Catholic Husband

Love / Lead / Serve

Complex Sexual Histories

Recently, I've been considering the role of men in the family life. It's a complex issue, and one that no longer has consensus among the masses. In a sense, we've forgotten how men should behave and interact with their families. There are many men who want to be good husbands and fathers, but these men find few clues as to how to do it properly. There are also many men who wish to pursue their own desires before being the husband and father that they ought to be, and there are few societal pressures to push them back in the right direction.

As we continue to track towards extreme sexual liberation and rugged individualism, our children are going to face a crippling decision when seeking out a spouse. They will have to untangle extremely complex sexual histories and decide if they can marry someone who has not lived a chaste life. There will always be a certain percentage of young people who will remain chaste before marriage. These young people may have chosen to for religious reasons, out of obedience to the instruction that they had been given by their parents, or out of fear of contracting sexually transmitted infections or becoming pregnant. Although their reasons are varied, they still reach the same conclusion, that sex is reserved for the married state.

Regardless of their reasons and motivations, these chaste young adults may have difficulty finding a spouse who espoused a similar ideal during their teenage and young adult years. Public Health policy and social policies are promoting sexual activity among teenagers by presenting treatments, certain vaccines, and contraceptives as ways of preventing STIs and pregnancy. The real damage of these policies is that, combined with young people’s illusions of invincibility, they remove all objections to having sex and, as a result, kids are engaging in sex at higher rates. These young people don’t have informed consent because they haven’t been presented with the full picture, including the rate of failure of contraceptives and the psychological effects of engaging in sex. In fact, according to clinical studies, 16% of young women will become pregnant in their first year of oral contraceptive pill use. While some teens and young adults will remain chaste, a larger portion will not.

The question then becomes, for those who remained chaste, does an active sexual lifestyle automatically disqualify a future potential spouse? On the one hand, if a person was sexually active in high school, but has abstained since, does that make it a "forgive and forget" the mistakes of youth situation? Or does it demonstrate the moral character of an individual? How do we balance our Christian beliefs of forgiveness with the reality of the consequences of a sexually active lifestyle outside of the married life?

It's a challenging issue, that's for certain, and one that I don't have the answer to. As parents, however, it underscores the importance helping our children understand their sexuality and its proper use. It underscores the importance of helping our kids make good choices and to understand fully the issue of human sexuality. They need to know the beauty of sex expressed in the proper context, the illusion and posturing that their sexually active classmates are projecting, and the medical realities of sex. They need to understand the whole picture by being given fact, not fiction. The pragmatic bottom line is that if a teenager or young adult isn't ready to be a parent, then they're not ready for sex. The true bottom line is that a teenager or young adult needs to preserve their chastity not only because it’s the right thing to do, but it’s the loving thing to do.

Parenting is evolving daily, and if we shy away from discussing the hard topics with our kids, we do them a real disservice. Not only will their decision making abilities be compromised, they'll learn morality from their peers who are no more an authority on the subject than they are.