things, then just fits into an overall framework of honesty, respect and love.


Well … maybe.


Well … no. Not at all.

I think a lot of this begins with “oneself”.

I recall a Bob Dylan song … “Slow train coming”.

That’s how it’s been in my experience.

A lifetime to get to a place where I can be honest with myself and about about myself. A place where I respect myself. Even my unconventional dressing habits. My flirtations with pornography.  A place where I don’t feel I have to hide it all or live in fear of being found out. A place where I can love myself.

I know … this stuff is in the Bible as well. It says that you can’t love other people if you don’t love yourself.

A little while ago I spent some time talking with a girl that works as an escort. She is married. Has four children.

Her work involves sex. Her husband knows. Her family knows.

They are happy.

Is it wrong?

Whatever the girls in the TV programme feel about this, I have a feeling that it’s a lot less wrong than what happens every weekend at a lot of nightclubs.

Maybe not perfect.

But where is perfection?


Pretty Sissy Dani said...

If anything, the teen sex and pregnancy problem in the US is WORSE than in the UK.

I blame it on the lack of real sex education here, which is a result of a puritanical attitude, especially by the right wing of our politics. It often seems that their position is "Dammit, the kids can learn about sex the same place I did--on the streets!" They seem to have come to the conclusion that if you educate kids about sex, they'll all want to run out and try it.

Evidence is, they'll run out and try it no matter if you do or not. And if you don't, there are some consequences you didn't intend.

Andrea said...

I agree entirely. Some people seem to think that the way that you deal with awkward issues is to pretend that they don't exist and not talk about them. In my own experience this almost never works.