SEXUAL INTEGRITY FORUM
8-9th August 2005
Main Committee Room, Parliament House
'Promoting good quality relationships between men and women
for the purpose of ending the sexual exploitation of women and children
in Australia in the 21st century'
TOPIC 2: THE NEED FOR SEXUAL INTEGRITY IN ORDER TO FOSTER GENDER EQUALITY, GENDER RECONCILIATION AND HEALTHY FAMILY RELATIONSHIPS.
By Irene Anania
'Healthy Family Relationships' have traditionally been known as 'Marriages'. Research has shown that a healthy, lasting marriage is one of the most highly prized of all human relationships and a central goal in life.1 "In virtually every society into which historians or anthropologists have inquired, one finds….marriage."2 The reason being that marriage plays an important role in people's quest for meaning, happiness and fulfilment. There is growing evidence that compared to the general population, those involved in healthy, lasting marriages (husband, wife and children),
1.live a longer life3,
2.enjoy a healthier life (with fewer diseases, quicker recovery rate after illness, better general psychological wellbeing6,7and lower incidences of severe depression4 and suicide5),
3.report higher levels of personal happiness8,
4.create and retain greater wealth9,10
5.are significantly less likely to be perpetrators of crime, either juvenile11 or adult12
6.and are significantly less likely to be victims of abuse. Women and children appear to be better respected within a traditional marriage setting.
Furthermore, children of married parents stand a better chance of becoming happy, successful adults with stable marriages of their own. In the words of one sociologist, "A nuclear family of father, mother and their children …is still today a child's best guarantee for success."13 The family is the ultimate school of love. The quality of heart and character nurtured in the family has an impact on every aspect of a person's involvement in society including their personal relationships. The quality of a marriage, for example, depends on the foundation of character that the bride and groom bring to their union and on their continued growth in heart as spouses and parents. As a result communities and nations at large, benefit from healthy marriages and families.
Yet what evidence do we see in our society for the preparation of our young people for these most significant and coveted of all roles, the roles of spouse and parent? If we accept (and research seems to support this theory) that marriage is of such central importance to the structure and well-being of our society, then how do we best prepare young people for marriage and create a culture that supports lasting marriage?
The method of serial 'trial and error' of partners before marriage only leads to marriage being treated as another trial that (in about 45% of cases in Australia) didn't work. It leads to the creation of psychological "baggage" that becomes cumulative and irresolute. In fact the number of sexual partners a person experiences in their teenage years is directly proportional to the chance of contracting STDs, cervical cancer, and the likelihood of divorce. Yet what we are seeing is the encouragement of this lifestyle through our current brand of Sex Education in schools which advocates the practice of "safer sex" by using condoms.
Our kids need to know that condoms do not protect their heart, do not protect their future happiness and do not make them "look cool". In fact 30% of the time they do not even provide adequate protection against STDs and pregnancies. Granted, if a person is placing themselves at risk by having multiple sexual partners, then it is better to use a condom than nothing at all. But of what value is this education to someone who is not already promiscuous. Why teach someone to drive if they are not meant to drive yet? Is it a valid assumption that all our young people are or want to be experimenting sexually? In my experience of over 20 years of teaching, NO. The vast majority of my students over the years have not been sexually active while at school.
Formal education focuses on career preparation, with little attention to marriage preparation or the development of character. Character is moral strength which is defined as "virtuous", "pure", "unchanging", "knows right from wrong". When a person is of good character we say they have a good heart and a heart that is cultivated is an unselfish heart. Sexual promiscuity and disorientation, child abuse, gender discrimination and domestic violence do not go hand in hand with a heart that is developed to live for the sake of others. They are by nature mutually exclusive. So by teaching young people what constitutes character and heart would automatically be inculcating in them the value of sexual integrity and a responsible life-style that would lead to the accomplishment of their dreams of having successful marriages, careers and lasting happiness.
Preparation for marriage is an emotional, intellectual and practical empowerment for the challenges of living as a couple. This does not happen in a two month course or by studying it out of a motivational book (valuable though these activities may be). We don't expect to grow tomatoes by reading about them. We need experiences of the heart in order for our heart to grow.
Therefore, in order to develop heart, character and the sexual integrity that naturally springs from that, we need opportunities to experience receiving and giving True Love. We need to experience loving relationships that are created and nurtured through marriage and family. We need to know that regardless of our own family experience we can take steps to turn our life around and develop the loving home and family that will contribute to the well-being of the community and the nation.
Those steps, of course, involve maintaining integrity of sexuality and character.
Happiness is not only for the lucky, but in many cases we do have to work at it and the younger we start the higher the success rate.
Let us be a Happy Nation not a Condom Nation.
BSc Dip Ed,
1 Linda J Waite and Maggie Gallagher, The Case for Marriage: Why Married People Are Happier, Healthier and Better off Financially (New York: Doublebay, 2000).
2 James Q Wilson, The Moral Sense (New York: Free Pres, 1993), p.158.
3 Hara Estroff Marano, "Debunking the Marriage Myt: It works for Women, Too," New York Times, August 4, 1998.
4 Les Parrott III and Leslie Parrott, Questions Couples Ask (Grand Rapids: Zondervan, 1996), p.65.
5 Gregory R Johnson et al., 2000. "Suicide Among Adolescents and Young Adults: A Cross-National comparison of 34 Countries," Suicide and Life-Threatening Behaviour 30(1):74-82
6 Nadine F Marks and James Lambert, 1998. "Marital Status Continuity and Change Among Young and Mid-life Adults: Longitudinal Effects on Physiological Wellbeing," Journal of Family Issues 19652-86.
7 E Mavis Hetherington and John Kelly, 2002. For Better or For Worse: Divorce Reconsidered (New York: WW Norton &Co).
8 Marano, "Debunking the Marriage Myth"
9 Robert Schoeni, "The Earnings of Marital Status: An International Comparison," Luxembourg Income Study, Paper No. 42, February 1990.
10 Waite &Gallagher, The Case for Marriage, p. 100.
11 Sotirios Sarantakos, 1997. "Cohabitation, Marriage and Delinquency: The Significance of Family Environment," The Australian and New Zealand Journal of Criminology, vol. 30 pp. 187-199.
12 Ronet Bachman, 1994. "Violence Against Women," A National Crime Victimisation Survey Report. Cited in "Twenty-One Reasons Why Marriage Matters" National Marriage Coalition
John H Laub et al.,1998. "Trajectories of Change in Criminal Offending: Good Marriages and the Desistance Process," American Sociological Review 63:225-238
13 Brigitte Burger, "The Social Roots of Prosperity and Liberty," Society 35/3 (Mar-Apr 1998), pp.44-54