My Mama Told Me So!


Psychologist Sandy Lopater (Emeritus Faculty, Christopher Newport University) is co-author with noted sex therapist Dr. Ruth Westheimer of the textbook Human Sexuality: A Psychosocial Perspective—an invaluable reference as well as an engaging textbook that goes beyond traditional introductory sexuality resources.
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Or not.  Perhaps this Sunday Morning Forum topic has never made it to the family discussion table, or maybe a few, select comments about this sensitive subject have been shared during child rearing years. But were the explanations open and accurate?

We're speaking about human sexuality!

Our thanks to Dr. Sandford (Sandy) Lopater for bringing ”Historical, Religious, and Philosophical Origins of Our Sexual Attitudes" to our Forum discussion table. As a Professor of Psychology at Christopher Newport University (previously, Christopher Newport College), from 1974 – 2015, our fellow congregant has helped shape the attitudes of many a student.

Like all attitudes, noted Sandy, sexual attitudes have something to do with three things: thinking, feeling, doing—which is why it is so challenging to change a mind-set, and subsequently, behavior. "Sexual drives are seemingly innate, natural and instinctive. The biopsychosocial approach to sexual behavior involves the interacting influences of our biological selves, our interpersonal relationships, and the social codes and culture in which we live."

The lens of history again provided insight to understanding our present and molding our future. Areas highlighted include:

  • Jewish law and traditions
  • St. Paul
  • St. Augustine
  • St. Thomas Aquinas
  • The Protestant Reformation; Protestant tradition
  • Sex in Puritan America; Puritan tradition and sexual perspectives
  • Victorian sexuality
  • Sex in the Twentieth Century; contraception controversy; Alfred Kinsey; William Masters and Virginia Johnson

With religion having a profound effect on what one discerns as "normal, appropriate, right, and wrong," sexual values in this country have been closely aligned with our Judeo-Christian heritage. The facilitator noted that students are surprised to learn that some of the most significant influences on American sexuality are not current manifestations, but date back thousands of years (e.g., the male dominant tradition, premarital intercourse prohibitions, masturbation). Indeed, our sexual attitudes and expressions continue to evolve.During this month of great thanksgiving, Gratitude is in hearts and deeds of many. We can be especially grateful that doorways are opening to transform repressive and oppressive sexual attitudes and behavior through increased opportunities to learn about and understand perspectives and actions different from our own.

If living out this process and our values transforms our lives and our world, that is reason enough. Mama told me so!

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