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The New Birds and Bees

I suppose it has always been difficult to teach boys about sex. The trouble is that you need to begin those talks while they are still quite young—probably too young to handle the information with the maturity it deserves. This may be especially true today when pornography and other blatant sexuality is so prevalent that we have to address these things at younger and younger ages. Still, every parent does it and blunders through it one way or another.

I sometimes read a magazine called The Walrus. It is a Canadian magazine that exists on the left—just about as far left as you can go, I think. Still, it features some skilled writers and presents a perspective that I wouldn’t otherwise be exposed to, so I rather enjoy reading it. In the current issue there is a column called “The Talk” that discusses teaching boys about sex. I realized as I read it that the way I have been teaching my children about sex and gender and sexuality is very, very different from the way society around us would teach them if given the opportunity. We use similar terms, but mean very different things by them. As a Christian, and as a Christian parent, I found it very helpful to have this alternative view so clearly laid out.

The article begins in a ninth-grade classroom on the far side of the country where an organization called WiseGuyz is leading an opt-in sexual education class. The article explains that these teachers face the “radical act of teaching them to question all they have been told about what it means to be a man.” Men from the organization are teaching boys about sex and sexuality and, not surprisingly, the boys are responding with confusion and wisecracks. One of the instructors has just spoken about intersexuality, being born with a combination of male and female physical characteristics.

A few boys nod, but the rest look baffled. Stafford Perry, another facilitator, speaks up. “It helps if you understand that for many people, gender is not just two possibilities but many,” he says. “Being a man or a woman exists on a scale, so it’s not either/or. You don’t have to be one or the other.”

This is key. Much of what used to be considered binary now exists on a scale. When I was a child I was taught that sex and gender are binary—you are male or female, and your gender identity and gender expression will accord with it. There may have been some small scales—with tomboy to princess representing different scales of femininity and rough-and-tumble to sensitive representing different scales of masculinity—but the categories were clear: You were a boy or a girl and if you were a boy you were expected to behave like a boy and if you were a girl you were expected to behave like a girl. Today, though, children are taught that every aspect of sexuality exists on a scale with no either/or. They are taught that this is the normal and natural state of humanity.

The instructor then takes a whiteboard and draws a figure shaped like a gingerbread man. This gingerbread man has a smiley face, a heart, and a starburst at the crotch. And he uses this figure to teach some important lessons—some important terminology.

The head refers to gender identity. This is the way you define yourself, either as a man or a woman, or as something between the two. I presume the fact that this accords with the head shows that it is something you can think about and determine for yourself.

The heart stands for sexual orientation—your attractions which can be for men, for women, for both, or for something in between. Because it is the heart, I assume this is something you feel and know more than it is something you think about and decide.

The starburst covering the crotch accords with sex, your physical characteristics. We are all born a certain sex, but this, too, is adaptable with modern techniques, and may shift and change throughout life.

Finally, the external shape of the figure points to gender expression, the outward choices you make—the clothes you wear, the tone of your voice, the way you walk, and so on. This, too, is meant to be personalized and may often shift.

Each of these things, too, is on a scale, and each of them can be mixed and matched. Your gender identity may tend toward male, your sexual orientation toward gay, your sex female and your gender expression hyper-masculine. The possibilities are absolutely limitless. We can custom-craft ourselves to our heart’s content. What I find particularly interesting is that so little is said about the actual sexual act. The sexual act must then be an individualized expression of all of these, but with no greater meaning or no greater significance.

They apply no morality to any of this, beyond the gross immorality of judgement and the intrinsic good of tolerance and autonomy. I look to the Bible as my standard, my foundation, and look there for the meaning, the significance, and the purpose that holds it all together. And this, I think, is where what I teach my children is so very different from what WiseGuyz and others are teaching: Their standard is intrinsic, what they desire and feel and believe. My standard is extrinsic, what God desires and what God commands. Our authority is as different as different can be, and, therefore, so too is what we believe and what we teach. We are worlds apart.