When we talk about “pre-marital sex”

[dropcap]W[/dropcap]hen I was in middle school and “pre-marital sex” was discussed at our Wednesday

talking about pre-marital sex

Lyrics Ed Sheehan [Image credit]

night gatherings it was safe to assume almost all in attendance were virgins.

When I was in high school and “sex before marriage” was discussed in our Sunday School class it was safe to assume most in attendance were virgins.

Underlying most student and college ministries was an assumption most in attendance recognized sex should be reserved for marriage, even if they personally had not kept the reservation.

But, the times have changed. Many in our churches have had “pre-marital sex” against their wills. Some are experiencing “pre-marital sex” on a regular basis and are powerless to do anything about it.

In her blistering, evocative article, “Fourteen and sexually screwed up,” rape survivor Grace Biske addresses the issue:

My world shattered the first time I chose sex.

I was fourteen, still a little person, barely 100 pounds.

My world didn’t shatter because the God of heaven rained down tears of anger over my pre-marital sex, cut me out of our personal relationship or decided to never use me again. That’s what I thought God was supposed to do when a little girl throws off her special invisible virginity cloak.

My world shattered because I would resolve to reach deep in my gut to push out the word “no” but, nothing.

It shattered because I was trapped with no rescue, no curfew, no rules, no overseer.

Because, to me, it was proof I was an unlovable, worthless sexual commodity.

 My world shattered because I didn’t know if I was being raped or not. Lying there stiff as a board, choking back tears didn’t quite fit the barbaric images I’d seen in the movies, but I had no fight.

I couldn’t even say no. 

My world shattered because when I tried to leave, he said he’d eat rock salt. I wasn’t going to be the girl whose boyfriend died by rock salt because she couldn’t endure 5 minutes of painful sex.

Lay down. Shut up. Endure.

[...]

Our kids have access to watch sex as early as the first spoiled 2nd grader gets an iPod touch and points out the “boobies” to his friends in the dark corners of recess.

Our kids are being stolen out of their youth and plunged into our highly sexualized image and video-driven culture faster than many of us care to acknowledge; stolen out of their schools and playgrounds and taken away to dingy motel rooms to be used as sexual commodities.

Mothers, fathers, brothers, uncles, street kids, priests and pastors alike are molesting our kids. And what makes this devastating sin so salient nowadays is the way the internet has made our children available for the using and more susceptible to sexual addictions.

In light of all this, do you really think that tired message “God-hates-pre-marital-sex” is going to cut it any more?

It is a fair question, one we need to take seriously. Also consider how we can seriously adjust the ways we address this topic.

[pullquote]Mothers, fathers, brothers, uncles, street kids, priests and pastors alike are molesting our kids.[/pullquote]The kids in our churches do not all have the blessing of being “good little church kids” where nothing ever goes wrong. It already has.

Remember the girl who was saving herself for her husband only to find herself date-raped by a guy she trusted. Remember that she woke up in a strange bed with no clothes on. Remember she had to find her way to the hospital for an exam. Remember she endured a “rape kit” done by a total stranger. Remember she reported it to the city police who may not have even believed her, or campus police who tried to cover it up.

Remember the emotionally vulnerable girl with the distant mother and absent father whose manipulative boyfriend gets what he wants at her expense. He has sex with himself using her body for the assist.

Remember the girl and boy who were molested by family members before they were old enough to know what “sex before marriage” means or decide whether to have it.

Remember the college girl who did not know her single drink was spiked, or that pictures of her nude would be texted between the guys, or that a video of her rape would.

Remember the would-be frat pledge violently forced into a sexual situation only to find it surreptitiously recorded and put online.

Remember the former serviceman who went to fight for his country, whom we all applauded, who was raped and dehumanized by fellow servicemen.

Remember the kids whose parents prepared them for dating, not by sharing God’s word and His standards, but by ensuring access to the pill or a limitless supply of condoms.

Remember a generation of kids learned that oral sex is not sex, only to find out later that it is.

Remember those who quietly hide inside their Bible a folded True Love Waits pledge card because they wonder whether it applies to them anymore.

I’m not implying we should not talk about sex; more than ever we should. But the markers have been moved. Many in your audience cannot, for reasons they could not or cannot control, save themselves for marriage.

Perhaps we should include in our teaching the language of choosing. Rather than “do not have sex before marriage” use “do not choose sex before marriage.” Perhaps, with every address on sexuality we acknowledge, “If you are here and have not chosen to have sex, but it has been or is being forced on you, please talk to me or a trusted adult at church, at school or at work. You are not alone.” Make sure you and your student ministry workers are clearly versed on the law’s requirements.

Let us not condemn those already under dark feelings of condemnation and regret. Jesus did not do so, nor should we.

Too many already bear sexual scars they did not volunteer to receive. Let us not add to their misery with words that will preach, but may not help.

Z” contributed to this story.

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  • Bucky Elliott

    Perhaps, with every address on sexuality we acknowledge, “If you are here and have not chosen to have sex, but it has been or is being forced on you, please talk to me or a trusted adult at church, at school or at work. You are not alone.”

    Bravo and amen!

  • Bekah Stoneking

    Thank you for writing this, Marty. I believe with all that is in me that the church must change its approach to talking about sex and purity and the change must be across the entire congregation– these conversations cannot be limited to youth groups, alone, but they should include older church members, as well.

    Grace’s story is all too familiar to me. Though I was in college, a lot of the questions she asks were questions I asked and the guilt I felt was eerily similar–he’s my boyfriend, this isn’t rape. He has no weapon, this isn’t rape. I said “no” and I was crying, but I couldn’t muster the volition to scream or fight, so I allowed it to happen, so this isn’t rape. The first phone call I made was to my church and the pastor said, “It sounds like you should have prayed more. Maybe if you paid attention to God about who you dated, this would have never happened. Maybe next time you’ll listen to Him!” Nope. Not rape.

    And if the pastor says it, it MUST be true! I didn’t fight hard enough and I was not praying enough about who to date, so I was guilty. As a young, single girl, I believed that I committed the most grievous sin someone like me could commit. It would take years before I would say the word “rape” out loud and meet ministers who would be able to properly counsel me with Scripture and help bring healing.

    Virginity until marriage, in a way, had become an idol in my life. In college (and in a sorority!), “virgin” was one of my main descriptors; everyone knew it! Once that was taken from me, I felt like I was nothing and like I had nothing, any more. I was pursuing virginity more than I was pursuing Christ but honestly, that is what I think most youth and young singles are taught!

    Though we ARE to seek purity and reserve our bodies for our spouse, alone, it’s almost like we teach it and talk about it as if it is the ultimate goal and like all of our worth as a future spouse is tied up in whether or not we can hold out until we say “I do”. We do not minister or teach in ways to equip people who are exposed to premarital sex against their will, choice, or understanding. Though I was a “church kid” and knew the Bible pretty well, I had no categories for dealing with what happened to me and even today, I have to constantly fight against the ways Satan tries to twist my past and use it against me. Though it’s been 8 years, I still have to seek counsel and accountability to understand my worth and my standing before God and I still very much struggle with feeling like I do not deserve to marry a good and godly man because I am inadequate. Even typing this response is very hard because there is such a “dirtiness” associated with this topic, that I’m scared for people I know to know that it’s part of me (but learning to not fear man is more important and exposing the truth so Satan can’t use it against me is a big deal).

    In summary, Marty, this is an important topic. I am very glad to see you contributing to this conversation in such pastoral, loving, and practical ways.

    • martyduren

      No, Bekah, thank you.

      I was not aware of this dark shadow in your story. Thank you so much for sharing it.

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