Young authors explain sexuality

  • May 28, 2009
{mosimage}Sexuality is an inescapable topic, yet teens just aren’t being given the tools to evaluate their relationships properly, say the authors of a new book for Catholics called How Far Can We Go?

“Kids don’t like scare tactics, so if you tell them they might get pregnant or get AIDS, it often doesn’t help — it basically reinforces the idea that if you don’t get AIDS or get pregnant then there’s no problem. But if you say it’s bad for your relationship... and if you find out what level of intimacy is appropriate to you, that’s much better than saying here’s what not to do,” said co-author Brett Salkeld.

Salkeld, together with Leah Perrault, spent more than five years talking to teens in the Toronto area about Catholic sexuality under the name Tobias and Sarah Ministries. How Far Can We Go? came into fruition after years of hearing parents and teens say they wanted something concrete to take home.

“Someone would always come up and say my friend or my daughter couldn’t come tonight but he/she really needs to hear this,” Salkeld said.

Salkeld is a doctoral student in theology at Regis College and Perrault is the director of pastoral services for the diocese of Saskatoon and a masters student in theology. Both writers, in their late 20s, are married, although not to each other, and have children. At a younger age, they wrote for The Catholic Register’s Youth Speak News program.

Their interest in knowing more about church teaching on sexuality led them to study the late Pope John Paul II’s theology of the body extensively during the pursuit of their degrees.

Their new book, while it engages the young reader to think about why sex before marriage can damage a relationship, also encourages them to pursue and examine the aspects that are necessary for a healthy relationship: intellectual, emotional, social and physical. The reader must ultimately ask themselves if what they’re doing is hurting or helping their relationship.

Perrault, who grew up in rural Saskatchewan, said the language used in Christian circles when she was a teen, although effective in helping her to happily practise her faith, weren’t effective enough in helping young people navigate healthy relationships.

“There had to be a middle between ‘I kissed dating goodbye’ and sex,” she said. “Give kids coherent ways to think about things in relation to what they’ve experienced.”

Answers she would get as a teen that “sex is bad” yet “married sex is great” seemed “kind of schizophrenic,” she said. Instead, she and Salkeld deliver a message about sexuality that reinforces why people should not have pre-marital sex while discussing the consequences of “going too far” in other expressions of sexuality and how to set reasonable limits.

Discernment, communication and setting “soft lines” are key, the book teaches, but youth must also understand that certain actions are sinful and to be avoided. Perrault and Salkeld also included a chapter on how to strive for chastity within a marriage.

The book, reviewed by ethicists and priests, might also appeal to educators who could use sections of the book in their lesson plans, he added. 

The book was launched at The National Theology of the Body Conference in Saskatoon June 5-7 and is  available through Novalis ( ).

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