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Every Young Woman's Battle

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Sex Without Strings

By Shannon Ethridge and Stephen Arterburn It is God’s will that you should be sanctified: that you should avoid sexual immorality; that each of you should learn to control his own body in a way that is holy and honorable, not in passionate lust like the heathen, who do not know God. 1 Thessalonians 4:3-5

On June 19, 2003, Good Morning America reported that 20 percent of teenagers have sex before their fifteenth birthday. In 2001, The Center for Disease Control reported that 45.6 percent of high-school students in the United States have had sexual intercourse. In a newspaper article titled "Abstinence Pledges Not Very Effective,” Mary Meehan wrote that “according to a survey of nearly 600 teens, 61 percent of those who had taken abstinence pledges had broken them within a year. Of the 39 percent who said they had not broken their pledges, more than half disclosed they’d engaged in oral sex.”

According to the young women we’ve talked to, most don’t grow up with the intention of giving their virginity away prior to marriage, so what happens along the way that causes a young woman to give up this precious gift? Or even if she manages to protect her physical virginity, what causes a young woman to engage in other sexual behaviors, such as oral sex or mutual masturbation? It’s likely that not only did she fail to guard her mind and heart, but she didn’t guard her body by having safe boundaries in place.

Casualties of Casual Sex

You might imagine that young women give in to a variety of sexual activities because they get so tangled up in a serious, committed relationship and think, We’re going to get married anyway. But this isn’t the reasoning behind many of today’s sexual encounters. Since the sexual revolution of the 1970s and ’80s, many people have sex with someone they don’t have a committed relationship with and even with someone they barely know. Over the past several decades, many have come to view sex as an extracurricular activity, just another pleasurable pastime. Many young women tell us that it’s now popular to “hang out and hook up,” have “friends with benefits,” or be “booty buddies.” In other words, sex without any commitment expressed or expected. They meet, they mate, and they walk away to find their next “hookup.”

In a USA Today article on casual sex, Mary Beth Marklein reported on this trend. In her article she included the following quote, written by Yale University student Natalie Krinsky in the November 1, 2002, column for the Yale Daily News called “Sex and the (Elm) City”:

Women know within the first five minutes of meeting a man whether they are going to hook up with him or not. But…women don’t want the guy to know he’ll be hooking up until he’s actually doing it.… Post hookup is when guys tend to get ambiguous [they ignore you]. It’s their payback. Do they want to hook up again? Dunno. Do they want to date? Dunno. Are they straight? Dunno. Name? Dunno.

Don’t make the assumption that only non-Christians engage in sex without strings. We know plenty of people who could tell you otherwise, and Kelly is one of them. She had no intention of hooking up with anyone the night she went to a beach party with some friends. But that was before she laid eyes on a gorgeous guy. Kelly says:

He was everything I had dreamed of—handsome, well-built, and all that. I ended up riding home with him that night, and when he invited me in, I accepted his invitation. We talked for a couple of minutes and then began kissing. Then we started rubbing against one another, bumping and grinding our bodies together as if we were having sex with our clothes on. Within a matter of minutes, the clothes came off, and I was giving my virginity to a guy that I had just met a few hours before. I’m not sure why I didn’t stop him. It all happened so fast that I really didn’t have time to think about it.

As Kelly discovered, a guy who initially rocks your world can also leave it in shambles if you don’t have firm physical boundaries in place. Nicole is another young woman we know whose world was left in shambles, not as a result of one relationship but because of many sexual relationships. She admits:

Since I was fifteen I’ve had a few relationships here and there, but for the most part I’ve had “friends with benefits.” I liked kissing guys and making out with them, but of course they’d want to have sex, too, so I’d usually go along. I figured I had to give these guys what they wanted if I was going to get what I wanted.

After a while I became addicted to hooking up with guys. Every weekend I would go to a football game or a party and see someone that was attractive and go mess around with him, often giving out oral sex like it was candy or something. I didn’t care if I knew him. In fact, it was better if I didn’t because then I wouldn’t have to worry about awkwardness or strings later on. The problems that came from all of this lack of good judgment is that I’ve struggled with depression, anger, jealousy, lack of self-confidence, and feelings of worthlessness. I began to hate myself and considered suicide as a way out.

Fortunately, God provided a better way out for both Nicole and Kelly. Each of these women enrolled in a Women at the Well class at Teen Mania ( and got to the root of why they’ve engaged in such unhealthy behaviors. Today, they are living exemplary lives of sexual integrity and are determined to turn their generation around, back toward God and honorable sexual behavior.

A Quick College-Prep Course

Be prepared. Casual sex is about as common on most college campuses as textbooks. When you leave your parents’ home and go off to college or to live on your own, you will most likely face fierce sexual temptations, and you’d better have some firm boundaries in place!

Boston College student Anna Schleelein vividly paints the picture of the sexual temptations young men and women frequently face in dormitory-style living:

College is screwed up. It’s not real life. They took six thousand of us who are in our sexual prime and crammed us into dorm rooms where there’s nowhere to sit except on the bed. Members of the opposite—or same, of course— gender are but a single flight of stairs away, and often right next door.

However, many young people are living with integrity, so don’t think for a minute that it can’t be done. It’s simply a matter of guarding your mind and heart and establishing firm physical boundaries. As a matter of fact, living by these boundaries in junior high and high school is the best way to prepare for those tempting college and adult years.

Before we go any further, let’s check out what life’s best instruction manual has to say about casual sex.

Searching the Scriptures

How do you think God responds to such behavior as friendships with benefits and sexual hookups? Let’s take a long, hard look at several scriptures to get a grip on God’s point of view about such sexual activity.

Therefore God gave them over in the sinful desires of their hearts to sexual impurity for the degrading of their bodies with one another. They exchanged the truth of God for a lie, and worshiped and served created things rather than the Creator.…

Because of this, God gave them over to shameful lusts. Even their women exchanged natural relations for unnatural ones. In the same way the men also abandoned natural relations with women and were inflamed with lust for one another. Men committed indecent acts with other men, and received in themselves the due penalty for their perversion. (Romans 1:24-27)

Based on this scripture, it is evident that casual sex is far beyond the realm of what God considers honorable. Notice that God doesn’t intervene and say, “Hey, you can’t do this!” He gives people the freedom to make their own sexual choices (see verse 24), but those sexual choices also come with consequences (see verse 27). The moral of that story is that if you want healthy consequences, make healthy sexual choices now. Let’s take a look at another scripture.

It is God’s will that you should be sanctified: that you should avoid sexual immorality; that each of you should learn to control his own body in a way that is holy and honorable, not in passionate lust like the heathen, who do not know God; and that in this matter no one should wrong his brother or take advantage of him. The Lord will punish men for all such sins, as we have already told you and warned you. For God did not call us to be impure, but to live a holy life. Therefore, he who rejects this instruction does not reject man but God, who gives you his Holy Spirit. (1 Thessalonians 4:3-8)

Did you catch that last part? When we reject God’s teaching about avoiding sexual immorality, we reject God Himself. Casual sex flies in the face of God, creating a stench in His nostrils. These are strong words, but we’re not going to water down Scripture to make anyone feel better about sexual immorality. It’s important you’re clear about how God feels about sexual activity outside of marriage (not just intercourse, but all sexually related activities such as oral sex, anal sex, mutual masturbation, and lesbianism) so that you will choose a different course than many of your peers choose. My coauthor and I pray that you will choose to
• establish and maintain healthy, God-honoring physical boundaries;
• live by God’s perfect plan of saving sexual intimacy for marriage; and
• enjoy the best sex possible—one woman with one man for a lifetime within a marriage relationship.

So what would good boundaries in casual relationships look like? Let’s start from the beginning—when you first notice someone, and go from there. Keep in mind that these are physical boundaries for casual relationships, so we’ll address friendships here, and boundaries for committed relationships (boyfriend/girlfriend) in the next chapter.

Friends Don't Let Friends Cross the Line

Once you become more than just acquaintances and consider yourself friends, you may be tempted to cross physical boundary lines that can jeopardize your (or his) ability to maintain good judgment. To prevent this from becoming an issue in your casual relationships, think of the nature of friendship. Friends talk with each other, laugh together, look out for each other, and so on, but friends don’t go out of their way to turn each other’s heads or turn each other on. Friends care about protecting each other’s mind, heart, body, and soul and will make sacrifices to avoid causing each other to stumble and fall into compromising situations.

We often see young women cross the line in the way that they hug their male friends. While you may give a guy a hug around the neck or pat on the back, it’s inappropriate to press your breasts against his body and act as if you are going to passionately wrestle him down to the ground. This kind of hug gets guys’ sexual juices flowing. Consider sticking to “side hugs,” where you come up to guys and pat them on the back while standing side by side. Or perhaps give an “A-frame” hug by reaching forward with your body and embracing the other person’s neck with your arms, avoiding the impression that you are trying to press your body completely against his for sexual arousal.

We also see a lot of young women sitting on guys’ laps just to be cute or because “there’s not enough seats!” Before sitting on a guy’s lap, consider this: When you do so, your genital area is directly on top of his genital area, which is very arousing to him, even if it is only “sitting on his lap” to you. Also, your breasts are directly in front of his eyes, and he can’t help but notice them. If the room is overly crowded, take a seat on the floor instead of using a guy’s lap as your throne. Also refrain from lying horizontally next to a guy sardine-style or draping your legs over him, as this can be very arousing as well. If you want to affectionately touch a guy friend, give him a gentle squeeze on the arm, a pat on the back, or one of those side hugs we just talked about.

Your breasts, hips, buttocks, upper thighs and genital area should be off limits to any kind of touching, grabbing, pinching, slapping, and so on, even in jest. Don’t allow anyone to touch any part of your body, whether through your clothes or underneath them, that a modest swimsuit and shorts would normally cover.

You can certainly add to this list of boundaries as a way of guarding your body from sexual compromise with acquaintances and friends. Let wisdom be your guide and always use good judgment. If something doesn’t feel right to you, it probably isn’t. Trust your instincts and maintain safe distances in your casual relationships. By doing so you’ll be protecting yourself and the guys around you, setting an example for your girlfriends, and honoring God and your future husband with your body.

Flee from sexual immorality. All other sins a [woman] commits are outside [her] body, but [she] who sins sexually sins against [her] own body. Do you not know that your body is a temple of the Holy Spirit, who is in you, whom you have received from God? You are not your own; you were bought at a price. Therefore honor God with your body. 1 Corinthians 6:18-20

Excerpted from Every Young Woman's Battle. Copyright 2004 by Shannon Ethridge and Stephen Arterburn. Used by permission of WaterBrook Press, Colorado Springs, CO. All rights reserved.

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