For me, one of the most fun — and most challenging — parts of parenting is the ongoing conversation that happens around teaching my son about sex. Yes, I said fun first. I love having these conversations with him, knowing that all the little conversations feed into a greater development of his self-confidence and identity. I have honestly answered all questions he has asked since he was just a toddler, and since we have hit middle school, the conversation has looked like this:
First, I always start by affirming for him that our sexuality is a gift from God. It is important for me to him to understand that our sexual impulses are normal, natural, and not anything that stems from sin or brokenness. (Some of the trappings of purity culture talks go down this route, and it can be really damaging to esteem in the long run. no. no. no. sexuality does NOT equal sin.) Our urges stem from a God-given desire that helps us experience the beauty and fullness of life. I remind him often, though, that the desire within us is for something much greater than just physical pleasures. Our real desire is for intimacy — it is a desire to know deeply and to be known deeply.
And really, our appetite for intimacy is no different than the other appetites that God has blessed us with so that we might experience the breadth and depth of life with each other. Our appetite for sexual intimacy is no different than our physical appetite for food. Both help us to savor life and enjoy the world around us. (Sidebar: I think God has given us other appetites as well, like an appetite for beauty and an appetite for goodness, too. But that is for a different blog.)
And after I compare our appetite for food to our appetite for sex, then I tell him this: don’t eat hot takis behind the dumpster. And what I mean is this — we have a choice about what/how/where we satisfy our desires. We can certainly go to the gas station and buy ten bags of takis and run out behind the dumpster, shovel them in our mouths and swallow them up quick. That certainly is one way to feed our hunger. However, we will probably end up sick to our stomachs and maybe a little bit ashamed of what we did. It might satisfy our appetite in the short term, but ultimately it is not really very healthy. We might even feel downright gross afterwards. In the end, it is not going to feed us the way that God intends for us to be satisfied. What God wants for us is a banquet, filled with all of our favorite foods, lovingly prepared by someone who cares for our deepest needs. A table set eloquently, foods plated artistically, and a meal that we can take our time with and savor — one that satisfies all of our senses: this is what our appetite hungers for.
And the same is true for our sexual desires as well. We could run to the gas station, grab anything, and rush out behind the dumpster. But chances are, we will feel sick and ashamed later. And just like with food, with sex we can find so much more satisfaction when we wait for someone who knows what we love and prepares it for us so we can truly savor it. This is what God desires for us. We will never really find that deep intimacy that we long for — that deep knowing and being known — by rushing out behind the dumpster. Even though it takes more time and energy and investment, the real way to satisfy our appetite for intimacy is to prepare a banquet. Where both parties lovingly learn what our tastes are and prepare a feast of our favorites. When two people can both do this for each other — that is the best of knowing and being known. That is what satisfies our desires and appetites.
So, if you’re trying to talk to a teen about sex — or even trying to understand sexual desire yourself — remember this: don’t eat the hot takis behind the dumpster. It is so much better to wait for the banquet.