Most religions have very strong opinions about sex and sexuality. Churches and other places of worship are a major contributor to sexuality education for American children and teenagers. I happen to very much like the Unitarian Universalist’s sex education program, Our Whole Lives (or OWL). The Reverend Debra Haffner writes a regular blog called Sexuality and Religion: What’s the Connection? And I wonder the same thing.
That so many religions speak so powerfully on sexuality suggests that sexuality is absolutely central to our being fully human.
But what does that mean for teenagers? What does it mean when we tell teenagers that something most religions and most adults consider to be central to being human (i.e., sexuality), is something that they should wait to begin taking part in until after high school, until after they turn 18 or 21, or until after they marry.
Robert Epstein, Ph.D., author of The Case Against Adolescence, would say (and, in fact, has said) that teenagers can make good, responsible decisions about their own sexual activities. Dr. Epstein goes to great lengths to point out that different teenagers have different decision-making abilities and different maturity levels. Almost in the same breath, he points out that adults are subject to the same levels of individual variation, and yet they still have complete responsibility for their own sexual activities.
So what do all of these (slightly jumbled) thoughts mean? Why do religions consider sexuality so critical, and why do they try to limit sexual behavior so stringently? How can adults legitimately restrict adolescents from taking part in sexuality, when it is so key to humanity? And is there legitimate support for these positions given Dr. Epstein’s assertion that
teenagers are able to make appropriate decisions about sexual behavior?