I was 4 years old when I first asked my dad about sex. My dad looked back at me in horror, so I asked, “Isn’t it when two people get naked and French kiss?” Totally innocent question, right? Well, maybe not totally innocent. I had peeked through enough fingers when my parents would cover my eyes during certain movie scenes. (C’mon, I know I’m not the only one.)
I wish I can say that my father responded with a loving and honest answer about how God designed sex and authentic love. I wish he had told me that our bodies are treasures, that our sexual desires are good, and that sex is a beautiful, intimate expression of love and commitment to one’s spouse in the context of marriage. Instead, I got a spanking that night without any explanation, and I vowed to never speak, hear, or even think about sex ever again.
When I was in 3rd grade, we finally got a computer in our house. It was glorious. We would use our landline to dial-up to the Internet, gleefully listening to those screeching, robotic sounds that assured we would soon have the world at our fingertips. The first couple of months were a joyful blur of computer games like Snake and Oregon Trail. But it didn’t take very long for me, as a child, to access chat rooms with perverted strangers, erotica websites, and pornography. I went from repressing my sexual thoughts and feelings to being exposed to sex in the most carnal and grotesque of ways. I knew it was wrong, but I was hooked, and dove deep into a secret addiction to pornography and masturbation that lasted for about 12 years.
Pornography taught me that I had to have sex with a guy on the first date to thank him for dinner and that I had to perform sexual favors for my boyfriends to keep them happy. It taught me to hate myself and that I was never worthy of true love. I lost my virginity and entered a dark world of sexual promiscuity, drugs, and depression. I didn’t care about my body, my heart, or my soul. I used sex as a tool to receive what I thought was affection, attention, and love. But I was deeply mistaken. Instead, I was receiving false promises, pain and hurt, and ultimately the message that I was only worth what my body could offer. It has taken many years of prayer and therapy (and it’s still an ongoing process) to reverse those messages, to heal from the spiritual and emotional traumas, and to undo those knots that choked me for so many years.
The solution is simple: kids need to learn about the gift of sexuality (at the appropriate age) and it has to start in the home. Avoiding those awkward conversations or simply saying, “Don’t have sex because I said so,” doesn’t work. If parents aren’t teaching their kids about sex, the world is teaching them. And the world is filled with lies, cleverly and cunningly planted by the Enemy. Talk about the emotional, psychological, and spiritual ramifications of sex with your teens even if they pretend like they don’t care. Find opportunities to give age-appropriate, truthful, and loving answers without making them feel ashamed or intimidated. Pray for wisdom, patience, and guidance. Pray for their sexual purity and future vocation. Ask your priests to talk about God’s plan for sexuality in their homilies, to invite chastity speakers, and to invest in good, solid Theology of the Body programs. But most importantly, live chastity and purity out yourselves. More is caught than taught. So strive for chastity in your marriage, kick that porn addiction, be mindful of the movies, music, and books you consume (moms, put down the 50 Shades). Use those parental controls on the computers and smartphones, and remain close to the Lord through prayer and the Sacraments.
For those who have lost their virginity and feel like there’s no point in waiting anymore, I get it. I’ve been there. We have sexual desires and sometimes, it seems easier to give in. But I’m challenging you to start over, not just for your future spouse, but for yourself. You are capable of living up to the challenge. You deserve someone who will show you the utmost dignity and respect, who will sacrifice sexual desires for the protection of your heart and soul until you can finally consummate your marriage vows on your wedding night. I married my husband because I knew he would love me the way Christ loves His Bride, the Church: through sacrifice and suffering, with strength, nobility, and humility. That’s what I deserved. That’s what you deserve.