Tag Archives: intimacy

Telling Our Teens They are Worth the Wait

The rise in underage sex is not an issue of sexual liberalization or promiscuity (“Underage sex on the rise in Singapore, say social workers”, Feb 9). The fall in teen births is not an issue of contraception or health education (“Teen births drop to 20-year low”, Feb 9). The underpinning common issue here is how our teens see and value themselves.

Over the weekend, 171 fathers spent a few hours valuing their daughters at Focus on the Family’s annual Date with Dad event. Why? Because research shows unwaveringly that Dad is the first guy a girl gives her heart to.

The reality though is this:

  • With many dual-income households today, children return home after school to an empty house or to non-parental caregivers. They are imbued with messages that they need to excel academically, that their worth is based on their performance. Often, less attention is given towards filling their love tanks with the knowledge that they are accepted, affirmed and approved by their parents for who they are and not what they have accomplished.
  • Movies and television programs have become more sexually graphic and explicit, with characters in the media losing their virginity and engaging in sex with “benefits” without the reality of consequences like pregnancy, sexually transmitted infections and being emotionally hurt. Pornography teaches young men that women are mere sexual objects to be used for physical pleasure, while young women receive the message that to get “love” they have to give sex.
  • Explicitly or implicitly telling our youth that “they are going to have sex anyway, so we might as well teach them how to do it safely” can send them a disempowering message that they have neither the ability for self-control nor delayed gratification.

Research shows that teens are less likely to engage in premarital sex if they have a close, warm relationship with their parents, and whose parents clearly communicate their expectations regarding sexual behaviour and the reasons for sexual boundaries. When teens feel the unconditioned love from the parents, it will prevent them from looking for love in the wrong places.

People are built for intimacy. As parents and society, let’s give the message to our young people that intimate sexual activity is an expression of love reserved for marriage. Why? Because they are worth the wait!

References:

  1. Cheryl B. Aspy et al., Journal of Adolescence 30 (2007): 449–466.
  2. Bruce J. Ellis et al., “Does Father Absence Place Daughters at Special Risk for Early Sexual Activity and Teenage Pregnancy?” Child Development 74, No. 3 (2003): 801–821.
  3. Resnick MD et al. Protecting adolescents from harm: findings from the National Longitudinal Study on Adolescent Health. JAMA 1997;278:823-32.
  4. Karofsky PS et al. Relationship between adolescent parental communication and initiation of first intercourse by adolescents. Journal of Adolescent Health 2000: 28; 41-45.

Editor’s note: This letter was sent to The Straits Times Forum on February 10 in response to the issue of rising numbers of teens engaging in sex before marriage.

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Sexual Realities Behind the Shades

The movie Fifty Shades of Grey, based on an erotica novel by the same title, will be released here tomorrow, just 2 days before Valentine’s Day. In the story, Anastasia Steele, a university graduate, and Christian Grey, a very wealthy businessman, enter into contractual sex that has bondage, dominance, and sadism/masochism (BDSM) elements. The movie has been rated [R] in the U.S. and banned in Malaysia.

A study published in Journal of Women’s Health last year concluded that there are strong correlations between health risks in women’s lives (including violence victimisation) and the consumption of Fifty Shades. Female readers were more likely than non-readers to have had a partner who verbally abused them, and to report fasting, binge-drinking, using diet aids, and five or more intercourse partners.

In spite of this, the novel and the film’s trailer have been highly popular since their release.

This is understandable in view of the fact that humans have a deep longing for intimacy. However, sexual intimacy is not the same as relational intimacy. A person’s felt need for sexual gratification may not meet his/her real need for authentic connection and lasting love. Relational intimacy transcends sexual experiences and is best sought out in wholesome ways for it to be truly fulfilling.

Ironically, focusing on the person’s body rather than the person leads to both a lessened emotional connection and decreased sexual appetite. Authors Juli Slattery and Dannah Gresh in their new book, Pulling Back the Shades: Erotica, Intimacy, and the Longings of a Woman’s Heart, explain that “erotica and porn teach you to be sexually aroused by looking away from your partner, not toward him. You may be engaging your body with him, but your imagination is with some fictional character. That’s not intimacy.” In addition, “erotica and porn impact your brain in a manner that breeds tolerance. What was sexually arousing a few months ago will no longer be enough to produce the same sexual high. This is how men and women get drawn into increasingly hardcore porn and/or sexually acting out what they have seen or read.”

The untold story behind the “Shades” is that engaging in erotica and pornography serves to drive a deep wedge in marital relationships and often impedes the building of true intimacy that many couples long for. This has been recounted in many of the marital counselling cases we’ve seen.

Instead of focusing on sexual techniques, we would do better to build on the fundamentals of a loving relationship with our spouse. This includes communicating our sexual and emotional needs with each other instead of unwittingly seeking fulfilment and attempting to fill emotional voids through erotica and pornography.

References:

  • Bonomi Amy E., Nemeth Julianna M., Altenburger Lauren E., Anderson Melissa L., Snyder Anastasia, and Dotto Irma. Journal of Women’s Health. September 2014, 23(9): 720-728. doi:10.1089/jwh.2014.4782. <http://online.liebertpub.com/doi/full/10.1089/jwh.2014.4782>
  • Gresh, D., & Slattery, J. (n.d.). Pulling Back the Shades: Erotica, Intimacy, and the Longings of a Woman’s Heart

Editor’s note: This letter was sent to Voices Today on February 11 (pending to be published).

What No One Told Me About Sex: Tips for Newlyweds

We spent the first few days of our married life at a mountain resort. Our loft suite overlooked breathtaking views and with a crackling fireplace and plush bed linens, it was made for romance. But what happened next was far from what I had expected! When we got home from the trip, I immediately confided in my friend and mentor and purchased a book she recommended on sex for newlyweds. If I had only sought her advice before the wedding, our honeymoon could have gone a little smoother.

Here’s what I wish someone had told me about sex:

It’s not like the movies

To be honest, my expectations for the wedding night were very much shaped by what I’ve seen in the movies. Couples onscreen are always raring to jump into bed and make love all night long. In reality, a couple’s first time together can be clumsy, messy, embarrassing and for the wife, often painful. So it’s only natural that some couples come away from the wedding night feeling disappointed. Actually, sex is something that gets better with practice, rather like learning to dance with a partner. The first few times you tango, you’re bound to step on each other’s toes! Trying to “go all the way” on the wedding night may introduce feelings of pressure and anxiety, especially when you are already exhausted from the day’s events. Instead, enjoy the intimacy of kissing and caressing each other and learning what gives your spouse pleasure. Marriage experts Dr. Gary and Barbara Rosberg remind married couples “that although it’s good to work toward climax, the journey is pretty unbelievable too.”

It’s important to talk about sex

Most of us feel awkward talking about the “s” word but good communication builds sexual intimacy. Start talking about sexual expectations once you’re engaged. This lays the groundwork for open communication about sex after marriage. Tell your spouse about your preferences, what excites you and what turns you off. Sex therapists Dr. Clifford and Joyce Penner say that “expressing positive messages during sex enhances the experience for both spouses”. My husband and I have developed the habit of giving feedback soon after we make love. We are careful not to criticise but share honestly, positively and lovingly. This has helped us improve as lovers and enjoy our times together more.

It takes planning

Right after our honeymoon, my husband was called away to work out of town for two weeks – I had never missed anyone so badly! When real life takes over, so many things can interfere with romance – busy schedules, stress, conflict, TV, children, illness and so on. And when you’ve been married for a few years, it’s all too easy to let sex take a backseat to that last email you need to send or that latest TV show. We need to prioritize our marriage and intentionally make time for intimacy. Make a date to be alone with your spouse, commit to it and keep it free of interruptions.

The beauty about sex within the context of marriage is that you have a lifetime together – there is no pressure to get it right on the first night, or even in the first year!

LJ and her husband have been married 7 years and have three delightful children. They keep the romance alive by putting the children to bed early and listening to their favourite playlist of 90’s love songs.