Your Questions, Answered.
I hear from people all around the globe and I've noticed something: we're all wrestling with the same questions, the same struggles and complexities when it comes to walking out this radically new position on sex.
This is where you can come and expect to find answers to the questions I'm receiving from readers like you. Perhaps the question you have is already here, and if not, please write me and I'll get your answer posted!
+ Is masturbation bad? No one will give me a straight answer.
Well, straight-forward answers are my speciality! Especially on the potentially awkward topics. Lots of people will say that masturbation is the best way to satisfy your sexual desires without putting you at risk for a sexually transmitted disease (STD), unexpected pregnancy or unnecessary attachment.
Is it wrong? No, I don’t think so. But is it the best decision for you? I would say a resounding No here too.
Here are 3 reasons why I think it's best to stay away from masturbation:
- Masturbation is often accompanied by pornography or fantasizing about another person, both of which mean that we objectify someone. Rather than see them for the complex human being they were created to be, we reduce them to what they do for us sexually. If someone can masturbate to a picture of an apple, then great! But that's not usually the case. Involving pornography leads to a host of potential problems, something I talk about more extensively here, here and here.
- Masturbation teaches you to satisfy yourself, which some people would claim is a good thing. But sexual intimacy involves two people, and the best sex is going to come from learning how to share and communicate with our spouse. If we've built a habit of satisfying ourselves sexually, we can get very frustrated when our spouse can't do it as well or as quickly as we would like.
- What is our objective when we masturbate? Most likely it's to satisfy our momentary sexual desire, to fulfill what we see as a need that has to be met. But that makes it about compartmentalizing sex, fitting it into this box that we deal with and then move on from, rather than learning how to integrate our sexuality in a healthy way and learn to practice self-control in the moment in order to build the healthiest habits possible for the future.
Interesting fact on masturbation: in regards to brain chemistry, it's 5 times less satisfying that sexual intercourse. After someone masturbates, they're less likely to feel as sexually satisfied for as long, so they tend to want/need to masturbate again soon. This can set us up for a cycle of feeling like we need to masturbate numerous times a week or even in a day.
For more on this topic, check out this post I wrote all about masturbation, called An Awkward Chat.
I'd recommend checking out www.xxxchurch.com, as they have some good resources there for teens and young adults dealing with these issues that might be helpful.
+ How did you control your lust and sexual desire until marriage?
I was surrounded by a group of friends that had made a similar commitment to wait until marriage to have sex, so we kept each other accountable. Having friends walking out the same commitment helped remind me that this decision wasn’t crazy or that I was the odd person out.
I saw this often, but having a desire for sex isn’t a bad thing. We were wired to want it! If people didn’t want sex, none of us would be here and the human race would have died off a long time ago. The trouble can come depending on what we do with that desire and whether or not we learn to control it and express it in a way that is healthy. Not simply shut it down or try to ignore it, but acknowledge that it’s there though perhaps not something to be satisfied at this time.
We all live with desires that are regularly unmet so to have a sexual desire that goes unmet for some time is not out of the ordinary, extreme or unhealthy (in spite of what the world might tell you). You’re simply deciding that what you want in the long term is worth more than what you want in the moment.
Choosing to be abstinent doesn’t mean you’re never going to have sex. It simply means that you have decided to wait for a period of time to have sex until it’s the best thing for your body, your mind, and your heart. Actually walking out abstinence is a daily decision. Rather than look at how you’re going to have to do this for years, break it down to today.
What do you need to do today to protect your body, your mind, and your heart? That might be as practical as going for a walk or meeting up with friends when you have the urge to be alone and masturbate. Perhaps it’s turning off the TV or throwing away certain magazines or novels with erotica. If it’s stirring up things in you that you know only make the struggle/temptation more difficult, then get rid of them and avoid them! We’re not to make our standards about what is best for us based on what other people are doing, but on what we believe is the best for us. Which may be a higher standard than those around you.
Finally, learn to take every thought captive. Our actions begin with what we think about! When I find myself struggling to keep my thoughts or actions on point, I turn to God in prayer. Consciously fill your mind with other things, from what you read to the music you listen to.
+ I think making a commitment to wait to have sex until marriage is superficial.
Question: I think making a commitment to wait to have sex until marriage is superficial. But I’m having a hard time figuring out where I should draw a line.
about when to have sex, but then you're struggling to draw the line. Could it be that the struggle is coming from not having a clearly defined point in your life or relationships for which you've determined will be the best time to have sex? And by “best,” I mean what is best for your mind, body and heart.
For instance, if you know that marriage is the end goal, then you work backwards from that and make whatever decisions necessary to keep that commitment. You create a Game Plan that includes Why you’re waiting to have sex, What kind of person you’re looking for, and the Guardrails you’re going to set in place to help you get there.
If you don't know where you're trying to go, meaning you don't know when you actually want to have sex, then it will most likely just "happen" because you weren't intentional about when or why you were waiting. But 60% of teens regret having had sex with someone, so letting it just “happen” is a recipe for failure and disappointment.
Regardless of when you decide you want to have sex, whether in marriage or before, you have to daily work to protect that commitment!
For more ideas about best sex and where to find it, check out these three posts:
+ What about erotica?
Question: What about erotica? Is it ok to be reading that? Isn’t it just another form of art?
So that we’re on the same page (no pun intended), let me clarify what I mean when I refer to erotica:
Literature or art intended to arouse sexual desire. Like….Fifty Shades of Grey.
Let’s compare that with the definition of art (I’m using Webster’s here):
The expression or application of human creative skill and imagination, typically in a visual form such as painting or sculpture, producing works to be appreciated primarily for their beauty or emotional power.
When someone writes erotica or creates porn, they’re not aiming for the next Mona Lisa or To Kill a Mockingbird. Both are created with the intent purpose of awakening your physical desire without any connection to emotional, relational, or spiritual reality.
What makes erotica and books like Fifty Shades of Grey enjoyable is that they create a fantasy world that isn’t rooted in reality, that appeals to our desires without any constraints or obligations. Unfortunately, we’re often left feeling dissatisfied with the real world and the people in it, holding up unrealistic (because they’re not real) expectations in relationships and even going so far as to redefine our own set of morals.
That was the express purpose of EL James, the author of Fifty Shades of Grey- to redefine people’s morality and what they considered a healthy relationship. But abuse, sadism, masochism, bondage, domination, humiliation and physical pain are never aspects of a healthy, functioning, live-giving relationship. No matter how much fiction would like to portray that as glamorous or enticing, it is demeaning, lacking of respect and does not promote a healthy sexual perspective.
Reading erotica can be a way of escaping our current reality, of fantasizing about what could be rather than what is. But in the end, it will only leave you dissatisfied and in constant search of edgier material in an effort to get the same rush as when you first started reading.
+ What is “purity”?
Question: All my life I had the "purity" sermon drilled into me. But honestly not one pastor, youth pastor or even my parents have really defined what;s "staying pure". I know Christian couples who saved their first kiss for marriage, is that what God wants?
What is purity? That's a big question. And a loaded one! Purity has come to mean a lot of things these days and unfortuantely, it's sometimes used to hurt, guilt or berate people.
Purity isn't an unrelatisct ideal meant to shame people for the choices they've made. As I see it, it's a way to order our relationships, whether we're single, dating or married, with the aim of protecting and promoting the well-being of the individuals and the relationship.
For some, it may mean waiting until marriage to kiss. For others, kissing may be ok. I do think that's about as much as you can justify before things start to get into some troubling temptation zones. Anything beyond kissing can escalate pretty quickly, which is why I encourage drawing the guardrail there. Especially if you are wanting to avoid sexual intercourse right now.
A guardrail is meant to let you know how far you can go and still be safe in body, mind, and heart. Purity isn't just about the physical (though that's a big part), it's also about our thoughts and our heart. Pornography and erotica can be just as harmful to sexual health as sleeping around with multiple partners.
God gave us sexual desires. Being sexually attracted isn't a bad thing. It's what we do with those. Like fire, in the right context it can be great, left out of control in the wrong context, it can be destructive.
When considering purity, ask yourself what honors God and what honors your future spouse best? God created your body and bought it with a price (his son). Someday you'll get married and will need to tell your husband some of what you've done (though he doesn't need details). What will you be comfortable sharing?
A couple of helpful question to ask yourself when dating:
Am I seeking to satisfy my own desires in this moment or are am I considering what would be best for this other person and the relationship in the long run?
Will this leave this person better or worse than when I met them?
Purity is a life-long practice that is important when you’re single as well as when you’re married. It’s not merely a line to avoid, but a way of living that honors what God created sex to be, as well as established a healthy perspective and lifestyle for ourselves and those around us.
+ I broke up with my girlfriend but I don't know how to not feel guilty or feel that like our breakup was my fault.
Breakups can be good and sometimes necessary. But that doesn't mean there won't be any guilt about it, especially if the breakup was not handled well or there was a very strong emotional or physical attachment that had formed. If, for instance, you cheated on your girlfriend and that caused the breakup, then yes, you should feel guilty! Your failure to act with character and integrity ended what may have been a good thing and hurt someone else.
If, however, the breakup needed to happen because it was an unhealthy relationship or you realized that you weren't going in different directions and weren’t going to ultimately marry this person (and therefore, there wasn't much point in continuing), then it may be hard to let go but that doesn't mean it wasn't the right decision.
If you were sexually active in the relationship, that can make the breakup that much more difficult. Our brains release a chemical, oxytocin, when we're sexually active with someone that causes us to bond to them. Breaking up severs that bond and it can be painful, both emotionally and physically.
The right thing to do doesn't always feel easy or good in the moment. But given some time and reflection, you can grow from this and be able to move forward.
+ I have lots of guy friends, but guys don’t ask me out on dates.
Question: I have lots of guy friends, but guys don’t ask me out on dates. They don’t seem interested. What’s wrong with me?
Guys not asking you out may be more of a compliment than you realize. If you have lots of guy friends, it means you know how to do friendships well with guys (which is key to a great dating relationship!), so it may be that the guys around you are not asking you out because they respect you. They know you won't be easily taken with some cheesy line or a few drinks and that you’re the kind of girl that he knows deserves to be more than just a fling or one-night stand.
I had high standards for who I would date and the way the relationship would go (for me, sex was off the table until marriage), which usually meant I didn’t get asked out much. I even had guys tell me that they respected me the most of every girl on campus, but wouldn't date me because I wouldn't sleep with them! How is that for ironic? You may be surprised to find out one day how much people are watching and how many of those guys won't ask you out because they respect you. They knows they would have to step up and put in some effort to be with you. It can be discouraging right now, but in the end, it is absolutely worth their respect and admiration than a few hours in their arms.
But don't let this be a time of simply waiting. Be intentional about pursuing great friendships with girls as well as guys, trying new actives, pursuing different hobbies or doing some traveling....in other words, live your life! Not only will it make you that much more interesting and attractive as a person, but you won't waste your life waiting for some guy to come before you "start living."
When we're not actively seeking a guy and making that are focus, it actually makes us a more enjoyable (and less desperate) person to be around. Which in turn makes us more attractive! The right guy will come and in the mean time, you can be glad you're not putting your heart through the ringer with guys who don't really care about you or the relationships.
+ Did you wait until you were married to have sex? Was it worth it?
I did wait until I was married, though it was NOT easy, mainly because it meant that I didn't get asked out very much. When I did get a date, guys were pretty quick to split after going out just once or twice because I wouldn't have sex with them. There were times I would get SO frustrated, wondering why I wasn't enough without sex. What was wrong with me??
Here's the point not to miss: NOTHING was wrong with me (ok, my younger brothers might disagree). It wasn't me who was lacking something. It was the guys I was trying to date that were lacking.
They were good guys but they lacked self-control, they lacked the ability to see beyond their present wants for what could be a better future, and they certainly lacked the ability to see that a woman who is not willing to have sex right away is a woman worth pursuing.
Eventually there WAS a man who thought that I was not only worth the wait, but was willing to step up and be the man he believed I deserved. He wasn't looking at me for what he could get (which is what a guy is saying when he wants sex without commitment) but what he could give in protecting, respecting and honoring me.
I can tell you without ANY reservation that it was absolutely worth the wait. I don't regret any of the guys I didn't sleep with.
If you decide that you want to wait until marriage to have sex, be prepared to not go on as many dates as other people, that potential partners won’t be willing to stick around long term (this applies to both guys and girls!). But that's ok. You're weeding out who is there for your body and who can be trusted with your heart and your future.
If this is a commitment you decide to make, I would recommend being up front with the people you date pretty early in the relationship. That way neither of you gets too emotionally invested without knowing where each of you stands on the topic. And if they walk away, that's ok.
+ I grew up in a home where I was taught that if I had sex, then God couldn’t use me.
Question: I grew up in a home where I was taught that if I had sex, then God couldn’t use me. I’m having sex with my boyfriend now and don’t see a problem with it, but I also don’t feel the closeness to God I once did. Why do I feel a barrier with God?
First of all, God can most definitely still use you if you’ve had sex. If we were discounted from being used by Him any time we sinned, then none of us would get very far! God can and does thankfully use us no matter what we do. That's the amazing thing about grace! It covers everything. But as Paul points out in Romans 6, just because grace is limitless and we will ultimately be forgiven does not mean we continue to willfully sin.
God offers extravagant, unending grace for all of us, for all time. But we only need grace if we have done something that offends Him and goes against what He has commanded. The Bible is pretty clear that sex outside of the marriage of a man and a woman is not God’s design and not His best for us.
If your relationship with God is struggling, and it's important to you, I would challenge you to focus on that first, boyfriend second. Does your boyfriend help you grow closer to Christ or draw you away from Him? Sin in our life can make us feel separated from God because it's a barrier. The distance you’re feeling may be an indication of that barrier, whether or not you seem to have a problem with it. The fact that you’re writing in tells me there is some conviction on some level. When the Holy Spirit convicts us of sin in our lives, we are to confess immediately. And then keep moving forward! Sometimes we have a harder time forgiving ourselves than God does! He LOVES you, adores you, and desires what is best for you.
Do you trust Him in that and are you willing to follow wherever He leads, even if the way doesn't always seem clear or easy?
+ I’m having a hard time getting over my ex
Without knowing the details of what caused the breakup, time is usually the best way to get through this. Not get over, but get through. That’s an important distinction. You’re probably feeling a host of emotions that need to be worked through so that you can successfully move forward and get healthy for the next relationship.
Take this time to evaluate what didn't work in the relationship, how to do things differently next time, and what you can learn from all of this so that in the future your heart won't take as much of a hit. And you’ll be better prepared to enter into a relationship with a healthy perspective and foundation.
If you’re still in contact with your ex, I would recommend that you make a clean break, at least temporarily. It tends to make it more painful to keep seeing and talking to them.
+ I love God with all my heart but I really don't think he wants to have anything to do with me after the lines I've crossed.
Question: I love God with all my heart but I really don't think he wants to have anything to do with me after the lines my boyfriend and I crossed. I just feel so lost, guilty, and dirty
Oh how I wish we could have this conversation over a cup of coffee so I could look you in the eye and tell you that I know for certain that God absolutely still loves you and definitely still wants a relationship with you. If He didn't want us after every time we sin, no one would be able to know Him. That's what is so amazing about Jesus Christ. He endured a horrible death and gave his life to pay that debt. He is the reason we can still be in relationship with God even after we stumble. God offers us forgiveness and unconditional love that was paid for by Jesus' life. No matter what you do, ever, He will ALWAYS love you. And ALWAYS want to be in relationship with you. His grace for us is more extravagant, more limitless than we could fathom.
I don't know how far you went but I do know that it's not so far that you can't start over, both in this relationship or the ones to come. Is your boyfriend feeling the same way you do about this? I would suggest you both have a talk about what are appropriate guardrails that will protect you both, physically, emotionally and spiritually, and leave you better people if you break up.
+ I love my boyfriend so why deny ourselves sex as a way to show love?
How do you define love?
When you ask about why not deny yourself an act of love, may I encourage you to think a bit more about what love is? Is love only about physical pleasure, and what we want in the moment? Or is it about what is best for the whole person, both now and in the long term? Real, authentic, long-lasting, tough love isn’t based solely on our feelings or what we want right now. It’s a daily choice to put the other person first, to ensure that we are choosing what is best for the whole of them. That can often mean denying ourselves in the moment!
Some questions to consider:
- Will having sex together leave you better people if you should break up down the road?
- What does sex in your relationship mean for your memories, how attached you become and how quickly, expectations, etc?
- Is having sex the best thing for each of you physically, emotionally and mentally?
- What do each of you want in regards to your future relationships and what kind of foundation are you building today towards that future?
+ I was sexually assaulted as a kid, and now as an twenty-something, I keep making destructive choices when it comes to sex. How do I change?
Question: I was sexually assaulted as a kid, and now as an twenty-something, I keep making destructive choices when it comes to sex. I know I shouldn’t but I can’t seem to stop, like I have an addiction. How do I change and become acceptable to God and even the world?
My heart is hurting for you right now. To have experienced such dramatic abuse as a child breaks something in us that requires extensive time and work to bring about healing. Your beliefs about sex, sexuality, body image, relationships are all in some way being shaped by what happened. The hard work is recognizing how it is affecting your behavior, what the deceitful messages are and then intentionally following a different script for your life.
Based on what you’ve told me, it does sound like an addiction. I’m not a licensed professional but it could be an addiction to sex itself, attention, the rush you get when you engage in destructive behavior. It’s like someone who has an addiction to pornography. They get a rush from the experience, even if they regularly feel remorse as soon as it’s done. But their brain has become accustomed to the Dopamine high that they feel during the experience and that’s what keeps drawing them back. Like someone with a porn addiction, you’ll need to determine what those triggers are that pull you into the choices you wish you weren’t making.
With something like this, I would highly recommend professional help from a counselor or therapist who can help you walk through this process of healing. It’s clear that God is important to you, so I would encourage finding someone who holds a similar belief as you do when it comes to your faith. Our relationship with God is foundational to the rest of our lives and it is important that you’re working with someone who understands and communicates in the same way.
If the behavior you’re consistently engaging in isn’t working, then at some point you need to get ruthless about making change. Maybe it means getting a roommate who can help keep you accountable or joining a support group. Finding a church and getting involved so as to be around people who can help you in the healing. And being honest with yourself about what choices you’re making each day that are leading to these larger compromises.
It’s going to be a process, not an overnight fix. But I applaud you for seeking to make a change. And I can assure you of this, there is NOTHING that you can do that will ever make you unacceptable to God. That is why Jesus died and rose again. So that his sacrifice could cover all of our ugliness and heal that relationship, no matter how far we wander.
Got a question about sex, love, dating, marriage, or relationships?
Maybe there's something I wrote about that stirred up some questions or something you disagree with. Or you'd like more information about my speaking and writing.
Whatever it is, I'd love to help! Hearing from readers is the BEST part of what I do.