This is a topic I’ve been wanting to blog about in one form or another – but I’ve been unsure as to HOW, because it’s so darn sticky.
Let’s start with the main world religions. Each, excepting Islam, has abstention as an ideal in one form or another. Christianity, Hinduism and Buddhism all have the institution of monks (and nuns) who are expected to stay celibate.
Following Martin Luther, who left the monastery behind, Protestant Christianity knows neither monks nor celibate priests – so the issue has become sort of moot there. In Hinduism there are traditions of celibate monk-like figures who are literally homeless, but there are also sanyasins who are married. Hinduism is in fact such a varied tradition that to approach it as one tradition seems very simplistic. Buddhism has traditionally had monks and nuns who aren’t married and are supposed to be celibate. But some Buddhist traditions also have priests or lamas who can be married (in some Zen and Tibetan Buddhist traditions).
Psychology has made it clear in the last century that for most people (science always looks at the average more than the exception) celibacy is not a good idea. Starting with Freud, who saw many neurotic problems as based in sexual issues, suppression of the sexual urge has been seen as unhealthy. It’s now known that in fact a sexual relationship is, when it’s a good relationship, actually emotionally and physically good for both partners.
This doesn’t really solve the issue, because so many relationships are in fact not good and many people (like me) are single.
Forcing abstention on teens is also clearly not working in the USA. Teen pregnancies are actually, in most countries, related most to education. An educated woman is, world wide, less likely to get kids – at all. That is: the more educated she is, the more likely she is to postpone having kids. And we all know that postponement leads to (ultimately) not having kids at all.
For teens the obvious solution is that they need to be educated about sex. By biology teachers. They need to know the consequences of sex. They need to know how to prevent pregnancy and how to prevent sexually transmitted diseases. And abortion should – especially for teens – be available. It’s really that simple in my opinion. It should be available mainly because legal abortion is so much more likely than illegal abortion to lead to a healthy woman afterwards. I’m on the fence on women over 25 and abortion for non-health issues, but being on the fence really means: please let them decide for themselves.
I’m afraid this was a rambling post. But the subject of sex is central to most peoples lives, so it needs to be addressed.
Does this lead anywhere? Is abstention still a valid spiritual ideal? Or is it a mirage that never worked for anybody? Any thoughts?