John Livingston

The Facts of Sex and Love

Sex and love are complex issues that have been addressed Biblically since Adam and Eve. A legislator two days ago threatened to read “Biblical smut” on the floor of the Idaho House as he debated against what Betsy Hustle Russell (HR) called the “anti-trans bill”—though the words “anti-trans aren’t found in the bill. Nobody that I know of that is against the Bill is “anti-trans”. Quite the opposite. The problem is that simply reading words from the Bible without providing context to the words is itself pornographic. Creating images of sex without providing a context of spirituality places “a Parrot on our shoulders”, an addiction, an image as described by C. S. Lewis in THE SCREWTAPE LETTERS. Any addiction places a limit on an individual’s free will. An addiction places a limit on liberty—the bases of individual and collective sovereignty.

Any discussion with a young person about sex and love should involve not only a discussion of biology and psychology but should also be careful to include a discussion of spirituality and the mystery of God’s love for us and his desire for us to love each other. I was lucky when I grew up to have experiences that were well thought out by the adults in my life—my loving parents, teachers and a high school principal and coach. Looking back at how it all happened makes me smile and long for a simpler time. My own children went to Catholic schools from grades K-12. Sex education began early with the involvement of Priests and Sisters along with parents in the classroom and medical professionals brought in to teach during some “health classes” One Catholic Priest should not have been part of the process. His own understanding of the subject matter was limited.

I did not go to Catholic schools, but I did attend Catholic “Education and Formation” classes starting in 7th grade. My mother thought maybe I should become a Priest even though I wasn’t Catholic—she was a “birth right Quaker”. Thirty years later I asked her why she didn’t become a Catholic Sister and she said, “the celibacy thing”. I said “me too” about becoming a Priest.

My own formal sex education began around the 7th grade, though the informal part was just as important in forming my own ideas about sex and love. My father was an Ob/Gyn oncologist and one night he called me into his study and informed me that as a medical specialist he knew a lot about sex and could answer any questions I had. He then pointed to well over a hundred books on his library shelves. That was the last discussion I ever had about sex with my father, but two days later my best friend Geoff and I snuck into his office and looked through as many pages as we could stomach at gross pictures of Gyn pathologies that kept us disinterested in sex for maybe a few months. In retrospect my father may have known what he was doing. Certainly not a sensual experience. It could have jaded me, except it didn’t.

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My Jr. High baseball field along with dugouts and fencing was constructed during the depression by the Work Progress Administration (WPA). Everybody that made the team knew that in the home team dugout on the 1st base side of the diamond, there were 4 cinder blocks that could become dislodged and as I later was to find out became for several generations of Upper Arlington(UA) Jr. High Baseball players “a repository for smut”. Every month new Playboys and Hustlers were put into the cubby-hole in the dugout. Thirty years later I took my own teenage boys back to (UA) to show them where I had grown up. I showed them the baseball field and went into the dugout and not to my surprise when I opened the “secret tomb”, buried in a shroud of cellophane was the most recent Playboy magazine. From father to son as they say.

There is more to the story. Also, in the “tomb” was a hard back book entitled “The Facts of Sex and Love”. We also would read that. When I shared my secret with my own children a newer copy of the same book was also included in the “stash”. Where did this book come from? Did parents—both mothers and fathers know about what was going on? For generations? —30 years later!

I today called up my former high school principal and asked him if he knew of any parents or if he or any teachers knew about the dugout “tomb”.

Certainly, one of the wisest men I have ever known and a person that helped change the course of my life. He was non-committal in his answer but offered his solution to the question. “My first obligation always was to the kids whose care and education had been entrusted to me. If and when I had found out about the “stash””— he knew the word that we used so that may be a clue to the answer, “I would have consulted the parents and taken their advice as to how I would proceed”. HE WOULD HAVE CONSULTED WITH THE PARENTS! The kids weren’t his they were theirs. He used the words “entrusted, obligated, and honored” when describing his relationships with “his students”. THEY WERE NOT HIS…

This story has an ending. My mother and our principal became good friends over the years. Toward the end of her life, my mother and I would reminisce about times past and during one of these conversations, she related to me that in fact the parents had been made aware of the “continuing self-taught sex education classes” that the baseball team was conducting for themselves. My mother and several other parents wanted to intervene, but before doing so she consulted her mother—my grandmother, a very wise lady who was very much a part of my growing up. It was she that suggested buying the book and placing it in the dugout along with the playboys. The Facts of Sex of Love along with the mystery of the subject were under the control of loving families after all. A wise Quaker lady from Philadelphia is still teaching young boys 50 years after her death in a way that respects their autonomy but recognizes that a guiding hand and wise parents need to be part of the process.

God Bless my parents and all the parents in UA and educators like my principal, who gave us room to grow. His last words to me before I hung up were—always the teacher—”Remember John that if you take the joy of discovery out of education it takes away all the fun.”

Our educators and parents should remember his words. We need to give space and time to our children to learn and discover. Young children in grade school don’t have the experience or moral constructs to evaluate ideas surrounding issues of sex and love, much less gender identity or homosexuality. The kids belong to the parents not the teachers. Parents should decide when where and how the great mysteries of life are explored—not schools and teachers or doctors or scientists. Morality is always personal and for believers sacramentally based.

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2 replies on “The Facts of Sex and Love”

Interestingly enough, back in the 60’s my mother bought the book “Everything You Wanted To Know About Sex but We’re Afraid To Ask” and put it in our bookcase.

My sister and I voracious readers, read the book beginning to end several times! I remember the chapters were divided into ages. The book was set up for parents as a guide to help them teach their children.

In my case that book was my parental education portion of sex education.

I went to Catholic High School and they did not teach much other than the “female necessities !”

The love aspect was totally absent from any of those teachings. I think hiding behind the very medical version of sex education was considered sufficient by my parents.

Of coarse it was the 60’s and California! I married at the age of 18 and remain married to the same man 50 years later!

I was raised the first 5 years of my life by my Quaker Grandmother in Philadelphia at Swarthmore Friends Meeting. Her son Joe Gaskill (my uncle) became a Navy Fighter Pilot fighting in both the Korean War and Viet Nam. As I grew older, I would watch my grandmother being “shunned” at Meeting by her lifetime friends—they would turn their backs on her, because her son was fighting in the war for his country.

This left a lifetime impression on me.

Many times, the most liberal people who preach tolerance don’t practice what they preach.

My Mom was a “birth right” Quaker, making me the same. Now I am Catholic, but I recognize in our current Pope many non-Catholic Quaker tendencies. Entertaining self-indulgent proclivities in the name of tolerance should never be an excuse for not confronting evil.

Thanks for reading my articles.

I am truly flattered

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