Learning To Say I Do
Justin: The end of the semester is always a difficult time. Final exams mean a lot of grading for me. It is also a time each semester in which I have a difficult conversation with the college students in the health class I teach. This is because the last unit in our curriculum is about sexually transmitted diseases. Technically, our curriculum says it is optional for the instructors to cover this chapter but I feel that I would be doing our students a disservice if I didn’t address the role of sex in their lives.
Now, I know that most of the other instructors probably tell their students to simply “protect” themselves and the discussion of sex ends at this. As a Catholic, I do not believe this is the answer. The idea of “safe sex” leads young people to believe that you can have sex without consequences and this notion is simply untrue. Sex affects us deeply both physically and emotionally.
This year something unique happened. Three students remained after class because they wanted to continue the conversation. Over the next 45 minutes, one of them shared the fear and worry she experiences after sex with her boyfriend. She worries about becoming pregnant and worries about whether he would stand beside her if she did. My question to her was, “Is sex building intimacy and making your relationship stronger?”
My job as an instructor is not to tell my college students how to live their lives, but I do have an obligation to help them to ask and answer the important question for themselves. The question is, “Do my attitudes about sex (and if I am engaging in pre-marital sex) truly make me happier?”
Unfortunately, the fear and worry of this young woman is not a unique experience. Each semester, I ask the students to write a reflection responding to the question, “Have my attitudes and decisions about sex led to happier and more fulfilling relationships?” Over and over, my students say no.
This is because there is no such thing as sex without consequences. Sex is a beautiful and powerful force, but it is like fire. In the right context, like within a fireplace, it can heat your home and preserve life. However, if it escapes the fireplace it can burn your house down and destroy life.
Within our marriage, sex is powerfully uniting. It brings life to our relationship and has brought Gus into the world. This is the power that I wish my students could experience.
Rather than being afraid to talk about this topic, we need to start proclaiming the beauty of sex in its proper context. In doing so, perhaps we will finally give young people a reason to wait.