What About Sex Before Marriage?
‘IF YOU love each other, is it all right? Or should you wait until you’re married?’ ‘I’m still a virgin. Is there something wrong with me?’ Questions like these abound among youths.
Nevertheless, “It is the exceptional young person who has not had sexual intercourse while still a teenager,” concluded the Alan Guttmacher Institute in its 1981 report. “Eight in 10 males and seven in 10 females report having had intercourse while in their teens.”
‘And why not?’ you may ask. After all, it is only natural to want to feel loved. And when you’re young, your passions can be powerful to the point of distraction. Furthermore, there’s the influence of your peers. They may tell you that premarital sex is fun and that when you really like someone, it’s only natural to want to be intimate. Some may even say that having sex proves your manhood or womanhood. Not wanting to be viewed as odd, you may thus feel under pressure to experience sexual relations.
Contrary to popular opinion, not all youths are in a hurry to give up their virginity. Consider, for example, a young single woman named Esther. She was getting a medical checkup when her doctor matter-of-factly inquired: “What method of contraception are you using?” When Esther replied, “I’m not using any,” her doctor exclaimed: “What! Do you want to get pregnant? How do you expect not to get pregnant if you’re not using anything?” Esther replied: “Because I’m not having sex!”
Her doctor stared at her in disbelief. “This is unbelievable,” he said. “Kids come in here 13 years old, and they are no longer virgins. You are a remarkable person.”
What made Esther “remarkable”? She obeyed the Bible’s admonition: “Now the body is not for fornication [including premarital sex] . . . Flee from fornication.” (1 Corinthians 6:13, 18) Yes, she recognized premarital sex as a serious sin against God! “This is what God wills,” states 1 Thessalonians 4:3, “that you abstain from fornication.” Why, though, does the Bible forbid premarital sex?
Even in Bible times, some engaged in premarital sex. An immoral woman might invite a young man to indulge, saying: “Do come, let us drink our fill of love until the morning; do let us enjoy each other with love expressions.” (Proverbs 7:18) The Bible, however, warned that pleasures enjoyed today can cause pain tomorrow. “For as a honeycomb the lips of a strange woman keep dripping, and her palate is smoother than oil,” observed Solomon. “But,” he continued, “the aftereffect from her is as bitter as wormwood; it is as sharp as a two-edged sword.”—Proverbs 5:3, 4.
One possible aftereffect is the contracting of a sexually transmitted disease. Imagine the heartache if years later one learned that a sexual experience has caused irreversible damage, perhaps infertility or a serious health problem! As Proverbs 5:11 warns: “You have to groan in your future when your flesh and your organism come to an end.” Premarital sex also leads to illegitimacy (see pages 184-5), abortion, and premature marriage—each with its painful consequences. Yes, one engaging in premarital sex truly ‘sins against his or her own body.’—1 Corinthians 6:18.
Recognizing such dangers, Dr. Richard Lee wrote in the Yale Journal of Biology and Medicine: “We boast to our young people about our great breakthroughs in preventing pregnancy and treating venereal disease disregarding the most reliable and specific, the least expensive and toxic, preventative of both gestational and venereal distress—the ancient, honorable, and even healthy state of virginity.”
Guilt and Disappointment
Many youths have further found premarital sex to be bitterly disappointing. The result? Feelings of guilt and diminished self-respect. Twenty-three-year-old Dennis admitted: “It was a big letdown—no feeling of good or warmth of love as it was supposed to be. Rather the full realization of how wrong the act was hit me. I felt totally ashamed at my lack of self-control.” Confessed a young woman: “I came back to reality with a sickening thud. . . . The party was over and I felt sick, cheap, and dirty. It didn’t make me feel any better to hear him say, ‘Why on earth didn’t you stop us before things went too far?’”
Such reactions are not rare, according to Dr. Jay Segal. After studying the sexual activities of 2,436 college students, he concluded: “Dissatisfying and disappointing first [sexual intercourse] experiences exceeded those that were fulfilling and exciting by a ratio of almost two to one. Both males and females recalled that they were greatly disappointed.” Granted, even married couples may sometimes have their difficulties when it comes to sex. But in a marriage, where there is genuine love and commitment, such problems usually can be worked out.
The Price of Promiscuity
Some youths feel no guilt whatsoever about having relations, and so they go all out for sensual gratification, seeking sex with a variety of partners. Researcher Robert Sorensen, in his study of teenage sexuality, observed that such youths pay a price for their promiscuity. Writes Sorensen: “In our personal interviews, many [promiscuous youths] reveal . . . that they believe they are functioning with little purpose and self-contentment.” Forty-six percent of these agreed with the statement, “The way I’m living right now, most of my abilities are going to waste.” Sorensen further found that these promiscuous youths reported low “self-confidence and self-esteem.”
It is just as Proverbs 5:9 says: Those engaging in immorality “give to others [their] dignity.”
The Morning After
Once a couple have had illicit relations, they often look at each other differently. A boy may find that his feelings for the girl are not as intense as before; he may even find her less attractive. A girl, on the other hand, may feel exploited. Recall the Bible account of the young man Amnon and how lovesick he was over the virgin Tamar. Yet, after intercourse with her, “Amnon began hating her with a very great hatred.”—2 Samuel 13:15.
A girl named Maria had a similar experience. After having sexual relations, she admitted: “I hated myself (for my weakness), and I hated my boyfriend. In fact, the sex relations we thought would bring us closer ended our relationship. I didn’t even want to see him again.” Yes, by having premarital sex, a couple cross a line over which they can never go back!
Paul H. Landis, a respected researcher in the field of family life, observes: “The temporary effect [of premarital sex] may be to strengthen the relationship, but the long-term effects may be quite different.” Indeed, couples who have sex are more likely to break up than are those who abstain! The reason? Illicit sex breeds jealousy and distrust. Admitted one youth: “Some fellows, when they have intercourse, think afterwards, ‘if she had it with me maybe she had it with someone else.’ As a matter of fact, I felt that way. . . . I was extremely jealous and doubtful, and suspicious.”
How remote this is from genuine love, which “is not jealous, . . . does not behave indecently, does not look for its own interests.” (1 Corinthians 13:4, 5) The love that builds lasting relationships is not based on blind passion.
The Benefits of Chastity—Peace and Self-Respect
Staying chaste, however, does more than help a youth avoid dire consequences. The Bible tells of a young maiden who remained chaste despite intense love for her boyfriend. As a result, she could proudly say: “I am a wall, and my breasts are like towers.” She was no ‘swinging door’ that easily ‘opened up’ under immoral pressure. Morally, she stood like the unscalable wall of a fortress with inaccessible towers! She deserved to be called “the pure one” and could say of her prospective husband, “I have become in his eyes like her that is finding peace.” Her own peace of mind contributed to the contentment between the two of them.—Song of Solomon 6:9, 10; 8:9, 10.
Esther, the chaste girl mentioned previously, had the same inner peace and self-esteem. She said: “I felt good about myself. Even when workmates would ridicule me, I viewed my virginity like a diamond, valuable because it is so rare.” Additionally, youths like Esther are not plagued by a guilty conscience. “There is nothing nicer than to have a good conscience toward Jehovah God,” stated Stefan, a 19-year-old Christian.
‘But how can a couple get to know each other well if they don’t have sex?’ wonder some youths.
Building Lasting Intimacy
Sex alone cannot forge a permanent relationship; neither can expressions of affection, such as kissing. A young woman named Ann warns: “I learned from experience that at times you can get too close physically too soon.” When a couple spend their time lavishing affection upon each other, meaningful communication ceases. They may thus gloss over serious differences that can resurface after marriage. When Ann later began to date another man—the one she eventually married—she was careful to avoid becoming too intimate physically. Explains Ann: “We spent our time working out problems and discussing our goals in life. I got to know what type of person I was marrying. After marriage, there were only pleasant surprises.”
Was it hard for Ann and her boyfriend to show such self-control? “Yes, it was!” confessed Ann. “I am just naturally an affectionate person. But we talked about the dangers and helped each other. We both wanted very much to please God and not spoil our upcoming marriage.”
But does it not help for a new husband or wife to have previous sexual experience? No, on the contrary, it often detracts from marital intimacy! In premarital relations, the emphasis is on self-gratification, the physical aspects of sex. Mutual respect is undermined by uncontrolled passion. Once such selfish patterns are formed, they are hard to break and can eventually wreak havoc on the relationship.
In marriage, however, a healthy intimate relationship demands restraint, self-control. The focus must be on giving, ‘rendering one’s sexual due,’ rather than getting. (1 Corinthians 7:3, 4) Staying chaste helps you develop such self-control. It teaches you to put unselfish concern for the other’s welfare ahead of your own desires. Remember, too, that marital satisfaction is not purely due to physical factors. Sociologist Seymour Fisher says that a woman’s sexual response also depends upon her having “feelings of intimacy, closeness, and dependability” and upon her husband’s “ability to identify with his wife, and . . . how much confidence she had in him.”
Interestingly, in a study of 177 married women, three fourths of those who had engaged in premarital sex reported sexual difficulties during the first two weeks of marriage. Furthermore, all who reported long-term sexual difficulties “had histories of premarital intercourse.” Research has further shown that those engaging in premarital sex are twice as likely to commit adultery after marriage! How true are the Bible’s words: “Fornication . . . take[s] away good motive.”—Hosea 4:11.
Therefore, ‘you will reap what you sow.’ (Galatians 6:7, 8) Sow passion and reap a bumper crop of doubts and insecurities. But if you sow self-control, you will reap a harvest of fidelity and security. Esther, mentioned earlier, has since been happily married for several years now. Says her husband, “It’s an indescribable joy to come home to my wife and know that we belong only to each other. Nothing can replace this feeling of confidence.”
Those who wait until marriage also enjoy peace of mind, knowing they are pleasing to God. Still, staying chaste these days is far from easy. What can help you to do so?
Questions for Discussion
□ How prevalent is premarital sex among the youths you know? Does this create any problems or pressures for you?
□ What are some of the negative aftereffects of premarital sex? Do you know of any youths who have suffered in these ways?
□ Is birth control the answer to the problem of teen pregnancy?
□ Why do some feel guilt and disappointment after engaging in illicit sex?
□ Do you feel that sexual relations will help an unmarried couple to draw closer to each other? Why do you so answer?
□ How can a couple get to know each other while dating?
□ What do you think are the benefits of remaining virgin until marriage?
[Blurb on page 182]
“It is the exceptional young person who has not had sexual intercourse while still a teenager.”—The Alan Guttmacher Institute
[Blurb on page 187]
“It was a big letdown—no feeling of good or warmth of love as it was supposed to be”
[Blurb on page 190]
By having premarital sex, a couple cross a line over which they can never go back!
[Box/Picture on page 184, 185]
It Can’t Happen to Me!’—The Problem of Teen Pregnancy
“More than one in 10 teenagers gets pregnant each year, and the proportion is rising. If patterns do not change, four in 10 young women will get pregnant at least once while still in their teens.” So reports Teenage Pregnancy: The Problem That Hasn’t Gone Away. And what kind of girls get pregnant? Said the journal Adolescence: “School-age girls who become pregnant come from all socioeconomic classes . . . All races, all faiths, and all parts of the country, rural and urban.”
Few girls actually want to become pregnant. In his landmark study of over 400 pregnant teenagers, Frank Furstenberg, Jr., observed that “most remarked repeatedly in the interviews, ‘I never thought it would happen to me.’”
But observing that some of their friends had enjoyed sexual relations without getting pregnant, some girls figured they could do so, too. Furstenberg also states: “A number mentioned that they did not think it was possible to become pregnant ‘right away.’ Others thought that if they had sexual relations only ‘every once in a while’ they would not become pregnant . . . The longer they went without conceiving, the more likely they were to assume greater risks.”
The truth is, however, that whenever one engages in sexual relations there is the risk of pregnancy. (Of one group of 544 girls, ‘nearly one-fifth became pregnant within six months after beginning sexual intercourse.’) Many, like an unwed mother named Robin, deliberately choose not to utilize birth control. Robin feared—as do many youths—that using the birth-control pill would damage her health. She further admits: “For me to obtain birth control, I would have had to admit to myself that I was doing something wrong. I couldn’t do that. So I just blocked what I was doing out of my mind and hoped nothing would happen.”
Such reasoning is common among unwed mothers. In Furstenberg’s study, “nearly half of the teenagers stated that it was very important for a woman to wait until marriage to begin to have sex . . . Undeniably, there was an obvious discrepancy between the words and the deeds . . . They had acquired one set of standards and had learned to live by another.” This emotional conflict “made it especially difficult for these women to deal realistically with the consequences of their sexual behavior.”
Even using birth control is no guarantee that a girl will escape unwed motherhood. The book Kids Having Kids reminds us: “Every method has a failure rate. . . . Even if unmarried teens consistently use birth control methods . . . 500,000 [in the U.S.] would still become pregnant each year.” A 16-year-old unwed mother named Pat is then quoted as lamenting: “I took [birth-control pills] faithfully. I honestly never missed a day.”
“Do not be misled,” warns the Bible. “God is not one to be mocked. For whatever a man is sowing, this he will also reap.” (Galatians 6:7) Pregnancy is just one of the ways one can reap an unpleasant harvest from fornication. Fortunately, unwed mothers, like all others who have become entrapped in immorality, can turn around and come to God with the repentant attitude of King David, who prayed: “Thoroughly wash me from my error, and cleanse me even from my sin.” (Psalm 51:2) God will bless the efforts of such repentant ones to raise their children “in the discipline and mental-regulating of Jehovah.”—Ephesians 6:4.
Better it is, though, to avoid premarital sex! Do not be fooled by those who say you can get away with it.
[Picture on page 183]
In the wake of immoral sex, a youth often feels exploited or even humiliated
[Picture on page 186]
Sexually transmitted diseases often result from premarital sex
[Picture on page 188]
Excessive displays of affection can expose a couple to moral dangers and curtail meaningful communication
[Picture on page 189]
Marital happiness depends upon more than a couple’s physical relationship