Sexual Integrity Messages Must Improve as Marriage Age Increases

By Jason Soucinek 

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I didn’t marry until I was 34.

To some this seems old. Others think this is the perfect age to marry. Either way, I am not alone in the trend of marrying later in life.

For the last several years the age at which people get married is getting older, and fewer individuals are getting married altogether. 

This is not because this generation doesn’t want to get married; data continues to reveal high numbers of individuals who still want to marry later in life as a capstone to other achievements like education or career. However, when you couple this information with the fact that the marriage rate is at an all time low, hovering around 50% (compared to 72% in 1960), you can begin to understand the difficulty of speaking on sexual integrity.

Delayed adulthood, cohabitation, changing attitudes about sex, and a Christian culture mostly unwilling to talk about sex and sexuality are some of the many reasons sexual integrity has become a virtually defunct practice. Even among self-identifying Christians, our views of God’s intent for sex have shifted, leaving us in a place of little clear understanding about what to do with our bodies and how to speak honestly about sex.

Sexual integrity needs to be more than just a message about keeping your pants on.

For years the church has simply responded to the culture’s definition of sex. American culture says, “Do whatever you want, with whomever you want, whenever you want.” So what has the church done? It’s responded by saying, “Just wait.” But this is only responding to the definition set forth by the culture and not giving the definition from Scripture.

The definition of sex found in Scripture is based on “oneness” with our spouse. This is seen in verses all the way from Genesis through Revelation. Sex is meant to unify. In fact, when it says in Genesis 2:24 the “two will become one flesh” it is literally saying the two will be fused together, creating this “oneness.”

Procreation, pleasure, and protection all need to be part of the conversations surrounding sex in the church.

Often we are willing to talk about the power of sex as it relates to new life. But why are we afraid to talk about the pleasure associated with it?

Pleasure is not something Scripture hides from and neither should we. Our God is a God of pleasure. We see this in the first verses in the first chapter of the first book in Scripture, Genesis 1, when God declares creation (and thus sex) was “very good.”

Scripture also reveals sex has boundaries but these boundaries exist for our own protection. Because sex has the power to create life and fuse two people together, it requires protection. That is one reason we have marriage. It acts as a crucible.

Clear and consistent dialogue, not a list of restrictions, are needed for sexual integrity to be practiced more often.

Maybe you’ve seen some of the data suggesting young adults are leaving the church in droves. Although I don’t see it quite this way I do recognize a frustration with established religion, particularly when it comes to the attitudes the church communicates regarding sex.

Recently I was listening to a podcast from the show This American Life. The episode was a discussion about collected date showing people’s mindsets changing over the course of a 20-minute conversation. The reason for the change was simple: the parties involved had vulnerable and honest dialogue.

Most of the young adults I speak with are filled with frustration because few people are willing to have difficult conversations about our culture’s view of sex and sexuality. However, I’ve found taking time to listen leads to better and more in-depth conversations, which give opportunity to reveal God’s grand design as the sex-maker.

Let’s have more vulnerable and honest dialogue and make sexual integrity a part of the culture in our churches once again.

How social media impacted my relationship (and not in a good way)

Our social media coordinator, Julia, shares how social media impacted the way she viewed her relationship and her struggle to share that part of her life:

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Kids, let me begin by saying that when I started dating my first boyfriend, MySpace was still a thing.

If you aren’t entirely sure what MySpace even is, it’s the Internet’s forgotten playground where many a personalized background and painstakingly selected popular music track have now gone to die along with Tom and his millions of friends.

You know what wasn’t a thing? Instagram, Twitter and Facebook (okay, Facebook was a thing, but as a loyal MySpace user I refused to acknowledge that until circa summer 2009).

In order to let the world know you were in fact dating someone, you could do a couple things:

  1. Update your MySpace profile picture to a picture of you and your honey (“bae” also wasn’t a thing, and in my opinion still shouldn’t be because, really, people?).
  2. Move your honey to the number one or number two spot of your MySpace top eight friends so everyone could know exactly how deeply important that person was in your life (if you were smart, you kept your honey at a solid number two spot behind your best friend).
  3. Walk down the hallways of school holding hands with said honey.

And that was mostly it.

Nowadays there are 402 ways to declare your relationship status to the world:

  1. Update your Facebook relationship status.
  2. Post pictures of you and bae at the baseball game or at your lake cabin or wearing matching pajamas on Facebook.
  3. Post pictures of you and bae at the baseball game or at your lake cabin or wearing matching pajamas on Instagram.
  4. Tweet about the quality time you spent together last weekend. #blessed, #love, #mcm, #wcw, #howdidigetsolucky.
  5. Identify yourself as so-and-so’s boyfriend, girlfriend, wife or husband in your Twitter bio.
  6. Identify yourself as so-and-so’s boyfriend, girlfriend, wife or husband in your Instagram bio.
  7. Upload a quick-but-not-so-quick-viewers-won’t-catch-onto-how-cute-you-are video on YouTube of you and bae lip-synching a song together and then post said video to Facebook.
  8. Create a Pinterest board for your upcoming wedding or quotes about romance and go crazy captioning each picture with something along the lines of, “For me and bae!”

And that’s just a few suggestions.

During this past year of dating someone, I became incredibly self-conscious of this widely accepted practice of making a relationship as public as possible. Being someone who is well immersed in social media, I struggled with the very real desire to show the world our life as a couple while knowing the insecurities I faced in doing so.

My biggest fear was posting a picture of my boyfriend and myself and having no one like it. I mean, that feels awful anyway, right? I became really afraid if no one liked the photo or commented about how cute we were together this meant people didn’t like us as a couple in real life. It even came to the point where I spent days trying to decide if I actually wanted to post something or not; I was that afraid of no one responding.

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As someone who works in social media for a living, let me just lay down some knowledge for you real quick:

Social media is all about timing. You could post the same picture twice in one day at two different times on the same medium, but the one posted during high traffic hours is going to get more likes and comments. Similarly, if you post the same picture at the same time but on two different days, such as Wednesday and Thursday, the one you posted on Thursday is going to get the most amount of recognition and likes (because Thursday is the highest traffic day for social media, particularly on Facebook). Also, if you post a photo and use an emoticon in the description, your likes will increase by almost 60%.

Based on this, it would have been pretty easy for me to manipulate a post of my boyfriend and me to ensure a lot of people liked it. But I came to a point where I had to stop myself from doing this because I knew it would be for the wrong reasons.

Social media, in almost all areas of my life actually, has become a form of validation. This became especially true when I had a boyfriend and wanted to join the masses of other couples posting adorable, well-liked pictures of their relationship. I wanted people to see how fun or in love we were, and I wanted these pictures and posts to be popular. Essentially I wanted the opinion of others (which had been reduced to a simple click of the “like” button) to validate the quality of our relationship.

I am not against people posting images of themselves with their significant other. Love deserves to be seen and celebrated. But I think we need to ask ourselves what the motive is behind posts such as these. Do we genuinely want to highlight how important this significant other is to us for the benefit of that significant other? Or, are we enjoying the attention having a relationship brings us and looking for others to take note of that and like it too? Are you in a place where if you uploaded such a picture and received no likes, would you still feel confident and happy about posting it?

These days, our lives play out on social media. Because of this, we give others the power over and over to determine how we feel about our experiences and ourselves. When it comes to showing our relationship to our followers and friends, it’s important to first understand how we feel about it and resist letting others influence our perception through comments and likes. Facebook, Twitter and Instagram should be a means to share your happiness for you, not for the affirmation of others (sorry, MySpace).