Sunday, March 4, 2012

Shame on you

Shame does not work as a way to reduce kids having sex. I don't care if it's religion, parents, or society, shame doesn't work. The only time shame does work on people, is when its someone you're trying to impress-- a boss, or peers. And those motivations aren't present at the age we worry about kids having sex.

Even more important-- shaming kids into not having sex is terrible in itself. The way sex is portrayed in society and media is this strange whirling mess of exposition and shame, all mixed together. We tell kids not to have sex, and at the same time, the main things society throws at them for entertainment are tv shows and movies full of teenage sexy times. It's ridiculous, and its shocking that anyone comes out of adolescence with a healthy attitude towards sex and sexuality.

I do think that kids should be taught that sex is something to be respected, and that it is something not to be done too terribly lightly-- but not because of moral reasons. Teach kids to wait to have sex, but tell them accurate information on STDs, pregnancy, and the hormones that crop up after sex. Teach kids about self-respect. Teach kids to respect sex-- for the closeness it can bring in a relationship, for the power dynamics it can create and the ways it can effect pre-existing power dynamics, for the consequences it can have.

But do not teach kids that sex is inherently wrong or shameful.

It isn't.

I come from a Christian background, and consider myself to be Christian-- shocking, I know, to some of my friends who associate Christianity with fundamentalists. But even within a religious setting, sex does not have to be shameful. It can be an expression of love, of enjoyment of our bodies and their capability for pleasure, given to us by a creator. Most people can agree that sexual enjoyment is pretty awesome-- so why feel shame in it? And why pick that, out of all the things in the Bible, to obsess over? I'd probably be more in the spirit of things to feel shame for judging people, than to feel shame for having sex, after all. Just look at the people Christ hung out with!

If you're not coming from a religious background, there's even less reason for sex to be considered shameful. Sure, its one of our more animal impulses-- one of the big F's (fight, flight, feed, fornicate). But simply connecting it to our animal nature doesn't make it any more shameful than sleep, or exercise, or eating. Like anything, it shouldn't be done to excess. But something natural, done for mutual enjoyment, and especially when done as an expression of love? I just don't see the shame in it.

Ok, yes. Sometimes sex is completely unrelated to emotions. And sometimes its all about physical enjoyment. And sometimes people are sluts and have sex indiscriminately. But even that shouldn't be shamed. Slut shaming is just another way for people to feel superior to others-- based on some arbitrary societal rules. I'd like to believe that the shame is purely some animal reaction to fear of STDs-- but even when people know a promiscuous person is practicing safe sex and has no STDs, they still get all judgey. So whatever it stemmed from in the past, its clearly something more now. But what good does this shaming do?


Oh wait.

It doesn't do any good.

It isn't going to encourage someone to stop sleeping around-- it just encourages them to lie about it. It might change the way someone feels about having sex-- but probably not for the better. If anything, the shame might make them feel that their only worth is in their sexuality, or that they're used up and worthless, or that they don't deserve someone who treats them right.

When we teach kids all these negative connotations for sex and relationships--which is what we are, in fact, teaching them when we shame them-- we are teaching them to accept and to expect to be treated poorly. We are teaching them to undervalue other aspects of their personality and achievements. And we are crippling their future sex lives, and giving them an unhealthy attitude towards sex to take into whatever future permanent relationships they have.

Part of me finds it hilarious that, on a wedding day, people are supposed to magically transition from a mentality of sex-is-bad-and-wrong to one of sex-is-good-must-satisfy-partner-and-make-babies. But as hilarious as it is in concept, in reality? It's just sad.

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