Tuesday, June 14, 2011

Are Feelings a Disease?





Again, I am troubled by what I see on TV.  I watched the reunion special for The Real World Las Vegas.  While many things said and seen were scary if teens use them as a model for their behavior, one thing struck me, and struck me hard.

Two people living in the house, Leroy and Naomi, agreed to have a casual sexual relationship.  If one or the other did not bring someone home to sleep with then they would sleep together.  Leroy had a few partners that were shown coming home with him for sex as did Naomi.  But true to their agreement, Leroy and Naomi slept together for their entire three-month rooming situation.  In later episodes, they had to tackle the issue of STD’s and possible pregnancy.  This would be a whole other blog, but I would like to point out that Leroy said he was using protection all the time.  Later, he admitted that he hadn’t always used a condom with the random girls he met in Las Vegas. 

Okay, back to my point, on the reunion special, the host commented on their casual sexual relationship.  She asked if they had developed feelings for one another.  Both Leroy and Naomi referred to their agreement as not much more than a casual relationship.  Other cast mates said that it was obvious that Naomi had developed feelings for Leroy.  Naomi said she was trying not to “catch” feelings for Leroy.  She kept referring to intimacy as “catching feelings”.  While am willing to admit that slang sometimes shouldn’t be literally translated, this statement still struck a nerve with me. 

It saddens me that teens (and early twenty-somethings) may be thinking they can have a casual sexual relationship without those pesky feelings getting in the way.  I understand that sex is fun and the rush of feelings a teen has are intoxicating and addicting.  But I find referring to feelings in an intimate relationship, causal or not, as catching scary, tragic, and ultimately a warning for collective attitudes.

 It is scary because feelings shouldn’t be referred to as something to catch.  They are a factor in everyday life and in every aspect of life.  Instead of fearing you’ll catch them, it would be wiser to prepare for all the potential emotional outcomes in a sexual relationship.  It is tragic because the feelings generated in an intimate partner relationship are some of the most powerful and wonderful feelings there are.  A deeper connection with someone in a healthy relationship is valuable and healthy.  I see the reference of “catching” as a warning, a sign post of what teens and twenty-somethings are thinking.  Is there a new disconnect between kids, their feelings, and their sex lives?  If so, what does that hold for the future of their relationships?

Today we talk a lot about safe sex and protection.  Make no mistake; I am for sexual education and the practice of safe sex regardless of age.  I feel it necessary for teens to have all the information regarding their sexual health before they decide if and when to have sex.  But have we also lost sight of something else in sex worth protecting? 

When I refer to sexual education, I’m not just talking about birth control, anatomy, and diseases.  I am also talking about feelings and outcomes both physical and emotional.  I do not want parents and advocates to lose sight of feelings for the sake of sex education because the two are undeniably tied together.  They cannot be separated even if the educator is trying to maintain a clinical standard of professionalism and detachment.  Feelings in a sexual relationship, casual or not are not a disease to be in fear of “catching”.  It is a point to ponder.    

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