This word has gone from health class to broad usage in our media and society. Clearly always relevant and important, since the 1960’s one segment of American culture has elevated sexuality and sexual expression as a more explicit and central aspect of life. In part, it was a product of the women’s liberation movement that felt it important to assert the importance of women’s sexuality (heretofore suppressed or eclipsed by men’s). It is now common for many people to speak of sexuality as a key part of who one is. This emphasis is heard by some as elevating sexuality to a level of importance superior to other aspects of the self that they feel are most crucial, like spirituality.
How exactly to value sexuality represents an ongoing source of disagreement and conflict. For progressive and secular voices, the open and free expression of one’s sexuality is held up as almost a right - portrayed as a crucial aspect of happiness itself. Rather than centered on choice, this is seen as an unfolding evolution of awareness - wherein feelings and attractions may evolve over time in new and exciting ways.
More than simply unsettling, this approach to sexuality is seen as dangerous and destructive to others, including religious conservatives. While embracing sexuality and its pleasure, there is conviction in these communities around the value of certain boundaries within which healthy sexuality takes place. Rather than a source of pleasure alone, for instance, sex is embraced in these communities as a symbol of total union between persons of heart, mind and lives. This is why such communities encourage individuals to wait for such an act until ready to commit or give oneself completely. This is understood to be God’s will - and the way towards highest happiness.
There is a practically-minded middle ground. For instance the National Campaign to Prevent Teen and Unplanned Pregnancy pursues a research-based strategy that supports sex education describing sexuality as a healthy aspect of being human, urges abstinence by teens, and responsibility by young adults, but the use of protection by anyone engaging in sex. This is likely the approach taken by many parents today.
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