A Different Way to Talk About Sex?
by Dr. Paul Dean
Some are urging American parents to adopt a different way to talk about sex with teens, according to the New York Times. "Rachel Phelps (who works at Planned Parenthood in the United States) concludes that while American parents, advertisers and public-service announcements aim to scare teens, those in Europe are matter of fact and humorous." The European approach is to be open about sex, talk about having it at the right time, and promote the use of condoms in a humorous way. European parents are not concerned with preventing their teens from having sex; their concern is that they be prepared when they do. Ninety percent of Dutch parents allow their children to have romantic sleepovers provided the child is at least sixteen and in a committed, loving relationship.
The benefits of such an approach are predictably hyped: higher use of birth control, lower pregnancy rates, and lower STD rates. Of course, if teen sex is expected and the use of birth control is seen as part of that equation, then the statistics are not surprising.
There is one other statistic of note: the percentage of those teens who wished they had waited longer to have sex is 63% and 69% of American boys and girls respectively compared to only 5% and 12% of boys and girls in the Netherlands. These figures offer further reason to adopt the European approach in the minds of those arguing for it; American attitudes toward sex are part of the problem and creating bad experiences for American teens.
But is that sentiment really true? It's certainly regrettable that pregnancy and STD rates are higher among American teens. But is it regrettable they feel bad about not waiting to have sex? When we do things that are wrong we should feel bad. European teens don't feel bad about having sex because the culture no longer views it as sinful. American teens have pangs of conscience due to at least two things. First, while a biblical worldview is fast eroding in America, there is a hold-over for many in terms of attitudes about sex. Second, there are still those in America who teach that premarital sex is wrong and thereby have some influence on American sexual attitudes.
One's conscience is only as good as the teaching it receives. When persons reject God's way, they're consciences become seared and God gives them over to gross immorality (1 Tim. 4:2; Rom. 1:24f). It's interesting to note the number one reason cited for divorce in many European countries, including the Netherlands, is infidelity. That reason is far down the list in America. Further, cohabitation rates are higher in Europe while marriage rates are higher in America. Beyond that, birthrates in America far exceed those in Europe where they don't even reach the replacement rate. (It's to the point of crisis in some European countries). The biblical worldview has been non-existent in Europe for decades. One need only look at the results there to see what's coming here and this push is more evidence of that reality.
The church has an opportunity to reassert God's perspective on this issue with a view toward teaching our fellow-citizens all that is right and good about sex: it's a gift from God -- in the context of marriage. But think further; if sex is embraced in that way, then teen pregnancy and STD rates will drop dramatically. Beyond that, the heartbreak of numerous sexual encounters will drop as well. Marriages will be more stable; (it's easy to be unfaithful and divorce when you've been promiscuous and broken up with partners on numerous occasions prior to marriage). When God's way is adopted, people see the sexual encounter as part of a larger commitment. The blessings of happy, faithful, and long-term relationships far outweigh the momentary gratification of multiple sexual encounters. Just ask those who don't have those blessings.
Of course, it's important for Christians to live pure lives, imitating God (Eph. 5:1). Premarital sex should not be hinted at among Christians (v. 3). Those who regularly engage in such prove they don't belong to Christ and will not be saved (vv. 5-6). Paul admonishes us not to be deceived with empty, (in this case, European), words telling us that premarital sex is okay; it's because of such things that His wrath is coming (v. 6).
More than that, we're here to promote God's ways in this culture. Imitating Him helps us to do that and says to the world there is true joy and power over temptation in Christ. We're to walk around in love and not selfish immorality just as Christ loved us and gave Himself for us as a sweet-smelling aroma to God (Eph. 5:2). We do that by loving others as opposed to treating them as sexual objects to satisfy our own selfish desires (vv. 2-3).
Here's the picture. You can walk around and stink up the place by being like the world. (Is there anyone who likes to be around someone who needs a shower)? Or, you can be like God, walk in sacrificial love, and be a sweet-smelling aroma. (Who doesn't enjoy something that smells good)? When we promote the ways of God, we're a sweet-smelling aroma to our world and to Him.
Practically, we explain that we're not trying to spoil the fun. Rather, we're seeking to make clear that there is no greater joy than Christ Himself. And, the byproduct of knowing Christ is living in such away that maximizes your joy. So, we're not prudish or Victorian about sex. We give God thanks for it (v. 4). But we can only experience its real pleasures and joys if we use it as God intended: a physical demonstration of the life-long, joy-filled, shame-overcoming, freely-trusting, emotionally-satisfying, one-flesh relationship that husbands and wives have -- which is a picture of what we have in Christ. And that's truly a different way to talk about sex.
Dr. Paul Dean invites you to discover more about yourself, God, and others... and develop a Christian worldview. Dr. Dean is a pastor, cultural commentator, and author. Receive a FREE commentary and learn more at
A Different Way to Talk About Sex?
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