“I have a broken man-picker,” announced 25-year-old Kayla. Kayla clearly felt there was something wrong with her ability to choose a man friend. As a kid her parents divorced, and she lived with her mother. Mom worked two jobs, and Dad never looked back. Kayla turned to other children at school for the attention she so desperately thirsted for. By the time she was in high school, her relationships with boys turned sexual. She confided she saw nothing wrong with her behavior “because that’s what women did in the movies and on television.”
How does sex gain such a foothold in so many of our lives? The media is often the culprit. The viewing of sexual content has been shown to hasten the onset of sexual activity. In 2004, Pediatrics magazine reported that youth who viewed the greatest amount of sexual content were twice as likely to initiate sexual intercourse during the year or progress to more advanced levels of sexual activity versus those who viewed the smallest amount of sexual content.
Kayla’s situation points to the real reason: She is hungry for connection. She never was able to connect with her parents. They don’t show her much affection. We each have a need for love and significance, which prompts us to look for ways to be affirmed. That great yearning for connection more often than not overlooks the long-term consequences, emphasizing instead immediate gains.
Kayla mimicked celebrity sexual intimacy as the prize for a feeling of closeness and significance she desperately craved. Deep down, she didn’t know if she could receive love for who she really was. As a young person myself, sex usually would happen on the first or second date. Because I abused alcohol, which usually leads to improper sexual behavior, I found I couldn’t stop the cycle. Repeatedly, I justified my actions. Just watch TV! Everyone else is doing it. It was a way to fill my deepest unmet needs; but it only deepened the wounds of shame, humiliation and abandonment. Emotional and spiritual scars are created by having premarital sex. I eventually got pregnant and chose to have an abortion. Then I had another demon to deal with.
When sex is experienced in healthy ways, it adds great value and satisfaction to life; but when experienced in unhealthy ways, at the wrong time, it can damage vital aspects of who we are as human beings. As the media’s standards decline, the most vulnerable are willing to propel themselves into multiple sexual relationships, ignoring the risks of STDs, pregnancy or HIV.
Hooking up is rampant in this country among young people. In this type of superficial relationship, feelings are discouraged and couples share the understanding that there are no strings. Either one can walk away at any time. This does not come without cost. In her book Unhooked, Laura Sessions Stepp said the result of hooking up is a generation of women who feel distrustful of men and unimpressed with sex. She wrote that cynical, dishonest and selfish were some adjectives the girls used to describe how hooking up made them feel.
With these kinds of experiences becoming more the norm, young people today have no clue what an authentic relationship is about. An intimate relationship is not sexual, but one in which both persons know one another completely and love one another without any fear of rejection. Neither person feels a need to hold onto secrets, pretend or defend because they feel safe and free to be themselves.
Sex is one of God’s greatest gifts. Christian sex therapist, Dr. Doug Rosenau, believes God’s major purpose in creating sex was to provide a picture into God Himself and His desire for intimate connection. Sadly, the message society sells is “Don’t wait.” What most people don’t know is, the more you have sex, the more you will feel attached because of powerful hormones. In the brain there are hundreds of neurochemicals that bathe, support and move messages through each brain cell.
One of those messenger chemicals (called a neurotransmitter) is dopamine. This chemical fires up the brain triggering feelings of pleasure, passion, adventure, motivation and reward. When people have sex, it triggers the release of dopamine and rewards them for engaging in such an exciting and pleasurable act. This is why infatuation is said to be similar to cocaine addiction—it impacts the same pleasure centers and reward circuitry. It’s why some people seem “addicted to love,” constantly seeking their next relationship fix. God created dopamine for good, but it has as much potential for bad.
Another neurochemical that is important to healthy sex and bonding is oxytocin—the superglue hormone. Neuropsychiatrist Dr. Louann Brizendine stresses that if a young woman becomes physically close and hugs a man, oxytocin will trigger the bonding process, creating a greater desire to be near him and most significantly trust him. If he then wants to escalate the relationship, it will become harder for her to say no because oxytocin extends the feelings of pleasure. Every time a person has sex or intimate physical contact, bonding takes place. Whenever a breakup takes place, there is often disappointment, confusion or pain in the brain because the bond has been broken. Human bonding is like an adhesive glue-like connection. When we bond with another human being, the unbonding process often causes great emotional damage and pain.
John Darby said, “If we wait upon God, there is no danger. If we rush on, He must let us see the consequences of it.” Too many wounded people find as they move from one sexual partner to another, they are not only not finding pleasure but finding they feel worse about themselves and their partners, compared to married couples who speak of the deepest level of love and communication.
God wants us to be sexually whole, and maintaining our virginity is that means. The fact is, sexual sin wounds and produces scars that require healing. Healing of any sin requires breaking the invisible bonds of deception, shame and fear. Because God is love, I believe He has wired into each one of us a yearning to love someone deeply and genuinely and have someone love us—deeply enough to want to explore who we really are. Relationships that are lasting and most meaningful are those in which we know the other person intimately and allow that person to know us equally.
Kayla learned it was possible for a guy to be interested in her for some other reason than sex. She eventually found her true self, the woman God created. Instead of looking for a fictitious hero to rescue her from persistent emptiness, she ran to Jesus as He held His arms wide open. Today she is in love with Him more than any other guy.
Kimberly received her M.A. in specialized ministry from Western Seminary, Portland, Oregon. She is a board certified biblical counselor, personal life coach, speaker and founder of Olive Branch Outreach—a ministry dedicated to bringing hope and restoration to those struggling with body image. Kimberly volunteers in youth ministry and youth education outreach. She is the author of four books, contributor to five books and has penned numerous articles.