My husband runs a dormitory of 30 high-school boys. Recently two of them lounged on our living room floor, asking questions about our faith. It started with theodicy (If God is good, why do bad things happen?). We covered confession and the difference between Protestants and Catholics and heaven and hell. Then we came to the topic of sex.
Two things stood out to me in their questions. One, they longed to hear my husband's and my story, the story of two people who started dating in high school and waited until marriage to have sex—two people who have been together for over a decade and feel grateful for, not constrained by, the protection of marriage. Two, we might as well have been telling a fairy tale: "Once upon a time in a land far, far away." Our story intrigued them. It might have even attracted them. But they had no context for understanding what we were talking about.
The story of sex as told in mainstream Western culture is failing us, and a recent spate of articles from surprising mainstream sources has picked up on this. In a recent article for The Atlantic, Caitlin Flanagan covers the way teenage girls want to reclaim the "boyfriend narrative" rather than settling for "hooking up" with various boys who expect no commitment or ongoing relationship. In Flanagan's words, teenage girls are "designed for closely held, romantic relationships." Flanagan never articulates who is doing the designing, but she argues that sex is not enough for teenage girls. Relationships, in fact, are better.
Then last week, Peggy Orenstein, in "Playing at Sexy" at The New York Times Magazine, argues that the sexualization of young girls (see Her.meneutics' recent post on ...1
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