When I became sexually active as a teenager, my thoughts were boy-centric. I wanted to be someone’s girlfriend–the center of someone’s world and the object of someone’s affection. As far as I knew, sex was part of the package. I thought a girl who wasn’t afraid to say yes must be attractive to men. Waiting for marriage–or even waiting for love–had never occurred to me.
Growing up, I’d never had a real conversation with my mom about sex. In fact, she once briefly mentioned that I should “use protection,” the sum total of her advice. I think she believed the hype that teens are uncontrollable sexual animals. She didn’t even try to present an alternative, and this was all the permission I needed. Everything I knew about sex, therefore, came from my friends and the pornography lying around our house.
By the time I was 20 years old, I was the single mother of two children. Becoming a mother didn’t necessarily spell the end of life or joy, but fatherless children aren’t the only by-product of promiscuous sex*. It’s usually also accompanied by poverty, the horrible guilt of abortion, the shame of sexually transmitted diseases, tons of emotional baggage, and the resulting bitterness and anger. I’ve experienced all of these.
These are the truths that black women think we’ve kept hidden well below the surface. But everyone can see the outward manifestation of our wrong-thinking: We pay, and then our children pay, and then their children pay. Our world is suffering for it. As members of a global community, the saddest and angriest versions of ourselves have replaced the gift that is our voice, our perspective, and our grace. Everyone is missing out on the best of who we are.
Let me be clear: Sex is beautiful and wonderful. It was created by God as a gift to be enjoyed, with the ultimate result being the ability to participate in the creation of life–among God’s greatest gift to us. But taken out of context (marriage), sex is destructive, period. In all the years of struggling my way up out of the mire that my choices created, I emerged to breathe the free air with one goal: Be a voice of reason. Say what no one said to me. Use my struggles to strengthen girls and women, encourage them in ways no one ever encouraged me.
So let’s stop pretending and talk about this. Our silence with our sons and daughters is perpetuating the problem, and so is our continued belief that sex comes without strings. Don’t let fear or tradition or culture define your choices. Don’t dismiss the profound impact that such a seemingly small decision might have on the future (and not just your future). And don’t discount the truth because it’s “old-fashioned” or “religious.” Don’t make excuses. Take a bold step. Saying no to sex outside of marriage isn’t the end of freedom, it’s the beginning. It’s saying yes to better things that I can’t begin to describe.
Say yes to better things.
*Promiscuous sex is any sex outside of marriage. It doesn’t matter if you’re having sex with one person or 100.
This blog was written as part of the “No Wedding, No Womb!” movement. Read more at www.noweddingnowomb.com, and join the discussion on Twitter with hashtag #NWNW.