Emma (not her real name), a 21-year-old college student, doesn’t think sex should be casual.
In a culture where sexual hook-ups, or sex with no strings attached, have become commonplace, there are those, like Emma, who are making different life choices. I recently interviewed her about that choice, and why she’s made it.
Interview with Emma
Question: What are your beliefs about sex and marriage?
Emma: Sex is for marriage, absolutely.
Q: Why is it so important for you to wait for marriage?
Emma: Waiting for marriage is about self-respect and showing love to my future husband.
I could give in, but what if the guy leaves me? What if I get an STD or become pregnant? Besides, I believe sex outside of marriage is a sin, so I’d disappoint my family—and most importantly, I’d disappoint God. I’d feel devastated with myself.
Q: To whom or to what do you attribute your beliefs about sex?
Emma: Definitely my parents. They never really sat down and gave us a birds-and-bees conversation, but everything they did was an example to me. If we watched a movie and there was something risqué, they’d use it as a teaching moment.
Q: How did your parents behave with each other?
Emma: We always knew that Mom and Dad loved each other because of the way they are together. I think parents sometimes fail to be affectionate in front of their kids, but it’s important for children to see that.
Q: How important is your relationship with your Dad to your choices?
Emma: I’m definitely a daddy’s girl. I remember one time when some guy was looking me up and down, Dad moved in between us and glared at him until he looked away. It made me feel protected. Our bond has given me a sense of confidence. It’s made me feel like I’m worth something—I have value. It’s also given me a sense of who my Heavenly Father is like.
Q: How old were you when you remember making a conscious decision to keep sex for marriage?
Emma: I got a purity ring when I was about 12. My cousin had one; and when I knew what it represented, I wanted one too. By high school, I was consciously thinking, “This is it. I can mess up, make mistakes and go the wrong way like my peers, or I can follow God and be good.”
Q: At what age did you start feeling peer pressure to become sexually active?
Emma: I first noticed it my freshman year in high school. Kids would deliberately say perverted things to get me to react. Like in my music class, they would make the dirtiest comments. I remember being so shocked the first time it happened that I had to leave class. The sad part was that even the teacher condoned it.
Q: Has the pressure increased as you got older?
Emma: Every year it gets worse. I’m 21 and still a virgin. It’s extremely rare, at least with the people I’m around. Other girls are shocked when they find out. Some think it’s cool, while others say, “Wow, I could never do that.” When guys find out, it’s almost like some feel the need to make me uncomfortable by telling sex jokes. They tease me, but some guys also respect me for it. It depends on the guy.
Q: What’s the trend among your peers?
Emma: College was a real shock! The pressure is much worse, and I can’t “hide” behind my parents’ rules anymore. My first year I lived in the “party” dorm, so students were getting drunk and having sex all the time.
Q: How do you handle the peer pressure?
Emma: When guys crack inappropriate jokes or make suggestive remarks, I shut them down right away. Some feel threatened by my commitment, and they put pressure on me to conform. I see girls who are willing to give up a lot to please a guy, but I’m not one of them, and I’m at the point now where I don’t care what people think. It’s more important for me to please God than people.
Q: How do you talk about your beliefs with your peers?
Emma: It’s really hard to explain to someone who doesn’t have a relationship with God that her worth comes from Him, not from having multiple sex partners. A personal walk with God is really the key to understanding this kind of commitment.
Q: What advice would you give someone who’s being pressured to have sex?
Emma: Sex is so much more than a physical act. It’s an expression of love between a husband and wife, and we cheapen it when we treat it and ourselves casually. Remember, you are worth something, so don’t let others disrespect you. Ask yourself, “Do I want to be the girl (or guy) that everyone can have, or just that one special person who’s committed to me?”
Reserved for marriage
Emma is right. God speaks very clearly in the Bible about sex being reserved for marriage. Consider Hebrews 13:4, which says “Marriage is honorable among all, and the [marriage] bed undefiled, but fornicators and adulterers God will judge.”
Marriage is a sacred union, and God intends man and woman to become one (Genesis 2:24). God doesn’t forbid sex outside of the marriage bed to punish us, but rather to protect and preserve what is sacred and special.
That doesn’t mean it’s easy.
We live in a very promiscuous society, though that hasn’t always been true. Let’s briefly consider two factors that have contributed to today’s sexual standards: the women’s movement and the sexual revolution.
Though the women’s movement initially focused on property and political rights, a second wave of feminism arose in the 1960s in which gender roles came under attack and the traditional family structure was said to be demeaning to women. The movement also challenged traditional ideas about sexuality. Some feminists urged women to initiate sex and experiment with sexuality.
At the same time, the sexual revolution found its stride in the ’60s and ’70s, advocating the rejection of what some considered repressive Christian values of morality. The movement brought with it a profound shift in attitudes toward the freedom of all forms of sexual expression.
The destructive porn industry
Sex has now become a commodity, hence the multibillion-dollar porn industry that’s risen out of and contributed to the altering of sexual attitudes and behavior. Yet pornography has far-reaching consequences; it undermines marriages, families and communities. According to Pat Fagan, director of the Marriage and Religion Research Institute, porn:
- Is addictive.
- Leads to desensitization and boredom with marital relations.
- Is a pathway to infidelity and divorce.
- Promotes a higher tolerance for abnormal sexuality, including rape, sexual aggression and sexual promiscuity.
- Portrays women as commodities or sex objects.
- Promotes greater sexual permissiveness, leading to a greater risk of out-of-wedlock births and STDs (frc.org).
Mass media desensitizes us to evil
The ideologies of feminism and the sexual revolution have taken hold due to the mass media. What we watch, listen to and read has an effect on us over time. Consider that what used to shock us as a society, now barely gets a yawn. The entertainment industry understands human behavior and uses that knowledge to desensitize us to thoughts and behaviors that were once considered deviant and wrong.
More importantly, our values have been shaped by the counterculture of past decades, so that abnormal, sinful behaviors have become the new standard.
God not only foresaw this, He warned against it through His prophet Isaiah: “Woe to those who call evil good, and good evil” (Isaiah 5:20).
Antiquated or much needed?
But is the idea of being sexually pure an antiquated notion? Wendy Shalit, author of A Return to Modesty, suggests that in fact behaving in a chaste and modest way protects a woman’s natural vulnerability and elevates the acceptable standard of behavior for men.
As she points out, we cannot expect men to be honorable when we tell them that they do not have to be. And she shows that most women regret too much sexual experience, not the other way around (pp. 90, 105). In fact, research shows that “most women would prefer one man who will stick by them, for better or for worse, to a series of men who abandon them” (p. 95).
A careful examination of the Scriptures proves that God is not a prude! (Read Song of Solomon.) He created sex for reproduction and the expression of love between a husband and wife. His guidelines on sexual modesty and purity are not outdated; they protect us from the dangerous repercussions of casual sex.
God values each one of us as a special treasure, and He expects us to treat ourselves and our bodies with respect. No matter what, it’s never too late to commit to sexual purity from now on.