The harder society attempts to portray sexual promiscuity as freedom,
the more it must scramble to figure out how to deal with the consequences.
"I need your help. I don't know what to say. Every one of my friends keeps saying that I should have sex, and I don't want to. I don't want to ruin my life like that."
"I admit that I have had sexual intercourse before, and I am not proud of it."
"I was pressured into having sex with my boyfriend."
"I am not a virgin but I don't think a day goes by that I don't wish I still was."
"I am feeling really worried about this, and so is my girlfriend. She says that she would kill herself if she was pregnant."
(Quotes from students' e-mails)
They called it "free love," that 1960s movement. They insisted that it was time to put off the mores of the culture and embrace sexual freedom. Freedom? Was this really freedom, this tacit agreement that equated to: "I'll let you treat me like an object, if I can treat you like an object back"? Was it freedom when the two STDs of the 1960s grew to the more than twenty-five of today, many of which are incurable and some deadly? Or did we achieve freedom when teen pregnancies increased at alarming rates? The harder society attempts to portray sexual promiscuity as freedom, the more it must scramble to figure out how to deal with the consequences.
If putting aside sexual mores is so liberating, why do I continually receive e-mails like those above? Should I explain to these teenagers that they will eventually get over their distress because their sexuality really isn't that big a deal? No way!
along the way,
to tell these
prize their purity.
I tell the health classes that I talk to the opposite message: "Your sexuality is a big deal because you are a big deal." There is no pill, no condom, and no contraceptive to protect your heart, the essence of you. Somewhere along the way, someone forgot to tell these students to prize their purity. As seen in their statements, how they wish someone had.
Elizabeth Elliott says in Passion and Purity: "There is a dullness, monotony, sheer boredom in all of life when virginity and purity are no longer protected and prized. By trying to grab fulfillment everywhere, we find it nowhere."
A while back, a friend of mine lost a diamond pendant that had great sentimental value to her. After a week of praying and looking, she had almost given up hope. Then one morning as she drove to work, she decided to check the parking lot one more time. As she scanned the lot for some glimpse of her lost treasure, a small sparkle caught her attention. She reached down, pushed aside the ice and snow, and found her diamond pendant! Since the time that she had lost her diamond, the parking lot had been plowed several times after snowfalls. It had seemed highly unlikely that she would ever find it, but the Lord answered her prayer.
This story reminds me of the message that we share. We all long for intimate, healthy relationships. We long for someone to prize us above all others and treat us accordingly. Little girls dream of being Cinderella, and little boys dream of becoming heroes. But the bubbles burst and those idealistic dreams disappear when lust is mistaken for love and desire replaces respect. When sex is taken outside of the context of commitment and real love, it becomes shallow, cheap, and destructive. And when love is cheapened, the dream of finding pure love seems lost forever. It's like looking for a diamond in a snowbank.
Ed Young states in Pure Sex, "All that the current experts have managed to give us in terms of sexual enlightenment has not satisfied our longing for something transcendent, something pure and beautiful. Instead, we've settled for what some have called 'nutra-sex'—artificial substitutes for pure sex that eventually can cause cancer—both in the relationships and in the soul."
Our message is loud and clear. Don't give up hope! You can continue to search for that "something transcendent, that something pure and beautiful." Just as my friend did not replace her lost gem with a fake, don't settle for a cheap imitation of what real love is meant to be. In real love and authentic intimacy, a man and a woman commit to what is best for each other and refuse to damage each other physically, emotionally, and spiritually by giving in to "sexual freedom."
So, what do I say to teens like those above? I sympathize with them first because they have given something away that they will never get back. But then we talk about second chances and how the pain of your past does not have to determine your future. I challenge them to push aside society's lies and rediscover the treasure of purity and the key to real love.
Kaley Ehret is an abstinence program coordinator for the I'm Worth Waiting For program at the All Women's Help Center in Binghamton, New York. She can be contacted at firstname.lastname@example.org.