The NEW Teen Sex Epidemic
As my first year of teaching “Principles of Living” at Imperial College came to an end in May, I was struck by a couple of shocking news items.
Throughout the year, my students—most of them in their late teens and early 20s—had been studying God’s divine purposes for sex. During that same time, according to these disturbing reports, middle school students across America—in some cases, half the age of those in my college class—were having oral sex at parties, on buses, in classrooms, at school assemblies, on the playground and at home after school while parents were at work.
“Sexual Revolution Hits Junior High,” blared USAToday’s front page on March 15. In May, the Oprah Winfrey show called this latest teen trend an “epidemic.” Instead of goodnight kisses, some kids—even as young as 12—are ending dates with oral sex. According to one teen interviewed on Oprah, it’s “so common these days that people don’t even see it as being a big deal.” Indeed, 55 percent of those who responded to a Seventeen magazine survey said they have participated in oral sex.
Even worse, 40 percent of the respondents said that oral sex didn’t even count as sex. As one teen reasoned on Oprah, if a former U.S. president can do it, and it’s not sex—why can’t I? Many teens mistakenly see this as a safe way to enjoy the pleasures of sex without technically losing their virginity.
But while it might not cause pregnancy, it can hardly be considered safe. The USAToday article referred to one study that based its findings on numerous reports of increased teenage cases of oral herpes and gonorrhea of the throat.
What is happening to our teens? Who is to blame? What is the solution? Is that solution even practical in this day and age?
In truth, a book could be written to answer each of those questions. In one article, we can barely scratch the surface. But as we do, please think these things through and examine yourself. Change must begin with you.
A Different World
There are those who might argue that these trends come and go—that, as Solomon said, there’s nothing new under the sun. Teens will be teens—and ours today are no different from those of days gone by. We can’t do anything about it, so just let the teens do what they want to do. Of course, this type of fallacious reasoning only excuses adults from all guilt.
It is true that human nature is the same today as it was thousands of years ago. In that sense, there is nothing new under the sun. But what all parents and children must realize is that we live in a different world today—much different from even 30 years ago. Back then, society was still reeling from the strong influence automobiles, movies, television, radio and record-players had on dating. Today, it’s cable TV, movie rentals and the Internet.
Of course, these modern advances are not wrong of and by themselves. But Satan has used these devices to promote and distribute a huge amount of evil.
Human nature adapts to these technological wonders and therefore expresses itself differently than it would have generations ago. To a certain degree, teenage trends do come and go. But they do not go from bad to good to bad to good and so on. They go from bad to worse. This is the natural course of human nature. It works like a gravitational pull downward. And unless kept in check, it will go as far down as possible.
Paul explained this phenomenon in ii Timothy 3: “This know also, that in the last days perilous times shall come. For men shall be lovers of their own selves, covetous, boasters, proud, blasphemers, disobedient to parents, unthankful, unholy, Without natural affection, trucebreakers, false accusers, incontinent, fierce, despisers of those that are good, Traitors, heady, highminded, lovers of pleasures more than lovers of God” (vv. 1-4). This is Paul’s description of the “last days.” Yet, could this not just as well describe Noah’s society, Sodom and Gomorrah, or the end of the Roman Empire? To a large degree, yes.
But Paul continues, within the context of these perilous times to come in the last days, saying, “[E]vil men and seducers shall wax worse and worse, deceiving, and being deceived” (v. 13). Our modern age has helped facilitate human nature’s moral plunge. God prophesied that in these last days, evil would get progressively worse and become so widespread, in fact, that we would eventually destroy ourselves were it not for His intervention (Matt. 24:21-22).
On this subject of sex, nothing illustrates this “bad to worse” drop-off like pornography. Thirty years ago, pornographic material was mostly confined to run-down theaters on the bad side of town and behind-the-counter periodicals. Back then, there was still a social stigma attached to perverts caught indulging in such depravity.
Today, however, pornography has become widely accepted in Western culture. Aside from being easily accessible in the average home via the Internet, popular culture has accepted and even glamorized porn. The Christian Science Monitor recently noted this phenomenon. It cited a number of telling examples:
• Nbc’s Fear Factor, in which Playboy Playmates competed during halftime of the Super Bowl in January.
• Abc’s explicit Victoria’s Secret Fashion Show last November.
• Television’s most popular show, Friends, where the entire cast on one episode became obsessed with porn.
• The number of raunchy sexual references on cable tv shows has more than doubled in the past two years.
• Lines of clothing, jewelry and accessories on which there are lewd sexual phrases and imagery.
The article gives a number of reasons for porn’s emergence into mainstream popular culture: lenient laws, the rise of the Internet and expanding entertainment venues like satellite, cable and pay-per-view options.
Journalist Gloria Goodale writes, “Pornographic images, erotic paraphernalia and raunchy sexual talk are reaching a near-saturation point in the daily lives of Americans, through television, movies, magazines and the Internet, say a growing chorus of expert voices. And the target market is an increasingly younger audience” (Christian Science Monitor, Feb. 1; emphasis mine).
Popular culture has always targeted the younger generation because they are the ones buying most of the cds and watching most of the movies. That much of that entertainment focuses on sex—and, more recently, even glamorizes pornographic sex acts—makes one wonder how anyone could be surprised that uneducated, undisciplined (and too often unloved) teenagers are indulging in such practices.
Now keeping in mind how much and how fast things have changed in just the last generation, think on this: Can you imagine porn stars being the celebrated contestants on a game show 30 years ago? Or prime-time television’s most popular cast becoming addicted to porn?
Ours is a different world today—one where a new low is reached with each passing trend.
Another “trend” that popular culture has widely accepted is masturbation. As late as the 1980s, it was rarely referred to in mainstream media. But the floodgates opened sometime during the 1990s, when popular tv shows and movies introduced masturbation into plot lines, usually targeting teen audiences. By the end of the decade, you would think the perverted act was as normal as brushing one’s teeth, judging by the widespread acceptance in mainstream media.
Now the new fad happens to be oral sex—and once again, popular culture is singing its praises. And teens, not surprisingly, are embracing this despicable trend in ever-greater numbers.
We are not suggesting that all teens are indulging in these sinful acts, or that they were unheard of before the 1990s. To be sure, crackpot psychologists and liberal educators have promoted such perversions for decades! But the fact that they are now accepted as part of mainstream American culture is what makes ours such a different world.
What will be the next new fad? Be assured that it will only be a little bit worse than what we now see.
But Everyone’s Doing It
When negligent parents shirk their responsibilities at home and when popular culture teaches our kids that everyone’s doing it, it’s no wonder society is often shocked by what goes on in the teen world.
Every teenager wants to belong. This tendency is a natural expression of human nature. This is one reason why, far too often, teens—especially if they are neglected at home—will go along with popular trends.
But just because “everyone is doing it” does not make it right. In most cases, it is patently wrong! God warned the Israelites about not following a multitude to do evil (Exod. 23:2). But instead of heeding God’s warning, they eventually got caught up in the evil around them. This is what led to their downfall.
In Proverbs 1, Solomon gives sound advice that every teenager ought to heed. In verse 10, he says, “My son, if sinners entice thee, consent thou not.” No matter how strong the pull—no matter how many are pulling at you—do not give in to it! It may seem like the right way to go, but God says, “My son, walk not thou in the way with them; refrain thy foot from their path” (v. 15). Don’t even associate with them, because human nature will naturally be drawn to their evil ways.
Just because society has accepted it does not mean it is righteousness. Proverbs 14:12 says, “There is a way which seemeth right unto a man, but the end thereof are the ways of death.”
Notice what Herbert W. Armstrong wrote in his masterful work, The Missing Dimension in Sex: “Man has no power to determine what is sin. God has determined what is sin. He allows man to decide only whether to sin. And if he does—even with society’s approval—he must reap the penalty of sin—eternal punishment of death! It imposes curses here and now, and robs the sinner of the true happiness and joys a loving Creator made possible!”
Writing nearly 25 years ago, Mr. Armstrong went on to show how “necking” is in fact sin—that it breaks the Seventh Commandment. Imagine the chorus of ridicule that type of instruction would receive today in the average high school. Society’s standards have plummeted since Mr. Armstrong wrote The Missing Dimension in Sex—but God hasn’t lowered His!
“Adultery, fornication, masturbation, homosexuality are so colossally sinful,” Mr. Armstrong wrote, “because they violate, pollute, profane and destroy something so holy and so monumentally righteous in God’s sight!”
Yes, God offers much instruction about the right and wrong uses of sex—if only we would heed that instruction and then reap the blessings for living His way.
Education Begins at Home
The key to doing things God’s way is right education. And the primary responsibility for providing children with true education falls upon parents. Ideally, this instruction at home should then be reinforced by teachers at school and ministers at church. I say ideally because most often this is not the case.
In far too many instances, parents simply do not educate their children about sex. And the instruction at school and church is woefully inadequate. So where does that leave the children? Pretty much on their own, learning about sex mostly from “gutter” knowledge at school, from popular culture and from experimentation.
Perhaps parents avoid teaching their children about sex because they are too embarrassed or maybe feel unqualified to offer such instruction. But any parent who is embarrassed about discussing something this important with their own children is not fit to be a parent! And if you are uneducated on the subject, then you need to get educated now so that your children won’t make the same mistakes you probably have.
Giving children God’s perspective on sex education goes well beyond teaching abstinence only. If children are told to avoid all experimentation with sex until marriage, they should understand why—or else the chances of them actually abstaining are slim. The reason God’s law forbids acts like fornication is because of the automatic harm they bring—and because these violations rob us of future happiness and joy.
Teenagers should understand that God wants us to receive every possible good. He wants us to be happy. He wants us to be blessed. That is why we must obey His laws. A basic principle that reappears throughout Scripture is that blessings come as a result of obedience. This positive perspective is too often ignored.
Grasping God’s Purpose
God is Creator of all. And from the beginning, we find that He created man male and female (Gen. 1:27). God created sex. And one of the purposes for which He created it was for reproduction. Human children are begotten through sex, and that whole process of reproduction is an exact type of spiritual salvation. Jesus noted this plainly in John 3.
Reproduction, however, is by no means the only purpose for sex. After He created man male and female, God instituted the marriage union. In Genesis 2:24, He says, “Therefore shall a man leave his father and his mother, and shall cleave unto his wife: and they shall be one flesh.” Jesus explained this further in Matthew 19:4-5: “And he answered and said unto them, Have ye not read, that he which made them at the beginning made them male and female, And said, For this cause [because God created sex] shall a man leave father and mother, and shall cleave to his wife: and they twain shall be one flesh?”
Marriage is another all-important purpose for sex. We saw in Genesis that from the beginning it was ordained of God. Near the end of Scripture, the Apostle John writes, “Let us be glad and rejoice, and give honour to him: for the marriage of the Lamb [Jesus Christ] is come, and his wife [the Church] hath made herself ready” (Rev. 19:7). Most religions, let alone sex education classes, know nothing about this astounding truth of Christ’s coming marriage to the Church.
The Apostle Paul elaborates on this subject in Ephesians 5: “For this cause shall a man leave his father and mother, and shall be joined unto his wife, and they two shall be one flesh. This is a great mystery: but I speak concerning Christ and the church” (vv. 31-32). God had this in mind from the very beginning when He created us male and female. In fact, were it not for the marriage between Christ and the Church, God would have never instituted the marriage union!
Think on this. Animals do not marry. Neither do angels. Marriage is something God ordained for man alone, because only we have been created in God’s image (Gen. 1:26).
God’s relationship with man is a family relationship, which begins with marriage. And that family relationship, whether on the divine or human level, is a love relationship. God is love (i John 4:8). God’s love is simply an unselfish, outgoing concern for the one loved. On the physical level, a husband and wife can express the deepest, most sincere and binding expression of unselfish marital love through sex. Here is yet another divine purpose for sex: to express unselfish love in marriage. This matrimonial bond will actually safeguard the home and family, binding the family together in love.
What awesome purpose there is behind God’s grand design! God has always intended for human life to be a training ground for spirit life in His divine Kingdom. That’s why He created us male and female. That’s why He instituted marriage and family relationships. That’s why He intended those relationships to be based on love. All so that we might learn more about Him!
That strikes at the heart and core of true education on sex. Who and what is God? Why did He create man? What is man’s purpose? Sex education must begin with the fundamental answers to these questions. (For more in-depth answers to these questions, request your free copy of The God Family Vision.)
When to Begin
Parents sometimes wonder when they should begin educating their children with respect to sex. The answer is, as soon as their curious minds start inquiring about their little bodies—perhaps by the age of two or three. Of course, sex education at such a young age should be on a most basic level. The section above on God’s purpose is also critical at this age. Keep in mind that you are laying the groundwork for more specific instruction later.
In a sensible and simple way, teach your toddlers first about God and His creation. Explain how God created the plants and animals. Then explain why man, created in God’s own image and likeness, is so much different from the animals.
And yet, like animals and plants, we are able to reproduce after our own kind—through sex. Obviously, for the sake of space, I’m leaving out the details, but you get the idea. Just make sure it is all within the context of God and His incredible purpose for man.
As your children grow, instruct them to come to you with any questions and concerns they might have on the subject. They will assuredly be bombarded with misinformation and half-truths at school. You must diligently counteract this negative influence by constantly reinforcing God’s truth and by answering all of their questions, no matter how “embarrassing” they might seem!
The idea is to stay ahead of the “gutter” knowledge that is out in this world. Don’t be caught by surprise, like so many other parents who discover their children are involved in such heinous sex acts and realize they never even discussed the subject of sex in their home.
How to Live
God created sex to be a wonderfully beautiful and unselfish expression of love between a husband and wife within marriage. Used in any other way, it is simply an act of lust, which is sin. No amount of peer pressure at school or fantasy on the silver screen can alter the plain and simple truth of God.
Young people today need God’s truth. This is what underpins our curriculum at Imperial College. “Principles of Living” is a required course for incoming freshman. At our college, sex education is most important. Imperial’s curriculum is designed to prepare young people for life.
People in this world will spend many years preparing for a career as an engineer or lawyer and yet give virtually no thought to preparing and planning for marriage, for family, for sex. They might make lots of money, but there is a good chance their marriage will end in divorce and their children left with little or no parental guidance.
God never intended it to be that way. He created sex for marriage, to express love in marriage and for reproduction. And all of these purposes are mere types of spiritual realities!