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.

Why Sexual Integrity?

Why sexual integrity? This is a question that is commonly asked by those that hear about our ministry. People ask why we don’t just use terms like sexual purity or abstinence? Which is a great question and worth responding to.

Let me start by saying that how we speak about sex matters. So often the ways we discuss this subject can be deceptive, wrong, misguided or fear based. Churches and homes, if not careful, can make Christian sex nothing more than choosing to wait. Thus, causing teens and young adults to think that their virginity is their most important commodity, an identity marker, in their relationship with the Lord. A recent article about Elizabeth Smart, the girl that was once held captive for nine months in 2002 near her home in Salt Lake City, UT, had a similar thought in a recent article titled, the limits of abstinence education. In short Smart says, “I remember in school one time, I had a teacher who was talking about, well about abstinence. And she said, ‘Imagine that you’re a stick of gum, and when you engage in sex, that’s like getting chewed. And then if you do that lots of times, you’re going to become an old piece of gum, and who’s going to want you after that?… for me, I thought, ‘Oh my gosh, I’m that chewed up piece of gum. Nobody re-chews a piece of gum. You throw it away.’ Now we must realize that not every program or abstinence message is the same but the analogies we use make a difference. They communicate something and we have to be careful what exactly they communicate. Personally, I think her words are important to read because they speak truth…and that can sting a little. I’ve been doing this for many years and realize the power of speaking on such a sensitive subject. My hope is that we as a ministry are doing more than just selling the value of virginity. That is not what makes someone holy. In fact, I highly doubt that the first question that we will be asked by God when we get to the pearly whites will be whether or not we were virgins when we got married. Choosing to wait must be something more than just about our virginity.

Some might think then that is why we must speak about sexual purity. Yes, I can see that but I still think Elizabeth Smarts words hit just as hard and maybe even more directly when using terms like sexual purity. Often these conversations are no different then a schools presentation on abstinence. The only difference is that we speak about the value of being ‘clean’ and keeping up a regiment of don’ts. Which, when I speak those words out loud sound an awful lot like a Pharisee. Do they not? I’ve sat through multiple ‘purity’ talks at church and never once heard the name of Jesus Christ proclaimed. But isn’t He the one that makes us pure? (1 John 3:3) I think that sometimes this point gets missed in our talks…but I believe that is the most important thing. In fact, that is where our value, our identity, should be found. Is it not?

This generation is going to have to wait longer than any other if they choose to follow God’s standards for sex. That is a fact. In the late 1800’s you typically only waited one or two years from the time you went through puberty (your body communicating your ready to create life) till when you married. In the 1950’s the time was a bit longer, maybe 5 to 6 years. Today, however, most young adults are waiting until their late 20’s to get married and they are going through puberty younger and younger. This means that if they are going to follow God’s standards then they will have to wait anywhere from 12-17 years from the time their body is ready to the time they have sex. That is a long time! And that is why our message must resonate in ways that go beyond rules and boundaries.

Remember, God is concerned with what’s in the heart. Virginity, if not placed in the right context, can be a source of pride rather than an opportunity to glorify the Creator. I don’t think virginity is the opposite of sexual promiscuity, sexual integrity is. Sexual integrity (and purity if spoken about correctly) requires something more than just physical action. It requires turning to the Lord and acting in obedience with this great gift. Over and over again our identity in Scripture is not found in what we do (like saving our virginity) but in the one in whom we find TRUE life, Jesus Christ. Thus, if we make a mistake our identity is not stolen from us because this identity is not given in what we do but it is a declaration of what has already been done. Another reason we use the term sexual integrity comes from the root of the word integrity. Integrity comes from the word, integer, which means whole or complete. Our desire as a ministry is to see individuals that are sexually whole in Jesus Christ. In a wonderfully written article, Why Virginity is Not Important But Chastity Is, the author speaks of this every dynamic. The author says, “For it is Christ who makes us completely whole again that we might love fully without shame. This is why virginity is not important, but chastity (or sexual integrity) is: because in Christ the old has gone, the new has come, we are a new creation, created in Christ Jesus to give ourselves in love as he did. That is our identity. That is what really matters.” I couldn’t agree more and hope that this truth resonates in each and every message we share on sexual integrity.