Giving People the Full Story
Not everyone who has sex gets pregnant. Not everyone who has unprotected sex gets AIDS or other STDs. Yet enough do that we take great lengths to warn people of the potential dangers. Sadly, little has been said of the danger of how pre-marital sex can negatively affect people for the rest of their lives.
The Potential Damage
Some years ago, while doing some video taping of cranes in the wild from a helicopter, I learned of how these birds “imprint” when they are first born. In other words, whatever creature they first interact with after birth, they assume it is their mother, even if it is a human. I immediately thought of what first-time sex does to a man. This overwhelming new experience IMPRINTS on him and he connects the context with the experience. Those who have their first sexual experience outside of marriage imprint on the lust of illicit sex – those who have their first sexual experience in the context of marriage imprint on the girl.
Consider scenario A:
Boy gets girl to let him fondle her in the back seat of a car. Soon he is undressing her. His heart is pounding as it becomes clear that she will allow him to have sex with her. The windows are steamed, he is now in a major hurry (lest she changes her mind or someone catches them). He experiences an adrenalin rush not unlike a thief experiences when he first steals or a thrill seeker gets when jumping from an airplane. He then enters her body and experiences his first sexual experience with a woman.
This incredible experience leaves a major “imprint” on him. Now (possibly for the rest of his life) he is likely to view sex in the context of “lust” and “naughtiness”. This is the man who will constantly be pushing his wife to try some outrageous new behavior, take sexual risks or constantly role-play – all in an attempt of re-living that experience that has had such a profound impact on his psyche. This is the guy who wants to “do it” in the elevator or in the backyard or in some semi-public place. This is the guy who needs his wife to pretend she is a cheerleader or a naughty nurse before he can get excited as he tries to re-create his sexual imprinting. He is not really interested in the girl; he is interested in the sex.
Now consider scenario B:
A man falls in love with a woman and asks her to marry him. His friends approve, his family approves, his co-workers approve. They all join in a concerted effort to make the event a success – planning, showers, and parties. They all come together in one gigantic effort to celebrate their approval of what he has chosen. They now gather in the presence of God, under the approval of his minister. They commit themselves before God and are then off for what will arguably be the biggest party of his life.
Then, with the joyous approval of every person important in his life, he takes his bride to their honeymoon suite and for the first time in his life – without the rush or fear of a back-seat encounter – he experiences the most wonderful sensation of his life as he enters his bride’s body and reaches his sexual peak.
He now ties EVERYTHING I just mentioned to that one girl – all the approval of his family, friends and coworkers, the church, the celebration, and most importantly, the incredible sensation he has just felt. All these elements join together and he IMPRINTS on the girl, for it is because of her and only her that he has just experienced the most wonderful day of his life.
Many would argue that this wedding day scenario would have the same effect with a guy who had already been having sex, but they would be wrong. NOTHING impacts a man like his first sexual experience.
If a man has his first sex outside of marriage, what he imprints on is the SEX – indeed, it becomes as if any woman willing to have sex with him would suffice. Many of these men later turn to illicit affairs or porn, fantasies and masturbation in a pathetic attempt to re-visit the experience to which they have forever imprinted upon. Women who marry such men can sense this and try desperately to get their man to focus solely on them. Sadly, it is a battle that most will lose. On the other hand, when a man has his first sexual experience in the context of marriage, he imprints on the GIRL, for she is the sole reason for his incredible experiences. Indeed, these men tend to marry once for life.
When I was growing up, boys were told to marry a virgin because the other girls were “damaged goods”. It very well may turn out, however, that it is the girls who should be careful to marry a virgin because it is sexually experienced men who can become the most “damaged”.
What about the girl…
The answer, of course, is that a woman also receives a great deal of damage from being sexually promiscuous, and her damage is both psychological and physiological. First the psychological damage:
When a woman experiences sex without commitment, she soon learns (falsely) that sex means little to nothing. Why? Because nothing happens as a result: no meaningful relationship ensues – he may never even call her or talk to her again. She has inaccurately learned that sex and commitment are two completely separate issues, which they are not. That is why so many married woman view sex as an unimportant side issue in marriage, when it is, in fact, a key and central issue to a successful marriage. God’s original plan was to use sex as the path to commitment. But because of promiscuity, she no longer views sex as a path to her husband’s commitment. On the contrary, she begins to demand that commitment BEFORE sex is granted, something he is not wired to do. The result is a relationship that struggles to succeed.
As for the physiological damage, science shows us that when a woman has sex with a man, a chemical called oxytocin is released into her system. Oxytocin is a neuro-peptide most commonly associated with pregnancy and breast-feeding. It seems to act as a human superglue and helps a woman bond with her infant. This chemical also helps a woman bond with her lover during sex. New scientific studies, however, suggest that if a woman has multiple sexual partners, this will lower her levels of oxytocin which in turn can inhibit her ability to bond to her husband. According to an article by Drs. John Diggs and Eric Keroack, “People who have misused their sexual faculty and become bonded to multiple persons will diminish the power of oxytocin to maintain a permanent bond with an individual.” [You can read the entire article at http://www.abstinence.net/library/index.php?entryid=344 ]
It is like taking a piece of strong packing tape and applying it to a box. Leave it alone, and it will hold that box together for decades and decades. Take it off and re-apply it and, well… it just doesn’t hold as well anymore. Keep taking it off and applying it a taking it off and applying it and… I think you get the idea. This is what can happen to a woman who has multiple sex partners.
The Boys are the Biggest Losers
Even though a woman also can suffer negative consequences from promiscuity, I believe that men can have the most to lose. Why? Because a sexually promiscuous woman, despite lowered levels of oxytocin and a less than positive attitude toward sex in general, still is internally wired to WANT to connect with her husband. Indeed, that desire is so strong, it causes her to fight through many of the negative side affects of her previous sexual experiences. A man, however, has no such natural “wiring”. If he fails to properly “imprint” and bond to the wife of his youth, he may spend the rest of his life in a disconnected state from her – indeed, from any woman. What he may do is attempt to re-connect with what he had imprinted on so many years earlier and foolishly turn to porn, affairs, lust, etc… All which can have severe negative consequences to his marriage.
Overcoming Sexual Damage
The degree of sexual damage people receive largely depends on the degree to which people become sexually involved before marriage, particularly if there are numerous sexual partners. It also can vary from person to person. For some who have had just a few consensual experiences, they may seem to carry little residual effects; while for others, even just one consensual experience can cause them to struggle later in their marriage. You can imagine the result if a person’s sexual experiences were not consensual as in rape or incest – it is likely that much more damage will have occurred.
The question now is: can a person who has been damaged have a meaningful sex life? Thankfully, the answer is yes, any person can have a wonderful sex life, but it will more likely come easier to those who waited until marriage. Those who did not may find they will have to work at it a lot harder.
Here’s an analogy I like to use: there are people who can seemingly eat anything they want and never gain any weight. Then there are those who allow themselves the slightest indulgence and they will gain a couple of pounds! What is the difference? One has a very different metabolism from the other.
So it is true with those who did not wait till marriage for sex – their “sexual metabolism” may be very different from those who did wait. Evidence shows that couples who wait until marriage report more satisfying sex lives than those who do not wait. And since sex is so important to the bonding of the couple, this is why couples who marry as virgins have a much lower divorce rate than those who did not wait. A couple whose only sexual experience has been with each other is much more likely to experience a natural “bonding” whereas those who have been promiscuous may find they will need to be much more intentional and deliberate in their approach to sex in order to bond.
In the New Testament, the Apostle Paul gave us some very powerful advice that can help us overcome the negative effects of sexual damage.
Do not conform any longer to the pattern of this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind. – Romans 12:2
So here we have the answer to the big question “How can I make things different?” The answer is “Change the way you think!” Quit thinking in the destructive patterns of our lust-driven culture and be transformed. Transformed not by special prayer or through being anointed by holy oil or holy water or by being touched by some holy preacher, but by the renewing of your mind. In other words, you need to change the way you think! You need to re-program the way you think about sex.
If you have imprinted on lust and find yourself constantly thinking in that way when you have sex with your spouse, you need to STOP it. Refuse to allow your thoughts to drift off to a “lust” context when having sex with your wife. You need to re-imprint on the girl you are married to. You need to key off of her and her alone.
May you rejoice in the wife of your youth.
A loving doe, a graceful deer–
may her breasts satisfy you always,
may you ever be captivated by her love.
- Proverbs 5:18 & 19
You may find, however, that re-training the way you think can be extremely difficult. You may even find that your sexual performance may get worse initially as you refuse to think those lustful thoughts that drove your erections in the past. But if you persevere, you will find your sexual energy will come roaring back and without the need for dirty thoughts that take you back to your early sexual encounters. You will find that your wife will be all you need in order for you to be sexually fulfilled. And you will find that the sex you experience without lust is multiple times more fun, exciting, and fulfilling than the kind of sex you try to re-play in your mind.
And as for you women who have falsely learned that “sex doesn’t mean anything”, you too must renew your minds. You need to change the way you think about sex. Sex is the key to a man’s heart and you need to view it that way. You need to go out of your way to notice the small ways your sexual interaction with your husband energizes and motivates him to want to connect with you in ways that are not sexual.
But do not kid yourselves – renewing your minds may prove to be one of the most difficult things you have ever undertaken. Ask God for his help and make a definitive decision that you will no longer live under the lies of your lust-driven past and that you will be transformed by thinking differently! Trust me when I tell you that the payoff is amazing and worth the effort.
Outside of marriage, men tend to imprint on the lustiness of “naughty” sex. A man may try to re-live that in his marriage by fantasizing about other women while making love to his wife or by trying to guilt his wife into performing sexually in ways that she is not comfortable with, or by ignoring his wife altogether as he masturbates in a pathetic attempt to re-create his lustful fantasies. It would be better, however, for that man to stop trying to re-live his previous sexual experiences and force himself to intentionally focus on his wife, think about her, actually be with her, and not attempt to recreate the sexual exploits of his youth.
Outside of marriage, women tend to come away with an attitude that “sex doesn’t mean anything” when, if fact, it can mean everything when it comes to her husband truly bonding with her. She must now be much more deliberate in her approach to sex, having to continually remind herself that sex is a vital component for her marriage to thrive.
Can they have great sex now? Yes! But it may not come as easily to them if they had waited. And the greater the damage, the more effort it may take for the couple. (Boy, if anybody should warn their children about the negative possibilities of pre-marital sex it should be those who have experienced it first hand!)
Virtually anyone can still experience a wonderful sex life, but let’s stop pretending that sex before marriage is “no big deal” and start telling people the truth – for two reasons: 1) so that our kids can avoid the problem in the first place and 2) so those who have been negatively affected can learn how they can still succeed by changing the way they think about sex.
Always remember, God is not a prude. He does not tell us to avoid sexual promiscuity because he is somehow embarrassed about sex. He just knows how we are wired and wants us to experience the very best.