The least discussed affect of sex is the way sex affects teens emotionally and psychologically. Yet as I’ve talked with teens, the emotional effects seem to impact them most. In the book Hooked, authors McIlhaney & Bush discuss the physiological effects of the sexual act on the brain. Research has proven that during sex, the brain releases chemicals that create an emotional bond with the sexual partner. When that bond is broken, not only does the brain respond with depression, it also loses its ability to bond as strongly with future sexual partners. Even when teens acknowledge that they are choosing to have casual sex, they don’t understand how those hook-ups are affecting their future marriages.
What would you guess are the reasons teens give for having sex? Top two reasons teens have given me are pressure (usually from the guy but not always) and boredom. When I ask what they are looking for in a relationship, though, sex is rarely on the list. They are looking for companionship, someone who likes them, someone who listens, trust, someone to do things with. So I ask these questions:
- Does sex help you to accomplish what you wanted in a relationship?
- Does sex make the relationship more or less complicated?
- After a couple has sex, how long does a relationship typically last? (Statistically, three days.)
- Does sex make breaking up easier or harder?
Girls especially want closeness in a relationship, not necessarily sex. Once they’ve had sex, they don’t know how to get out of doing it again. Guys often feel that they have something to prove with their friends in order to get respect. Sex is usually no more than a means to an end, but it’s a choice that can change a teen’s emotional makeup for the rest of his/her life.
For many teenagers who have a spiritual background, sexual choices are also deeply conflicting, creating a culture of secrecy that undermines parental relationships and their relationship with God. Teens who self-identify as Jesus followers and are sexually active often describe how far removed their sexual choices are from the rest of their lives. They are living in a constant state of brokenness and don’t know how to fix it.
Help your teenager to identify what he/she desires in relationships. Ask them the questions posted above. Help them to see that the decisions they are making today can safeguard their bodies, as well as their hearts and spirits. Pray for them as they battle their way through a culture that will tell them that casual sex is no big deal. Encourage them to guard the integrity of their hearts and spirits, so that they are whole and healthy.
Do you agree that the emotional and spiritual effects of sex are as significant as the physical risks? Have you observed the effect on teens of bonding and breaking up with multiple partners?