The Fundamental Mistake In Sex Education

By: Donald DeMarco, Wanderer, September 1, 2019

Virtually every form of sex education commits the same mistake. This mistake has to do with positioning sex in the wrong place. Order is paramount. In relating to human beings, humanness comes first, one’s sexual identity (male or female) comes second. The expression “sex education” is a misnomer because it gives primacy to sex whereas the primacy belongs to one’s humanity. Scripture is clear on this point. Prior to meeting Eve, Adam was preoccupied with plants and animals. He was familiar with many species of life but did not know anyone who belonged to his own species. In his “Theology of the Body” John Paul II described Adam’s condition as “cosmic solitude.” This solitude was needed, however, in order for Adam to appreciate fully his human counterpart when she finally arrived.

Before Eve was created, God put Adam into a deep sleep (Tardemah in Hebrew). The special meaning assigned to this word indicates that God alone was involved in the creation of the first woman. Thus, Eve was a gift. The notion of gift carries with it gratitude toward the giver and the proper care of the gift. Adam must respect Eve since she is a special gift from God.

In Gen. 2:24 we are told how Adam initially responds to this gift: “This at last in bone of my bones and flesh of my flesh.” Adam regards the woman primarily as another human being, one that he longed for with all his heart. Since Eve was formed from Adam’s side, she is his equal in humanity. Scripture does not indicate the moment at which Adam perceived Eve as his sexual complementary. We are told, however, that they married and had children.

Adam is a role model for all men. He sees the woman initially as a human being, and one who is a gift from God and his equal. This order is apparent when a woman gives birth to a child. She sees her child first as a human being, and also a gift who is equal in humanity with regard to the human family. Upon delivery, the doctor may announce that the child is a boy or a girl. The more proper expression “relationship education” should replace the misleading phrase “sex education.”

After sinning against God, Adam and Eve lost sight of this original order. At this point, co-humanity was wrenched from its proper place, an experience which caused shame and prompted the couple to cover themselves with fig leaves. This fall from grace emphasized all the more how the proper order moving from humanity to sexuality is fundamental.

The literal meaning of the Hebrew term Teshuvah is “return” and refers to repentance. To sin is to get things out of order.

Dr. Donald DeMarco

Repentance means getting back to the right order. Christ came into the world for the purpose of restoring order. In the realm of human sexuality this means putting sex in the right place and not allowing it to obscure one’s humanity. If a batter hits the ball and runs directly to second base, he is declared out. He must abide by the rules of the game. First base comes first. No other arrangement is tolerated.

It is all too common for men (and women as well) to see their sexual complement primarily as sexual. The fact that men can behave as wolves and women as vixens is a strong indication that in losing sight of another’s humanity, one loses sight of his own and begins to resemble a beast. The way human beings retain their operative humanity is to greet the other primarily as human beings. The “playboy-playmate” arrangement is not liberation but dehumanization.

Enlarging upon this notion, we can say that in the proper ordering of things friendship takes precedence over a sexual relationship, the former serving as a basis and guide for the latter. By placing sex first, friendship is overridden. Marriage requires a strong friendship. It cannot rest on sex alone. Marriage incorporates sex, but sex lacks the wherewithal to incorporate marriage. The sequence of sex, living together, unwanted offspring and abortion is clearly, no matter how common it is, not something to which people should be educated.

Personalist philosophers — St. John Paul II, Jacques Maritain, Gabriel Marcel, Nikolai Berdyaev, Martin Buber, Soren Kierkegaard — stress the importance of “intersubjectivity.” This word describes a person-to-person relationship that is primarily human. We are, to ourselves, subjects. We do not want others to regard us as objects; nor should we want to see them as objects. Love means breaking down the alienating walls of objectivity and seeing each one another as subjects. It means seeing each other as we are in our humanity.

Yet, we persist in avoiding the first step and regard the other, if not as primarily sexual, as primarily wealthy, good-looking, athletic, influential, and so on. Humanity, which is the basis of love, justice, and peace, gets lost in the shuffle and becomes difficult to rediscover. Secondary features should remain secondary.

Cardinal Newman’s honored phrase, cor ad cor loquitur (heart speaking to heart) refers to what the personalist philosophers have in mind when they speak of “intersubjectivity.” As human beings, we have hopes, dreams, disappointments, sufferings, longings, talents, and so forth. These factors constitute interesting dialogue on the purely human plane. When a patient arrives in the emergency room of a hospital, he is presented and treated primarily as a human being. Sex, race, ethnicity, social status, and religious belief are not critical at that moment. The person’s welfare as a human being is all that counts.

Relationship education is all about putting first things first. And when sex comes first, lust and mayhem are sure to follow. We should begin a relationship by acknowledging the other as a gift who is equal to us in humanity

(Dr. Donald DeMarco is professor emeritus of St. Jerome’s University and adjunct professor at Holy Apostles College. He is a regular columnist for St. Austin Review. His latest two books, How to Navigate through Life and Apostles of the Culture of Life, are posted on 12 Values of Paramount Importance is in process.)

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