The days are getting shorter, the air a little cooler, leaves have turned and daylight savings time ends next Sunday, November 3rd. All of which have me thinking about timing. We’re so guided by timelines in life. On a small scale we determine when we need to go to sleep depending on when we want to wake up, we check and re-check airline schedules, train schedules, work schedules. On a larger scale we all have our own timeframes for getting married, buying a house or having children, and then how many years to space the children apart.
If you grew up in the U.S. this timetable probably looks really familiar to you:
16 learn to drive a car
17 have sex for the first time
21 consume alcohol (legally, anyway)
Logically, would you ever order the list this way? Why is the social norm to have sex at 17 when young adults aren’t trusted to consume alcohol until a full five years later at 21 and I’m not sure how wise it is even then! More shocking (to me at least) is that 25% of children have sex at age 15, I think that rationally most people agree that a 15-year-old is nowhere near mature enough to make healthy decisions regarding sexual partners. Look at the hairstyle choices that any 14-year-old makes! Which is why 10 years later when we look back on our youth we think ‘what was I thinking!?’ When we look back on the sexual partners we chose at this age we have the same thought, but usually with more regret. The average age in the U.S. is 17 for first time sexual intercourse and it is a number that keeps dropping. Lynn Ponton, MD, Child and Adolescent Psychiatrist reports that today both boys and girls are “entering puberty at least two years earlier than previous generations. This means they are ready for sex earlier physically, but not emotionally or cognitively.”
I’d like to stop here and say that this is not a moral rant or even a discussion of ethics. There is nothing shameful or bad about sex. I chose to wait until I was married (which is a rarity in this day and age, I know!) My decision to wait certainly wasn’t influenced by my environment (I attended Beverly Hills High School for goodness sake) but my very Middle Eastern father made his perspective very clear to me. “Once you lose your virginity before you’re married, you’re damaged goods.” It’s the old adage, ‘once you give away the milk for free, no one wants to buy the cow.’ (Don’t even get me started about the cow analogy.) But in my gut, I knew that it was something that would mean more to me later with the right person. If I gave my virginity away, I knew I was giving away a piece of my soul that I could never get back. Let’s face it, sex with the wrong person, meaning with a person you are not connected to on a soul level nor have deep, intimate care for, is just sex. Children are taught about safe sex, to use condoms to protect themselves from STDs and pregnancies. I’m talking about a different responsibility, the protection of your greatest asset of all, your soul.
Sadly, there are very real effects of having sexual relationships at too young an age. Studies report that people who lose their virginity earlier in life have lower expectations for their sexual partners while those who have sex after they turn 20 are more likely to have happy relationships. As a society, we are just beginning to understand how early sexual experiences influence the health of future relationships. Psychological scientist Paige Harden, of the University of Texas, has found that people who enter into sexual relationships in young adulthood (early 20’s) have more life experience and the emotional maturity to develop effective relationship skills than their peers who entered into sexual relationships in their teens.
A friend of mine has a 16-year-old daughter with a serious boyfriend. I asked how she was addressing the topic of sex with her daughter. She had ‘the talk’, went over birth control options and was ok with her daughter having sex with her boyfriend as long as they loved each other. Personally, I am uncomfortable with this guidance, but it’s the prevalent, modern day parenting norm. Parents worry about their children getting involved in all kinds of risky behaviors, but their children’s forays into sexual relationships are typically not the highest concern, especially for parents of boys. I’m not judging my friend, by any means. She too had sex for the first time with a serious boyfriend around age 17. But in light of recent evidence, perhaps we should work to change the norm regarding the age that having sex has become “normal”.
While there is no magical age when sexual intercourse becomes suddenly healthy vs. potentially damaging, Kabbalah does stress the importance of choosing the right partner. Sex isn’t just sharing intimately on a physical level. On a spiritual level, when we combine male and female energies in our world, we also create a unification of that energy in the upper world. Even kissing creates a spiritual union of two souls. Every person, every soul in this world, has a specific purpose and unique challenges that they are meant to face. Therefore, when we engage in sex, we actually take on a part of our partner’s spiritual work and they ours. This is a very beautiful concept when we’re in loving, long-term, committed relationships, but is distinctly less enchanting when seen through the lens of someone with multiple, casual sexual partners.
It’s a lot to take in! But if you’re married, you’re all set, nothing else to worry about, right?
Kabbalists have long taught that there are specific energies available at certain times, even identifying each day as possessing positive, negative or neutral energy. These days inform us when best to start new projects, get married, have surgery, and even…
you guessed it, procreate.
There are a myriad of guidelines for spiritual sex, and many have to do with the timing of the act itself. Per the kabbalistic calendar, negative days are to be avoided, as are days when… ahem. Let’s just say when Aunt Flo is visiting, during Shark Week, as the Danish say: ‘When there are communists in the funhouse’ or as the French say, ‘When the British are coming’. I’m all out of euphemisms, but you get it, yes? This period of abstaining goes on to include the seven days after Aunt Flo, the communists and the British have departed, which roughly works out to 12 days a month of no intercourse. Like many who hear this for the first time, you may be thinking this is less a guide for having sex than for NOT having sex! Let me assure you, kabbalists were no fools.
How many long-married couples do you know who are dissatisfied with their sex lives? Most, probably, if not all. At best, the sex is boring. At worst, one or both partners are engaging in emotional or physical affairs outside the marriage. The beauty of abstaining for two weeks of the month is that when partners come back together it is as if it’s the first time. There is planning ahead, preparation and anticipation, every single month. You don’t take sex or each other for granted and you are getting so much more fulfillment out of so much less. Think of it as an amazing return on investment from a little restraint.
THOUGHT INTO ACTION
No action this time. Just think on it 😉