Unintended Consequences vs. Intended Rewards

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Unintended Consequences vs. Intended Rewards

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The numbers indicate that "teen sexual activity overall is declining and more teens are delaying sexual activity, compared with a decade ago."

Girls in their first and second years of college are coming to me with difficult questions regarding sexuality," said a women's counselor for a college near my home. "They feel enormous pressure to have sexual experience—they don't want to be thought of as the last virgin on campus—yet from talking to other girls, they also know that their hearts are going to be broken after even just a one-time experience. They don't know what to do."

This conversation with a fellow passenger on a recent airplane flight alerted me to an issue researchers have recently confirmed: Sex creates an emotional bond.

The emotional aspect of sex also affects youth in high school. A team of University of California at San Francisco (UCSF) researchers reported that they had studied ninth and tenth graders at two California high schools between 2002 and 2004.

Of the 618 students surveyed, 44 percent reported having had oral sex or intercourse by the end of the 10th grade. The numbers indicate that "teen sexual activity overall is declining and more teens are delaying sexual activity, compared with a decade ago."

The researchers also found that approximately 40 percent of those who had sex felt bad about themselves or felt guilty (Ilene Lelchuk, "UCSF Explores Teens' Post-Sex Emotions," San Francisco Chronicle, Feb. 15, 2007). Other studies have shown even higher percentages.

In addition to feeling bad about having had sex, almost the same percentage felt that they had been manipulated. Again, what these young people discovered is that there are often emotional consequences that accompany sex.

God, we should understand, created sex to be an emotional experience that would bind a husband and wife together. "Casual" sex, then, is not so casual as people think. And it is this emotional aspect of sex that many educators now believe young people need to understand in addition to concerns about pregnancy and STDs.

Similar to the UCSF study, "sex therapist Darcy Luadzers, author of two new advice books for teens about how to navigate the sexual world, said she sees the emotional toll firsthand in her practice. The adults she treats have problems that often date back to regretful teenage experiences, she said. Also, in collecting adolescents' stories for her books Virgin Sex for Girls and Virgin Sex for Guys, she found most of them were regretful about their first experiences.

"'We just don't talk about the emotional consequences enough,' Luadzers said" (ibid.).

A closer look at the emotional effects

While God tells everyone to refrain from premarital sex (1 Corinthians 6:18 1 Corinthians 6:18Flee fornication. Every sin that a man does is without the body; but he that commits fornication sins against his own body.
American King James Version×
), the effects of this type of sex are particularly devastating to girls. Laura Stepp Sessions, author of a new book titled Unhooked, says, "Girls can have feelings even from the most casual hook-ups, whether they want to or not, and they aren't learning what to do with them."

Stepp, in her book—subtitled "How Young Women Pursue Sex, Delay Love, and Lose at Both"—further explains that casual hook-ups create bad habits that make it harder to sustain the commitment required in marriage. Additional consequences include finding it harder to trust, to share and to solve the problems that arise in marriage (Barbara Meltz, "Hooking Up Is the Rage, but Is It Healthy?" Boston Globe, Feb. 13, 2007).

Women in particular, it seems, just aren't emotionally designed for uncommitted sex. "What young women don't count on is oxytocin, a chemical produced in the brain to promote feelings of connection and love. Oxytocin is most commonly associated with breast-feeding; it's what helps a mother bond with her infant. But it's also produced to lesser degrees during sex. The more intense the sex, the more oxytocin. Males also get a dose of it from sex, but they get a bigger dose of testosterone, which suppresses the oxytocin" (ibid.).

While some boys don't seem to have the same emotional misgivings as girls from uncommitted sex, boys likewise suffer consequences. Many of them have commitment problems that can be traced to random sex. In this shallow mind-set, the question seems to be, Why should I get married if I am already getting sex? By contrast, the Bible teaches us that we should marry to enjoy our God-given gift of sexuality.

As 1 Corinthians 7:2 1 Corinthians 7:2Nevertheless, to avoid fornication, let every man have his own wife, and let every woman have her own husband.
American King James Version×
(King James Version) explains, "to avoid fornication, let every man have his own wife, and let every woman have her own husband."

Another problem for boys who have premarital sex is that when they do marry, they often compare their wife to former lovers and thus find it easier to end the relationship. After all, that's what casual hook-ups prepare them to do—that is, to routinely break up with one partner and find another.

Charting a better course

Some vertical thinking quickly brings wise young people the world over to the conclusion that there has to be a better way to navigate life than the free sex approach advocated by much of today's media.

One doesn't suffer the emotional consequences of random sex if one doesn't have random sex. Girls don't get the human papillomavirus or HPV infection—which one quarter of U.S. teen girls and 44.8 percent of women ages 20 to 24 have according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention—if they and their future husbands don't have premarital sex (Will Dunham, "HPV Infections Seen in Over Quarter of U.S. Women," Reuters, Feb. 27, 2007).

The biblical instruction, "Do not arouse, do not stir up love, before its own time" (Song Of Solomon 2:7 Song Of Solomon 2:7I charge you, O you daughters of Jerusalem, by the roes, and by the hinds of the field, that you stir not up, nor awake my love, till he please.
American King James Version×
; 3:5, New American Bible), is good advice for people of all ages everywhere. Why not save your sexuality for the place where it belongs—in your marriage? Why not reap the rewards of intentional behavior that conforms to God's instructions instead of receiving unintended consequences?

By following what He says, you can avoid guilt and having your heart unnecessarily broken. This course of action also gives you the best opportunity for a happy, long-lasting marriage. VT

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