Reflections from a flight home

On my flight back to Portland, by way of Salt Lake City, I sat next to a very friendly young guy- 21 years old, Mormon, and exceedingly friendly. In the culture of staring at phones while in public places, lest one catches the eye of a stranger and feels obligated to say hello, his immediate engagement in having a conversation with me was startling. And refreshing.

He asked me what I do in Portland, and I held back little in telling him about teaching Human Sexuality. After just teaching the week on sexuality education, I was highly curious to know how this person connected his religious background to his perception of relationships and sex. He was able to talk articulately about being committed to abstinence, not feeling ready to get married, and loving to date (he goes on 3-4 a week with different people). He also asked for my thoughts on what kind of sex ed I thought teens should get, and seemed to be able to hear me talk about comprehensive education and allowing teens to have choices and options over their sexual and relationship decisions.

Talking with him reminded me of an experiential assignment I have this quarter in my sex therapy class: I’m supposed to find some kind of sex related event to attend, one that pushes my comfort zone. I’ve been a little bit stuck with this- what am I uncomfortable with? I’ve been to swing clubs, strip clubs (male and female), tantric events, kink events, and poly meetups. I haven’t been to all gay male spaces or cuddle puddle events (and other things I’m sure I’m not thinking of right now), but I’m not uncomfortable with them. But I realized something very important during my conversation on the plane: I am uncomfortable talking with someone from a conservative religious background about sex. That sort of blows my mind. It was challenging for me to explain my perspectives without using language that could alienate him or result in some kind of disengagement. How can I be diplomatic when I have such strong beliefs of my own about sexual and relationship rights and autonomy? 

Thanks, Taylor, for a wonderful conversation and for reminding me where my growing edges are.

One thought on “Reflections from a flight home

  1. This is a perfect example of why most progressives were shocked by the Trump election. By and large a majority of people have withdrawn to their safe enclaves of like minded people. And even if it’s true that we might be more educated or open minded about a topic, we are often too sanctimonious to truly engage with someone that doesn’t think like we do. We don’t try to bridge that gap or use neutral language that would build a connection to those we see as intellectual opponents.

    We can hold our own beliefs but still try to communicate with others we disagree with in ways that don’t push them away or insult them. Even when they seem to inhabit a different planet than we do, our humanity gives us more in common than in opposition. Those who are different usually aren’t “bad” people. They might be misinformed, or have other values that we don’t share. But when you filter our your biases, you can usually see their humanity.

    I applaud your recognition that you need to develop the comfort and language to better serve that population when confronted with an adherent.

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