Religion and SpiritualitySkepticism

Sex Ed with James Dobson: In Which Masturbation is Kind of OK, but Extramarital Sex will Send us Straight to Hell

My apologies for a long delay darlings, life has afflicted me with the ennui.  H.P. Lovecraft heroes tend to go grave robbing in such circumstances, but I’ve just been playing computer games.

The second half of chapter three, “Something Crazy is Happening to my Body” is when we finally get to the sex part of sex ed.  After some gender stereotyping about how boys will be fascinated by all parts of a girl’s body–maybe even her feminine feet!–and girl’s will not be so interested in bodies but in the way boys act and talk, we are ready for “plain talk about sex.”

Sexual intercourse is the name given to the act that takes place when a man and woman remove all their clothing (usually done in bed) and the man’s sex organ (his penis) becomes very hard and straight.  He puts his penis into the vagina of the woman while lying between her legs.  They move around, in and out, until they both have a kind of tingly feeling which lasts for a minute or two.  It’s a very satisfying experience, which husbands and wives do regularly.  You probably already know about sexual intercourse as I described it.  But did you know that a man and a woman have intercourse not just to have babies? They do it to express love for each other and because they enjoy it.

So it’s heteronormative, genitalia only, missionary position sex here in Dobson’s world, and he expects that sex for pleasure will be news to his readers, but this is still probably the best description of sex we can expect from Christians.  If he’d just stopped there, it would be great, but he doesn’t.  He has to explain why sex (between a man and a woman) exists.

The desire for sex was God’s idea–not ours.  He placed this part of our nature into us; He created those chemicals (hormones) that make the opposite sex appealing to us. He did this so we would want to have a family of our own. Without this desire there would be no marriage and no children and no love between a man and a woman.

I am not an expert on love between men and women, being, though straight, bad at relationships, but this seems reductive.  Also conflationary, which is not a word but should be. We can totally have sex without children or marriage being involved.   Dobson even told us that about children, though contraceptives aren’t a thing in his world, but he strongly disagrees about the marriage part.

God’s commandment that we avoid sexual intercourse before marriage was not given in order to keep us from having pleasure. It was not His desire to take the fun out of life. To the contrary, it was actually his love that caused Him to forbid premarital sexual intercourse, because so many harmful consequences occur when you refuse to obey Him.

You’ve probably heard about venereal disease, which is caused from having intercourse from someone who has caught it from another carrier. Syphilis, gonorrhea, and other diseases are very widespread today. [citation needed, but I think he’s actually right.] Our country is having an epidemic of these diseases, and they have a damaging effect on the body if they go untreated. But there are other consequences for those who have premarital sex. They run the risk of bringing an unwanted baby into the world by this act.

Aside:  I rather dislike the term premarital as it implies the person will later be married. This is often presumptive.

Back to the point. Marriage somehow magically means you can’t get STDs and makes all children wanted.  this is news to me.  Also, if there is a god who loves us, it would be far more efficient to not, you know, create diseases in the first place and make it easier to control one’s fertility that come up with sexual ethics that involve shame.

Sin always has a destructive effect on a young person. But I believe the sin of premarital sex is especially damaging to the person who engages in it.  He or she loses the innocence of youth as sometimes becomes hard and cold as a person. It’s also likely to affect his or her later marriage, because that special experience which should have been shared with just one person is not so special anymore.  More than one person has had a sample of it.

 This is standard Christian tripe, and it’s still tripe. It’s unsubstantiated and based on the assumption that only one possible model of sexual experience can be worthwhile, and that marriage is based on sex.  Oh, and if we don’t buy these reasons and have sex anyway?  We are threatened with hell.

What I’m saying is that God has commanded us not to have sex before marriage in order to spare us these many other effects of this sin.  In fact, the worst consequence is one I have not yet mentioned, relating to the judgment of God in the life to come. We are told very clearly in the Bible that our lives will be laid bare before Him, and He will know our every secret. Our eternal destinies actually depend on our faith in God and our obedience to Him.

If this seems a little harsh, there’s always masturbation (“the act of rubbing your own sex organs in order to get that same tingly feeling you would have if you were participating in intercourse”), as long as you pray about it.

Unfortunately, I can’t speak directly for God on this subject, since His Holy Word, the Bible, is silent at this point.  I will tell you what I believe, although I certainly don’t want to contradict what your parents or your pastor believe.  It is my opinion that masturbation is not much of an issue with God.  It’s a normal part of adolescence which involves no one else. It does not cause diseases, it does not produce babies, and Jesus does not mention it in the Bible. I’m not telling you to masturbate, and I hope you won’t feel the need for it.  But if you do, it is my opinion that you should not struggle with guilt over it.

Why do I tell you this?  Because I deal with so many Christian young people who are torn apart with guilt over masturbation; they want to stop and just can’t.  I would like to help you avoid that agony.  The best I can do is suggest you talk with God personally about this matter and decide what He wants you to.

That is perhaps the most reasonable discussion of masturbation I have ever heard from a Christian, as well as the most inadvertently honest admission of how prayer works.

The rest of this chapter is more reassurance that everything happening during puberty is perfectly normal and we shouldn’t be scared.  This, while valuable, is not particularly exciting, so I will end here and continue next cessation of my ennui with Real Love.  There will be a quiz.

Featured Image is William-Adolphe Bougereau’s Dante and Virgil in Hell.

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Elizabeth

Elizabeth

Elizabeth is a professional belly dancer, a flaky computer scientist, and a returned Peace Corps volunteer. She lives in Georgia (the state of the U.S., not the country) but is nonetheless somehow not a combination of stereotypes from Gone with the Wind and Deliverance. Her personal blog is Coffeefied. Operafied. Fluffified. Beglittered.

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