Sexual Sin Doesn’t Really Hurt You?
We just finished a Sunday morning study of Proverbs, which challenges us to trust God’s way over the empty promises of the world. One of the warnings comes in Proverbs chapters 5-7, where the voice of a father tells his son that if he gives in to the temptations of sexual sin, the end of that choice will feel “bitter” and “sharp as a two-edged sword” (Prov. 5:4).
One of Satan’s lies to our modern culture is that sexual sin is not really a big deal. In fact, culture claims, sexual activity is just ‘having fun’ and an expected part of growing up and maturing. Waiting for marriage and being faithful, we are told, is just old-fashioned. (In fact, several years ago I heard a popular talk-show host say that as a culture she feels “we are past” the need for marriage.) The world claims that sexual sin really doesn’t result in hurt, like the pain of bitterness or a sword as described in the Proverbs.
So is God right or not?
A Book on the Consequences of Pre-Marital and Casual Sex
Recently I was made aware of a book entitled Hooked: New Science on How Casual Sex is Affecting Our Children. As the title suggests, it comes from a scientific perspective, but presents a message that provides even more support for the warnings of Proverbs 5-7. As the book explains its premise on page 12, teenagers today are told that there are risks to having sex, but the risks they are told about are limited to sexually transmitted diseases (STDs) or getting pregnant. And so teenagers are told to simply be smart in their sexual choices – to use protection, etc. – so that these two negative results won’t happen. The result is that sexual activity is considered OK, as long as it avoids the possible bad physical consequences. Unfortunately, that perspective pretends that the act of sex is a purely physical act, which is simply not true.
So the authors go on to explain that there are other risks to sexual activity – emotional and psychological ones – that are just now being studied, with alarming results. The book explains the science showing that when the sexual act occurs, the brain releases neurochemicals that produce a bonding effect between the parties. You can see how God would design us this way – the chemicals released during the sexual act would bond a couple together emotionally and psychologically, producing greater closeness in their marriage.
But what happens when those bonding chemicals produce a desired attachment to a boyfriend or girlfriend, and then there’s a breakup? And then they produce that bonding desire in another sexual partner, another relationship which doesn’t last? Or when they produce that desire when viewing sinful sexual material on the internet or television? Or when we finally marry someone after multiple partners, and our brain is once again trying to create the bonding desire?
The book explains that pre-marital and/or casual sex has negative effects on people in at least the following ways:
1) Mental Health
Not only can sinful sexual activity affect your physical health, it affects our mental and psychological health as well. Culture seems to simply ignore the emotional side of the sexual relationship.
Here’s some mental health findings reported in the book (which are pulled from various sources):
· Sexually active (teen) boys are more than 2 times as likely to report depression as boys who are still abstinent
· Sexually active (teen) boys are more than 7 times as likely as non-sexually active boys to have attempted suicide
· Sexually active (teen) girls are more than 3 times as likely to report they were depressed as compared to girls who are still abstinent
· Sexually active (teen) girls are more than 3 times as likely as non-sexually active girls to have attempted suicide
· Of those who are sexually active teens, 70% of females and 55% of males wish they had waited.
What do you see there? Chemical and emotional bonds broken, and a much higher prevalence of mental health issues and deep emotional regrets as a result. And yet, our culture still says it’s not a big deal. That attitude is not showing kindness or just allowing our teens to enjoy life – it is hurting them.
Studies show it is also our culture’s sexual morality standard hurts us in our…
The book also explains how: (the quotes are from some well-written reviews of the book)
· “Premarital and casual sex can damage the brain’s emotional bonding mechanism, making it difficult for a teenager to form healthy, long-term relationships in the future.”
· “The ability to bond is critical to sexual health, family development, and marital stability. When an individual engages in patterns of dating, having sex with that partner, breaking up, and having sex with a new partner, that individual jeopardizes his/her ability to bond.” The result is that neurological circuits crucial for long-term commitment are damaged, and the person comes to eventually pursue sex with little or no emotional investment.
· The same review gave this summary of the long-term damage: “The neurological imprints of sexual activity can last years, hampering a person’s ability to be fully emotionally invested in future relationships.”
· “Their inability to bond after multiple liaisons is almost like tape that loses its stickiness after being applied and removed multiple times”
What is our culture’s sexual morality doing to our relationships? It’s killing our ability to develop meaningful long-term marriages. That image of tape that can no longer stick well is a powerful one. I think we see that in divorce statistics, as well as marriages that simply aren’t as close as they could’ve been.
Living Together Produces the Same Problems, Maybe Worse
Today’s culture claims that living together – which almost always assumes a sexual relationship – is a good way to see if you are compatible for marriage. This, we are told, helps prevent divorce and ‘test the relationship’ in a safe trial period.
When you actually do the studies, here’s what we’re finding about the results of living together:
· Worse emotionally and psychologically: Something about living together seems to lead to lower psychological well-being; cohabitors report being more depressed and less satisfied with life than married people do.
· Worse for marital commitment and divorce - Even though some claim it will help their eventual marriage, study after study shows quite consistently that people who cohabit and then marry are much more likely to divorce later than people who married without living together.
· Worse for children - Children in families headed by an unmarried couple do much worse than children in married parent families, in areas such as child abuse, behavioral problems, poor academics, and much more likely to endure a separation of the parents.
· A summary from one writer: “Cohabitation itself seems to cause attitudes to change in ways inimical to long-term commitment, to damage emotional well-being, and to distance people from religious institutions and their families.”
(You can find these results in numerous studies, here’s two I’ve used, which include sources, etc: http://www.getfullyengaged.com/wp-content/uploads/2012/01/7-Reasons-Why.pdfhttp://www.gwu.edu/~ccps/Waite.html )
What do the studies show? The results of living together are the exact opposite of what people claim it will do. It does not lay the foundation for a stronger marriage later, but results in more divorce and less happiness. Living together begins a sexual relationship on a “sort-of-committed” foundation, and apparently it is awfully difficult to change that foundation to a “really committed” one when the couple eventually marries – the foundation was already too set in a bad direction.
Again, by telling people it’s OK to live together – even for the excuse of “hopefully it will keep us from divorcing one day"– is not helping them or their relationship. We are hurting them, their relationship, their happiness, and even their kids if kids are involved.
Let’s Talk and Let’s Trust
Two things I leave with after studying all this:
1) We need to tell people these things! We are letting life after life go down a path that leads to all sorts of problems and pain and regrets. Let’s not be ashamed of the Bible’s sexual morality – it is the best way! Allowing our culture to quiet us off this issue is only allowing people to hurt themselves by following a bankrupt view of sexual morality.
2) We need to trust God more than we do. Wouldn’t it be easier if we would just trust God to begin with? At one level, God doesn’t owe me an explanation for why He gives His laws. He never told the Israelites that following the Law of Moses would help them be healthier and avoid many physical problems (we now know the Old Testament laws helped them health-wise). But if they trusted and followed God’s laws, their lives would be healthier, happier, better.
Sadly, we are a culture who assumes we are smarter than the Bible until proven otherwise. And we’re hurting ourselves as a result. God doesn’t have to tell us why He has said the sexual relationship is only for a married couple. We should trust Him. But hopefully, when we see that so many studies confirm God knew what He was talking about, it will only produce greater faith in our future decisions.
Let’s be willing to confront the world’s view of sexual morality (because it really is incorrect and hurtful!), and let’s trust God more.