Prudish or Virtuous? A Plea to Youth Leaders

Published March 12, 1981.

QUESTION: I have been married for just a few months and want to make a plea to youth leaders. It has to do with how they teach young people about sexuality. In one of our church youth meetings there was an older person who repeatedly used to warn us about the evils of sex and even told us it was petting to let a boy put his arm around you or kiss you. Since my wedding it has been very difficult for me to make something so wrong before marriage into something positive and good after marriage. Aren’t there other ways besides fear and guilt to encourage young people to wait until marriage for sexual relationships?

ANSWER: Young people should be taught, from my way of thinking, to wait until marriage for sexual relationships. But they should also be instructed in such a manner that will enable them to have a healthy and satisfying relationship with their husband or wife once the marriage is underway.

And how we instruct on these matters seems to have particular significance for young women because all too many wives attain little or no sexual satisfaction in their marriages.

Frigidness, the inability or unwillingness for women to find fulfillment in sexual relationships, is very common in the United States. In his book “The Individual, Marriage, and the Family,” Lloyd Saxton notes, “Frigidness is one of the most common problems in gynecology. Gynecologists and psychiatrists, especially, are aware that perhaps 75 percent of all women derive little or no pleasure from sex. Many women not only experience no pleasure but actually suffer pain and revulsion.”

Perhaps the inability of many young women, such as yourself, to make a successful adjustment after marriage is due, in part, to many of the analogies we use to teach about sexuality. There are the chewed up bubble gum, the cake with the icing missing, and the nail board and nail hole analogies – all of which must evoke some interesting images in the minds of young people. Another favorite is crushing a flower, such as a rose, and then asking young women if they want to be like bruised rose petals.

Young women are not flowers, they are normal human beings with strong biological and emotional inclinations toward intimacy. Crushing flowers in class will not likely inhibit those intensities one bit, if anything. It may make them more confusing.

It is possible to instruct young people about sexual matters on a highly mature level. And indeed they must be instructed because the vast majority (80 percent) in the U.S. do not wait until marriage to commence sexual relationships.

Rather than just saying “don’t” and hoping they “won’t,” a more reasonable and effective approach may be to explain the consequences of certain types of behavior from a physical, social, mental, and perhaps spiritual perspective. Young people would thereby be helped to anticipate the realities of those consequences, both positive and negative. If and when they choose to act in certain ways.

Young people can also be taught to be virtuous without being prudish. To be virtuous means to “conform to moral and ethical principles; morally excellent; upright; and chose as a person.” To be prudish, on the other hand, means to be “excessively proper or modest in speech, conduct, dress, etc." While I know many young men who would like to marry a virtuous young woman, and visa versa, I know of absolutely no one who wants to marry someone who is prudish.

We who teach young people about these matters ought to do so in a way that helps them to have a healthy concept of sexuality after marriage. Sex is not something we avoid because it is evil. It is something we wait for because it is good.

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