I received a wonderful comment a few days ago on a post I wrote last year called "In Which I Vent", which was an rant about a PG rated movie that showed several scenes of intimacy between a husband and a wife. This reader's comment brought up some really interesting thoughts and I thought it would make for a really good discussion. Here is what she wrote:
I have been mulling over this post for about a year now! I am very inclined to agree with you in every way. But I am also curious about how to teach children about sexuality in general. I told a friend of mine about your perspective on this movie and she said "I disagree, I want my daughters to have a good experience on their wedding night." Not that you have to view "soft porn" or any such thing to have a good experience, but when we view sexuality as "bad" it can be hard for our children to get the message that, between husband and wife, it is very very good. I know so many LDS women who have had a difficult time transitioning from "don't have sex, don't think about sex, don't do anything to arouse those emotions" to "enjoy it and become one with your husband." I mean, it took probably 10 years for my mom to not feel guilty after she was married. And I know many women feel the same. I even have an aunt who isn't active who thinks that the LDS Church views sex as bad in any form! So I guess my question is, how to we "live in the world and not be of the world," but at the same time teach our children to view intimacy in marriage as sacred and right?I really appreciate this reader for being brave enough to address these questions because I think they are really important. Yet before I open up the conversation I just want to give my thoughts, I have two.
First, I think that sometimes when we are watching TV that we forget that the scenes and the people on the screen are real. We get so caught up in the fantasy world that TV creates for us that we forget that the man and the woman on the screen who are making out, taking off each other's clothes, and laying on top of each other in bed (all things that were in the movie I vented about) are not really married and therefore are not demonstrating healthy marital intimacy but rather fornication or adultery. Yet even if the actors were really married it would wouldn't make watching those type of actions any better. Just imagine if you were at the park and you saw a scantily clad married couple making out or lying on top of each other on a blanket under a tree, would you sit your children across from them and encourage them to watch it? If you are struggling with trying to decide if something is appropriate for your children (or you) to be watching just take a step back and ask yourself "Would I feel comfortable watching this if it were happening right before my eyes in real life." If the answer is "no" then you should probably turn it off.
Second, I think that this reader brings up a good point that there are some men and women who associate intimacy with feelings of guilt and shame. Yet I'd venture to say that one of the reasons men and women sometimes feel guilty about intimacy isn't because they haven't been exposed to it enough; it is because they have been exposed too much. Some of the feelings of shame associated with sexuality come from seeing something sacred and divine portrayed common and dirty. When we allow sacred things to be exploited for purposes of entertainment or curiosity we degrade and cheapen them. It hurts us to the very center of our divine nature and keeps us from fully experiencing the joy and the enlightenment that God wants us to glean from them.
I think that saying, "I want my daughter to have a good experience on her wedding night so I'll let her see sexual intimacy before she is married" is like saying, " I want my daughter to have a good experience the first time she goes to the temple so I'll let her see people performing temple ordinances before she goes." In both cases having a good experience has nothing to do with what you have seen or heard but has everything to do with how emotionally and spiritually prepared you are and how well you understand the sacred nature of what you are participating in. We would never want the sacred nature of the temple to be treated as common or to be misrepresented and the same is true of sexual intimacy. It is to be kept sacred-- not secret or scary-- but very sacred.
In speaking of sexual intimacy between a couple who have kept themselves morally pure and have a relationship built on mutual trust, commitment and respect M. Russel Ballard said,
"..For those couples sex becomes a form of communication, a way of expressing deep feelings for which there aren't adequate words. It is nature's most sublime way of bonding one human soul to another. And when its desired result is the creation of new life, it allows a man and a woman to join hands with God in fulfilling one of the key elements of Heavenly Father's eternal plan for his children. If that sounds old-fashioned, so be it. It also has the benefit of being true. And right." ( "Our Search for Happiness", pg. 107)Each couple's form of communication is going to be different, and it can't be learned from a book, a magazine or a movie, it is something they must discover together. Part of me wishes we lived in the days when men and women went into marriage with no sexual expectations. They truly got to create and discover their own intimate language and communication without outside voices telling them what was "normal", "right" or "good". I think that today in our world that is so inundated with sexuality that couples have to unlearn much of what they have been taught by the world about sex in order to have a good healthy relationship.
So my advice for wanting to help your daughter be ready to have a good experience on her wedding night is to keep her away (as much as you can) from the world's portrayals of sexuality, even if they seem relatively harmless... because they aren't. Let her and her husband discover and learn to speak their own sacred, intimate language. Don't handicap her by exposing her to things that are only going to cheapen and demean her divine nature. Instead focus on helping her understand the divine power that she houses within her body and her responsibility to use it wisely, show her what a good relationship between a husband and wife looks like, and answer her questions honestly and openly but still keep sacred things sacred.
Okay those are my thoughts... now lets discuss.
Please remember to be kind and considerate of others when you comment, not everyone is in the same situation.