Let’s set aside our inhibitions and have a real conversation about sex, relationships, and abstinence.
Despite biblical teachings (1 Thessalonians 4:3), tons of people would argue that, in today’s society, it’s almost unrealistic to think that anyone would wait to have sex until marriage. The world we live in today tells us that abstinence is an antiquated practice or that no one in their right mind would marry someone without determining whether the sexual chemistry is there first. The list goes on and on, but luckily, some people out there still advocate for waiting until marriage to share something so intimate with their future spouse.
Before we really dive in, I would first like to point out that there is, in fact, a distinction between abstaining from sex and just not having sex. A person might not be sexually active for a variety of reasons. However, abstinence is defined as an intentional and deliberate action to refrain from sexual activity; it is making the decision to save all sexual acts until marriage.
In her book The Naked Truth: About Sex, Love and Relationships, abstinence advocate Lakita Garth says that “abstinence is the art of self-control, self-discipline and delayed gratification.” I get it. You’re probably thinking, Who wants to work that hard for something that is supposed to bring you pleasure? But Garth reminds her readers that there is, in fact, a wonderful reward in the end.
“The fact is, the happiest sex lives are found among those who wait until marriage to have sex,” Garth says. “Those who wait are richly rewarded.”
Waiting to have sex has so many benefits, but here are a few points to start:
Abstinence is more common than you think.
Studies show that only 3%, or 1 in 30 Americans, waited until marriage to have sex. Sure, this number sounds a bit disheartening, but if you stop to think about just how many people that is, it’s not too bad. In fact, that figure means that about 10 million people in America, as we speak, have abstained until marriage. And of course, these stats are even greater within religious groups.
Secondary virginity is a real thing.
Yes, secondary virginity is “a thing.” More and more singles have made the decision to rededicate their lives—and bodies—to God by abstaining from sex. Regardless of their past, they made the decision to start over and choose abstinence even though they initially made the decision to be sexually active in the past. It’s no secret that having sex before marriage has its own negative consequences, including unplanned pregnancy, higher chances of being a single parent, sexually transmitted diseases (STDs), the list goes on and on.
In fact, studies show that 40 percent of children were born to unwed mothers, with nearly two-thirds of those mothers under the age of 30. Nine million new cases of STDs are reported among teens and young adults each year. And regardless of whether you have experienced these negative consequences, making the decision to be a secondary virgin means you can look forward to a future free from exposure to these previous hazards. After all, who has time to stress about an unplanned pregnancy or STDs?
“The Wait” is so worth it.
Making the decision to be abstinent is so much deeper than the physical. It provides the opportunity for your relationship to become stronger mentally, emotionally, and spiritually. It’s the beauty in sharing something so intimate with your spouse and the idea of knowing that you are both truly committed to one another.
Hollywood couple Meagan Good and DeVon Franklin wrote an entire book on the power of abstinence in The Wait. In addition to being more spiritually and emotionally grounded, the couple is open about how amazing sex can be with your partner after making the decision to abstain until marriage. “There is nothing wrong with sex and sexuality,” the couple says in a recent interview with Essence magazine. “God created both for the enjoyment of married couples.”
The intimacy that happens within one’s marriage is much greater knowing that sex is something that is only shared between you and your spouse. It’s definitely the icing on the cake.
Can you think of a better option?
Let’s face it, you might have already tried other options besides abstinence, and none of them have worked. Then again, you might be one of those people who made the decision to be abstinent from the very beginning and chose to stick with it until your wedding day. Meagan Good actually chose the former and initially opted to do it her way instead of God’s way. “God had let me make my mistakes,” she says. “Now it was time to do it [His] way.”
In a society of instant gratification, abstinence certainly doesn’t seem ideal for today’s couples, especially people who are seriously attracted to one another. However, I think we all can agree that waiting to have sex until marriage just might be the best decision of your life.
Did you catch Meagan Good and DeVon Franklin on Oprah’s Super Soul Sunday? Check out what they had to say about the benefits of abstinence below:
Is it unrealistic to expect people to wait to have sex before marriage? Share your thoughts below.
OWN Network has brought us self-help from Iyanla Vanzant via her show “Iyanla Fix My Life;” life lessons from some of today’s most influential celebrities and public figures such as the late Maya Angelou, Whoopi Goldberg, Cicely Tyson via Oprah’s Master Class; and now the network brings us “Help Desk” via, you guessed it, a desk. On this new series journalist Gotham Chopra, the son of Deepak Chopra, hosts and introduces some of the world’s top “thought leaders” to everyday people in order to help answer the heavy-hitting questions of life. In a recent episode DeVon Franklin, the Hollywood producer and Seventh-Day Adventist pastor who married actress Meagan Good took a seat at the Help Desk to help a young woman who desires to abstain from sex until marriage.
28-year-old Fallon has been with her boyfriend for six months and they are sexually active, but she realizes that she now wants to abstain from sex in their relationship. She sees this move as trying something new since, in all of her previous relationships, she never abstained from sex. Therefore her question to Franklin is how she should broach the topic with her boyfriend and journey toward abstinence after time as a sexually-active person. Well she came to the right person. Franklin and Good pledged to abstinence until marriage and the couple is working on a book entitled “The Wait” about how they kept that pledge during their courtship. Thus Franklin rose to the occasion and offered Fallon some tactical suggestions and words of encouragement based on his experience. Watch the video to see what he says.
On February 10, 2012, rapper Too $hort posted a video on XXLMag.com, a hip-hop website, where he gave “Fatherly Advice” to middle-school and high-school boys on sexuality. The disgusting, misogynistic, dehumanizing, and graphic nature of his comments do not bear repeating here, but his comments made me wonder about the consequences of reducing sexuality to merely a physical concept in the absence of virtue. Thankfully, the video was removed and Too $hort offered an apology for offending people. The rapper, however, offered no apology for the way in which he advised young men to touch the bodies of young girls.
The whole episode reminded me that I am not convinced that Christians do a good job of telling young people what to do with their bodies other than say “no” to them. As a result, I am beginning to wonder if abstinence programs are even helpful for developing moral maturity. While abstinence rightly places sexual intercourse within its proper context — marriage — it fails to construct a moral theology of the body. Perhaps this is a good opportunity for Christians to return to teaching chastity.
Some of the early teachings on chastity date back to church Fathers like Tertullian (c. 160 – c. 225 A.D.) who made a serious case for bodily self-control (some argue he went too far). The teaching has faded, but some contemporary authors continue to make a case for chastity. For example, Duke Divinity School scholar Lauren Winner sought to reintroduce the ancient subject for a postmodern generation in her 2006 book, Real Sex: The Naked Truth about Chastityand Bible teacher Paul Tripp offers a challenging perspective on the reality of sex and commitment in his 2010 book, What Did You Expect?: Redeeming the Realities of Marriage.
For the sake of brevity, the Roman Catholic Catechism provides a useful and succinct introduction to chastity that is helpful even if one does not agree with Catholic doctrine (I will adapt the teaching in this article). The Catholic teaching begins with the recognition that we are sexual beings whose “physical, moral, and spiritual difference and complementarity are oriented toward the goods of marriage and the flourishing of family life.” That is, the mutual support between the sexes is lived out as we recognized are complimentary need for mutuality.
The vocation of chastity, then, is defined as “the successful integration of sexuality within the person and thus the inner unity of man in his bodily and spiritual being. Sexuality, in which man’s belonging to the bodily and biological world is expressed, becomes personal and truly human when it is integrated into the relationship of one person to another, in the complete and lifelong mutual gift of a man and a woman.” Chastity as a vocation does not require that one divorce one’s body from one’s passions but that one strive for maturity in the virtue of self-control — a skill needed before and after marriage (Prov. 25:28; 1 Cor. 7:5; Gal. 5:23; Titus 2:6; 1 Pet. 5:8). In fact, “the chaste person maintains the integrity of the powers of life and love placed in him. … Chastity includes an apprenticeship in self-mastery which is a training in human freedom. The alternative is clear: either man governs his passions and finds peace, or he lets himself be dominated by them and becomes unhappy.” What develops and matures young people in their moral reasoning and virtue is the conscious and free choice to use one’s body for the good. Not simply to say “no” to sin but “yes” to holiness (Deut. 7:6). Moreover, we are not to be mastered by any sin but are called to intentionally pursue holiness (1 Cor. 6:12). Abstinence does not teach this virtue.
For Christian young people, the knowledge of one’s union with Christ, a commitment to obedience to God’s commandments, exercise of the moral virtues, fidelity to prayer, and a daily requesting and reliance on the Holy Spirit, and so on, gives one what is needed to inaugurate one into the vocation of chastity. The active work of the Holy Spirit enables us to permeate the passions and appetites with mature moral reasoning that is consistent with what the Bible teaches.
“Self-mastery is a long and exacting work,” says the Catechism. “One can never consider it acquired once and for all. It presupposes renewed effort at all stages of life. The effort required can be more intense in certain periods, such as when the personality is being formed during childhood and adolescence.” Self-mastery is ordered to the gift of freedom. Our union with Christ in the pursuit of chastity enables us, then, to be fully human. Chastity leads those who practice it to become witnesses to their neighbors of God’s fidelity, loving kindness, and the power of the gospel (Rom. 1:16). The call to chastity is simply a fruit of the Spirit (Gal. 5:22-23).
Chastity is for everyone.
All baptized men and women, single or married, are called to the vocation of chastity. Sexual wholeness is living according to God’s articulated design for human beings and applies to married couples and singles in the same way. Abstinence does not teach this. As a man who can relate to sexual temptation (Heb. 4:15), but who never sinned against His call to a chaste life, Jesus Christ is the perfect example of living out the vocation of chastity.
Growth in chastity includes the reality of failure, repentance, and renewal. This is why the gospel and work of the Holy Spirit is so central to the sustaining of such a vocation and why it is unsustainable in the best possible way outside of one’s union with Christ. Chastity is violated with things like adultery, pornography, rape, sex outside of marriage, sexual abuse, and so on.
In the end, if chastity were a dominant teaching in urban America, it would not only address sex before marriage but would create a culture of sexual virtue that honors God, best fits with how God designed human beings to live, and would serve as a powerful example of what is means to live knowing God’s Word is true. Abstinence education is well intentioned but fails to develop young people into morally mature followers of Christ. True love does not wait. True love loves God and neighbor by saying “yes” to God’s better way (Matt. 22:36-40).
It is often said that the church house is like a hospital, and the believers are the patients searching for healing. If you believe that to be at least somewhat true, then I think we should talk about what spiritual services are—and are not—being provided in the church.
We often talk about how to deal with finances, sickness, employment issues, death of loved ones, and even relationships, but one of the things that we rarely, if ever, talk about in church is sex.
Of course, the church has a biblical interest in advocating that sexual relations occur within the confines of marriage. However, church folk have gotten so good at phrases such as, “just say no,” “not until you’re married,” and “save yourself for that special someone,” that when Christians do get married, especially young couples, some may find that members of the church are at a loss for words about what to tell them when they have questions about sex.
So many people, especially young people, who wait until marriage to have sex get to their wedding night, honeymoon, and beyond and have no clue on what a healthy, sexual relationship with their spouse looks like. (And that’s not even considering the weird, sexual comments and questions that church people do feel strangely comfortable discussing. I can’t tell you how many times church folks have asked, “So when are you all going to give us some babies?”…as if our children will be theirs. It also seems as if they should dictate when we should have offspring and as if when my wife and I do decide to try for children – which involves sex – is any of their business! But I digress…)
Plenty of married couples have problems in their sex lives and want to talk to their pastor about it or have a forum about what sex means for their Christian walk. But, too often, neither the pastor nor the church want to talk about it.
Believe it or not, sexual intercourse could be considered a holy act between a husband and wife. Sex has the power and potential of drawing the bride and groom closer to one another and to create life. If that isn’t holy, I don’t know what is.
So why should the church have responsible conversations about sex? Here are a couple of reasons:
Sex is natural. It doesn’t have to be a dirty word.
Too often when people try to bring up sex, the inclination is to tell them to stop talking about it because it’s “taboo,” “dirty,” “fast” or (worst of all) “unholy,” and it quells a much-needed conversation. However, these conversations need to be had – or avoided – at the appropriate level and age of those in question, including teens.
The church has to realize that if we’re not educating teenagers and young adults on godly principles about sex, then someone somewhere is educating them about sex. And, more than likely, God has nothing to do with their teaching.
We do married couples a disservice when we avoid talking about sex.
Many church people have no problem talking about and encouraging married couples to have babies, but they like to pretend that the magical decision to start a family comes without sex. Well, it doesn’t.
In fact, many would argue that sex is just as much a part of the list of marital issues as budgeting, child-rearing, career conflicts, intimacy, not spending enough time together, bad habits, and other common marital problems. Of course, sex conversations, like all other marital conversations, should be initiated by the couple. However, if they have an issue that they raise with other members of the church community, we should be willing to tackle it—including sex.
Ultimately, sex is one thing about humanity that I don’t imagine will go away anytime soon. (And if it did, we’d be in trouble.) God created and ordained sex as a blessing for married couples and we shouldn’t shy away from that. Another thing that I don’t think will be going away anytime soon is sin. Yet, I think that the church needs a reminder that sex itself is not sinful. Sex is blessed and ordained by God and too often we foolishly conflate sex with sin and we shouldn’t.
Why do you think sex continues to be a topic that’s off limits for married couples in the church? Share your thoughts below.
When should you start having sex? I was reading through a question posed by a 16-year-old young lady. Here is what she asked this online community of relative strangers, “My friend is wondering what other people think. She is 16 and so am I. I think that it’s fine around the age of 16 if you use protection. She thinks that it’s fine whenever.”
I have a 16-year-old daughter myself and imagined that these people were responding to my daughter. That was pretty disturbing to me from the young lady who says she started at 13 and has loved it ever since to another 16-year-old who confirmed that yes 16 is indeed the perfect age.
While there were a few cautionary responses to this young lady, I began to wonder to myself what would I tell this young lady myself. In fact, I personalized it more. What would I tell both my 16-year-old daughter and my 22-year-old son?
Rather than giving them a specific age or situation (e.g., “when you find the right person”), I would tell them why I remained a virgin until I got married. Yes, despite biological urges, social pressures, and even some “close calls” on my wedding night at the age of 22 I had my first sexual experience. I’m proud of that.
Now, don’t get me wrong, I mentioned some “close calls.” I wasn’t an angel. Honestly, there were some heavy petting episodes that I am not particularly proud of. But, there was something in my mind that would not allow me to “go all the way” to consummate the deal. Based on my religious convictions, I just didn’t think I could live with myself if I just let go.
Why did I wait? Some might call it fear. Others might say avoiding shame or guilt. I’m sure all of these are true at some level. But, looking back, I really do think God was protecting me in some ways. I didn’t want God or my family to be disappointed in me. I didn’t want to give away something that I could never undo. That is about as sophisticated as my thinking was during those years.
Now with many more years of experiences and knowledge, I can better articulate (even making a Top 10 list) why I am so glad that I was a virgin when I married. And, most of these same reasons explain why I have stayed and expect to remain faithful to my wife alone.
This article isn’t intended to call out or guilt anyone who chose to be sexual before marriage. Whether you are glad you did or regret it, it is done. You aren’t defined by it either way.
But, I do hope this is a salute and source of encouragement to others like me who choose to wait. I also pray that it will encourage those like my children and others like the 16-year-old posing the question when to start having sex to think carefully.
Top 10 Reasons I’m Glad that I was a Virgin When I Married
Reason #10: I can write this blog post
Well, its true. I could never write this blog post if I wasn’t a virgin when I married. But, there is a bigger point about the ability to be a living example of what is possible even when culture runs counter to it.
I want to be able to deliver my message without any sense of hypocrisy. I want to be a model for like-minded others. Sometimes, people just need to know what’s possible. How many times have you seen someone achieve some milestone and said to yourself “If they can do it, I can do it.”
If you desire to save your full physical, emotional, and psychological expression to share in a covenantal relationship then my message to you is that it can be done. If you’re a teen with high school pressures, I remember those days of feeling left out and lonely. If you’re a single adult, I remember the awkwardness of some dating relationships during my college years.
I’m proud to represent and give voice to my value of premarital abstinence.
Reason #9: I know exactly how many kids I’ve fathered
There has been much attention, especially in urban centers, about the issue of fatherlessness. There are far too many socioeconomic variables impacting this highly publicized area for me to address here.
Suffice it to say that every man involved in creating a child is responsible for being a father to that child. Being a father is more than some vain conquest or bragging rights. Fatherhood is a lifetime commitment to sacrifice and develop your young. If you are not consistently engaged, you’re not a father. You’re a sperm donor.
The reality, however, is that many men don’t even know kids that they have fathered. Granted, there are clearly situations where this is intentionally withheld from him. But, there are far too many situations where either the mom isn’t sure of paternity herself because of being involved with multiple partners or the man has literally or figuratively disappeared without a trace.
Personally, I know that I have fathered two children. I have and will continue to sacrifice for my kids. They and their mother know my lifetime commitment to them.
Reason #8: Never worry about sexually transmitted diseases (STDs)
Given that neither I nor my wife had any sexual partners outside of our marriage, I have literally never in my life worried for one second about contracting a sexually-transmitted disease.
While some suggest that “safe sex” is the answer, most objective people acknowledge that the only safe sex is no sex if you are thinking of STDs and pregnancy. I just think in my own marriage of those times when we were using condoms in our own family planning efforts. We had so many mishaps even in our carefully “controlled” setting. When these mishaps occur, think of the psychological angst and physical exposure you feel until a test validates that everything is fine.
In 2012, the Centers for Disease Control (CDC) reports nearly 1.5 million cases of chlamydia, nearly 335,000 cases of gonorrhea, and more than 15,000 cases of syphilis (each representing an increase over 2011 figures). And, this isn’t even dealing with chronic diseases like HIV. You can access the report here. And, as you might guess the CDC confirms that the greatest increase in these diseases is among young people ages 15-24—with young women facing the greatest long-term health risk.
I am so grateful that I never have to carry this psychological burden.
Reason #7: I have never coerced or encouraged a woman to have sex for which she wasn’t ready
Physical intimacy is done best among mature people. But, so often it isn’t—resulting in many (especially women) with regrets about giving themselves sexually when they really weren’t ready to do so.
I suspect I would have felt guilty for a long time if I ever fostered such regret.
Reason #6: Proof that it can be done
Nobody can tell me that it can’t be done. I’ve spoken with quite a few males over the years trying to convince me that it is not realistic to expect a guy to remain celibate for so many years.
That’s bull. I’ve done it. And, so can you.
And, if you’re a parent wondering if it is realistic to have this expectation for your child. Yes, have the expectation. And, voice that expectation to them. They can do it with the right encouragement. But, if they choose not to, you have done your part to offer guidance. But, be sure to continue your efforts to engage and guide them even if they don’t make the choices that you prefer.
Reason #5: Sense of pride in being obedient to my religious convictions
Much of my thinking about premarital sex is rooted in my Christian faith tradition. These convictions have been instilled in me since I was a young boy. Granted, I wasn’t given any tools or systematic education to help me live out these convictions. But, clearly, I believed that God desired me to wait until I was married to have sex.
Now, I realize that there are many Christians who choose sexuality outside of the marital context. And, that is between you and God.
But, I also know many Christians who carry around a sense of guilt that their behavior is not aligned with their convictions. They feel like hypocrites. Many of them decide to leave the faith to avoid the cognitive dissonance that they experience. Others just live with a residual sense of guilt.
At least in this area, I feel a sense of pride that there is an alignment between my faith and my behavior. I talk boldly because I don’t worry about any hypocrisy. There is no guilt or proverbial “skeletons in my closet” that I worry about.
Reason #4: Give the gift of celibacy to my wife
Though I can’t say I was mature enough to appreciate this when I got married, in retrospect, I am grateful I could give this gift of celibacy to my wife—especially because she was a virgin herself.
Though possibly less than in the past, there continues to be a double standard for men and women. Men are not typically stigmatized by their sexual conquests while promiscuous women are often cast in a negative light.
It means a lot to me that my wife was a virgin when we married. She saved herself as a gift to the man she would marry. And, I am honored that I could give the same thing back to her.
Of course, this doesn’t mean that your marriage is any less special if you came into the relationship with sexual experience. For you, the key is to give the gift of monogamy to one another. That too is something to be quite proud about.
Reason #3: Debunk the notion that guys only want “one thing”
Men have a reputation (often justifiably so) that when we are in a relationship that we ultimately only have one thing on our mind. All of the flowers, the candy, the dinners, and the engaging conversation are ultimately about coaxing the young lady to the bedroom.
Given that I did not pursue sexual intercourse in any of my dating relationships, I am proof that not all guys are only interested in sex. I wanted companionship. I wanted to have fun together. I wanted intellectual stimulation. I wanted closeness. But, I expected sex to only happen after matrimony.
Yes, there are some guys who are focused on sexual conquest or self-centeredness to getting their own biological urges satisfied. But, there are many guys like I was with a much broader view.
By the way, this is a big issue even after you get married. We husbands have to avoid the trap of coming across as only wanting sex from our wives. We need to give spiritual, emotional, and physical intimacy to have a thriving marriage.
Reason #2: My wife is my only frame of reference
I have had sex with one woman in my life. And, I enjoy it.
Because I’ve never had any better or worse partner, I have no point of comparison. There are no memories of prior enjoyable experiences that might leave me disappointed in any aspect of our physical intimacy.
Sure, we have our sexual miscues as does every long-term relationship. And, yes, I’m sure even after more than 25 years that we still have plenty to learn about maximizing our physical intimacy.
But, I am so grateful that I can never compare my current experience with anything I’ve ever experienced before.
Reason #1: I can encourage my kids to do as I did
And, my number one reason that I’m glad that I waited is what I want to express to my kids.
I will never have to say “do as I say, not as I do”. My wife and I have had conversations with them over the years about our expectation that they commit themselves to waiting until marriage to have sex. We can speak with authority.
Of course, I have no idea if they will heed our advice and prayer. But, they will always know in spite of what the culture presents to them that their parents did it. In this area as in many others, we want to model our values and our faith to our children and future generations of the Arnold family.
As I said at the outset, my intent is not to judge anyone else’s sexual behavior. It is simply to reflect on my own gratitude and model for those with like values.
I’d love to hear your thoughts for and against what I’ve suggested here.