Morality in sex education

Rev. Debra Haffner wrote yesterday about her experience talking with teenage girls about sex and sexuality. One of the things she mentioned in her post was her five criteria for a moral sexual relationship:

  1. consensual
  2. non-exploitative
  3. honest
  4. mutually pleasurable
  5. protected if any type of intercourse occurs

She went on to list the four things that are needed in a relationship to know if it’s moral:

  1. time
  2. communication
  3. trust
  4. shared values

I really like this kind of sex education.

I was talking with a friend the other day, and she said that as a teenager she knew pretty much all there was to know about the physical aspects of sexuality. And so she believed she knew all there was to know about sexuality.

One of the problems my friend mentioned was her discomfort as a teenager and young adult in talking about sex with adults. She could get important information about STIs and safe sex, along with the nuts and bolts of how to engage in french kissing and oral sex, from books. But she couldn’t get conversation about discovering her own boundaries, how to say “No” to physical contact, or what it means and feels like to love and be loved.

How is it possible that our sexuality education has been downgraded to incorporating only the physiology? Why and when were morality and emotion taken out of the public discussion of sex? Regardless, I stand proudly with Rev. Haffner and many others, trying to bring these critical aspects of the conversation back into open conversation.

So when you talk with your children and teenagers about sex, don’t feel the need to mince words about the moral and emotional implications of sexuality. Providing substance in the form of your own values is far, far more effective and valuable to them than providing a vacuum.

About Karen Rayne

Dr. Karen Rayne has been supporting parents and families since 2007 when she received her PhD in Educational Psychology. A specialist in child wellbeing, Dr. Rayne has spent much of her career supporting parents, teachers, and other adults who care for children and teenagers.


  1. Amen, as usual I agree.

  2. “She went on to list the four things that are needed in a relationship to know if it’s moral:

    1. time
    2. communication
    3. trust
    4. shared values”

    Whereas I agree that those 4 things are all crucial to having a good relationship, I would have to highly disagree that a relationship without shared values is “immoral”. You just don’t share the same values. It’s not right or wrong… it just is. Sometimes people have different values in life, and that’s ok. Now, will this relationship last? Probably not. But immoral is placing a value judgment on something that just is.

    Also, a relationship w/o time, well, it can be painful, it’s highly annoying, but I don’t know about immoral. Sometimes life just gets crazy and you just don’t have enough time. ESPECIALLY if it’s a relationship where you don’t live near each other (even as much as half an hour to an hour away can put a big crimp in your relationship), and especially if it’s a relationship where there’s other things that come first before you (such as if you’re a secondary in a poly relationship, and your partner has other priorities ahead of you, like their primary partner and/or work).

    Other than that, I really, REALLY like the criteria. I also like how 2 is non-exploitative instead of “doesn’t have the possibility to be exploited”. I’ve been in relationships with older men, ones that they possibly could have exploited that. But they didn’t. There was trust, honesty, and consent all around. I’m tired of the world portraying relationships where their could be someone getting exploited as relationships where you WILL get exploited.

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