Warning: Many of the materials contained herein contains adult material not suitable for some audiences. The purpose of this material is to promote healthy discussion and debate about the topic of sex and sexual activities among youth, and should not be used for any other purposes.
Perhaps nothing is so much fun yet can create so much pain, is so simple but can be so complicated and confusing, is so important yet can be so trivialized, is so commercially exploited and so passionately debated, as sex.
Sex is almost everywhere: at bus stops, on subways, billboards, the covers and contents of magazines, the airwaves and TV screens, in books and movies, suggested by fashions, and, according to some experts, in the minds of many every few seconds.
Yet, for all the jokes about sex, and for all the more serious discussions, we still haven’t been able to define sex. Is it an act or a process? Are oral and anal sex really sex? Is foreplay sex? Can sex be defined without the idea of love? What does sex have to do with a relationship? What is meant by “good sex” and “bad sex?”
There are, of course, definitions and different meanings for the word sex. Sex refers to gender: male and female, or some variation thereof. Sex also refers to an urge or instinct; we might call this our sexuality, the way we carry out our gender and its instincts. Then, there is sexual attraction and the whole erotic dance or process for which we have no clear name. Finally, sex refers to sexual intercourse itself. Most consider this to involve actual penetration-whether normal vaginal penetration, or anal/oral penetrations. Any penetration can lead to a sexually transmitted disease.
But there are deeper mysteries to a definition of sex. Considering sex as a mere act begs broader consideration of sex as a universal human drive. Our discussions bog down when we define sex only as an act. We need a deeper, broader understanding.
Sexuality is, or springs from, a basic human drive toward union. It incorporates or is linked to the creative drive that produces the arts, community, and family-most specifically in procreation. The sexual drive toward human intimacy is also akin to spirituality and the quest for human-divine communion. To miss this broader dimension of sex produces a drift toward a negative view of sex, on the one hand, or a very permissive view of sex as recreation, just another human high. Polarization between these two extremes, “puritanism” or licentiousness, hinders constructive discourse about current obsession and confusion.
The drive for union is expressed in different ways: towards family, friends, and neighbors. Erotic expressions are clearly not appropriate in most human relationships. But there are appropriate expressions of friendship and neighborliness.
Understanding sexual appropriateness is critical before its expression. Without such understanding, our control of sexuality may lead to repression, on the one hand, or obsession and addiction on the other. Healthy, mutually satisfying sex calls for love and commitment.
Everyone must come to his or her own philosophy of sex. People of faith need more-a theology of sex and sexuality. For them, sex is a special gift of God, a gift that can be life-producing or hurtful and even deadening.
This is one of the more important topics in this Encyclopedia. It invites you to careful study and discussion.
Questions for Reflection and Discussion
1. How do you define sex? Do you think a definition is called for?
2. What are the dangers of using sex, of engaging in sex, without understanding it? Give some examples.
3. Do society and pop culture spend much time trying to understand sex, its complications and dangers, or do they present sexual situations as easy and normal with no regard for discipline and precautions?
1. Consider the dangers of trying to enjoy the pleasure of a motorcycle or hang-gliding without understanding. Sex is even more fun, complicated, and potentially dangerous.
2. We must get beyond the mechanics of sex and the excitement of sex to think about relationships, commitment, and life-long intimacy.
3. Seeing sex as God-given with guiding principles in Scripture and finding support from the faith community are important for those who strive to be pure in heart and body.