A recent study on the sexual behaviors of teenagers revealed a bittersweet trend. According to the study’s findings American teenagers seem to be waiting longer to have sex. In fact, over a ten-year period the percentage of 12th-grade students who reported having had intercourse fell by nearly 7 percent (keep in mind that’s a small statistical number but it represents a lot of individual lives).
That’s more than enough to make those of us who are passionate about pointing young women toward Truth shout Halleluiah. We’ve witnessed the painful consequences when young women believe lies in this area.
But the study revealed another side of the story that is troubling.
“Teens may be replacing intercourse with more alternatives they perceive as safer. For example more than 50 percent of U.S. teens ages 15 to 19 have engaged in oral sex. This number increases to almost 70 percent for those who are 18 and 19″ (“Teen Sex Statistics,” Cory Silverburg, (9 July 2007) http://sexuality.about.com/od/sexinformation/a/teen_sex_stats.html)
And it doesn’t stop there. The girls we talked to admitted that while they weren’t having sex, they didn’t see much harm in being sexual through the way that they dressed, the way they communicated with boys (even those who were “just friends”) and the way they presented themselves through text-messaging and online.
I’ve been blogging to this group long enough to know that there are some of you who have already let out a gasp or two while reading this post. I know that many of you are fiercely committed to maintaining high standards of physical and emotional purity. That’s great. But some of you seem just as confused by the opposite side of this spectrum. You have left several comments asking if hugs are okay, if holding hands is okay, if phone calls are okay, if talking to boys at all is okay. And you seem troubled by the fact that you don’t know where the lines are on this issue. It is clear to me that there is confusion among young women about God’s standards for this area of our lives.
And, I’m pretty sure that there are those of you out there who have bought into the lie that as long as you stay away from intercourse, you’re okay. To you, I want to offer some encouragement to revisit this issue using God’s Word. I am not interested in dishing out condemnation. I am interested in pointing you toward Truth! Whether or not anyone is willing to admit their struggle on a forum this public, I’ve been involved in student ministry long enough to know that this is an area of deception among your generation.
In fact, during the research phase for this book girls told us things like:
“We’re really into purity—my boyfriend and I. So, we try to speak about it and events and stuff. We tell people that they can just do what we do. Just have oral sex.”
“He was just a friend but before I knew it, we were sending these trashy text-messages. We became sort of electronic friends with benefits, but we never had sex.”
“Honestly, there’s not one guy in my youth group who I haven’t kissed or touched in some way. Some of them got farther than others, but I have a line I won’t cross. I’ve never had sex.” (Lies Young Women Believe, 91)
These quotes were included in Lies Young Women Believe, and it wasn’t for shock value. We truly believe that many of you are seriously confused by what God asks of us in the area of sexual purity. Here’s what Nancy and Dannah wrote on the topic.
“Anything that “hints” at sex outside of marriage is wrong. Ephesians 5:3 (NIV) defines God’s standard of purity: ‘But among you there must not be even a hint of sexual immorality.’ This certainly includes actually having sex. But the sexual sin forbidden here is broader than that. There should not be even a hint of sex outside the marriage bed. You don’t have to have physical contact with a guy to “hint” at sexual sin. Jesus extended the definition of sexual sin to include looking at someone and lusting after them (Matthew 5:28).
You “hint” at sex when you wear a low cut tank top showing off your cleavage.
You “hint” at sex when you text-message something flirtatious to a guy-friend.
You “hint” at sex when you hang around the Abercrombie poster in the mall, glancing a few too many times.
You “hint” at sex when you expose yourself to songs, television shows, and movies that use sexual humor and language (The very next verse says, ‘Let there be no filthiness nor foolish talk nor crude joking, which are out of place”—Ephesians 5:4.)
According to Jesus, these areas of mental impurity count. They rob you of virtue. But sexual sin in the mind isn’t the only area where Christian young women are struggling. Our hearts break as we hear of young women engaged in practices ranging from sexual touching to masterbation to oral sex, all the while rationalizing that these acts are not sexual sin.
They are.” (Lies Young Women Believe, 91-92)
God’s standard isn’t a long list of do’s and don’ts and it’s not as simple as a big black line just before sex. The truth is, His standard is much higher. Those things that hint at impurity in this area of your heart need to go.
We’re going to be talking more about this topic on the blog in the coming weeks. Be sure to check back soon for my interview with Lauren. She tells the story of her decision to wait to kiss until her wedding day (it’s very romantic!) In the meantime, I’d love to hear about your own struggles and victories in this area (note:be sure to protect the innocence of others in your comments). And I would certainly love to read about specific scriptures that have helped you make changes or establish boundaries to avoid “hinting.”