We have taken a lot of flack from people because Shannon did not choose to go away to school. She lives at home. It is nice for her, nice for us, and very affordable. We are blessed to live within 30 minutes of a state university school with an excellent chemistry program. Shannon can sleep and shower at home, sometimes study and eat at home, and at the same time get an excellent education. Oh, and her tuition is covered by a scholarship. Where is the downside in this?
But it seems that many people feel the need to tell us that she should be getting away. That she needs to grow up. That she needs to have “the college experience.”
I so appreciated our pediatrician, who was supportive of our decision in every way, and who said, “Who needs to live in a dorm and get drunk and have sex and throw up in order to experience all of life?” At least, I think she said that. I might have been the one who said it, but we were of one mind in that conversation. Whichever of us did not make that statement made this statement: “There are definitely certain experiences that people don’t need to have in order to become well rounded.”
We had a remarkable conversation that day. It was about the pitfalls of youth and how they can damage, and how they can best be avoided. For instance, our doctor said that there are many mothers who want their daughters on birth control from an early age… “in case they get raped.” What a mindset. How about you keep your daughters away from situations where they are likely to be raped? How about karate lessons? This precious doctor told us that she doesn’t advocate anything that might make it easier for a girl to make the decision to go ahead and have sex. For instance, birth control pills can be of great help in controlling acne, but she would never prescribe them for that, because she says it just removes one more barrier from people's making a bad decision some day in the heat of a moment.
I was stunned when she said that the biggest risk of early sex is not sexually transmitted diseases, because there is only a high likelihood that you might get one of those. The real danger, she said, is the psychological damage that occurs, and it always, always occurs. She said we would not believe the repercussions that are in and out of doctors’ offices all the time because of early sexual activity. A girl gives away her heart and her virginity to an immature 15 year old boy and he chews it up and spits it out in the trash. He doesn’t appreciate it. He has no concept of love. He is years behind the girl in emotional development. He moves off to his next interest, whether it is another girl, a football game or a new version of a video game, and she is left behind, vulnerable and broken.
So there are depressed girls, girls on all manner of medications to try to help them cope with the fact that they gave the ultimate thing that they could give, and they were rejected. They fall into mental illnesses and ultimately some even commit suicide. Just Sunday there was an article in the paper about a stunningly beautiful 16 year old girl who had committed suicide five months after a bad break up with a boyfriend. I’m not saying she had sex with him. The paper sure didn’t say. But if that is what it was about, the paper should have said so. They make all this fuss about suicide prevention. If they were really serious about preventing suicide, they would help teenagers protect their psyches from sexual trauma. They would show the connection between teen sex and suicide, and they would warn kids away from teen sex.
The girls who don’t commit suicide take another path. They learn to build walls. They learn not to trust anybody, especially men. They learn to exploit sex themselves and use it as a tool to gain power. The worst thing about this is that they become relationally handicapped. They can’t trust, can’t love, can’t commit. These are the girls who are growing up to be the mamas of the next generation, so you can maybe do the math and see where this takes us... divorce, child abuse, basically a myriad of unstable and broken homes poised to multiply themselves.
And the liberals still think the answer is just to put more condom vending machines in the bathrooms.
Here’s a pitiful thing. My daughter says they replaced the menstrual supply vending machines with condom vending machines in the women’s bathrooms on her campus. She says it is irritating and inconvenient. I said it was an abomination. I didn’t know how to say what I wanted to say, because I almost said, “If any guy wants to have sex with you and expects you to supply the condom…” but then I realized that we were already too many steps from decency before this particular issue even arose.
Here’s some straight talk about sex: it hurts the first time. In the Bible they assumed that the girl would bleed the first time she had sex, and the parents saved the bloody sheets from the wedding night to be able to prove their daughter was a virgin, in case a question ever arose. These days a girl maybe doesn’t always bleed the first time—things like tampons and doing the splits in ballet and gymnastics and jumping off high diving boards while not quite keeping one’s legs together can make it possible for a virgin not to bleed on her wedding night. But blood or no blood, the ending of virginity comes with a certain amount of pain.
I don’t think anybody ever tells anybody that sex hurts. When I was in college, I became engaged in my junior year. Of course, wearing a diamond and talking about having a fiancée made me look like an experienced woman of the world. Even in the eighties, it was normal to live together and sleep together and just get married when you were ready to have kids. People on campus simply assumed that Shawn and I were sleeping together. One day a classmate approached me and asked about my ring and then just burst out, “It isn’t anything like what you’d think, is it? I mean, I was just laying there trying to breathe and all I could think was, this is not what it’s like in books.” I didn’t have a clue, at the time. I was speechless. But now I know. Nobody told her that it hurts.
It hurts for awhile. That’s why it is so devastatingly traumatic for young girls who think they are entering into something wonderful, giving something away to some incredible person they imagine this adolescent boy to be, and they are left torn and rejected. (hint: no adolescent boy who wants to sleep with you is incredible. period.)
You have to be able to totally trust the person you have sex with. It is a process, sometimes a long one, to discover how it works best. It takes time and patience, communication and faith that the two of you are committed to each other. When you open yourself to someone in such an extremely vulnerable way, you have to know that he will be there to catch you when you let yourself fall. Sex is not “fun.” Sex is a “big deal.” The person you have sex with must be able to love you more than he loves the sex. Sex by itself is a powerful destructive force. When it is tamed by love and subjected to moral self-discipline, it becomes beautiful, a unifying, bonding experience that is unparalleled. Consider the contrasting differences: one girl gives away her virginity in pain and vulnerability to a cad who only wants to be able to boast in the locker-room about what he has done; another young woman opens herself vulnerably to a man who has declared his love to her before witnesses and before God in a wedding ceremony, who has made a significant financial investment in her with the best ring he can afford, and who now takes her in love to himself. As she lets him experience with her that intimacy of mingled pleasure and pain, his own heart pangs with awareness of what she feels, what she has given him, and he is overwhelmed not only by physical pleasure but by the trust he knows she has placed in him. She is his cherished treasure.
Sex hurts the first time, and usually the second and third. If it didn’t, why do you think there is such a market for “personal lubricant”? A honeymoon can be exhausting and stressful for a virgin. Beginning sex hurts more than getting a shot in your arm and less than breaking your toe. It is not a sudden-impact hurt followed by pain, like hitting your funny bone; it’s more like trying to tear a Band-Aid off, little by little. The thing that keeps you going is the emotional connection which grows deeper and more mysterious each time. That is, if you have a committed relationship, which is why you need a committed relationship (and when I say "committed relationship" I mean "marriage").
Like any other pursuit—golf, cooking, music—sex improves with practice. Still, even after years, there are times when it all comes together by some miraculous aligning of the stars, and some times when it isn’t all that. It’s kind of like going on vacation—sometimes you get great weather, and sometimes… you don’t. That is why it is so important to be with someone who is committed to working through the bad times and the mediocre times as well as enjoying the great times, someone who has promised always to be there the next morning, someone who will keep that promise.
Or, I suppose you could get drunk and try to drown out the pain—the initial physical pain, the lasting emotional pain. Have another drink. I am being sarcastic, but that process seems to be the norm. In fact, it seems to be the experience that a lot of people think our daughter has to have in order to grow up.
There are some pains that you need let your kids experience, but I don’t agree that premarital sex is one of them.