I recently came across the blog post, as I’m sure many of you did, by Matt Walsh entitled, “Abstinence is Unrealistic and Old Fashioned.” In it, he details a letter written to him by a high school fan who felt uncomfortable with his desire to wait until marriage to have sex after his health teacher called his approach outdated and old fashioned. It’s an interesting subject, and I certainly don’t envy the high school health teachers of today who have to teach it. We’ve put them – at least in public schools – in an impossible position; yes, you have to teach sex education because our students are having sex, but don’t glorify it because we really don’t want them to.
I’m a fan of Matt Walsh. I don’t always agree with him; in fact, I often don’t agree with him, but I like his style and conviction. That being said, his response to this particular subject? Pissed me off. Anyone who blogs – myself included, and believe me, I understand that not everyone believes that all bus drivers and Dominick’s customers are sadists who simply want me to explode in public – writes with a broad stroke, tending to stereotype both sides of an argument. I’m right, you’re wrong, here’s why. I get that. But while I hope that the fan who wrote the letter sticks to his own convictions, it’s because they are HIS opinions, his thoughts, and his beliefs. Not because his perspective is “right,” but because when it comes to sex, your own convictions and beliefs are the only ones that matter.
So to his scathing response, in which he accuses the teacher of being a gossipy teenager at a sleepover and likens her to a bully out to humiliate those who choose to abstain; where he challenges that any sex outside of marriage is dirty, wrong, and casual; and calls anyone who had an enjoyable sexual encounter before marriage a liar – I have a few counterpoints.
No Matter What You Believe, Teaching Abstinence Isn’t Effective.
There are plenty of articles and studies to back me up here, and I’m not going to list them all. Instead, I’m going to employ some common sense. Take a hormone-fueled teenager. Now, pick one thing in the world – doesn’t matter what it is, but let’s say a grape – and tell them absolutely, no, you cannot TOUCH or even THINK about grapes until you’re married. Grapes can have very bad consequences and if you touch the grapes now, you’re going to regret it. Now, in every movie, commercial, magazine, and billboard that said teenager is exposed to, show a whole bunch of people enjoying the fuck out of grapes. But repeat, over and over, that grapes are totally awesome, but just not until you’re an adult and married. Does anyone else remember being a teenager? Do you remember how impossibly far away being an adult seemed? Here’s a clue – they’re going to touch the grapes. And if the teenager hasn’t been taught the actual significance and importance of them but instead only been told “NO. YOU SHOULDN’T HAVE GRAPES AND WE ARE NOT GOING TO GIVE YOU ANY TOOLS TO COPE WITH THE POSSIBILITY THAT YOU ARE GOING TO BE TAUNTED WITH GRAPES,” chances are when they do get a hold of them, they’re going grab and enjoy them with complete and reckless abandon, because they don’t understand what they’re dealing with. Doesn’t it make more sense to teach them to enjoy and respect the grapes instead of smashing them?
Single People Can Have Meaningful Relationships, Too.
The author disparages what he calls “casual sex,” which in this post, at least, seems to blanket all sexual encounters outside of marriage or a lifetime commitment. Someone who considers themselves sexually liberated is actually just a sad, lonely person willing to settle for, and I quote, “Use me and I’ll use you.” The fuck? Say I am a single woman in her thirties. I have a career, a home, a plethora of interests, and an active social life. I don’t get to have sex? Or I do get to have sex, but any encounter I have is sad, lonely, and meaningless? Bullshit. Not everyone’s life map directs them to a singular committed relationship, and to say that those people don’t understand sex or what it means is ludicrous.
There’s a Whole Lot of Dysfunctional Folks Out There.
There was one particular quote in this post that really made me want to respond, and this was it. He asks, to anyone who had premarital sex, ” Are you glad that you gave yourself to someone other than the person you now love eternally?” and if the answer is anything but no, “you’re dealing with someone in a very dysfunctional marriage.” How dare you? How do you unilaterally decide that anyone who didn’t save themselves for marriage and isn’t despondent about it is incapable of a healthy relationship? It’s untrue. And telling people they should be ashamed of themselves for enjoying something natural does nothing but make people question themselves and really, don’t we have enough to fucking worry about?
Here’s the thing. The letter from the kid who wants to save himself for marriage? Good for him. I hope he follows his beliefs and is happy with whatever decision he makes. He’s not wrong – because it’s his decision – and maybe his teacher didn’t respond appropriately. But that girl sitting next to him in health class, the one who thinks she’s in love with the boy that may be in love with her, who is going to “give herself” to him – she shouldn’t be made to feel bad about her decision, either.
Everyone is going to enjoy the grapes eventually. Let’s not shame anyone for deciding when to take them.