The least discussed effect of sex is the way sex affects us as human beings emotionally and psychologically. As I’ve talked with teens, the emotional effects seem to impact them most–even more than the concerns about pregnancy or STDs. In the book Hooked, authors McIlhaney & Bush discuss the physiological effects of the sexual act on the brain. Research has show us 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. Our culture tells us that having casual sex is no big deal, but we don’t often talk about how that can affect our future relationships.
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. For some girls, once they’ve had sex, they don’t know how to get out of doing it again, even though they’d rather not. Guys often feel that they have something to prove with their friends in order to get respect. Sex is often 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 spiritual wholeness. Teens who identify personal spiritual values 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.
So here’s the question: what do you want in a relationship? If you’re a parent, can you help your teen figure that out? Go through the questions we listed above. Decisions we are making today can either protect or risk our bodies, as well as our hearts and spirits. We want you to know how to stay whole and healthy, and that includes guarding the integrity of your hearts and spirits.
Teens, are the emotional and spiritual effects of sex are as significant as the physical risks? Have you observed the effect on other teens of bonding and breaking up with multiple partners? What would you say to some of these questions? If you don’t have anyone else to talk to and you’d like to talk about your relationship goals in a safe place with someone who cares, drop in our office. We’re here to be a safe place where you can get straight answers.