Three Reasons I Speak to Young People About Waiting for Sex

By Julia Feeser

why i speak to young people about sex

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.

5 Thoughts on Sexual Integrity

Bells have started ringing once again in the hallways of America’s schools. By now kids have worn out their new back-to-school clothes and the sniffles are starting to invade the hallways of our homes. And with the start of the school year we are starting to get back into the swing of things here at Project Six19. Something we will talk about a lot this year is how to engage in the conversations on sexual integrity as both parents and as youth workers. Here are five things to consider as you engage this subject with your son, daughter, or student.

First, it’s not about saying NO. Often we think that when we talk about abstinence, sexual purity, or as we say it, sexual integrity, we are training our youth to speak in the negative. However, I think we miss something important when all we do is teach our youth to say, ‘no’.

This generation desires to know what they stand for, not against. If we don’t do a good job pointing out all the reasons for waiting, then someone else (our culture for instance) will point all the reasons not to wait. This is not only important semantically but also logically. Often times the church culture we surround ourselves in can be more about sin management. However, as a Christian, choosing to wait should not be a primary decision, but secondary one as a Christian. It should come out of our desire to say YES to following Christ which means saying YES to scripture which leads to a particular way of living.

Second, be clear with your values. Sometimes we think we’ve clearly spoken what we believe only to find we haven’t. Or, and this is common, we just expect our kids to know what we believe. Well, yes, that last statement could be true if we learned through some sort of osmosis or vulcan mind mold. But as of this writing I am not aware of anything like that. So words and living our life in a way that reflects these values is our best way of communicating these truths.

Live out LOVE. This is a phrase we’ve been kicking around the office this summer. Sometimes our expectations go un-communicated. However, if I’ve never spoken my expectations then how can I ask for those things to happen? Often our biggest disappointments come from unmet expectations. Therefore, be sure to share yours with your son, daughter, or student. Then make sure your life also reflects the expectations that you are holding others to.

Third, we are not the sum of our past choices. This is important for both parents and teens to understand. Parents need to be careful not to lay down the law based on their own hurt or pain. Understanding past mistakes, knowing you are forgiven, and clearly being able to articulate why you believe your choice was a mistake is one thing. Teaching or sharing a value that you believe only because of your own pain, hurt, or shame is another. When we discuss a subject as sensitive and as important as when and where we choose to have sex, we need to be aware of how it is shared. Most times our past experiences influence this discussion.

I also share this because we might have students that have already made a different decision. Or even worse, that decision was stolen from them. We need to make sure that when we are sharing our values we also let our sons, daughters, and students know there is nothing they can do to separate them from the grace and forgiveness found through Jesus Christ.

Fourth, we are also not the sum of our future choices. Shame is one thing but pride is another. Shame communicates that I am a mistake. Pride communicates that I am without mistakes. Both are detrimental to our emotional and spiritual health. Even though our students might be making a choice to wait does not make them better or even more ‘pure’ than the next person. They are simply making a choice that is best for their sexual health. And yes, they are honoring God with their bodies which is an incredible testimony to the culture we live in. But let’s be sure we recognize this does not make us better than anyone else.

Finally, where we find our identity is where we will find our choices. In his letter to the Philippians Paul writes, ‘Whatever happens, conduct yourselves in a manner worthy of the gospel of Christ. Then, whether I come and see you or only hear about you in my absence, I will know that you stand firm in one Spirit, striving together as one for the faith of the gospel.’ (Philippians 1:27) When our identity is cemented in something or someone our choice will pour out from that one source and others will notice. When we are speaking to our sons, daughters, and students, Jesus Christ should to be the one place, one choice, one relationship we need to be pointing.  Identity can be found in so many things in our culture but none are as powerful as the transforming power of Christ.

Porn – Not Just a Male Issue

The-porn-industry-is-a-multi-billion-dollar-moneymaker-that-will-soon-Pornography is an epidemic in our culture. Even the most progressive of voices are realizing the negative impact it is having on relationships, both platonic and romantic. What began as small murmurs have become loud cries for help. For the longest time those that struggled with porn were left to either figure it out or feel embarrassed for sharing their struggle.

Statistics only reinforce this truth. You can view some of the specifics by clicking here and here. I’ve also written briefly on it here. One thing that is not often discussed is the growing number of women who have or are struggling with pornography. It is the silent world that few are willing to talk about. That is why I am thankful for women like Project Six19’s intern, Katelyn.

I asked her to briefly share her testimony. Hopefully they move you as much as they moved me…

“I am a woman who has recently chosen a new lifestyle; one of health, beauty, and strength. I have chosen to embrace me. To become the woman I am meant to be. Each day, I wake up and know that it is MY day. Today, I feel beautiful. Today, I am going to do something great. Each day is a new adventure, a different journey; each more exciting than the last. Tomorrow will bring more joy than today, if at all I thought possible. Each day is full of precious moments, filled with beauty, joy, and reflection; reflections of who I am and who I used to be; the progress that I have made. Today, I am a beautiful woman of God, one who has a bright future and has been washed clean of her struggle with pornography. It all started when I was about 12 years old.

It could be anything; a scene in a movie, that pop up on the internet…anything can trigger the curiosity. Pornography played a large role in my life for about three years, until God called me out of the pit. The journey I went on was difficult not only because pornography is like a fish hook that won’t let go, but because I went on it alone.

According to our society, pornography is a male issue. Not only is it somewhat of a taboo to talk about for males, but it is an issue that is simply not addressed for women; especially in the church. I went through this struggle in my own little world, thinking that I was the only female to have ever struggled with this. There was shame tied to what I was doing, and then there was more shame built on top of the loneliness. Pornography is NOT just a male issue. More women than you would think are struggling with pornography and someone has got to stand up and be a voice. Women need help.

I am one woman, but I have a voice; a voice that I will use to encourage healing and restoration in the lives of women struggling with pornography. I want to talk about it. I want women to know they are not alone. I have been there, and let me tell you, the feeling of being alone in such a place of struggle is unbearable.

We, as a generation of beautiful women need to stand up for the broken. We need to have the courage to talk about the things that aren’t talked about; to deal with the areas that women ‘are not supposed to struggle with.’ Women are carrying these buried burdens alone. Something needs to change. We need to be women clothed in strength and dignity; women who stand for those who can’t stand themselves.”