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Is there such a thing as safe sex?
The gift of virginity
It might help to know that your friend is not on a quest for sex. Perhaps your friend has some hurt or loneliness in her life, and she figures that if she has sex, it will feel like love and security, and she will be happy. Or perhaps she’s just curious and too immature to realize the consequences of sex. Either way, if you look into her heart you will see that she is not longing for a series of physical relationships with random guys. She is looking for enduring love and for intimacy, to be accepted by a man and cared for by him.
Your friend deserves these things, but she needs to be careful and courageous so that she does not fall for a counterfeit. There are plenty of boys out there who will tell her how beautiful her eyes are and how much they love her and will “always” be there. They will give her “love” for the sake of getting sex, and she may want to give them sex for the sake of feeling loved. Her heart is made for something better than this, and so she needs to realize that she is worth the wait. She cannot find happiness otherwise. As the Bible says, “She who is self-indulgent is dead even while she lives” (1 Tim. 5:6).
The following are some of the bad effects of premarital sex; do not dwell on them any longer than is necessary to give her a reality check. What she needs more than the bad news about premarital sex is the good news about what she is worth and what plans God has in store for her. She needs to be encouraged to wait not because sex is bad but because real love is so good.
The negative consequences of premarital sex can be seen from the relational, physical, emotional, and spiritual points of view.
Consider how premarital sex can affect relationships. One high school girl wrote, “I am sixteen and have already lost my virginity. I truly regret that my first time was with a guy that I didn’t care that much about. Since that first night he expects sex on every date. When I don’t feel like it, we end up in an argument. I don’t think this guy is in love with me, and I know deep down that I am not in love with him either. This makes me feel cheap. I realize now that this is a very big step in a girl’s life. After you have done it, things are never the same. It changes everything.”
Another young person said, “I slept with many, many people trying to find love, to find self-worth. And the more people I slept with, the less self-worth I had.” Some people may argue, “Well, what if I really care about him or her? I think sex will bring us closer together.” Indeed, sex creates a bond. However, 80 percent of the time, the physical intimacy of a teen’s first sexual relationship won’t last more than six months. Couples who want what is best for their relationship or future marriage will have the patience to wait.
Most of the time, when a girl gives away her virginity, she assumes the relationship will last forever. However, click here and scroll down to page 4 of the document, under the first graph. Look at your friend's age at the bottom, and it will tell you how many more sexual partners she will probably have if she plans on losing her virginity now. If she's like most freshmen, she's probably 14 years old. This study of more than 10,000 women shows that when a girl loses her virginity at that age, she'll probably have about thirteen more lifetime sexual partners.
Beyond one’s relationship, premarital sex frequently causes tension within families because of the dishonesty that usually accompanies the hidden intimacies. Relationships with friends are often strained, and when things turn sour, the gossip and social problems often become unbearable. Everyone talks about how hard it is to say no to sex, but no one tells you how hard it is when you say yes.
In regard to the physiological side of things, it is dangerous for a young single woman to be sexually active. Because a teenage girl’s reproductive system is still immature, she is very susceptible to sexually transmitted diseases (STDs). (Click here for the biological explanation.) In fact, early sexual activity is the number one risk factor for cervical cancer, and the second is multiple sexual partners. A girl’s body, like her heart, is not designed to handle multiple sexual partners.
While your friend might plan on sleeping with only one guy, she could be exposing herself to the STDs of hundreds of people through a single act of intercourse. Here’s how: Scientists studied the sexual activity of a public high school of about one thousand students. About half (573) of the students had been sexually active, and most of them had only been with one partner. However, when the scientists tracked the web of sexual activity among the students, it was discovered that more than half of the sexually active teens—without knowing it—were linked together in a network of 288 partners within the school! (Click here to see the web of this sexual activity.) So if your friend slept with a guy from this school, theoretically she could be in bed with one-fourth of the entire student body.
The emotional side effects of premarital sex are also damaging to a young woman. One of the most common consequences of teenage sexual activity is depression. Girls who are sexually active are more than three times as likely to be depressed as girls who are abstinent. In fact, the condition has become so predictable that the American Journal of Preventive Medicine recommends to doctors: “[Girls who are engaging in] sexual intercourse should be screened for depression, and provided with anticipatory guidance about the mental health risks of these behaviors.” Even if a girl experiments with sex once, research shows an increased risk of depression. Also, consider the fact that the rate of suicide attempts for sexually active girls (aged twelve to sixteen) is six times higher than the rate for virgins. Tragically, these girls do not realize the purity, hope, and forgiveness that they can find in Christ.
Unfortunately, many young women search for meaning only in relationships with guys, instead of with God. It is not uncommon for a girl to have sex in order to make a guy like her more or to encourage him to stay with her. She may compromise her standards because she is afraid of never being loved. Once he leaves her, though, an emotional divorce takes place. A person’s heart is not made to be that close to a person and then separated.
Since teenage sexual relationships rarely last, the girl’s sense of self-worth is often damaged. She may conclude that if she looked better, he would have stayed longer. This mentality can lead to harmful practices, such as eating disorders. Or the disappointment she feels may drive her into a state of self-hatred. Some young women even begin to hurt their own bodies in an attempt to numb the emotional pain. Such practices never solve the problems, though. If she wants to be loved, she needs to begin by loving herself.
In her heart, a girl who has been used knows it. However, she may immediately jump into another sexual relationship to escape the hurt. If she tries to boost her self-esteem by giving guys what they want, then her self-worth often ends up depending upon those kinds of relationships. Her development as a woman is stunted because without chastity she does not know how to express affection, appreciation, or attraction for a guy without implying something sexual. She may even conclude that a guy does not love her unless he makes sexual advances toward her. She knows that sex exists without intimacy, but she may forget that intimacy can exist without sex. A girl on this track usually feels accepted initially, but that acceptance lasts only as long as the physical pleasure.
Such a lifestyle will also take its toll on her ability to bond. Here’s why: Sharing the gift of sex is like putting a piece of tape on another person’s arm. The first bond is strong, and it hurts to remove it. Shift the tape to another person’s arm, and the bond will still work, but it will be easier to remove. Each time this is done, part of each person remains with the tape. Soon it is easy to remove because the residue from the various arms interferes with the tape’s ability to stick.
The same is true in relationships, because neurologists have discovered that previous sexual experiences can interfere with one’s ability to bond with future partners. This does not mean that if a person is not a virgin on the wedding night, he or she will be unable to bond with a spouse. It simply means that when we follow God’s plan, we have the most abundant life possible. But when we turn from his designs and break his commandments, often we are the ones who feel broken afterward.
Sin cuts us off from God, and this is the most serious consequence of premarital sex. After going too far, many of us know all too well the cloud of guilt that weighs on our hearts. The solution is not to kill our conscience but to follow it to freedom. It is calling us, not condemning us. Provided we repent, God will be there to welcome us home and let us start over (see John 8 and Luke 15).
What this all means is that our bodies, our hearts, our relationships, and our souls are not made for premarital sex. We are made for enduring love.
. Thomas Lickona, “Sex, Love, and Character: It’s Our Decision” (address given to assembly of students at Seton Catholic High School, Binghamton, N.Y., January 8, 1999), 10.
. All About Cohabiting Before Marriage, “Myths About Cohabitation,” http://www.leaderu.com/critical/cohabitation-myths.html.
. Suzanne Ryan, et al., “The First Time: Characteristics of Teens’ First Sexual Relationships,” Research Brief (Washington, D.C.: Child Trends, August 2003), 5.
. A. B. Moscicki, et al., “Differences in Biologic Maturation, Sexual Behavior, and Sexually Transmitted Disease Between Adolescents with and without Cervical Intraepithelial Neoplasia,” Journal of Pediatrics 115:3 (September 1989), 487–493; M. L. Shew, et al., “Interval Between Menarche and First Sexual Intercourse, Related to Risk of Human Papillomavirus Infection,” Journal of Pediatrics 125:4 (October 1994), 661–666.
. R.A. Hatcher, et al., Contraceptive Technology (1994), 515. . Peter Bearman, et al., “Chains of Affection,” American Journal of Sociology 110:1 (July 2004), 44–91.
. Robert E. Rector, et al., “Sexually Active Teenagers are More Likely to be Depressed and to Attempt Suicide,” The Heritage Foundation (June 3, 2003) .
. Hallfors, et al., “Which Comes First in Adolescence—Sex and Drugs or Depression?” American Journal of Preventive Medicine 29:3 (October 2005), 169.
. Hallfors, et al., 168; Hallfors, et al., “Adolescent Depression and Suicide Risk: Association with Sex and Drug Behavior,” American Journal of Preventive Medicine 27:3 (October 2004), 224–231; Martha W. Waller, et al., “Gender Differences in Associations Between Depressive Symptoms and Patterns of Substance Use and Risky Sexual Behavior among a Nationally Representative Sample of U.S. Adolescents,” Archives of Women’s Mental Health 9:3 (May 2006), 139–150.
. As reported by D. P. Orr, M. Beiter, G. Ingersoll, “Premature Sexual Activity as an Indicator of Psychological Risk,” Pediatrics 87 (February 1991), 141–147.
. Joe McIlhaney and Freda McKissic Bush, Hooked (Chicago: Northfield Publishing, 2008).