Living by Your Own Rules: Sexual Integrity

From friends who have re-entered the dating pool at mid-life, to teenage mentorees, to children approaching puberty—sex and sexuality are a regular topic of conversations ’round these parts. One of my girlfriends once said to me that as a teenager she decided “I just wanted to have a sexual history I could look back on without regret.” But how do you defined what that is for yourself in complex and changing world?

beckyknightheadshotnewIt’s always a good idea to ask an expert. So let me introduce to you Becky Knight, Clinical Sexologist. Today Becky is helping us make the connection between our guiding values and our sexual choices. Making that connection will help us feel more confident about our sexual choices, calm the voices in our heads that lead to self doubt, and quite the old tapes we don’t need to listen to any longer. Becky, take it away…



Living with Sexual Integrity

Sexuality is a part of life. From the cradle to the grave, we make choices about how to live our lives as sexual beings. We choose beliefs about our bodies, about our desires, and about our behaviors. We choose who to pursue or rebuff. We choose the words and images that inform our sexuality and that give it context.

How we make those choices can be influenced by any number of things: our childhood messages about sexuality, our time and place in society, and the dynamics of the relationship we have with ourselves and with our partners. How healthy those choices are, I believe, is impacted by how closely they align with our guiding values.

When Rachelle’s *8 Things challenge was to create a list of guiding values, I had to pause. Could it be that I had never thought about it before? And could my general guiding values also be at the core of my sexuality? It seemed so obvious, and yet more than a little intimidating. I could have pondered that question for hours, trying to create the ‘perfect’ list. Instead, I shot from the hip and wrote down the first *8 Things that came to my mind. I trusted that if I took a moment to look inward, that I knew what I value most. And you know what, my list looks pretty good! It is a reflection of how I want to live my life.  

Here’s how you can use your guiding values to shape and direct your sexual self:

Write It Down: If you haven’t already done this exercise, I suggest you pause right now and do it. Calm yourself and trust your heart, and write down your guiding values. There is no right or wrong list, there is only your list.

Look Within: The next step is to sit back and look at your list. Look at it, and love it, and ask yourself some questions: 

  • Are these values guiding my sexual choices? 
  • Which of my values is it easiest for me to express in my sexuality? Which is the hardest? 
  • Where has my sex life been inconsistent with my guiding values? How might my sex life be better if it matched up to my values? How can I make the changes I need to? 
  • How can I use these values to support my sense of myself as a sexually whole and vibrant person? 

Take a Step
Move towards Sexual Integrity. By that, I don’t mean some religious morality or adherence to a set of rules. I mean, fix the places in you where your guiding values are not guiding you. If there’s an aspect of your sexual life that leaves you feeling anxious or weak, perhaps it’s because the choices you are making are not supported by your self-knowledge of what gives your life its shape and meaning. Be brave, and make a move.

Buddy Up

  • It’s okay to ask for help. Reach out to a friend and tell her about your desire to be brave in this part of your life. She probably wants to be brave too. 
  • Talk to your partner. Tell them that you want to create a sex life with them that reflects your values. Invite them to share their values as well. Make your intimate life more intimate by being brave together. 
  • Get expert help. Find a coach or counselor who can help you move towards sexual health and wholeness.

Our sexuality should add great comfort, passion and humor to our lives. It should give us security, while at the same time allowing for vulnerability and the risks inherent in knowing and being known. It should strengthen and deepen our values as we see that our lives, sexual and otherwise, are better because we’ve lived with integrity.

Becky Knight is a Clinical Sexologist, Educator and E-Coach. She can be found blogging at and she’s a twitterer. Don’t miss her current project,  Best Blog Series Ever. Periods.

More from Magpie Girl: 
The Blessings (on integrity)
Why I’m Not Teaching my Kids Abstinence-Only
God Sticks and Shame Caves
Abstinence, Kids, and Faith: Thoughts from the Comment Gallery

rowena September 28, 2009 at 5:36 pm

That is pretty interesting. I never really thought about this in relation to my sexuality. It puts a whole new spin on things.

I think after having kids, my whole relationship to my sexuality has changed, and it’s time to take a look at it again in light of that and in light of my guiding principles.

Actually, it’s a pretty exciting idea.

Carol September 29, 2009 at 2:14 am

the Unitarian Universalist Association and the United Church of Christ have developed a life long human sexuality set of courses called Our Whole Lives that deals with these issues in a group setting its pretty fantastic.

lisa (msla) September 29, 2009 at 4:28 am

Becky, this is a great post. As a single person who is not dating, I was tempted to pass it by. But I’m wondering what sort of choices (or non-choices) that I am making that is stunting this aspect of my life. As always, you write thoughtfully and thought provokingly.

Tess September 29, 2009 at 5:56 pm

Like Lisa, I’m a single person not dating. Your post made me think about that. I’ve been aware for some time that my sexual relationships have been completely out of sync with my values. (I’ve always regarded my partner du jour partly as an enemy, someone to manipulate and play power games with. The mind games were what interested me.) I have not, shall we say, had a talent for romantic intimacy or authenticity!

Reading your post made me realise that perhaps I can trust myself to have changed, and that I can make conscious choices around my values rather than slip back into old patterns. So maybe I can dare to start dating again. Thanks.

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