Lily Dunn recently wrote a blog post featured on the Relevant Magazine website called “4 Lies the Church Taught Me About Sex.” This post is a brief response to her post. The four lies Ms. Dunn mentions are:
- Any and all physical contact is like a gateway drug to sex.
If you wait until you are married to have sex, God will reward you with mind-blowing sex and a magical wedding night.
- Girls don’t care about sex.
When you get married, you will immediately be able to fully express yourself sexually without guilt or shame.
To be fair, although I was taught the opposite of #2 and #4, it is possible that Ms. Dunn’s church misled her into believing both of those ideas. It is also possible that the intent of her youth pastor was to teach that doing sex God’s way is better and more fulfilling than deviating from God’s plan. That is certainly true, because living life the way God designed it to be lived is always better than going against God’s plan, which leads to slavery in sin and ultimately death. The pastors who taught me about purity and marriage (Joey Phillips and Barry Clair) taught that waiting for marriage is free of guilt and shame, is more fulfilling, but takes a long time to reach the level of intimacy we read about in Song of Solomon.
Having said that, I will say again that I’m not sure what Ms. Dunn’s pastors taught her, but I have no reason to doubt what she says. And I can easily see how unclear teaching of the point above could end up being translated in a teen’s mind as #2 and #4.
As for #3, given that I’m a man and Ms. Dunn is a woman, she is infinitely more qualified than I am to say what girls care about. I will take her at her word!
The real issue I have with her post is #1 – any and all physical contact is like a gateway drug to sex. She criticizes her upbringing that taught that intimate physical contact like kissing can easily lead to other things. She says,
On this side of things, I can honestly say that there are SO many conscious decisions you have to make between kissing and having sex. Despite what Hollywood says, clothes do not take themselves off and bodies do not magically and effortlessly fit together. If you are committed to waiting until you’re married to have sex, there are many valid reasons to set boundaries on your physical relationship, but the fear of accidentally having sex shouldn’t be one of them.
Here is where I think Ms. Dunn errs. The truth is, intimate physical contact can and often does lead to more intimate physical contact, and more, and more, and so on. Anyone, teen or adult, who is in an aroused state through a series of intimate physical contacts is not thinking clearly with sound judgment. Clothes do not take themselves off, but people in the heat of the moment often do not stop to consider what they’re doing until they’ve gone a lot further than they intended to go. And, it can be really, really difficult to put the brakes on when the finish line is in sight!
Consider a few warnings from Proverbs.
Keep your way far from her [the adulteress woman], and do not go near the door of her house. (Proverbs 5:8)
The iniquities of the wicked ensnare him, and he is held fast in the cords of his sin. He dies for lack of discipline, and because of his great folly he is led astray. (5:22-23)
Can a man carry fire next to his chest and his clothes not be burned? Or can one walk on hot coals and his feet not be scorched? (6:27-28)
I have perceived among the youths, a young man lacking sense, passing along the street near her corner, taking the road to her house in the twilight, in the evening, at the time of night and darkness. And behold, the woman meets him… With much seductive speech she persuades him; with her smooth talk she compels him. All at once he follows her, as an ox goes to the slaughter… Let not your heart turn aside to her ways; do not stray into her paths. (from 7:6-27)
I think the Scriptures are clear: avoid dangerous and tempting situations. In order to avoid the sin of premarital sex, avoid opportunities to have premarital sex. You can’t be afraid of “accidentally” having sex because no consensual sex act is an accident. You are responsible for our own choices. However, you should absolutely be afraid of allowing yourself to get in over your head without realizing it. You should absolutely be afraid of getting into a dangerous and tempting situation you didn’t even see coming. Think ahead and avoid the opportunities to sin.
Unfortunately, Ms. Dunn’s post misses a great opportunity to encourage young people to wait for marriage. And it fails to adequately warn against the dangers of sexual temptation and the wisdom to avoid opportunities to sin. I’m not suggesting that holding hands is “wrong” or that everyone should wait until their wedding day for their first kiss. Paul says in Colossians 2:18-23 that being overly legalistic (asceticism) “lack[s] any value in restraining sensual indulgence” (v.23). Legalism can’t cure the lust in our hearts; only Christ can do that. However, it is wise, according to Proverbs, to avoid the paths to sin, especially sexual sin. If you want to stay away from the sin of premarital sex, stay away from the opportunities to have premarital sex and be very careful about what physical contact you do allow yourself to indulge in. Set your boundaries and stick to them. It’s better, I think, to feel awkward on your wedding night than to live with the guilt and shame of sexual sin.