The consequences of premarital sexual involvement are damaging on many levels. On an emotional level they often include a profound sense of guilt, shame and regret.
During the '60s and '70s many young people were "liberated" to believe that one-night stands were not only acceptable but desirable. This dogma was badly flawed. Wendy Shalit describes how such an encounter can affect many a young woman: "A young girl spends 'the rest of the night crying and bleeding' after she loses her virginity to a guy she barely knew" (A Return to Modesty: Discovering the Lost Virtue, 1999, p. 57).
In recent years a new term, "hooking up," has sprouted on American college campuses for what used to be called "quickie" sexual interaction. A hookup may involve a range of intimate activities from kissing to forms of sex and usually involves alcohol. It is sex without commitment or emotional involvement, usually between people who know little if anything about each other and expect nothing more from each other than the gratification of that lone encounter.
According to a survey by the Institute for American Values, "40 percent of college women have hooked up at least once, and 10 percent more than six times" (Christian Century, Aug. 15, 2001). The empty ritual leaves many young women feeling used, disillusioned and burdened with emotional confusion.
Though in some respects a girl who experiments with premarital or extramarital sex may suffer more severely than a male who does so, men are also damaged by illicit sex. In addition to their own later feelings of guilt for having used young women, they often find it hard to build and maintain a long-term relationship with one other person.
Any sexual experimentation outside of marriage is a mistake. A man will never be the same in the sense that he has surrendered a part of himself that he should have reserved for his bride. Premarital sex may provide momentary gratification, but the result is a loss of the purity that God intended. Each conquest robs him of some of the care and tenderness he should be cultivating for just the right girl.
Much of the attraction of sex outside of marriage is based on its illicit nature. The attitude that "stolen water is sweet, and bread eaten in secret is pleasant" (Proverbs 9:17) has been around for a long time.
Sometimes couples find sex to be intense and gratifying before they marry but after marriage discover it is not as exciting to them. Once they have devalued their respect for each other through premarital sex before marriage, rarely can they find the same attraction and respect shared by couples who marry without premarital sex.
Many couples who have sex before marriage find that it actually dampens the feelings they have for each other and, as a result, dampens their long-term sexual enjoyment. Their violation of God's law in succumbing to premarital sexual activity removes some of the beauty and splendor their married sexual relations could have had.
There is another danger in succumbing to sexual temptation, even if getting married is your intent. The possibility always exists that you may for some reason decide against marrying this person. When this happens you have, through sexual involvement, given a part of yourself to someone other than your spouse, a part you should have saved for your future wife or husband.
When two people become "one flesh" in a sexual relationship (see 1 Corinthians 6:16), a bonding occurs between them. If, after they become sexually involved, one partner severs the relationship against the wishes of the other, the separation has a wrenching effect, especially for the jilted person, who is left feeling mentally and emotionally burned.
Sex counselors and schools push contraceptive devices as a means of assuring "safe sex," but no device can protect a person's heart. When the heart is assaulted, defensive patterns develop that will affect any future relationship.
The hazards and negative consequences of adultery are numerous. Extramarital affairs also generally bring intense feelings of guilt and shame. When discovered—as affairs often are—the result is often permanent injury or destruction of the marriage, with severe damage to relationships between other family members and friends.
Some couples can put their marriages back together when one mate has had an affair, yet the infidelity inflicts a wound that is difficult if not impossible to heal. The betrayed wife or husband will likely never feel completely secure again. The quality of the marriage will suffer because trust has been violated. Even if the wound can heal, the scars remain.
Divorce proceedings are rarely cordial, but those that occur because of marital infidelity are among the most hostile. When sexual betrayal from one whose love was expected to last for life occurs, it creates bitterness and resentment that may never heal.
When children are involved, the two parties' lives generally remain interlocked because of visitation rights. In such cases there is no escaping the continuing hard feelings. When children sense the tensions and animosities, they are often emotionally scarred as a result (see "Divorce's Devastating Impact on Children," page 10).
The Bible states that premarital and extramarital sex are sin and therefore to be avoided completely. Why is God so adamant on this point? To protect us from the inevitable harmful consequences. Notice Paul's warning to Christians in the sex-saturated city of Corinth: "Run away from sexual sin! No other sin so clearly affects the body as this one does. For sexual immorality is a sin against your own body" (1 Corinthians 6:18, New Living Translation).
God created sex to be a blessing and benefit of a committed marriage. When you cheapen your body by giving it freely outside of marriage, you treat your body with disrespect.
In the King James and New King James versions of the Bible, sexual intercourse in the Old Testament is referred to as "knowing." Sexual relations within the context of a loving, committed marriage enable two people to know each other in the most intimate and personal way.
Loving sex in this context is deeply satisfying and creates a unifying of two lives. It is much more than simply the coupling of two bodies. The couple becomes one flesh as God intended (Genesis 2:24). The International Standard Bible Encyclopedia describes this kind of knowledge as "not just cognitive, but always experiential and deeply personal; and sexual intercourse is never just physiological, but always involves mystery and touches the whole person" (1988, Vol. 4, "Sex," p. 433).
It is partially the mystery about the opposite sex that makes relating to one another so special. That mystery is destroyed and lost forever when human beings hook up as casually as many species of animals do. Our sexuality is a gift God gave us. It is so special that it should be protected and saved for marriage as God intended. GN