Safer Sex Ed.

My kids are doing the Human Sexuality unit at school, which has me thinking. For a while, oh maybe since I was teaching teenagers, it has occurred to me that our health classes focus too much on the physical realm while skipping over the details that are just as important — the emotional health of sexuality. Anyone who has been exposed to the UU Sex Ed programs will probably read this and think “No duh!” And I am deeply grateful that their public school has based some of their curriculum in the UU stuff. Here are a few of my ponderings.

First, I feel young teens should not have sex, and older teens should wade in with deep care.
My belief that one should hold off on sexual activity has nothing to do with prudishness or a religious attachment to an idea of purity. It is about readiness and care. Sex can be so tender, or so damaging, and we should be mindful to coordinate for ourselves experiences that foster tenderness. I also feel that young bodies may simply be less ready for the kind of arousal, communication and expression that makes sex so lovely. Practicing before you are ready is like trying to teach algebra to a toddler…. It doesn’t “land,” and the time you waste is also a missed opportunity to do some more age appropriate endeavor that would be more beneficial. For me, I also accrued a few years of muscle memory of immature, disconnected sex… harsh lessons that were hard work to unlearn.

Second, I feel that Sex Ed for young adults about to make the leap should include concrete “how to”s about pleasure, not just medical cautionary tales about danger and protection. Here’s a few really simple ones– for straight kids, girl-on-top for your first penetration is a good way for everyone to be at choice. For straight or gay kids, taking the care and time to explore all of the ways to pleasure a partner, with hands, mouths, eyes, words and then finally using your genitals is a good learning path. Learning to talk about sex is as important as having sex, and if you don’t have the maturity to name the feeling, act or part, you are probably not mature enough to have the feeling/do the act/share the body part with another. And what about the gear? How to use barrier protection and good lessons on the science of lube should be part of the discussion. Finally, but what should be first, is the truth that self care is so critical. We need to learn our bodies, our longings, our curiosities thoroughly to be a good sex partner. These are obvious lessons once you read them, but were not clear to me in my first fumbling years of sexuality. Having to discover them on my own led to needless suffering.

So we talk about plumbing and health risks, but sex is an act of love and self expression. We should talk more about that. I love the scene from Glee where Kurt’s dad explains that when you have sex, “It’s doing something– to you, to your heart, to your self-esteem.” http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=zSz9QmuAMcU. That’s my third thing, to include the discussion of love, intimacy and sexuality as the three equal pillars that they are. And to celebrate each. Once we are certain our children are mature enough to have the conversations, as a culture we should celebrate their coming of age rather than shaming them or leaving them to cast about on their own. We celebrate getting the driver’s license, graduating, first jobs and so much more as given Rites of Passage. We know they will grow into sexual beings; why don’t we honor the first love, the first kiss, the beautiful fumbling first attempts at intimacy? Maybe because it is private and it comes at a time that is also marked by autonomy from parents, but most of us keep this topic taboo all through adulthood, and that just feels wrong to me.

My journey into adulthood would have had so much more ease if these simple philosophies had been at least offered up for my consumption.

44

“ I need you to grow up into what you used to be.” – Antonia Lassar, in letter to her future 45 year old self

At 42, that line haunted me.
I’d strayed so far from who I suspected I was in the beginning.
So in 2012, I got busy, mindfully (and sometimes frantically) working on getting back to “me” by 45. I have one last year to pull that off. So to mark progress, here is my “inverse bucket list” – the things that were really important to me that I DID accomplish.

1 – I stood naked in front of an entire room full of beautiful people.
2 – And the second time, it felt good.
3 – I went on a lot of first dates.
4 – I learned how to make the first move.
5 – I learned how to break up.
6 – I got better at breaking up.
7 – I experienced breakup as a “shift in relationship,” rather than an ending.
8 – I drank a medicinal dose of cacao and danced around a fire circle all night long.
9 – I did my first yoga class.
10 – I did many more yoga classes.
11 – I learned that there are 7 chakras.
12 – I felt ALL SEVEN of my chakras.
13 – I got a little better at knowing when to shut up.
14 – I watched a lot of TedTalks.
15 – I was a good friend. And sometimes a lousy one.
16 – I expanded my friend circle to – probably to more than I have had in my entire life.
17 – I am learning better how to be a friend.
18 – I befriended me.
19 – I got better at expediently and gracefully exiting unhealthy situations.
20 – In which, sometimes, I was the only one being unhealthy.
21 – I learned to meditate.
22 – I found that before meditation makes me happy, it makes me sad.
23 – I kept meditating anyway.
24 – I made love. A lot.
25 – I learned that I don’t fall out of love as easily as I fall in love.
26 – I decided that’s a good thing.
27 – I experimented with alternative relationship models.
28 – I didn’t find one that fits (yet).
29 – I performed poetry – without looking at the page.
30 – I learned how to be alone.
31 – I learned I don’t like to be ALL alone, but I’m not afraid of it anymore.
32 – I went to a Kirtan.
33 – I went to a bunch more.
34 – I gave more time to aimless art.
35 – I helped my Dad cross something off his bucket list.
36 – I went kayaking alone.
37 – I experienced several forms of energy healing.
38 – I still have no idea what that means, but I surrendered to that being okay for now.
39 – I made progress on “alone and at peace with an open heart.”
40 – I worked on “healthy, whole hearted, and graceful.”
41 – I let my kids see me, the real me, hopefully without exposing too much.
42 – I got my angel wings.
43 – I published my blog.
44 – I started to let in the mystery, including the truth that I won’t be done at 45.

Contemplating Sustainable Love

12/09/2012: Just found this gem which I wrote in July 2010. Funny how we have these themes that we just keep circling back to again and again.

What is sustainability?
Sustainable: being able to have something without using it up.

We talk about what is NOT sustainable all of the time.
Bad farming depletes the soil and makes future farming impossible. THAT is not sustainable.
Bad fishing decimates breeding grounds and destroys- not just the individual, but the population.
Oil is not sustainable. Reckless government spending either.
Working at this break-neck pace with no time to renew —
is denfinitely not sustainable.

And we talk about what IS sustainable.
Sustainable business practices are those
which can be profitably maintained within existing financial and operational capabilities.
Sustainable leadership is having an authority structure in place
which nurtures the whole organization and the individuals within
so that the whole exceeds the sum of its parts.
And on and on. We can apply the notion of sustainability to just about anything.

So, what is sustainable love?
How do we love each other without using each other up?
How do we take, and use, and consume love without depleting the stores?

With love, that seems easy.
Love is not finite, like pie.
Love is not conserved, like matter or energy.
Love is additive. Multiplicative.
If you love me, true love,
it enters my soul and pings around,
gradually picking up trace pieces of me,
gaining strength and depth and quantity
until it finds an exit where it beams back out
more than what you put in. For you and more than you.

Your love, your true love, makes me love more.
Love you more. Love me more.
Love others more in and endless,
uncalculable magnification of exactly why we are all here.

So, that seems easy. Sustainable love.
Since love is a renewable resource, like the sun’s rays,
we can give and take, use and consume, wallow and engorge ourselves
with glorious unending love without harm to the giver, the taker, or the planet.

But what about Making Love? What is Sustainable SEX?
How do we make love, week after week, season after season,
without using each other up? Or without using SEX up?
How many different ways can we kiss, caress, explore, inhale, release
and see each other before the energy of it,
the essence of it, is depleted?
How do we make sex additive, multiplicative, restorative,
so that each taking plants the seed for the next harvest,
so that each entry leaves untrodden ground for the next exploration,
so that each desire fulfilled leaves a gentle slow ache for tomorrow?