I still remember the day that my Dad gave me “the talk”. For some reason, everytime we would talk about something important and slightly uncomfortable, it was usually in the car. I later learned that a staple of male communication is to not face each other but to focus on something else while talking. Who knew? I don’t remember much else about the conversation itself except for the natural awkwardness that seized the moment when I realized what was about to happen.
Can you remember that conversation with your parents? Some of us never even had that conversation with parents. If you were/are privileged enough to have parents around or better yet have parents around who actually care enough to talk about things, I hope that you can see that for how awesome that is.
I know I do. I am thankful that my dad even had that talk (which was more about function, mechanics and ethics than anything else). However, as much as I appreciate that talk, looking back as a now married and sexually active young man, there are other things about sex that I wish my parents, not just my Father, would have talked with me about. Here are a few of those things...
When talking about sex, this is where we need to start. Growing up, my parents were very aware of and concerned about morality and wanted to make sure that my siblings and I knew how to behave in an honorable manner. Unfortunately this commitment (which, I am totally beyond thankful for by the way) sometimes skipped passed the recognition of sex as the gift that it is! When having conversations around healthy and whole sexuality, I have found that the starting point needs to be a celebration of its beauty and mystery. Because we live in such a hyper-sexualized culture, I think that we can forget that Sex is special!
It can be frustrating
For all of its beauty and excitement, sex has at times been frustrating for me. Very frustrating...This is because it involves me, and I am not perfect. Because I’ve been learning my own sexuality as well as that of my spouse, there are times when things can just feel out of sync, like things aren’t working at all. The awesome thing that my wife and I have found about sex is that it involves our whole being and not just our bodies. However, this means that when the pieces aren’t fitting perfectly, our emotions, expectations, and thoughts are all present in the moment and can be frustrating to say the least. This is perfectly normal and natural! But it’s in these moments that I’ve found it important to remember the whole point of sexuality to begin with. Which leads to my next point.
It’s about intimacy, not performance
Sex is a gift not just because of the pleasure it brings, but because of the way it connects one whole person to another whole person. Regardless of what you have seen in the movies or other media, or even heard from the stories of your friends, sex is not about competition or achievement. For my wife and I, Sex has been a way to give us a connection, spiritually, mentally, emotionally and yes, physically. When my wife and I have sex, the goal is not to wow one another with our physicality but to be vulnerable and trusting with one another as we serve the other lovingly. When the goal is to be known and to know, rather than to be known as “amazing in bed”, the true mystery and beauty of sex is realized. I personally believe that the pornification of our culture has robbed us of this and cheapened sex to an act to perform and task to accomplish. We are compared to the false narratives we are sold by our society, which only leads us to feel insecure about ourselves and let down by our wildly misplaced expectations.
It is a part of me, but does not define me
From what I’ve seen in our society, advertising and media tell me that everything from burgers and bank loans have to do with sex and sex appeal. This often misleads me to believing that my whole worth and identity are wrapped up in my sexuality. This is however not what I’ve found to be reality. In fact, I’ve seen the exact opposite. Yes, my sexuality is a very integral and important part of me, but it is just one part of who I am. My sexuality and my sexual ethic should flow out of my identity as a person and who I am choosing to become. By reducing my identity to my sexuality, I then reduce other people to their sexuality and therefore reduce our relationships to their sexual grades. All of this reduction robs us of coming into our true selves, keeps us from knowing people as the complex, multi-faceted, wellspring of joy and fascination that we truly are, and it deprives our relationships of the life-giving intimacy they have the potential to give.
It’s ok to ask questions//talk about it
Most of all I wish there would have been an open invitation for further conversations. Sexuality is a journey of identity and love, and with that comes a lot to figure out over a long period of time. And that’s ok. Sure, I think my parents would have loved it if I came to them with questions and thoughts, but overall, we could use a change in how we have (or rather don’t have) open dialogue about sex. There needs to be a move from “the talk” to “the talks.” There needs to be a shift from awkward and novel to plural, honest and ongoing. And I’m not talking about making graphic jokes in the locker room. I’m talking about real, open, and honest conversations.