Dr. Val Farmer
Rural Mental Health & Family Relationships

Reasons Why Premarital Sex Is Not Good For Teens And Young Adults

September 5, 2005

The threat of AIDS gives a new practical focus to sexual decision-making. Sex is suddenly dangerous. Oh for the days when religious values or fear of an unwanted pregnancy were the major reasons for avoiding premarital sexual relations! Despite the risks to self-esteem, or even the fatal consequences of AIDS, the sheer power and pleasure of sex continue to overwhelm teenagers' and young adults' resistance to premarital sex.

"Just say no" isn't a sufficient deterrent. Young people need to know some answers to why to say no. Here are some other important reasons why premarital sex can be unsafe.

Sex clouds judgment in courtship. Once introduced into a relationship, sexuality is so powerful and captivating that it quickly becomes the centerpiece of the relationship. Sexual intimacy substitutes for real intimacy. Lust kills the opportunity for love to develop.

How? It interferes with the slower process of getting to know one another, of learning slowly the puzzle of another person's life and character. The explosive nature of sex crowds out the time for sharing personal feelings about dreams, goals, background, habits, faults and values. Introducing sex creates a pseudo-intimacy that substitutes for good communication and knowledge of common values and interests.

The desire for physical intimacy becomes an end in its own right. Motives are disguised or rationalized to make the relationship appear to be more than it is. An illusion of caring is created to justify self-gratification.

Which is it? Love or hormones out of control. It's a tough question. Sadly, people are entirely capable of fooling themselves - or using someone.

Premature sexuality in a relationship accelerates the issue of commitment and marriage. As much as some people would like to disregard it, sexual expression is the ultimate symbol of love and commitment. Religion teaches it. Society expects it. Trust depends on it.

Both partners won't arrive at the point of knowing and committing their future to a long term monogamous relationship at the same time. Introducing full-fledged sexuality into a relationship implies strong commitment and may frighten the less committed lover away. Without time for love to grow and be cemented, premature sexuality triggers fears that may cause the relationship to collapse.

To make sex a part of dating takes away some of the incentive for marriage. The hunt and chase of courtship involves the anticipation of physical intimacy. The mystery and excitement surrounding unconsummated desires allows time for love to grow and commitments to be made.

Premature sexual relations invites heartbreak and rejection. Taking personal risks is important in courtship. Some risks are unnecessary. A rejection will hurt, but it will hurt less if sexual intimacies haven't been shared.

Sexuality is close to the core of one's identity. A rejection after a sexual relationship has been initiated is a direct challenge to self-esteem and sexual adequacy. The memory of the failed relationship will be even more painful and personal. It will make emotional risks harder to make in the next relationship.

Premarital sexuality may violate deeply held values. Despite the cavalier way sex is treated in our society, many people believe sexual relations outside of marriage are wrong. If a person genuinely feels that way, why taint the memories of what is otherwise a beautiful and exciting courtship with guilt and regret?

Romantic notions about the wedding night and honeymoon mean something too. They symbolize the consummation of a love and commitment. These are special memories which should not to be frittered away through reckless and impatient passion.

Marital trust and commitment benefit by delaying sexual intimacy until after marriage. By having a chaste courtship a couple has already signaled that sexual relations are sacred and belong to the marriage relationship only. A courtship where sex has been introduced has already violated that principle.

Some marriages have poor beginnings because they were initiated under duress of a pregnancy. How much of a role did the pregnancy play in the decision to marry? How much was love and how much was being trapped?

These questions may cast a shadow of doubt when trials and problems surface. The door is cracked open for a spouse to rationalize away their love and commitment to the marriage - even years after the fact.

Sex without commitment erodes a person's capacity for true intimacy. Our popular culture would have us believe that we can divorce our feelings from our bodies - that love and sex are two different things.

Sex without caring and commitment is shallow and fleeting. Sex can't simultaneously be a personal toy used with almost any partner and the highest expression of love, commitment and intimacy reserved for marriage. It doesn't compute.

The deeper feelings connected with love-making can't be turned on and off like a water faucet. By being indiscriminately intimate, we strip sexuality of its meaning.