Three Reasons I Speak to Young People About Waiting for Sex

By Julia Feeser

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You don’t often hear people say they want to spend their time talking to teens about waiting for sex.

For many people this would actually be their worst nightmare. Nothing sounds more embarrassing and anxiety-inducing than standing in front of a group of teens living in today’s sex-saturated world and trying to tell them about the benefits of not having sex. You imagine the bored, uninterested looks on their faces, the whispers to their friends, the smirks as you try to carefully explain why a condom does not in fact protect against the emotional consequences of sex. Just thinking about it makes your palms go all sweaty, and being in a submerged cage with a great white shark nearby feels preferable to this situation.

For me, this is a reality through my job as a sexual integrity presenter in a high school health class. So why on earth would I put myself through this week after week?

During college, I somehow developed a desire to speak to young people (primarily teenage girls) about sex. When I would tell others this, their eyes would grow wide and they would ask increduously, “Why?” 

Why, indeed.

Here are three reasons I chose to speak to young people about waiting for sex:

I wanted to be a different voice for this topic. 

Abstinence instructors get an enormously bad rap and some of it is justified (like when instructors use incredibly deragatory illustrations to describe people who’ve had sex). The biggest argument against abstinence instructors and organizations is that an abstince-only approach does not delay sexual activity (as opposed to a comprehensive approach).

Abstinence programs have also struggled throughout the years to not come across as cheesy, ignorant of reality, and fear and shame-based.

With this kind of reputation, it’s no wonder people aren’t stoked to hear someone speak about waiting for sex.

I wanted to be a voice that didn’t induce shame but affirmed the students as empowered people who have the ability to make good decisions for themselves, regardless of where they’ve been.

I wanted to give them the chance to see that waiting isn’t about a set of rules or being “better” than other people, but instead about knowing sexual activity is matter of integrity. I wanted them to be able to see another side, to choose to have integrity with their own emotional and physical health, and the health of their partners. I didn’t want to shame them or scare them into not having sex; I wanted to positively offer the truth that waiting for sex is the healthiest choice they can make.

I wanted to counteract the unrealistic ideas I had been given about waiting. 

Waiting for sex is not about ignoring the reality that  you are a sexual being and desire to have sex. That is real, and that is good. Instead, it’s about embracing that reality and reinforcing its importance by striving to experience sex in the healthiest context possible.

When I was growing up, some (probably) well-meaning adults and books written by (probably) well-meaning adults gave me some really unhelpful advice about waiting for sex. Most of it consisted of setting clear physical boundaries. A majority of content revolved around intense feelings of guilt if you did so much as kiss another person.

Setting physical boundaries with someone is important, but let’s be real: physical boundaries only get you so far.

Waiting for sex is about more than telling yourself, “Okay, I’m definitely not going past this line.” This is great a great way to set up expectations for yourself and your partner, but if boundaries are the only thing keeping you waiting for sex, you probably won’t be able to wait for very long.

Waiting for sex is about letting the bigger picture of sex manifest itself in your goals and your relationships. Physical boundaries play one role among a bigger purpose, and one without the other will make for a very difficult journey.

I also received a lot of advice that seemed to last only so far. As in, until I stopped being a teenager.

I wanted to be able to inform teens on how to make good choices now, but I also wanted to empower them to know their journey in waiting for sex would look different over the years as they grew older and entered different relationships.

For instance, waiting to have sex with a boyfriend/girlfriend in high school was going to be a different situation than waiting for sex two years out of college during a serious relationship with no parental supervision. I wanted teens to know that if they really wanted to wait, they were going to have to learn to adapt and manifest this goal through different life circumstances.

I wanted teens to know their value is not conditionally based. 

This may be the most important thing I hope to get across to the young people who sit before me in a classroom.

Particularly for young women, there is a lingering idea that their value as a person declines the moment they have sex outside of marriage. And for young Christian women, this idea is especially perpetuated as sex and marriage become an idol.

For me, I began to believe that my virginity was the most important thing about myself I had to offer to a future husband. I now know how very untrue this is.

Yes, waiting for sex is an incredibly important and valuable thing to do, but there is so much more to who we are as people than whether or not we are virgins on our wedding night.

I want teens to know that if they have already had sex or experimented with sexual activity, their ultimate worth as a person has not diminished because of who God has already declared every single one of us to be if we choose to accept this identity in him.

This truth does not mean we should just do whatever we want sexually, but it does mean that if we do fall short God’s grace still declares us worthy and, if we allow it, empowers us to start over from exactly where we’re at.

Teens deserve to have a conversation about waiting for sex that meets them where they’re at with compassion, humility, and forthrightness. I want to be that person and offer myself as an adult who’s not only been there but believes in the people they are and are growing into.

This is why I speak to young people about waiting for sex.

Four Things That Will Actually Help You Wait for Sex

By Julia Feeser

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Okay, so you’ve decided to wait to have sex.

Good for you! Ten gold stars for you!

Unfortunately (and fortunately!), there’s more to waiting for sex than just waiting for sex. 

And soon or later what you’re going to realize if you haven’t already is that waiting for sex is no picnic. It’s difficult, challenging, and will probably make you really, really frustrated and/or questioning your judgement at some point.

One of the most common questions I hear from students is, “How do you actually wait to have sex? What are the practical steps you have to take in order to make this happen?”

Luckily, although you will more than likely encounter a few convoluted and not so black and white situations when it comes to waiting to have sex, there are a few practical things you can do to help yourself and others along the way:

Date the right kinds of people. 

Waiting for sex doesn’t mean you can’t date! Seriously. It doesn’t mean you can’t hang out alone ever or kiss or even fall in love. You can do all these things, and sex doesn’t need to be part of the equation. However, part of making this happen is choosing people to date who feel the same way about waiting as you do.

If you’re working toward this mutual goal that you both have decided on, not contingent on simply just going along with what the other person wants, waiting for sex is going to get a lot easier. If you’re dating someone who is awesome but doesn’t necessarily want to wait, eventually what you’ll find is that you can only go so far physically before tension sets in.

Free yourself of this early on by being intentional about who you date and what values they hold.

Be honest about your frustrations. 

Yes, at some point, you will be mad that you are not having sex (especially if you’re waiting a long time). You will feel frustrated you can’t express your physical desires in that way, and you will probably struggle with the fact that you may be in a relationship with someone you love and you cannot have sex with them. Yep, frustrating.

So it’s really important to not gloss over these feelings. Be honest. Tell someone. Find a person you trust who is not your significant other and tell them what you’re struggling with. The longer we pretend everything’s all right, the longer we put off actually dealing with the problem and finding a solution or advice.

Plus, as with any type of long-term goal, you’ll need people along the way to keep you accountable and encouraged. You can’t go it alone, and you shouldn’t have to.

Know your boundaries before you’re alone watching Netflix. 

It’s pretty difficult in the heat of the moment to use your brain and say, “Oh, wait, we probably should’ve stopped somewhere around 10 minutes ago.”

If you’re someone who is waiting to have sex, you’re going to need to know yourself well enough to know how far you can go physically before you won’t be able to resist just going all the way anymore. Because the farther you go, the harder it will be to stop.

So help yourself out by thinking through where you’re going to draw the line. Will it be at kissing? Will it be at some touching? Know beforehand and don’t try to decide once it’s already happening – believe me, your boundaries will get blurry fast if you don’t have a clear picture going in of what they should be.

Oh, and this is the part of the relationship where you have to have a super-romantic conversation explaining in very clear language where your physical boundaries are. Not exactly a sexy conversation, but it will benefit you both.

Understand the purpose of waiting. 

If you’re waiting just because someone told you it was a good idea, or because you think you’ll get in trouble if you don’t, or your sole mission is, “I’m just going to not have sex,” you’re going to have a difficult time sticking to that commitment.

Waiting without purpose isn’t waiting, it’s just biding your time. (Tweet this!)

Waiting is so much more than just following a set of do’s and don’ts when it comes to sex. Waiting should be the outcome of a deep, personal desire to pursue life goals and love freely without the added burdens that sex can bring emotionally and physically.

When we choose to wait to have sex, we reflect who we know God to be – a God of love, trust, and intense passion for our utmost good. (Tweet this!) One who created sex to be experienced inside marriage because he knows that’s where true life and true sexual and emotional intimacy can be found.

If you’re trying to wait without this kind of purpose, you won’t wait.

Know that waiting is possible, even when it’s difficult. And having real, practical steps in place will make all the difference.

Relationships…

This summer our offices will be researching, studying, and looking at the beauty, complexity, and chaos that relationships bring. Most of our study will be around dating and how this fairly new concept is changing for today’s teens. As we started compiling resources our social media coordinator pointed me towards a blog that her friend, Holly Clark, writes on pleasepassthetea.com. One specific entry caught her eye. Enjoy!

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“Finding a balance between spending time with the person you are dating and trying to build community with others is not an easy task. Jeremy and I started dating our freshman year of college. As you know, if you have gone to college, this year especially is complicated in itself.

Jeremy and I were trying to navigate a very new relationship while trying to find genuine friendship. Unfortunately, I didn’t want people thinking Jeremy and I were just your typical “high school sweet-hearts” so I tended to focus more on friends than I did on our relationship.

But soon, my relationship with Jeremy suffered and we struggled to find a good balance. So, I started inviting Jeremy to join in on my time with my friends, and my friends loved him. I began to trust others with our relationship and it was such a joy to have people support us together. This was the beginning of why community became such a crucial part of our lives together.

Relationships have always been important to me. I desire genuine, intentional relationships and love bringing people together. And I knew that my relationship with Jeremy was a gift from God; ultimately I knew we could be a couple who loves people well and brings others into our relationship.

So, throughout college and our dating life, we went through a very consistent cycle of wanting to build community and struggling to find a balance of time alone and time with people. We seemed to always choose to be with others.

Our view of community has changed significantly since college. While at Whitworth University, awesome people were just always around. It wasn’t a struggle to find intentional people and we didn’t have to trust God. Now that I am graduated, I know community is way more than just people you think like you do; it is dependent on Jesus Christ being the head of the body.

Before, I was completely dependent on my own ability to be a good girlfriend and friend. And now, I know that in order to have a healthy community, Christ has to be the focus. Since Jeremy and I have been married, we have come to realize that without Christ being our focus, we cannot have a healthy relationship, and if we aren’t healthy together, we cannot be healthy in community.

I have learned not to try to please others because I cannot. I have learned not to try to put others before my husband because he is my main priority. And I have learned to trust that God is going to provide community in my life because true relationship is a gift from God. I have been blessed by people who support my marriage and remind me why having people in our life is so important. I have spent countless nights at the dinner table with a group of people that I love, sharing their hearts over a great meal. And I have shed countless tears over relationships that have hurt me.

In the end, all of these things are gifts from God. We are called to love our neighbor and I believe this means being intentional with the people that God puts in our path. For me that means loving my husband first, loving the people around me and continuing to live into community because I believe I am called to bring people together. I have learned a lot about the complexity of relationships and I know I will continue to pursue, fail, cry and find meaning in loving others.”

I Took Off My Purity Ring.

I am always grateful for the many voices that walk through the doors of Project Six19. Talented, respected, deep-thinking, and articulate are the words that capture these individuals. One of those people is Julia Feeser, our new social media coordinator. She is all of these things and I think you will understand why when you read a recent blog she posted at HelloSoul. Take a moment to read her story…

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When I was a sophomore in college, I took off my purity ring.

I had worn it on my right hand (it didn’t fit my left) for almost four years, a small trinket I had acquired at an abstinence conference because everyone else was getting one and I felt like I should too.

It wasn’t a particularly fashionable ring. It had a Bible verse inscribed on it (I can’t even remember which one) in juvenile font and no discernible qualities other than that once in a while someone would ask me about it. It had no significance to me other than I knew that by wearing it I was somehow on this holy level that people who were having sex weren’t.

Wearing a purity ring made me feel proud. I felt level-headed, innocent, able to practice self-control. I didn’t particularly care if others saw me as prude, because I knew that I was making smart life choices. Their experimentation with sex would end in sadness and broken relationships; mine would end in a blissful and committed marriage. I could feel worth and have self-love because I was Waiting.

Unlike high school, I found myself surrounded by girls wearing purity rings at my small, private Christian university. There were even girls who didn’t want to kiss until marriage (something I was slightly horrified by because I wasn’t about to wait for that). I realized I felt slightly less set apart in this environment, suddenly not in the noble minority as someone who had made the courageous decision to Wait.

A few months into my freshman year I began dating someone. I had dated a little in high school, but this time was different. No longer were there curfews or watchful parents, and I distinctly remember feeling that my transition from girl to woman was completed now that I was in college. I could handle an “adult” relationship and whatever that entailed.

My new boyfriend was not a Christian (something I would eventually realize was a deal-breaker), and while we tried to be on the same page about physical boundaries it proved to be very difficult for both of us. Waiting, it turned out, was virtually impossible when you really liked someone and could stay in his room well past midnight.

And eventually there came a night (which turned into many nights) where we went too far. And while we never actually had sex, we did just about everything but.

I was crushed.

As I sat in class next to girls proudly displaying their purity, I felt like I could no longer count myself amongst them. I was both angry and disgusted with myself, heartbroken that I was letting go of my convictions night after night. And while I still wore my purity ring, I felt like a fake. I couldn’t believe that I, a girl who was clearly so capable of Waiting, could compromise herself and her aspirations for sex within marriage. I mercilessly beat myself up.

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It wasn’t until several months later that I actually took my ring off, after my boyfriend and I finally broke up. At that point, I had come to terms with the fact that I had gone too far and had stopped feeling so angry with myself. So when I did finally take it off, it wasn’t because I did not feel worthy to wear it.

It was because my purity had become my identity.

Who I was as a person and a Christian had become wrapped up in whether I was having sex or not, and there was something distinctly wrong with that.

The reason it affected my self-worth so deeply was because Waiting had become such a part of how I saw myself: I had used abstinence as a means to feel good about who I was rather than because I really understood what it meant to me. I thought that “being pure” affected everything else about me: how others saw me, how God saw me, and my own worth as a person.

It also gave me a false sense of entitlement.

I had begun to perceive abstinence as a means to an end, as though a husband was a reward for my dutiful Waiting. When I wasn’t going too far physically, that meant I deserved a happy marriage I wouldn’t have to wait too long for. When I was going too far, I felt like I didn’t deserve that anymore, which only added to my sense of loss.

I took off my purity ring because I was done with what Waiting had become to me: a badge of honor, a method to get what I wanted, a way to feel good about myself.

I am still waiting to have sex. And while there are many reasons for this, my hope is I do not rest my identity on that one aspect about myself.

Sexuality, specifically for Christians, should be about so much more than just the act of waiting, and sometimes I feel like we tend to focus solely on that. Waiting to have sex should not be a scheme to make ourselves beautiful or worthy or a “good Christian,” but should instead be used to demonstrate the beauty of God and thus the perfection of his design for intimacy.

My hand doesn’t look like it’s missing anything at all.

© Julia Feeser and HelloSoul, 2014.