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Thursday, Sept. 1, 2011

Oh, God: Sex and Spirituality

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Over the past couple of weeks, I've led two trainings at two different churches about implementing sex ed as part of a religious education program. When people who don't know me well hear this, they either think that I'm promoting some kind of abstinence-only, purity-until-marriage, sex-is-a-sin type of curriculum or that I'm joking. Neither is the case.

It's unfortunate that the predominant narrative about religion and sex in our culture is a negative one that causes people to feel shame and guilt about their desires, behaviors or identities. It doesn't have to be that way. One of my favorite parts of the trainings that I facilitate is asking participants to consider the ways in which sexuality education (or sex itself) can be religious. Some of their answers:

  • Both can teach you values and a way of being in the world.
  • Both can offer a sense of wholeness.
  • Both demystify.
  • Both encourage respect for others and a doctrine of doing no harm.
  • Both can be a means toward social justice.
  • Both involve love, passion and joy.
  • Both are healing and transformative.
  • Both create communion and community with others.

Sexuality and spirituality can each be affirming, celebratory and uplifting. They can also both be seriously damaging. We shouldn't accept that, and we also shouldn't feel like we have to give up our spirituality in order to embrace our sexuality, or vice versa. Adding a spiritual dimension to sex and a sexual dimension to religion makes both more powerful.

Want Laura to answer your questions in SEXpress? Send them to laura@shepex.com. Not all questions received will be answered in the column, and Laura cannot provide personal answers to questions that do not appear here. Questions sent to this address may be reproduced in this column, both in print and online, and may be edited for clarity and content.

Laura Anne Stuart has a master's degree in public health and has worked as a sexuality educator for more than a decade. She owns the Tool Shed, an erotic boutique on Milwaukee's East Side.