Important Disclaimer

Since I currently have several employers/supervisors/churches/etc., please know that none of the words on my blog represent them or their beliefs. This blog is my own creation.

It also does not represent my children's perspective, nor my mother's; they think I am funny, but misguided.
(Quick update: only my mother thinks I'm funny now.)

Tuesday, September 13, 2011

Yes, No, Maybe So...

I saw an article floating about the interwebs this morning: 

"If It Feels Right" by David Brooks in the New York Times.

I apologize for linking to a site that requires registration, but I think you can access the article for free. The gist of it is that this next generation growing up is steeped in "rampant individualism" and doesn't know how to make moral choices--or even how to pose moral questions. Kids these days...all they wanna do is what feels right.

I am critical in some ways, because I think this is the latest You Kids Get Off My Lawn scenario. But I am also critical because I think we are missing something very important about the idea of "if it feels right."

Years ago in high school I was part of a church youth group. Our intrepid youth pastor fearlessly offered a "sex ed" conversation in the month of February, coinciding with Valentine's Day. I was new to church as my parents never attended; I did not know much about church culture or expectations regarding sexuality.

Our pastor threw out some discussion questions to get us started. One of them was, "How do you know where to draw the line with sexual activity? How far is too far? Is there some amount of sexual activity you can engage in that is consistent with our Christian values."

There was a bit of a pause in the conversation. I raised my hand and said, "I think if it feels good, then it's probably ok." There was an audible gasp from my fellow youth groupies. The youth pastor gave me the side eye. <_<

I'm not fifteen anymore, and I've had a lot of time to reflect on that question. I still don't have all the answers, but after 25 years of thinking about it, I think there was something important imbedded in that answer: "If it feels good."

My own sexual experience as a woman, already by age fifteen, was a history of sexual violence and violation. I was just beginning to discover at fifteen that sexual activity was something I could choose. It was a lot (and I mean a lot) of years later before I became convinced that I had the right to insist that sex be pleasurable and the right to leave a situation if it was not.

"Does this feel good/right?" is a question I wish every woman would ask in every sexual encounter. There are plenty of other questions to ask, but that one ought to be at the forefront of our minds. Every sexual encounter, whether we are married, single, in a committed relationship, or on a booty call, every sexual encounter should be evaluated with the question, "Does this feel good/right?" And frankly, I wish men would ask themselves the same question--more men than are willing to admit find themselves in sexual situations in which they are uncomfortable. "Does this feel good/right" is a vital starting point.

Right along with that question is, "Does this feel good/right to my partner(s)?" How many of us have been asked that question by our partners and not known how to answer? How many of us have lied in our answers because the other person desired us, we didn't want to offend, etc? If we can't answer this question for ourselves, then how can our partners make ethical decisions with us?

We've been taught, a lot of us, that our own individual wants and needs in this life are not relevant to moral decisions. But I want to put out on the table that "If it feels right/good" *is* a place to begin. It's not the ending point, and neither is "If it is good for the community." Moral decision making is a complicated exercise, and we spend a lifetime working on it. "Does this feel good to me?" is an excellent question to begin with, and I'm glad our youth are learning to listen to their bodies, hearts, and minds. A strong basis for understanding others begins with understanding oneself.