Question: I’m an intelligent, responsible and mature high school student, and I see nothing wrong with engaging in sexual activity before marriage, provided my partner is someone I genuinely love. Most of the arguments I’ve heard against my position are religious in nature and I just don’t buy them. What’s your response to that? 

Answer: 

Our first response is that, from our perspective, the arguments you’re calling "religious" are more than sufficient in and of themselves. I’m sure it will come as no surprise to you that Focus on the Family Canada, as an evangelical Christian organization, takes the teaching of the Bible very seriously. Scripture declares that sex is for marriage and marriage is for sex. Exclusively. That’s because sex is not just a matter of casual recreation. It goes much deeper than that. It’s all about two people becoming "one flesh." As we see it, this isn’t just a question of one person’s "religious" views against those of another. It’s a matter of understanding the Designer’s best plan for the people He’s created. Like anything else in life, sexuality is most enjoyable and satisfying when one follows the "owner’s manual."

But since you aren’t inclined to accept these arguments, we’ll bypass them and point out that there are a number of other good reasons to put off sex until marriage – pragmatic, down-to-earth reasons that also support our spiritual point of view. They can be grouped under at least five different headings.

Teen pregnancy

First, sex is how babies get started. Every year, nearly 750,000 American teenagers become pregnant, and approximately three in 10 of these pregnancies end in abortion. The vast majority of these pregnancies are unplanned, and sizable percentages begin even though a contraceptive is used. But statistics don’t begin to communicate the profound effects of a pregnancy on a young woman’s life. It changes everything. Whether the child is born, miscarried or aborted, the emotional impact of the experience will remain fixed in the mother’s heart and mind. There’s no quick fix where human life is concerned – no way to "rewind the tape" and start over as though nothing happened.

Risk of STIs

Second, sexually transmitted infections are a constant danger for those who engage in extra-marital sex. More than 20 significant diseases can be transmitted skin to skin or by exchange of body fluids during sexual activity. Some are fatal, a few are relatively harmless and many have long-term physical and emotional consequences. Prominent among the potential physical consequences is the risk of infertility. If you want to have children once you do get married, don’t have sex ahead of time. 

Safe sex

Third, "safe(r) sex" really isn’t. This idea has been widely downplayed as unrealistic by many cultural pundits, but there’s really no way around it: statistically and scientifically-speaking, only sex kept exclusively within the context of faithful marriage is truly safe. It’s as simple as that.

Effect on relationships

Fourth, premarital sex distorts premarital relationships. Adding sex to a non-marital relationship, especially when adolescents are involved, is like throwing a one-thousand-pound weight into a rowboat. The center of gravity shifts drastically, forward motion becomes difficult and the whole thing may eventually sink. Sex never enhances a teenage romance. Instead, it almost always overwhelms and stifles it. Arguments, secrecy, stress and guilt usually replace laughter, discovery and meaningful conversation.

Sex is sacred

Fifth and last, sex is too good and too wonderful to be treated lightly. The idea that sex should be kept within the boundaries of marriage is not based on notions that intercourse is "dirty" or "unholy," but on a true appreciation of the incalculable value of sex as God’s fine art. If The  Mona Lisa were entrusted to your care, you wouldn’t leave it in your backyard, use it as a TV tray or line a birdcage with it. In the same way, to relegate sex to the category of casual recreation is to demean it and to devalue one’s own sexuality and identity. What’s more, while movies and television often portray casual sex as the epitome of sensual excitement, the truth is that a healthy, committed, long-term marital relationship is actually the best setting for satisfying sexual experiences. Within marriage, sex becomes a comfort, a natural stimulant (or relaxant), a playground, a special means of communication and a bridge that can connect individuals to one another after a difficult day or season. Short-term relationships provide few if any of these benefits, and those involved in casual sex cannot approach or in some cases even comprehend them. 

Naturally, there’s a great deal more that could be said. If you’re open to discussing these ideas and principles at greater length, we’d like to invite you to call and speak with a member of our staff. You can reach Focus on the Family Canada’s counselling department Monday through Friday between 8 a.m. and 4 p.m. Pacific time at 1.800.661.9800. One of our counsellors would be more than happy to talk with you over the phone.

Excerpted from The Complete Book of Baby and Child Care published by Tyndale House Publishers. © 1997, 2007, Focus on the Family.  

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