Wednesday, September 28, 2011

Love, Relationships, and Sex

For the session on LOVE, RELATIONSHIPS, and SEX, I originally sat down and planned a lesson. After our lesson on emotions, which involved a lot of lecturing on my part and boredom on the part of my students, I decided in an act of impulse to discard the lesson and do something a bit more interactive and to the point- a question-and-answer period with the questions my students had about love, relationships and sex.
My initial notes for the lesson served a useful preparatory exercise and guide. In matters such as these, I had to be very careful what I said to a group of secondary school youth. So, I am going to share my notes, and then share some of the questions we discussed during the session, and the major themes I felt I repeated numerous times.

Notes on love, relationships, and sex.
LOVE. Love is an emotion of strong affection and personal attachment. It is an extreme, intense feeling of “like”- lots and lots of “like.” Our ability to feel romantic love develops during adolescence. A natural part of growing up is to develop romantic feelings and sexual attractions to others.
Love is made up of three parts. 1) ATTRACTION, what we call “the chemistry of love.” It is the physical, sexual attraction two people have. 2) CLOSENESS, the bond that develops when we share thoughts and feelings we don’t share with other people. We feel supported, cared for, understood, and accepted for who we are. Trust is a big part of closeness. And 3) COMMITMENT, the promise or decision to stick by the other person through the ups and downs of the relationship.
Different feelings and relationships have different amounts of each and the amounts change with time. It is difficult to tell the difference between attraction and closeness and that causes much of love’s confusion, especially when we are young and inexperienced with love.
RELATIONSHIPS. We typically have shorter relationships when we are young because adolescence is a time when we are changing quickly. We also seek lots of different experiences and want to try many different things.
The things we want from a relationship change as we grow older and that is part of the process of discovering who we are, what we value, and what we want. When we are young, our relationships are about fun, doing things, fitting in, and social status. As we grow older, we place more value on the closeness component.
Our first experience falling in love usually starts as attraction and feels like love, but it is not yet love because it has not had time to develop the closeness necessary for love. These feelings are new, intense, and hard to understand, so we may confuse them with love. The attraction usually fades overtime, so if relationship is going to last, the closeness needs to develop. Developing closeness is a back-and-forth, building process. In a healthy, long-term relationship, the attraction comes and goes, but the closeness is always there.
A healthy relationship has love, but that’s not all and not enough. A healthy relationship must also have 1) mutual respect- each person values and understands the other. They would never challenge the other’s boundaries, for example, in sex. 2) Trust. 3) Honesty. 4) Support- in bad and good times. 5) Fairness/Equality- a balance. 6) Separate identities- both people have their own lives. 7) Good communication- speak honestly and openly, don’t keep feelings inside.
SEX. Deciding whether to have sex is one of the most important decisions you will ever make in your life. Use your judgment to decide if it is the right time and person. Consider pregnancy and its consequences, the risks of sexually transmitted diseases, emotional consequences, and moral factors, such as family expectations, personal values, religion and beliefs. What matters to you is the most important. Make your own decision. Many young people feel pressure to loose their virginity from boy or girl friends, friends, and the media. Your emotions and values may not match those of your friends and media maybe misleading because it is not real life.
In many relationships, one person wants to have sex but the other doesn’t. What matters is different for different people. You need to do what is right for you and no one else. Anyone who tries to pressure you into having sex isn’t looking out for you and what matters to you. They are trying to satisfy themselves. Sex should be an expression of love, not something a person feels like he or she must do. If a boy or girl friend loves you, they shouldn’t pressure you to do something you don’t want to do.
You have new sexual feelings and thoughts and that’s completely normal. It is the result of growing up and hormones (Remember all those hormones we talked about during the session on puberty?). Sometimes curiosity or feelings can make you think it is the right time to have sex, even though it is not. Don’t beat yourself up if you had sex and then wished you hadn’t. Sexual feelings can be difficult and confusing. Learn from the experience. Just because you had sex once doesn’t mean you have to continue or say yes later on.
Many teens wait to have sex and practice abstinence, not having sex. Their reasons include pregnancy and its consequences, the risk of sexually transmitted diseases, emotional state, and their morals, family values, religion and beliefs.
Two things to remember when it comes to you and sex- you are the person in charge of your body and happiness. You have lots of time to wait until you are totally sure you are ready.

I have a question box in the classroom at all times during sessions. Basically, the idea is that if a student has a question they don’t feel comfortable asking in front of the whole class, they can write it on a piece of paper and slip it in the question box for me to answer later. I have no idea who wrote the question. Today, we put the question box to good use as a part of our class. I placed it in the middle of the room, gave the students a sheet of paper and time to write all their questions about love, relationships, and sex. I spent the second part of the class answering their questions- more direct and to the point of what they want to know.

Is it good to have a husband or wife (guaranteed situation) in certain years? If it is good, what is the difference between those who live together permanently and those who live together temporarily?
People say that if you love a girl without having sex, your love means nothing. Is it true?
If you have sex without first preparing, is there an effect on your sex organs?
Is it possible or good to have a girlfriend when you are a student?
Define love? Copulation? What is the importance of copulation?
In which year a boy like us have to have a girlfriend?
What can you do when your girlfriend asks you to have sex and when you refuse, she hates you?
When you have sex, the penis increases in size. Is it true? Explain.
What do you call it when a girl kisses a boy for a long time eating the tongue?
What effect when a boy kisses the vagina of a girl?
How can you know a girl loves you?
How can you show someone that you love him or her?
How can you make your boy or girl friend more happy?
What do you call a girl who loves many boys?
What causes sex to be very attractive for both male and females?
Some people say that the semen that comes with sperm is rich in lipids. Are those lipids the same as lipids in food?
What causes love between two people in sex?
The homosexual people love people with the same sex. What part of his brain is damaged? If it is a disease, can it be cured?
What is love?
How do you know that someone loves you?
What is the sign of love and difference between love of Jesus, love of parents, and love of boys and girls?
Someone told me that love is like a war- easy to start, hard to end, and impossible to forget- and told me that you don’t love as you want. I request a different explanation about those things from you.
When people have sexual intercourse, what are the negative consequences?
When you don’t have a boy or girl friend, what can you do to get one?
What are the benefits of having a boy or girl friend?
What are the advantages and disadvantages of family planning?
Does love get over? If it is not, why are some women separated from their husbands and why do they have divorce?
Is it necessary to love? If it is necessary, why?
Sometimes boys ask girls to have love with sex but the girls refuse and don’t accept it. Then, the boys become angry and sad. What is the way of calming down that hopeless situation?
Many people are confused about love. What can we do to avoid the confusion?
Is it really good and necessary to have sex with your boy or girl friend?
Why does love go with sex if it is not true?
What are the different kinds of love emotions?
Where the idea of having a boy or girl friend comes from?
In which time exactly one can enter in love with another one?
What is the difference between love of relatives and love of a girl, for example?
If we have a boy or girl friend, is it necessary to have sex?
Can sex be a symbol of love between a boy and girl friend?
How can I give thanks or how can my girl friend be proud of me?
Is it necessary to have a boy or girl friend?
What can a boy do in order for him to be loved by his girlfriend so much?
What are the negative effects that some people in love are likely to face if they don’t have sexual intercourse?
What are the advantages of people in love to spend their time not having sex?
Why is it that a boy may fear a girl?
What are the best things that boys and girls should do in order for them to remain in their relationships?
Why do some women get pregnant when they are still breastfeeding their babies?
Sex is not good for the students when they are still studying. But what if those students are suffering from love. What can they do to avoid that?
Some body parts have sex for the first time. What happens to them?
What is love? What is sex?
When a girl has sex when she is in her menstruation period, can she get pregnant? If yes or no, give reasons. What happens?
What do you call a man who marries with another man?
What advice can you give for people who can not stop from trying to have sex with every girl every time he sees one?
Some people are in love. Others are not. It means that some boys or girl don’t like to have relationships. Why?
I want to know if these is songs of love which can show you that someone is in love with you?
What is the difference between love and relationship?
If you are to love somebody, what characteristics should you consider?
If you are in love with a girl, is it good to have sex with her?
What is love? Why should we love? What do you learn from love? When should you start loving?
If you are in love with someone, what things can you do in order for him or her to understand that he or she is loved?

Okay, may I just say, to some of these questions, I thought, “Ahh, that’s so cute!” Others, I expected and was prepared for, and others didn’t make sense, but I tried to guess what they were asking and answer the questions the best I could. That’s one of the problems with anonymity. I can’t ask follow-up questions to get to the point and sometimes, the language creates something of a barrier to understanding. But, I have also been working with these students for six months now, so I can guess what they want to know, even if they don‘t say it in perfect English. I know what phrases they use, and instead of correcting them, I enjoy them each time I hear them. For example, instead of saying “have sex,” they always say, “play sex.” Also, if they say “friend,” they mean boy or girl friend. In Rwandan culture, you can’t have a friend of the opposite sex. It doesn’t exist in their language. A friend of the opposite sex is always a boy or girl friend in our English. I have changed those in many of their questions, for your better understanding, but you can still grasp the language barrier to questions and the cuteness of it (even if they are asking about adult topics). I thoroughly enjoyed their questions on love, sex, and relationships.

I answered the questions based on the notes I had written beforehand. I felt that I repeated major themes or ideas numerous times throughout the answer period, so I am going to share those.

1) What is love? 3 parts- 1) attraction, 2) closeness, 3) commitment. Attraction is often confused with love, especially when we are young and inexperienced, but it is only one part.

2) The difference between love and sex. Love is an emotion. Sex is an action. They are not the same, although they are often confused, and not only by us but in our surroundings. Love is not sex. Sex is not love. Most importantly, you can have love without sex.

3) The consequences of having sex. 1) Pregnancy and its consequences, 2) the risk of sexually-transmitted diseases, 3) emotional consequences, 4) moral factors.

4) If a boy or girl loves you, they shouldn’t pressure you into having sex. If they do, they don’t really respect you and without respect, you can’t have love, so they are not someone you want to have sex with.

5) When we are young, it is not a good idea to have sex. We are confused and unsure of our feelings and unable to handle the consequences. It is best for young people to practice abstinence, but if we are going to have sex when we are young, we must practice safe sex and use a condom.

6) Healthy relationships have love, mutual respect, trust, honesty, support, fairness and equality, separate identifies, and good communication.

7) There are many ways to show love (and then we thought of some together as a group- singing songs, writing love letters, giving gifts). But most important is saying “I love you!” to the person you love (I received a loud shout of astonishment from the group at this last comment).

8) The best thing you can do to get or keep a boy or girl friend is just be confident in yourself. They should like you for who you are. There is nothing more attractive than confidence.

And that was love, relationships, and sex. I think I answered a lot of their questions, made my points, and soothed their anxieties, at least a little, about these difficult subjects and confusing time of change in their life.

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