Can we just let our fear of sexual sin jeopardize our children’s lives?
With all the talk about COVID vaccinations, we forget that there are other useful vaccinations as well.
“My children do not need to be vaccinated against HPV,” I have heard some of my Mormon friends and relatives say. “They will still be virgins when they marry. You never have to worry about an STD.”
Leaving aside the vengeful “people get what they deserve” mentality of such a belief, the truth is that our children don’t have to be sex addicts to contract any of 40 sexually transmitted human papillomaviruses that cause cervical, vaginal, anal, , vulva, mouth, throat and penile cancer.
First, let’s establish some norms for this discussion: science is real, hormones are real, misconceptions are real.
If our son or daughter makes a single temporary mistake, only has sex once before marriage, and then quickly and sincerely repents and never has sex again until marriage, don’t we believe in forgiveness?
What if our son or daughter is a virgin on their wedding day but they marry someone who is not? Perhaps their spouse had only one fault, or perhaps they had several. But they have repented and embraced sexual monogamy. Our son or daughter may not even know about their spouse’s past.
Let’s add a few other basic norms for this discussion: some people lie convincingly, some people do not consider it dishonest to omit important information, some people are too ashamed to reveal parts of their past.
Are we still okay with our child getting cancer as punishment for something they didn’t even do?
Another uncomfortable reality is that 1 in 5 women and 1 in 16 men experience sexual abuse during college. Rape also occurs on religious campuses. Even at Brigham Young University.
I’ve heard some parents say that their child would fight to the death to avoid being raped, that no one actually gets raped without at least partially agreeing. What I’ve never had Heard the parents of a missing child say they hope their child was murdered in addition to being raped.
Children are overpowered and raped. adults too. The older ones too.
If our child has been traumatized by such a horrible event, do we really want to punish them even further with the lifelong knowledge that they may later develop cancer? That they could infect their future husband or wife?
Aside from these scenarios, we should also realize that our children may simply choose a different life path than we wish for them. You can choose to have multiple sexual partners. Do we really want to see them die for their views on sexuality?
There is a difference between “tough love” and “tough vengeance.” We may not be directly involved in “honor killings,” but are we guilty of honor killings? neglect of honor?
What if all of our children and their spouses are virgins when they marry and none of them are ever sexually abused? Are we then finally able to justify our refusal to vaccinate them?
Some marriages end in divorce, and we must address the new partner’s sexual history, if there is one.
What if the marriage ended because our child’s spouse was having an affair?
What if our children have wonderful, successful marriages in every way, but then their spouse dies in an accident or from cancer or some other disease?
We’re back to delve into another partner’s sex history again.
Not everyone who is infected shows symptoms. Not everyone who is infected will develop cancer. Some only develop warts. is that something we can inflict on our loved ones just because we can’t accept that they will ever have sex, either consensual or not?
Some people are against all vaccines. These people cannot be convinced. But most of us are okay with vaccinating our children against measles, mumps, rubella, tetanus, and many other harmful viruses.
Can we so easily allow our fear of sexual sin to endanger the lives of our children when that risk can be greatly reduced with a simple vaccination?
If a doctor is required to take an oath to “do no harm,” I hope that as parents we can make the same commitment to the sacred souls in our care.
Johnny Townsend, Seattle, is the author of Am I My Planet’s Keeper?, Racism by Substitute, and Queer Quilting, among others.