Sex In Society

I think sex is the most confusing subject for young people to get clear direction. Schools work hard to provide academic information about the male and female anatomy, the risks of sexually transmitted diseases, and many are providing information about and resources to obtain contraception. This is a great first step but decisions about sex are rarely just intellectual and that’s the only angle the  schools are addressing.

So where do children get healthy advice about the emotional components about sex? The two most prominent teachers I was exposed to were advertisements and the church. The majority of advertisements are selling how wonderful and fun sex. For example, if you drink beer you’ll be surrounded by sexy people. We see these ads and the invoke excitement and curiosity. The clear message is that we should all seek out sex because that’s what will make us happy. Then youth hear the churches perspective that sex before marriage will put you in hell, masturbation will give you hairy palms, and that you should ignore what your emotions are telling you because they’re misleading you. These are obviously conflicting views of this subject that youth are forced to navigate.

Sex is much more complicated than simply being good or bad. Emotions influence us on so many different levels so we need to be able to navigate this complexity in some way. I’ve been impressed with some of the tools that meditation can provide on this front. My practice has allowed me to break sex up into different components that can be analyzed for positive and negative qualities. Sex can be lustful or loving, grounded or passionate, connecting or selfish, opening or forced, and healthy or destructive. These nuances are basically left for youth to figure out for themselves.

I think meditation can help anyone, young or old, learn how to make the sex lives healthier. Learning how to observe sensations before, during, or after intimate activity can be helpful to understand your true intentions that are usually lost in the throes of excitement. There is just enough detachment to allow for some objective observation that can actually help interactions become more intimate rather than less so.

I was confused by the sexual misconduct precept. At first I thought I should just stop seeking intimacy because I didn’t want to break my precepts but I’m been processing what it really means to allow attachments to pass naturally. If you’re truly free of an attachment you should be able to surround yourself with temptation and not feel a need to act with craving or aversion. That’s very different from just hiding from temptation.

I’ve decided to focus more on becoming healthier and stronger through my practice on a day-to-day basis. Instead of worrying about the end goal, which on this path may be celibacy, I just want to work on having healthier intimate connections so I can avoid burying any deep sexual cravings. By maintaining my practice I can easily measure improvement through the quality of my sensations. I’ve found that worrying about the final destination just confuses me.

Sex is a complex issue that requires everyone to make their own personal choices. Since we’re all so different I think each person has their own correct answer. Unfortunately, this has led our society to leave youth to search for their needle of personal truth in a vast haystack. I think meditation can help each of us find our own way. Instead of judging other people’s choices we become empowered to live our own personal truth on a deeper level. I thought Vipassana might force intimacy from my life but I’m discovering that I’m learning how to be healthier and more ground while I explore this complex issue. Meditation is awesome so I think I’ll keep practicing for a little while. Hopefully this will motivate you to do the same.

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About Ryan Shelton

While I'm currently married to a beautiful woman while teaching physics at Padua Academy, these descriptors fail to capture the totality of my adventurous life. I have hiked over 1700 miles, traveled to 5 continents, managed a bakery, started a meditation center, counseled troubled teens, attended Duke, UNC, and Harvard, protected forests as a wildland firefighter, volunteered thousands of hours with Americorps, rafted the Grand Canyon, SCUBA dived on the Great Barrier Reef, and continues to find new adventures. I hope my writing encourages you to pursue your dreams and be the best version of yourself while supporting your communities to work together to solve the current challenges in our world.

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