Sex—Which Advice Really Works?
IF YOU were to take a poll on “What makes for happiness?” many of the answers would involve sex. That is to be expected, because sexual feelings and desires are a God-given part of every normal healthy person.
2 Discussion of sex has become more open than in past generations. Also, sexual conduct has changed. More and more youths begin sexual intercourse at an early age, even in their early teens. Millions of couples, including many retired persons, live together and have sex relations without marriage. Among married persons, many have tried group sex, wife swapping or “open marriage,” in which both mates agree to having sex outside of marriage.
3 Advice regarding these matters comes from a variety of sources. What is viewed as popular today has been encouraged or at least approved by many doctors, marriage counselors and clergymen. Some people get their ideas from “how-to” books or magazine articles. The thinking of others is molded by sex-education courses in school. Yet others simply pick up their ideas from novels, motion pictures and television shows that deal explicitly with sex.
4 As most persons realize, the Bible also discusses the subject. Many persons now tend to shy away from Bible standards, feeling that these are overly restrictive. But is this the case? Or could it be that applying the Bible’s advice actually protects a person against much heartache and makes it possible to find greater happiness in life?
SEX BEFORE MARRIAGE—WHY NOT?
5 Sexual desire and capacity normally awaken and grow during the teen-age years. So throughout history many young persons have had sexual intercourse before marriage. (Genesis 34:1-4) But in recent years premarital sex has become increasingly common. In some places it is almost the general rule. Why?
6 One reason for the increase in premarital sex relates to the publicity given to sex in motion pictures and popular novels. Many young persons are curious, they ‘want to see what it is like.’ This, in turn, creates peer pressure and influences others to conform. As sex before marriage and sex without marriage have become widespread, many clergymen now say that it is permissible as long as the parties ‘love each other.’ More and more unmarried persons thus face the question, ‘Why not have sex, especially if we use birth control?’
7 Medical columnist Dr. Saul Kapel listed other reasons behind premarital sex, and made observations as to the effects:
‘Sex is misused as a means of rebellion against parents. It is misused to attract attention, as a kind of “call for help.” It is misused as a way of “proving” masculinity or femininity. It is misused as a social crutch in vain attempts to gain acceptance.
‘When sex is thus misused, it never solves the problems that motivate it. Usually, it only obscures them.’
8 No matter what the reason for premarital sex, no matter how common it is, no matter how many counselors and clergymen approve of it, the Bible advises:
“This is what God wills, . . . that you abstain from fornication; . . . that no one go to the point of harming and encroach upon the rights of” another.—1 Thessalonians 4:3-6.
Some may feel that God is here being needlessly restrictive. But do not forget that sex itself is a gift from Jehovah God; he is the One who created humans with reproductive powers. (Genesis 1:28) Is it not logical that the Author of human sexuality should be able to provide the best counsel on it, advice that can actually safeguard us against grief?
EFFECTS—PLEASURABLE OR PAINFUL?
9 Sexual attraction and desire can, in the right setting, have fine effects. One, of course, is children. The first recorded instance of sexual relations says: “Now Adam had intercourse with Eve his wife and she became pregnant.” (Genesis 4:1) In a family, resulting children can be a source of real happiness. What, though, if sex relations are engaged in by persons not yet married? The effect often is the same—pregnancy and children.
10 Many who share in premarital sex relations feel that this need not be a serious concern. They have in mind available contraceptives. In some places teen-agers may obtain these even without their parents’ learning of it. Nonetheless, teenage pregnancies abound even among sophisticated youths, who say, “It couldn’t happen to me.” News reports such as these prove it:
“More than one baby in every five born in New Zealand last year was born to an unmarried parent.”
“Of every three British women under 20 reciting her marriage vows, one is already an expectant mother.”
“One out of five teenage girls [in the U.S.A.] will become pregnant before she graduates from high school.”
11 This painful effect of sex before marriage has brought pressure on many young women and young men. Some seek abortion. Yet sensitive persons become severely disturbed at the thought of destroying a child that is developing within its mother. (Exodus 20:13) Feminine emotions and conscience are also involved. These are so powerful that many who have permitted an abortion have later regretted it deeply.—Romans 2:14, 15.
12 Teen-age pregnancies bring greater risks to mother and child than do pregnancies of adult women. There is a greater risk of anemia, toxemia, abnormal bleeding, prolonged labor and forced delivery, as well as death during delivery. A baby born to a mother under age 16 is twice as likely to die in its first year. Illegitimate births also bring the parents many personal, social and economic problems. Furthermore, a child’s security and development depend to a great extent on a stable home environment. Children deprived of that by illegitimacy may be seriously hurt for life. Would you say, then, that the overall effects of premarital sex are pleasurable or painful? And is the Bible’s advice, “Abstain from fornication,” a wise protection?
13 Ignoring the Bible’s advice has also exposed many to another painful effect—disease. Women who began their sex life in their teens with multiple partners have a much higher rate of cervical cancer. There is, too, the very real danger of venereal disease. Some persons deceive themselves by thinking that gonorrhea and syphilis can easily be detected and cured. But experts of the U.N. World Health Organization report that some venereal disease strains now are resistant to antibiotics. Doctors worry, also, about the upsurge in genital herpes. It often harms children born to infected women. Yes, many young persons are learning to their sorrow the truthfulness of the Bible’s warning:
“Every other sin that a man may commit is outside his body, but he that practices fornication is sinning against his own body.”—1 Corinthians 6:18.
14 Some think that premarital sex provides experience that can make for easier sexual adjustment in marriage. It is common in some lands for wealthy fathers to take their sons to prostitutes for “education.” Persons may feel that this is helpful. But it really is not, according to our Creator, who has observed all human experience. Maintaining chastity beforehand lays a far better groundwork for a happy marriage. Canadian studies disclosed that teen-agers who had early premarital sex are more likely to cheat on their mates when once married. But persons who maintain chastity beforehand are more likely to be chaste in marriage; the respect and honor for marriage they had before the wedding day continue after it.
HOW ABOUT ADULTERY?
15 Today’s liberal counsel about sex has also led to more adultery. Reports from Europe and North America indicate that about half the married men cheat on their wives. More women also are now approving of and sharing in adultery, often with the hope that it will add romance to their lives.
16 The Bible offers very clear advice on this: “Let the husband render to his wife her [sexual] due; but let the wife also do likewise to her husband.” (1 Corinthians 7:3) You can read also Proverbs 5:15-20, which, in figurative language, says that married persons should obtain sexual pleasure within their marriage, not from someone outside it. Experience over the centuries has proved that this advice is a protection. It protects against disease and illegitimacy. It also protects against the hurt and sorrow that adultery often causes.
17 When a man and a woman marry they commit themselves to each other. What happens when one of them breaks that trust by cheating? A study of extramarital affairs reports:
“There is tremendous guilt for going against one’s word. Adultery is a personal crime, because you know precisely whom you are betraying or injuring.”
This became clearer after many couples followed the advice about “open marriage,” in which there was supposed to be agreement about having sex with other partners. In time the prime advocates of “open marriage” had to reverse themselves. The sad results forced them to conclude that “assurance of sexual fidelity is still an important and necessary attribute of most marriages.”
18 Adultery tends to produce jealousy and personal insecurity. God wisely advised about the harm these bring. (Proverbs 14:30; 27:4) Thus, though some persons feel they know better and that adultery is justified, the facts prove otherwise. Clinical psychologist Dr. Milton Matz frankly acknowledged:
“Most of us get clobbered by extra-marital sex when it occurs in our lives, whether we are participants or victims. . . .
“My experience with it has been that extra-marital affairs are fantastically painful for everybody concerned. As a prescription for happiness, it doesn’t work.”
SEX RELATIONS IN MARRIAGE
19 Regarding sex, the Bible does not counsel us merely on what to avoid. It also gives us advice on what to do in a positive way that will contribute to a rewarding life.
20 Rather than presenting sex as a mere biologic function, the Scriptures properly show that it can be a source of mutual pleasure for husband and wife. The Bible mentions being in “ecstasy” and ‘intoxicated’ with the sexual expressions of marriage. (Proverbs 5:19) Such forthrightness helps to dispel prudishness or shame regarding normal, loving relations between husband and wife.
21 The Creator counsels husbands: “Keep on loving your wives and do not be bitterly angry with them.” (Colossians 3:19) For sexual relations to be truly rewarding, the couple must have no barrier of bitterness or resentment between them. Then marital relations can be enjoyed for what they really are, a way to express deep love, commitment and tenderness.
22 Further, God urges husbands to dwell with their wives “according to knowledge.” (1 Peter 3:7) A husband should accordingly take into account his wife’s emotions and physical cycles. If, rather than being callously demanding, he is thoughtfully sensitive to her feelings and needs, it is likely that she will be more sensitive to his. This will result in mutual satisfaction.
23 A common complaint is that some wives are cool or unresponsive. What may contribute to this is a husband who seems distant, silent or stern unless he desires intercourse. But do you not agree that wifely unresponsiveness would be less likely if a husband regularly were warm and close to his wife? It is more natural for a wife to respond to a husband who heeds the advice to clothe himself with “the tender affections of compassion, kindness, lowliness of mind, mildness, and long-suffering.”—Colossians 3:12, 13.
24 The Bible says: “There is more happiness in giving than there is in receiving.” (Acts 20:35) That applies in many ways, and in principle it has been a realistic aid to sexual pleasure. How so? A wife’s enjoyment of sexual relations depends largely on the heart and mind. In recent times much emphasis has been put on women’s concentrating on their own bodily sensations and pleasure, but satisfaction still seems to elude many. However, Dr. Marie Robinson, who studied the matter, pointed out that when a wife cultivates respect for her husband and views intercourse as a means to ‘give’ rather than receive, she likely will find more satisfaction herself. This doctor commented:
“Gradually [the wife] finds herself allowing her new tenderness and concern for her husband to become a part of the meaning of her sexual embrace. She sees and feels the pleasure her sexual thawing brings him, and this process becomes circular, his increased pleasure giving her more pleasure.”
So the Bible’s counsel to be both giving and interested in others contributes to happiness, even in this intimate aspect of life.—Philippians 2:4.
25 Heeding this counsel benefits us in another way too. Our viewpoint regarding sex, which includes the ability to transmit life, affects our relationship with God, who is the Life-Giver. Thus, avoiding fornication and adultery is wise, not only because it benefits us physically, mentally and emotionally, but also because these are “sin against God.” (Genesis 39:9) And regarding faithfulness to one’s marriage mate, Hebrews 13:4 states:
“Let marriage be honorable among all, and the marriage bed be without defilement, for God will judge fornicators and adulterers.”
26 When we consider how sex relates to a person’s happiness, we need to look beyond today. With our lasting welfare in view, the Bible helps us to consider how what we do will affect both ourselves and others tomorrow, next year and throughout our life.
What reason is there now to consider the Bible’s advice about sex? (Proverbs 2:6-12) (1-4)
Why has premarital sex increased? (5-7)
What is God’s view of premarital sex? (8)
What effects come from premarital sex? (9-12)
What other reasons could you give for valuing Bible counsel on sex? (13, 14)
What does the evidence show as to the Bible’s advice on adultery? (15-18)
What does the Bible offer about sex in marriage? (19-22)
How does applying this advice benefit a person? (23-26)
[Box on page 70]
“Perhaps the new ‘sexual freedom’ is ‘liberating,’ . . . But what I keep hearing, everywhere, is something quite different. What I keep hearing is that free sex does indeed do something to most people. Free sex hurts.”—Columnist G. A. Geyer, “The Oregonian.”
[Box on page 71]
“Marital infidelity tends to create guilt, pain, and mistrust, while fidelity fosters security and deep joy.”—Dr. C. B. Broderick, director of a marriage and family center.
[Picture on page 69]
Bible counsel helps persons avoid sad effects of immorality—unwanted pregnancies and venereal disease