" Next Tuttle, a retired sex therapist, asks the students about the experience of mindfully touching themselves: "How did it feel? " "It made me wish someone else were touching me," Elizabeth says.
"We see sexuality as a very important part of the human experience that is lifelong," says Janet Hayes, public relations director for the UUA. Your sexuality doesn't end after you stop having babies or get divorced or after you turn 60. We feel it has to be integrated into our spirituality because, for us, spirituality is about wholeness." So in 2008, the churches—which together have about 6,600 U. congregations and 1.4 million members—introduced classes for adults 18 to 35.
Nine middle-aged men and women are sitting in a circle in a cluttered, colorful classroom in a church annex in Austin. Her husband, Eugene, sitting nearby, was raised in Spain and has handsome features and courtly manners. "Touch one of your hands with the other," she says. Tonight's class is one of 14 in the seven-month course, which is the result of an initiative of the Unitarian Universalist Association (UUA) and the United Church of Christ (UCC).
The women are a flurry of activity, practically tripping over each other to scribble—"played doctor," "found a pubic hair," "menstruation," "kissed a boy," "kissed a girl," "touched by a cousin," "fell in love," "lost my virginity," "had an abortion," "had a baby," "breasts sagging," "menopause," "discovered sex without love." The men look on and appear intimidated.(Besides sex, HIV/AIDS can also be acquired by sharing syringe needles.) Before having sex, check your partner’s penis or vaginal area for sores, abnormal discharges, or odors.The best way to protect yourself and your partner is for the two of you to get tested for HIV and other STIs before you start having sex.Finally, Eugene picks up a pen and writes down "first time had sex." The other men slowly begin to join in. Judith says the exercise made her realize that one huge thing she can't control about her sexuality is her fading looks. The women return her you're-out-of-your-mind look, so she explains: "When I was young, I'd see these older women and they just seemed as if they had confidence and were wise—and more comfortable in their skin. "I didn't get any mileage out of being cute when I was young.Together they manage to write: "accidentally masturbated," "masturbated," "first time had sex," "prostate," and "Viagra." Tuttle calls time and invites the students to look at the timelines. "Like, I'm still looking at 40-year-old men," Judith says, "but they're not looking back." A few of the other women agree. I'm much more comfortable in my skin today than I was at 30, 25, 20, and definitely 15." "How? Maybe that's the positive side of not being cute or flirty at 20—when you don't get that attention at 45, you haven't lost anything." A little later, Judith admits that she can think of a few good things that result from getting older.A person can have an STI and not know it because the symptoms are not obvious.And some symptoms of STIs or HIV, such as tiredness, can be mistaken for age-related health problems. Elizabeth, an information technology manager at a local government agency, is an athletic woman, efficient in her movements. So begins the fifth session of Our Whole Lives (OWL): Sexuality Education for Adults, at the First Unitarian Church of Austin. "It was just nice to be touched at all," says Judith.How do I manage being a parent and a sexual person?Can I feel sexually satisfied if I don't have a life partner?