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The Birds and the Beatitudes

Matt Labash, sex educator.

May 17, 2010, Vol. 15, No. 33 • By MATT LABASH
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I’ve never much related to adults who complain about their strict religious upbringings. As a Southern Baptist, I had one. But as someone who is now a self-styled rebel in the tradition of the young Brando or Bowzer from Sha Na Na (wearing black tank T-shirts to editorial meetings to emit an air of streetwise dangerousness), I find mine rather useful. 

The Birds and the Beatitudes

Photo Credit: Rob Ullman

I didn’t envy my libertine neighborhood friends, who could watch R-rated movies and call their hippie parents by their first names. Even if my folks occasionally plunged into my record collection to ensure there wasn’t any contraband containing backward-masked messages from Satan, did these friends, with their fathers getting baked while listening to Lothar and The Hand People, have it much better? How to rebel against their parents? By starting a D.A.R.E chapter and blasting Amy Grant really loud from their room? Repression is the incubator of creative expression, as anyone who’s ever seen Footloose knows. 

The only downside, if you can call it that, was that I came to some things late. Like sexual education. My parents clearly had sex—my sister and I were Exhibits A and B—but they didn’t care to talk about it. Which was fine by me. In my sheltered Christian-school world, I didn’t really know what I was missing. There, sexual education pretty much consisted of whatever you gathered on the playground from the kids who had cable. 

When it came time to have The Talk—after watching a racy Waltons rerun in which someone got pregnant—my dad didn’t talk much at all. Rather, he handed me a copy of Dr. James Dobson’s Preparing for Adolescence. I skipped the boring stuff on problem skin and peer pressure and went straight to the good parts: the sex chapter, entitled “Something Crazy Is Happening to My Body.” 

There, on page 60, which I must’ve read several dozen times, Dr. Dobson pretty much covered it from soup to nuts, starting with the man and woman removing all their clothing, and ending when “they both have a kind of tingly feeling that lasts for about a minute or two.” When I later took human sexuality courses, learning that studies show the average “tingly feeling” lasts about ten seconds, I was left with one conclusion about my earliest education: lucky Dobsons. 

While I eventually became an enthusiastic booster of sex, I can’t say the same for advances in Christian sexual education. As the rest of the culture has been hypersexualized to within an inch of its life, it’s no surprise that the church is following suit, advertising schlocky how-to-have-better-sex sermons, all naturally under the guise of marriage. Sure, sex is a gift from God, as the preachers/sex therapists say. But does the modern church have to unwrap its presents in front of everybody? The new “Sexy Christianity” sounds as incongruous as “Canadian military” or “feminist literature.” 

Recently someone sent me a link to a website that’s clearly a product of this trend in the church. The authors of strive to eliminate taboos. Under cutesy handles like “Cinnamon Sticks,” these ladies celebrate “Married Sex: Spicy, the way God intended it to be!” They remind me of some devoutly religious friends we had who, whenever you were in their presence, used to grab big handfuls of each other while ferociously kissing. When you’d protest, they’d say, “It’s okay—we’re married.” No, it’s not, you’d say, “I’m eating.” 

But throw in some God-talk, and Christian nymphos can write as spicy as they like. I went to their “position page” expecting some sort of ethical manifesto. Instead, they detail 99 sex positions—most intriguingly the Italian Chandelier. They discuss all manner of techniques, including some that sound physically impossible. The site even has a link to a “Christian Love Toys” emporium, which provides a “safe and sexy place for married couples.” How this differs from non-Christian love toys, I’m unclear. Perhaps you read the Song of Solomon before popping in the batteries. 

Recently, my wife reminded me that it’s about time for me to have The Talk with our older son. I don’t know how much he knows. Probably more than I think—we do have cable. But like my father before me, I’ll probably pass the buck. I just haven’t decided how. Not, certainly, with The Italian Chandelier would only confuse him. In fact, it confuses me. Maybe I can get that old Waltons episode on DVD, then refer him to Dr. Dobson if he has any questions. 

Matt Labash

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