“Nobody saves sex for marriage any more.”
You probably hear that statement from time to time, especially when you talk with your teens about biblical teaching on sex. Or maybe in your part of the world you don’t hear it any more, because sex outside marriage has become a non-issue; it is the norm, or at least most people believe it is. Saving sex for marriage is considered an “old-fashioned” idea. If the Bible is brought into the conversation at all, the general feeling is that what the Bible says is totally irrelevant for today. Things are different now.
But did you know that it is no longer only Christians who promote saving sex for marriage? There are many non-religious people, even top students at top universities like Princeton and other colleges connected with the Love and Fidelity Network, who are saying that sex experienced outside of marriage loses its value, that it is harmful both to the individuals involved and to their relationship.
So let’s for a moment leave biblical teaching out of the conversation and look only at what we know from scientific research, especially about what happens in the brain during sexual intimacy and how this affects us.
Scientists have discovered amazing facts about our brains. We know, for example:
• that many of the key pathways between nerves have already been made in the womb, before a baby is born
• that by the time a child is three years old 85% of the wiring of the brain is already completed
• that by the end of adolescence the brain has 10 billion neurons jammed up against one another.
• that there are more than 100 trillion synapses, the connections between the neurons that make the brain function.
• that some of the neurochemicals (chemicals unique to or active in the brain) – particularly oxytocin, vasopressin, and dopamine – are very much involved in our sexual interest and behavior. When we look at what these chemicals do, we see some of the answers of Science to the question, “What is sex for?”
1. Sex is to join a man and a woman for life. When two people have sexual intercourse, or when they just touch intimately, oxytocin is released into their brains – even if the touch is just a 20-second hug! Oxytocin is present in both male and female, but it is primarily active in females. When it is released into the woman’s brain, it does two things:
• it increases her desire for more touch
• it causes her to bond to the man with whom she is having intimate physical contact. In sexual intercourse, her brain is flooded with oxytocin, and each time she has sex with him she bonds more closely with him. Oxytocin is like an emotional super-glue.
The neurochemical responsible for the male brain response is vasopressin. It bonds a man to his mate and creates an attachment to his children.
2. Sex is to build trust between husband and wife. Oxytocin also makes a woman feel as if she can trust the man with whom she is being sexually intimate. Vasopressin has the same effect on the man in relation to the woman.
3. Sex is for pleasure. Another neurochemical, dopamine, is known as the reward signal. It pours into the brain when we do something important or exciting or rewarding. It makes us feel good, and we want to repeat the action. Sex is one of the very strongest generators of the dopamine reward; sex is rewarded by floods of dopamine into the brain.
From scientific research we now know that we have been designed to be sexually monogamous, to be with one mate for life.
Your teens need to know all this. They need to be able, in the words of the Anscombe Society’s mission statement, to “celebrate sex as unifying, beautiful, and joyful when shared in its proper context: that of marriage between a man and woman.”
For further study:
Joe S. McIlhaney, Jr. and Freda McKissic Bush, Hooked: New Science on How Casual Sex Is Affecting Our Children