What's the BIG DEAL about Sex?
Why does it MATTER if I have Sex, or not?
There Are Emotional Consequences of Premarital Sexual Involvement:
Your sexuality is a huge part of who you are as a person.
It is to be protected and safe-guarded for the good of your whole being, and only shared in a permanent, life-long, trusting, and committed monogamous relationship traditionally known as marriage.
Otherwise, your whole being gets ripped and torn and you lose your identity as a unique person.
No two people are exactly alike. Each of us is a unique, one-of-a-kind personality.
And while every person will respond differently to situations and experiences, there are still many negative psychological consequences that most people experience to some degree when they engage in premarital sexual involvement.
Here are 10 negative psychological consequences that many people experience:
1. WORRY ABOUT PREGNANCY AND AIDS
For many people, this is a major emotional stress.
Teens are worried and distracted each month that they might be pregnant, or might have caused pregnancy.
Girls often buy home pregnancy kits and have a great deal of anxiety in their day-to-day activities. It may be difficult to concentrate on schoolwork or sports.
2. REGRET AND SELF-RECRIMINATION
"I get upset when I see my friends losing their virginity to some guy they've just met. Later, after the guy's dumped them, they come to me and say, 'I wish I hadn't done it.'"
A ninth-grade girl who slept with eight boys in junior high says, 'I'm young, but I feel old.'" Girls are more likely to see sex as a sign of commitment in the relationship. They often feel cheap and cheated.
"I never imagined I'd pay so dearly and for so long. Sex without commitment is very risky for the heart." – a 33-year-old psychiatrist from personal experience
Guilt is a special form of regret; it is a strong sense of having done something morally wrong.
Morality refers to a code of behavior.
Guilt is a normal and healthy moral response, a sign that one's conscience is working.
Guilt may come from seeing the hurt one has caused other people by using them as sex objects.
Guilt may come from knowing your parents would be upset if they knew of your sexual involvement.
Guilt about sexual pasts can "cripple" people when they do get married, through flashbacks of previous sexual experiences.
4. LOSS OF SELF-RESPECT & SELF-ESTEEM
Many people suffer loss of self-respect when they discover they have a sexually transmitted disease. Most people have no idea how prevalent STDs are, believing they only are contracted by "low-life". When they become infected themselves, they feel very "dirty".
Even without STD infection, temporary sexual relationships can lower the self-respect of both the user and the used.
Casual sex can lower self-esteem, which leads a person into further casual sex, which leads to further loss of self-esteem in an oppressive cycle, which is hard to break.
On both sides of dehumanized sex, there is a loss of dignity and self-worth.
As one 20-year-old male confides: "You feel pretty crummy when you get drunk at a party and have sex with some girl, and then the next morning you can't even remember who she was.""
People are not things.
When we treat them as if they were, we not only hurt them; we lose respect for ourselves.
5. THE CORRUPTION OF CHARACTER AND THE DEBASEMENT OF SEX
When people treat others as sexual objects and exploit them for their own pleasure, they not only lose self-respect; they corrupt their characters and debase their sexuality in the process. Good character consists of virtues such as respect, responsibility, honesty, fairness, caring, and self-control.
With regard to sex, self-control is particularly crucial. The breakdown of sexual self-control is a big factor in many of the sex-related problems that plague our society: rape, promiscuity, pornography, apiction to sex, sexual harassment, sexual abuse of children, sexual infidelity in marriage, and more. It was Freud who was obviously correct when he said that sexual self-control is essential for civilization.
Once sexual restraint is removed, it easily takes over individuals and relationships, leading quickly to date rape, gangs requiring sexual touching and intercourse in order to "earn points", and a general disregard for individual privacy and modesty. In short, sex that is not tied to love and commitment undermines character by subverting self-control, respect, and responsibility. Unchecked, sexual desires and impulses run amok and lead to habits of hedonism and using others for one's personal pleasure. Sexual intercourse loses its meaning, beauty, and "special"ness. Instead of being a loving, uniquely intimate ex
pression of two people's commitment to each other, sex is trivialized and degraded.
6. SHAKEN TRUST & FEAR OF COMMITMENT
Young people who feel used or betrayed after the break-up of a sexual relationship may experience difficulty in future relationships. Some develop a low self-esteem and they seek any type of attention, no matter how short-lived and demeaning; others withdraw and have trouble trusting any more.
One young woman noted: "Besides feeling cheap [after several sexual relationships], I began to wonder if there would ever be anyone who would love and accept me without demanding that I do something with my body to 'earn' that love."
Boys also experience loss of trust: "I'm afraid of falling in love."
7. RAGE OVER BETRAYAL
Sometimes the emotional reaction to being "dumped" isn't just a lack of trust or fear of commitment; but rage. The sense of betrayal is usually much greater if sex has been part of the relationship. Sex can be emotional dynamite.
8. DEPRESSION AND SUICIDE
Kieran Sawyer wrote: "The more the relationship seems like real love, the more the young person is likely to invest, and the deeper the pain and hurt if the relationship breaks up."
Sometimes the rupture leads to deep depression that may lead, in turn, to suicide.
In the past 25 years, teen suicide has tripled.
In a 1988 survey by the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, 1 of 5 adolescent girls stated they had tried to kill themselves (1 of 10 for boys).
This is the same period during which the rate of teen sexual activity has sharply increased. Although there are certainly many causes, it is reasonable to suspect that the pain from such break-ups is a factor for some young people.
9. RUINED RELATIONSHIPS
Sex can cause another kind of emotional consequence by turning good relationships bad. Other dimensions of the relationship stop developing and negative emotions enter, such as anger, impatience, jealousy, and selfishness.
10. STUNTING PERSONAL DEVELOPMENT
Premature sexual involvement can not only stunt the development of the relationship; it can also stunt one's development as a person. Some young people handle anxieties by turning to drugs and alcohol, while others turn to sex.
Sex becomes an escape. They do not learn how to cope with life's pressures.
Just at the time when young people should be reaching out to form new friendships, join clubs and teams, develop their interests and skills, and take on bigger responsibilities, they are instead turning inward, absorbed in intense sexual relationships.
The failure to grow during these years will affect them all their lives; they may never develop their full potential.
Girls especially, tend to thwart their individuality, becoming part of the boy, gaining their self-worth from him. Girls can fail to develop their own interests and their own sense of independent identity.
Dr. Carson Daly, college counselor, comments:
"I don't think I ever met a student who was sorry he or she postponed sexual activity, but I certainly met many who deeply regretted their sexual involvements. Time and time again, I have seen the long-term emotional and spiritual desolation that results from casual sex and promiscuity.
"No one ever tells students that it sometimes takes years to recover from the effects of these sexual involvements – if one ever fully recovers."
Sex can certainly be a source of great pleasure and joy; but it can also be the source of deep wounds and suffering.
We need to help and guide all young people to understand this. What makes the difference is the type of relationship within which sexual activity occurs.
Sex is most joyful and fulfilling – most emotionally and physically safe – when it occurs within a loving, total, and binding life-long commitment, historically called marriage.
Sexual union is then part of something bigger – the union of two persons' lives.
Thomas Lickona, Ph.D., Director of the Center for the 4th and 5th Rs (Respect and Responsibility), based in Cortland, NY. The original article has been shortened.