Attention

X

You are now leaving AMAZE.org.
Content beyond this site might not be
appropriate for young adolescents.

Continue to external site

Attention

X

The following video was not produced by AMAZE.

Play Video

We'd like one thing before you download!

X

Please give us your email address before you download. Feel free to subscribe to our Newsletter while you’re here!


Download
Sexuality, Faith and Culture
Sexuality, Faith and Culture
Add video to playlist Create Playlist
Sexuality, Faith and Culture

Youth

People often use their religious beliefs, family traditions or cultural beliefs to help them make important decisions, including decisions about relationships and sex. For some people, their religious faith—such as Islam, Christianity, Hinduism or Buddhism—informs what they believe and value. Some people may have cultural beliefs or family traditions that are informed by their faith and help them make decisions. Other people may not have specific religious beliefs. Not everyone believes the same thing. Having different beliefs doesn’t make one person right and the other person wrong; it just makes them different.

 

These different beliefs can inform how people think and feel about if and when to have sex, gender roles, contraceptives (birth control) and sexual orientation. These topics can be complicated, and people’s beliefs and traditions may vary across communities. Even within religious groups, people who share the same faith may have conflicting ideas about these topics.

 

Some people will hold on to or practice beliefs in line with how they’ve been taught, while other people’s beliefs—religious or otherwise—will change as they get older and learn new things. People’s stronger feelings about religious or cultural beliefs and the impact they have on a person’s sexuality can create conflict when people’s perspectives are very different from one another.

 

What is most important to remember is that your beliefs, morals or values do not make you right or wrong. They are your beliefs—even if other people do not agree with them—and ideally they help you make decisions and choose what is right for you. Even though we may believe different things and have different values, we can still show respect for one another by not imposing our beliefs on other people. Having different beliefs, values and perspectives makes us all distinct and special.

FAQs

Is it wrong to have sex before you’re married?

Deciding when to have sex is a very personal decision. There are lots of things a person may consider when deciding if they are ready to have sex. People’s decisions about when to have sex can be informed by their personal feelings about when the time is right, their families’ beliefs, cultural beliefs or religious beliefs. People get to decide for themselves when they are ready to have sex. Most young people wait to have sex until they’re about 17. Only 41 percent of high school students have ever had sex, and very few have sex before getting to high school. Even though it might seem like a lot of people your age are having sex, it’s totally normal to wait until you’re older and feel more ready.

Can people tell if you’re a virgin by looking at you?

No one can tell if a person is a virgin just by looking at them or even from a medical exam. People once believed that you could tell if a girl was a virgin if her hymen was not broken. The hymen is a thin tissue that can cover part of the vaginal opening (located about a half-inch inside the vagina). We know now that some people are born without hymens, and some people’s hymen’s can be broken from doing ordinary things, like gymnastics or using a tampon. What is important is not whether someone’s hymen is broken or they have engaged in sexual behaviors, but that they choose to have sex when it is healthy and right for them.

My friend said you’re not a virgin if you have oral sex. Is that true?

People can sometimes disagree about what it means to “have sex.” Some people believe being a virgin means never having been involved in any type of sexual behavior with another person, including oral sex. For other people, being a virgin means never having had vaginal sex. Someone may never have vaginal sex but engage in other sexual behaviors, like oral sex. Does this make that person a virgin? People define virginity in different ways, including not believing in it at all. What is important is not whether someone has or had not engaged in sexual behaviors, but that they choose to have sex when it is healthy and right for them.

Parents

Children often use the values, traditions and beliefs—religious or otherwise—imparted by their families, cultural groups and other communities to guide their behavior, such as how they treat other people. These values are very important, as they may inform how children make decisions about romantic relationships and sexual behaviors, as well as how they are taught to think about the decisions they’ve made.

 

Whether parents, guardians and caregivers realize it or not, communication about values happens with children all the time. From the clothes and toys parents buy their children, to how they decorate children’s bedrooms, to the comments parents make about gender and sexual orientation, parents consistently articulate what they believe to be important and unimportant about sexuality to their children, in both explicit and implicit ways. In line with this, structured or formalized religious education through faith-based classes and religious services—or the lack thereof—often expose children to additional values and beliefs.

 

Since people within religious groups may not always agree on topics—such as when to have sex, gender roles, sexual orientation and contraception—it is important that parents who share a religious tradition with their children know what their religious institutions are teaching young people about these important topics. Does what a family’s faith community teaches about sex before marriage or other topics align with your family’s beliefs?

 

What is most important is that children understand your family’s particular beliefs and values—whether religious or not—and feel empowered and affirmed enough by them to make healthy decisions for themselves. And while children will encounter people with different beliefs, they can have their beliefs while showing respect for other people’s beliefs by not imposing their beliefs on others. Having different beliefs, values and perspectives makes us all distinct and special.

 

CONVERSATION STARTERS

 

When parents and caregivers talk with young people about their beliefs and values, it opens the door to important conversations about topics like sex, gender and sexual orientation. In the interest of keeping the lines of communication open between parents and children, it’s important that parents not shame children. As young people begin to think about topics related to sexuality, it’s possible they will question some of the values they have learned or been exposed to. When parents provide a listening ear as young people question certain beliefs, it sends a clear message that parents are available to support children no matter what and willing to help them on their journey to figuring out what is right for them. Being able to listen to what young people are thinking and feeling—without judging them—means they can feel safe and comfortable coming to parents or guardians when they are trying to make decisions based on the personal values they are starting to develop.

 

Below are some ways to start these conversations:

Bring up the topic while watching a TV show

If you’re watching TV and a character is making a decision about if or when to have sex, ask your child what they think the character should do and why. Keep in mind that since you’ve been sharing your values with your child their whole life, they probably already know what you think. Offering your child the “right” answer based on your beliefs will likely send the message to your child that you only want your beliefs and values reflected back at you, which may shut down future communication.  Use this moment to hear what your child thinks, as it may give you an opportunity to learn what beliefs and values inform your child’s decision. Showing respect for your child’s particular perspective keeps the door open for future conversations where you can each share your beliefs and values.

Educators

Your students use the values, traditions and beliefs—religious or otherwise—imparted by their families, cultural groups and other communities to guide their behavior, such as how they treat other people. These values are very important, as they will inform how students make decisions about romantic relationships and sexual behaviors.

 

As your students’ teacher, your role is not to impart your values, but to encourage students to figure out what their values are—based on their personal beliefs and what they have learned from their families and communities. These different values can support students in making healthy decisions for themselves. Students may raise values-based questions in the classroom. When is the right time to have sex? Are you a virgin if…? Are same-sex relationships okay? Since beliefs and values are things we often take for granted, educators can help young people identify and respect different values. Educators can use values voting activities that show a range of ways of thinking and making decisions about topics related to sexuality. In answering values-based questions, educators can share with students the range of beliefs that people may have on these topics. For example, when answering questions about when is the right time to have sex, educators can share with students the range of beliefs people may have about this topic:

 

Some people believe that it’s important that a person be in a safe, loving relationship before they have sex. Other people don’t believe that’s necessary and think it’s just important that people be able to have sex without risk of an unintended pregnancy or a sexually transmitted infection. Some people believe you should be married before sex.

 

What is most important is that students understand or begin to identify their beliefs and values and use them to make healthy decisions for themselves. Students in your classes will have different beliefs. As their teacher, you can support them in having their beliefs, while showing respect for other people’s beliefs and not imposing their beliefs on them.

Discussion Questions

After watching the video with your class, process it using the following discussion questions:
  • What were some of the different kinds of beliefs that may inform people’s attitudes and guide their decisions about things like dating and sex?
  • What were some of the complex topics these beliefs and values helped people address?
  • What are some different or conflicting ideas people might have about these topics?
  • How can a person show respect for beliefs that are different from their own?

Pin It on Pinterest