Many of us at St. Olaf come from childhoods of scrubbed Sunday faces and Pastor Billy Bob-like truths. After a year and a half on campus, I find myself re-examining my beliefs about sex and major religious traditions. These are not the truths of my childhood, when we learned not to touch yourself there, not to engage in sexual pleasure before you marry, not to engage in a relationship with a same-sex partner, to condemn all but male and female marital unions, not to reach orgasm in a position that cannot create a child and not to believe that a womans body is a private matter, among others.
I have seen far too much hand-wringing among college peers who desire to engage in loving, caring and relationship-enhancing sexual behavior that violates a Billy Bob truth. They are young men and women practicing safe and consensual sexual behavior. They practice steps towards intimacy needed for a lifetime of rewarding partnerships. Yet they are at odds with a rigid, internalized moral code, a code that was not freely chosen but given to them when they were too young to make their own choices. Almost all religions call for adults to renew their faith, so consider renewing the moral vows of your faith with a sexual paradigm that fits you and the world of 2007.
As a non-theologian, I ask you, without a supporting biblical passage, to consider a primary truth about what all these revered texts say: They do not want you to exploit one another. Virtually all have some form of the Golden Rule: Do unto others as you would have them do onto you. Sexual intimacy must begin and end with empathy. Sexual behavior is the mutual agreement to remove all physical boundaries between two people to share the incredibly special emotion of sexual arousal. Talk. Agree. Make his or her limits yours.
Also, consider a trickier adult truth about who should be doing what with whom else and when in their life. There is an exceptional historical, dramatic series on HBO that might help you here, titled Rome. It even includes town criers proclaiming the truths of that era. This was the era of our psalms, sayings and verses. What you will find is very little of the Golden Rule and a whole lot of sexual self-seeking amid the grapes and goblets. Without empathetic intimacy, families were things of convenience or inconvenience.
Without a sense of family responsibility, children floundered and were left emotionally unsafe, unprotected and without the priority needed to ensure a better future for the next generation. The faith legacy of the era was a string of oddly worded prohibitions against sexual pleasure aimed at a world of, without embracing Reverend Dobson, eroding family values. We do not live in that world. Those words on sexual behavior are bound in time to definitions we cannot fathom today.
I offer you a new sexual truth: Lead your life pledging to create your own definition of family that embraces stability, healthy intimacy and a better future for your children and the children of all families in your community. It is a pledge maintaining faith with the religious writers of long ago. Enjoying masturbation or preferring same-gendered intimacy doesnt define your morality. I invite you to renew your faith through individual sexual values based on the Golden Rule and on building a nurturing world for all children.
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