I grew up in a reasonably liberal Orthodox Christian home, and I am Orthodox to this day. I don’t know if it has to do with my parents’ conservatism, or with their feelings concerning my choices and my right to choices, or even if they simply decided that because we were getting sex ed in school, it was unneeded at home, but somehow, they made the decision to refrain from having The Talk with me. To this day, I am profoundly grateful for that choice, as odd as it sounds – I don’t think I could face having that particular chat with my shy, quiet mother, or worse still, my traditional Greek dad. The thought is painful to contemplate! But I still had access to complete, accurate information (we had sex ed in school in grades five, seven, and nine, and I read most of the books in the public library on the subject).
It was never discussed in Sunday school, either (I suppose they assumed that our parents were talking to us about it), but I knew that devout Orthodox Christians were supposed to wait until marriage to have sex. It’s a choice that I question almost every day (with my boyfriend, you would too, believe me), but one that I know in the end is appropriate for me, at least for now. It is not a choice I wish to impose on anyone else, but I do wish that others would respect my right to that choice. Being as liberal as I am in most other aspects of my life, my friends are always stunned when they hear that I’m a virgin, and they immediately question my choice: have I not met the right guy, am I scared, is it a self-esteem issue, am I just not on birth control yet…?
I feel that this is an aspect of sexual education that is often neglected: it is absolutely crucial that every young adult receive accurate information about sex, contraception, STIs, pregnancy, abortions, and all the rest, but it is just as important that we make it clear that choosing to not be sexually active is equally valid, and not a sign of prudishness, close-mindedness, or conservatism. It’s just a different choice. I don’t question your choice; why do you question mine?
In my case, it’s a choice I made out of respect for my own body and out of respect for the person I eventually choose to marry. I’m still young enough to be a romantic at heart: I want my future husband to know that I loved him before I knew him, enough to save at least that for him and for us. I don’t know why others make the choices they do, whatever choices they make, but I respect them regardless. As expressions of sexuality become more openly accepted (and it’s high time they were!), the choice to refrain from such expressions needs to be equally accepted.
I plan to talk to my children about the importance of good, healthy, and safe choices, and about what those choices are, but I want to make sure that they understand that all the choices are equally valid. I can only hope that others will do the same.