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Sex is only as casual or as sacred as we make it

Posted February 22

Erin Stewart writes about how more and more millennials think sex is casual, but Stewart hopes to teach her daughters to view sex as sacred. (Deseret Photo)

Millennials are having more “casual sex” than any other generation before them, as evidenced by a recent study. The annual Singles in America study by Match.com found this generation (born after 1982 until about 2000) is 48 percent more likely than previous generations to sleep with someone right away just to “see if there’s a connection.”

As a mother, this terrifies me. The mama bear in me wants to do whatever it takes to make my children realize there is really no such thing as “casual sex.” I want them to understand how sex can change a relationship — how it can change them.

At the same time, I don’t want to engage in archaic rhetoric that scares children into believing that sex before marriage is so taboo that if they even feel tempted by it, they are sinning. I don’t want fear and shame to be the reason why my children run from pre-martial sex.

That attitude that feeling tempted by sex is a sin can lead to serious feelings of unworthiness, as well as the misguided idea that if they “hold out” then they will be rewarded with a marital sex life that puts all their friends’ premarital escapades to shame.

If you think that’s an exaggeration, it’s not. During my dating years, I met more than one man who truly believed that “saving himself” for marriage would be rewarded with a lifetime supply of mind-blowing sex with an insatiable spouse.

I can only imagine that leads to some serious post-marriage disappointment, as well as an increased likelihood of turning to pornography, infidelity and depression when the “big reward” for abstinence eventually turns into fairly mundane sex with your spouse wherein you occasionally get rowdy and take off your socks.

I want my children to know that yes, sex has the capability of producing life and therefore is inherently sacred, but every sexual encounter within marriage is not going to be some spiritually enlightening union. Sometimes it’s going to be fun; sometimes it’s going to be funny. Most of the time in marriage, it’s just two people who love each other and who want to make each other happy.

So what’s a parent to do? How do we balance the idea that sexual intimacy is sacred (and worth waiting for) with the reality of sex?

For me, the conversation starts with the idea that sex is good. Sex is a part of life. We are supposed to enjoy it. In reality, it is just a biological act.

But when we treat sex as something more than just biology, it can become sacred to us. When we control our desires and value our choice for when and with whom to share sexual intimacy, the act itself becomes more valuable. The sacrifice makes it sacred.

It makes me sad that my generation sees sex not as sacred, but as some kind of weeding-out process. One of the advisers on the study said millennials often think “sex before the first date could be a sex interview, where they want to know if they want to spend time with this person.”

I hope my children see sex as something much more than a handshake or compatibility test and that they realize they hold the power to make sex casual or sacred by how they treat it. I hope that no matter what the world tells them, my children see sexual intimacy as something meaningful because they choose early on that it means something to them.

Erin Stewart is a regular blogger for Deseret News. From stretch marks to the latest news for moms, she discusses it all while her daughters dive-bomb off the couch behind her and her newborn son wins hearts with his dimples.

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