A few weeks ago, my partner and I went to see the Tony-Award winning musical, Spring Awakening, on Broadway. Based on the controversial, German play written in 1891 by Frank Wedekind, the musical is about teenagers discovering their sexuality. Through its exhilarating alt-rock score, Spring Awakening deals with the topics of individuality, education, masturbation, homosexuality, abortion, rape, sexual abuse, and suicide. Click here for a full synopsis without too many spoilers.
I left the musical physically and emotionally shaken with the resonance I felt. Discovering my sexuality in utter ignorance was all too familiar. Not that my mom did not give me the books – I shudder as I remember the day she handed me Where Did I Come From? . However, even with the books, I still felt as if sex was something bad and puberty was a dirty word and homosexuality was a sin akin to murder.
Now, I don’t want to put the blame 100% on Catholicism– maybe just 98%. Sexuality education in the Catholic tradition focuses solely on abstinence, neglecting to teach young adults how to make informed and responsible decisions about their bodies. Catholic teaching condemns contraception, denounces sexual pleasure, and rules out masturbation and homosexuality as “intrinsically disordered” – even though decades of research prove the opposite. Spring Awakening eloquently depicts how this miseducation adversely affects young adults.
I find that even among progressive Catholics, we still have trouble talking about our sexuality. I attribute this mostly to years of this miseducation on sexuality which Catholicism provides us – it is hard to erase those misnomers from our heads! Not that all Catholic teaching on sexuality is awful. If you can get past the antiquated, hetero-normative language of the teachings, there is some good stuff on what it means to be in relationship.
Comprehensive sexuality education, on the other hand, gives young people the tools they need to make responsible, value-based decisions. It provides young adults with accurate information about sexuality and helps them to develop their values and beliefs about sexuality. Had the characters in Spring Awakening had comp. sex ed. at school or church, the plot would certainly have ended differently.
To wrap this all up: Spring Awakening was fantastic – the best and most honest musical I have seen in years! It is going on tour starting in August. I encourage everyone to go and see it! Here is a music video of one the hit songs in the production, The Bitch of Living. Enjoy!