Premarital sex is a serious moral issue confronting college students. Sexual temptations certainly exist in high school. But once in college, students are more cut off from familial restrictions and parish supports. They are confronted with peer pressure that alleges "everyone is doing it," and perhaps exposed to the irreligious attitudes of some teachers. Add to it the stupor of new found independence and freedom, and you have a real scene in your hands. Let's face it, college life neither understands nor supports the value of chastity, morality and the "world's" way of doing things. College is the place to freak out, have fun, "be a man" and not be boring like a "grand-mom". Everything safe is termed preachy.
Some students fall into promiscuous behavior without even, at first, recognizing just how far they have fallen. For them sex is reduced to a easy source of pleasure and release, totally divorced from love and marriage. Few sincere people would try to justify such a surrender to lust. We can only hope and pray that these students will soon outgrow such adventurism, and the superficial intimacy and happiness it offers.
Other students, however, may find someone special, perhaps the person they hope to marry, and feel that their "love" legitimizes premarital sex within a monogamous relationship. Like never before, students in this situation may begin to question and examine the sexual values they have been taught. What follows are some things these students need to consider.
We should see our sexuality as a wondrous gift from God. We are male or female at every level of our being. Our sexuality simply colors who we are, and how we think and feel and act. Sexual intimacy is sacred. It involves a profound giving of oneself to another. It is a sharing in God's own creativity, bringing new life into the world.
The Bible condemns not only adultery, but premarital sex, or fornication (Mk 7:21; Eph 5:5; Heb 13:4). The wisdom of holy books teaches us that only the complete commitment to one another that comes with marriage is the proper setting for sexual intimacy. Marriage is much more than just "a piece of paper." It is only in marriage that we publicly give ourselves to each other, belong to each other, become responsible for one another, "in good times and in bad, in sickness and in health," all the days of our lives.
Prior to marriage the couple have not yet made a public, permanent commitment to one another. If, for example, a boyfriend or girlfriend should have a tragic accident and become disfigured or handicapped, the partner might chose to spend the rest of his or her life caring for the one injured. But there is no social obligation to do so. The injured party is still the responsibility of his or her family. Once a couple marries, however, they become immediate family to each other, next of kin to one another. It is in marriage that two become one--begin to share their lives, their hopes and fears, their dreams and disappointments, their finances. They make a home for themselves, and hopefully, for their children, as the fruit of their love.
Marriage means much more than sex, but the delight and joy of lovemaking is integral to marriage. The marital embrace is the culmination of the total self-giving of husbands and wives. Those who seek to justify premarital sex find it difficult to explain what marriage means, and what difference it makes to marry.
People in love have a strong erotic attraction to each other. These God-given feelings are good and natural. But such desires are not meant to be acted upon until we are prepared to assume the responsibilities of marriage.
|The period before marriage, courtship, is a critically important time for couples to dig a deep foundation of understanding and trust upon which they can then build a solid marriage. Premature sexual intimacy short-circuits the broadening and deepening of the couple's relationship in other areas, and leaves them ill prepared to weather life's inevitable storms.
Just as self-discipline is needed for success in studies, business, sports, etc., so too sexual self-discipline is needed for a successful courtship, and for a successful marriage. We need not be slaves of our passions. But sexual self-discipline needs to be learned. The time before marriage provides the opportunity for those in love to develop the sexual discipline they will need to remain faithful to each other after they are married. Just because they say "I do" to each other does not mean that they will never again be sexually attracted to someone other than their spouse, or that attractive people will not make sexual overtures to them. They will. Courtship is the time to learn how one can be sexually attracted to another, and yet know how to avoid sexual intimacy. This is the self-knowledge and discipline that enable a couple to remain faithful to each other in marriage.
Just as self-discipline is needed for success in studies, business, sports, etc., so too sexual self-discipline is needed for a successful courtship, and for a successful marriage. We need not be slaves of our passions. But sexual self-discipline needs to be learned.
Premarital chastity is the best guarantee of marriage fidelity. When premarital sex seems to be so common, it should come as no surprise that half of our marriages end in divorce. People who do not respect the sacredness of marriage beforehand, are not likely to respect marriage afterwards. Follow the crowd into premarital sex, and don't be surprised if one day you follow the crowd into the divorce court.
Those in love should certainly express their affection for each other. But there is a big difference between being appropriately affectionate, and sexually arousing one another. If a couple is honest and willing, they will be able to learn how to demonstrate their affection for each other, without crossing the line into sexual stimulation.
Some may feel that the intense pleasure and release offered by petting is OK, as long as it stops short of intercourse. But sexual passion is powerful, and the more one feeds the flames of passion, the more it demands. Those who play with fire will eventually get burned. Petting is foreplay, designed by God to prepare the body for intercourse. Those who tease their bodies in this way, without intending to go "all the way," are on borrowed time. Sooner or later the deep-seated urges of the body will win out, and afterwards one is left surprised, confused, and feeling guilty.
Most people involved in a serious relationship don't start out planning, or expecting, to engage in sexual intercourse. But if they give themselves to passionate kissing or fondling, their petting becomes heavier and heavier, powerful passions cloud their reason, and they end up going all the way. As they say "it just happens".
Each couple is unique and must learn what places and situations are morally dangerous for them. If they sincerely desire to develop a chaste relationship, they will avoid situations where they know, from experience, they are likely to be weak. It is not enough to put oneself into, what is for you, an "occasion of sin," and pray to be stronger this time. Instead one must muster all one's God-given strength to resist placing oneself into a situation where one knows he or she is likely to fall. That is where the battle must be fought. As they say "it is better to be safe rather than sorry".
For countless generations, right up until only about a hundred years ago, people of what is now college age would, in all likelihood, already be married and raising children. The "progress" of our modern world now demands long years of education and maturation before one is ready to marry wisely. Young people are sexually mature, ripe for love, years before they are prepared for the responsibilities of marriage. This elongation of adolescence puts a tremendous strain on young people, making chastity especially difficult.
On the other hand, nowadays marriage is sometimes put off too long. Couples wait for everything to be "perfect" before marrying. They sometimes unwisely expose themselves to the dangers of long courtships, waiting, for example, to complete graduate school. When marriage is delayed into some far off indefinite future, it can become extremely difficult to delay sexual intimacy for the marriage.
No one ever said chastity would be easy. But it sure beats the heartache that comes with fornication,
Tragically, our society is sending young people the message that they cannot live chastely. But we ought to have much higher esteem, and expectation, for youth. We know that God's strength is stronger than our human weakness. We include God in our romance, and ask God to bless our marriage.
Chastity is a gift of God's grace ' the result of a prudent knowledge of our weaknesses, vigilance to the first overtures of lust, and a firm desire to follow the Lord's Way of happiness. To remain chaste we must avoid those books, photos, movies, conversations and fantasies that feed lust. We must pray that God's strength will carry us in our weakness. Some find hard physical exercise, and sublimating sexual energies into creative activities, helpful.
If and when we should fall, we continue to trust in God's love and mercy. We refuse to get discouraged or give up. We ask God for forgiveness, and for help in forgiving ourselves. We let go of the past, so that God can pick us up and set us back on the right path.
But now we are wiser about our frailties and limitations. We are more keenly aware than ever of our complete dependence upon God. Having come face to face with our own sinfulness, we are more sensitive and compassionate towards the weaknesses of others. Most of all, we are grateful for God's unconditional love, and the chance to begin anew.