I’ve worked with teenagers my entire adult life. As a youth worker and mentor, I’ve been involved in their lives and heard their struggles. For those seeking to follow God, and even for those who aren’t, there is much confusion about how to view sex.
They aren’t alone. Adults don’t seem to be handling it very well either. The sexual revolution has indoctrinated our culture that sex is fine any time with any person as long as two people are consenting. They state that it is your right to give free expression to this desire. How can it hurt anyone to show love?
Many years later, we see the hurt in so many tangible ways. We see thousands of abortions and with it a rise in depression and suicidal thoughts according to a report from CBSNews. We see STDs like AIDS that have wiped out entire generations overseas.
The damage is not just physical. Many are hurt by the hookup culture that promises pleasure but delivers emptiness. In this NY York Times article, a woman has a consensual one-night stand but is surprised the next day when he decides to stay and spend time with her. They have a great time, and he even says things like she is the girl of his dreams. The next day he disappears.
That night I hadn’t been looking for romance, but my two-time lover embedded himself in my consciousness when he told me I was the girl of his dreams, and I can’t help but think how cruel that was, considering how it all turned out. Our goodbye was a kiss on the mouth and a wink as he stepped off the subway.
Though she had consented to the sexual encounter, she is left confused and hurting.
Even more urgent is the #MeToo movement which showcases what happens when people do not control their sexual impulses. Even in cases where it isn’t forced (through power or physical force), how to approach consent is difficult. Recently, another woman spoke out against the famous comedian Aziz Ansari, not because she had faced an abusive sexual encounter, but because she faced an insensitive sexual encounter. In an article about her allegation, it is explained that he did not and could not hear her verbal and non-verbal cues.
After stating that she wanted to chill and not go so fast, they moved to the couch where he then expected oral sex. She says, “It was literally the most unexpected thing I thought would happen at that moment because I told him I was uncomfortable.” When she finally left, she was emotional and hurting, disgusted with men. He, on the other hand, had no idea. When this finally came out, he was surprised and thought everything had been fine. “Ansari responds: ‘Clearly, I misread things in the moment and I’m truly sorry.”’
Sex is Powerful
The question isn’t really how to communicate consent. Instead, we must step back and consider that sex is more powerful than previously understood. It has the power to create life, and, as seen, it has the power to destroy.
Why else would the abuse of children and women in sex-trafficking and pornography be as hideous as it is? Why else does Jesus name adultery as grounds for divorce?
When I have spoken plainly with my teenagers, I explain that we can’t have it both ways. It either means something, and we value and protect it, or it doesn’t. If it doesn’t mean anything, if it’s nothing more than playing a game of tennis, then there can be no hurt when it goes awry. We cannot be angry at rapists or an unfaithful partner or an insensitive date.
But, we are.
So we have to start this conversation from a different place now. We must understand and communicate the powerful consequences of sex, not to make people fear it, but to see what it was intended for. It can be an expression of love, but it is only an expression of love when other expressions of love reign supreme.
Related Post: Two Become One
This is hard for our young generation. They are starved for love, and movies display a quick way to find it. They don’t tell the whole story though. To really love someone means to protect them–even from yourself. Real love wants the very best for the other person. Love will sacrifice itself rather than put the loved one in a position that will hurt them. If you really want to show love, it starts with respect and valuing, not physical connection. Waiting for sex also communicates a message of self-control that lets the person loved know that you can resist temptation. This is especially important for building trust in a relationship. If you can resist now, any temptation in the future can be resisted also.
Let’s Start with Why
When I was an unbelieving teenager, my unbelieving but good, moral father wanted me, of course, to wait until I was married. I remember asking him that aside for health reasons, why should I wait? He could not answer me.
When I became a believer, the church’s answer was more helpful but not more informative. They said to wait for marriage, but they couldn’t really tell me why. God’s Word, of course, should be authoritative enough to stand on without explanation, but that isn’t always how we work. We need help to see the bigger picture–part of which focuses on trusting a loving God who designed us and knows what’s best for us.
Why Waiting is Important
- Sex creates life. Using birth control doesn’t always keep this from happening. This act which leads to the actual creation of a human being cannot be taken lightly. If you are not in a place to care for another life, you aren’t ready for sex.
- Sex creates a bond. When you are getting to know someone, you are learning what kind of person they are. The minute you introduce the physical, however, you create a bond that can keep you from seeing things clearly. You might find later that this wasn’t a person you really wanted to be with and now you have this connection which can cause you a lot of pain. The hookup culture is a lie. You cannot just walk away. You might tell yourself that, but the connection is there regardless.
- Sex in the wrong context can cause emotional pain. If we learn nothing else from the #MeToo movement, we must learn the devastating effects that sex or sexual acts have when it is not done in the right context. Many thousands of children, women, and men can testify to the pain caused by abuse. This alone should warn us that there are limitations to the act of sex, even more than consent.
- The focus should be on building a relationship, not a moment. Movies present sex as the perfect moment. The feeling of pleasure will not last. However, love looks beyond the moment and builds something that will last.
- God can be trusted on this one. When you were children, there were things your parents did not allow you to do–play with knives, run into oncoming traffic, eat Tide Pods, etc. At that moment, they seemed unfair, as though your parents were delighting in keeping you from having fun. However, when you grew up, you looked back and saw the wisdom of your parents. We cannot even compare to the wisdom of God–can you trust that His design for sex within marriage is good?
When my kids are old enough to drive, I will explain many important things to them. I will tell them of the importance of being ready to drive. I will make sure they understand the reality that if they do something wrong their own lives, or the lives of others, could be lost. I will explain why they should use the vehicle how it was designed to be used. If something as inconsequential as driving is taken seriously, we need to take seriously the implications of sex. This is the only thing that makes sense in a world of such glaring contradictions. In your case, whoever you are, I hope you choose love–the real love that lasts beyond the moment and that brings a true sense of belonging.