Parenting 6: Dating and mating – science, culture and the word of God

Posted by on Jun 6, 2016 in Blog: Doing sex God’s way

Parenting 6: Dating and mating – science, culture and the word of God

Sexual desire, is a wonderful powerful craving for something, anything sexual. It simmers in your emotional brain from puberty, ever ready to erupt if stimulated, but amenable to suppression from your control brain.

Falling in love on the other hand focusses the energy of sexual desire on one person, and the beloved becomes the centre of your universe. Fortunately, this dopamine driven obsession usually lasts only 18 to 24 months. This period of romantic love should come with a ‘lover beware’ notice, because decisions taken under the influence[1] can be unwise for your future.

How should we deal with sexual desire and romantic obsession?

Importantly, recognise that you are not a helpless collection of cells, driven by neurochemicals and hormones. You are an embodied being created in the image of God. Given intelligence, wisdom and self-control.

Recognise the feelings of desire and love as God’s way of pointing you towards that special person you will spend the rest of your life with in that ‘naked and no shame – one flesh’ relationship. And take it slow, talk to your parents, ask for advice from mature Christian men and women.

When it comes to sexual intimacy, whether it be a casual one off activity, a hook up, or sex with your beloved – you have a choice.

You can believe Satan’s lie that you should do whatever pleases you; that it is your right to have fun. So go ahead: feed your brain with the deviant fantasy sex of pornography for an instant masturbatory high; Have sex with anyone you desire – same sex or other, before marriage outside marriage – with a sex worker/prostitute – anyone – anywhere – anyhow – for as long as you desire; Use your body as an object – a commodity to be used whenever and however you feel like, give it away as a toy to be played with – sext it – snapchat it – Instagram it.

It will be fun and pleasurable. The orgasm you have will give you a momentary high. Even a temporary sense of oneness with your lover. The neurochemistry and hormones flooding your brain will make you believe that this is good – for a while.

But in the long term, this temporary search for satisfaction the worlds’ way will leave you sad and empty. It will make you vulnerable to rejection, pain and disappointment – depression – loneliness – self harm – even suicide. And you will find yourself scrambling for the next experience – the next high – more of the same – something (or someone) different and more stimulating.

The dissatisfaction you feel is because you were not created for the momentary high of a temporary sexual experience. Our bodies and brains are created by God and filled with the Holy Spirit for the purpose of bringing honour to God. As a Christian you are created for more than a fleeting moment of happiness on earth. You are created for eternity with the creator with the universe.

Choose to live the way you are created to in brain, body and soul; by the pattern God has given for the best sex for life – marriage between a man and a woman (Genesis 1,2; Matthew 19; Song of Songs; 1 Corinthians 7; Ephesians 5)

The neurochemistry of sexual intimacy:

Our brain is designed to form long-term bonds of committed attachment. This is revealed in the Bible and borne out by research.

Sexual intimacy results in a hormone-driven brain-level attachment[2]. A part of the brain called the hypothalamus, and the gland called the pituitary gland, release hormones called oxytocin and vasopressin. These have a particular purpose in the pair-bonding of couples. Oxytocin makes you feel connected to your partner. Vasopressin leads to your recognising your mate as special—a sort of monogamy chemical. We call them the ‘cuddle hormones’. Together, they create that special feeling of deep trust and commitment between couples. Having sex releases oxytocin; an orgasm generates a flood of oxytocin.

Long-term relationships – past the heart thumping dopamine and obsessive serotonin, may seem boring, but research[3] shows that couples continue to feel the dopamine high of passionate love and the testosterone-driven sexual desire well into old age. It’s just not all the time and not apparent to their children.

There is nothing ‘casual’ about sex

Even one-off sexual encounters release oxytocin.

So you form a mini-bond with the person you have sex with. The pain you feel when he doesn’t reply to your text the next day is the emotional ripping of the bond. Brain chemistry supports your gut feeling that sex is far from a simple pleasure. Your brain, and in fact all of your humanity, begs for something better and more lasting than hooking up or feeding the hunger of a boyfriend’s or girlfriend’s sexual appetite. Sexual activity (especially intercourse) has connectional qualities that, when experienced within committed, loving relationships, touch your soul. God created you this way. It is the pattern for sexual activity within marriage.

Teenagers don’t always recognise the significance of sexual activity as a one-flesh experience designed and blessed by God. You feel the pleasure of the orgasm but don’t recognise the bonding that goes with it. You don’t realise (or more likely don’t know) that, when you leave someone after having sex with them, you leave a little part of yourself behind (like you’ve superglued yourself to the other person and then ripped the bond apart). Then when you have sex with another person you form another mini-bond, you leave another bit behind, and so on. Some sex scientists say that boys even bond with porn stars when they masturbate to pornography.

Multiple mini-bond formations confuse your brain. Young people caught up in the culture of one-night stands, casual sex and ‘friends with benefits’ often find themselves unable to make the commitment that is necessary for marriage. It’s like they’re all out of superglue by the time they get to marriage. Researchers[4] report that women who first had sex as teens were almost twice as likely to divorce within five and 10 years than those who delayed sex until adulthood. They find it difficult to commit. Men behave similarly.

Think before you get sexually involved. Why muddle your brain and leave yourself open to pain, regret and distress? Why not enjoy friendships without the sexual bonding? Keep this wonderful one-to-one intimacy of sexual activity for that special person you choose to spend the rest of your life with.

God’s place for the best sex for life:

The Bible celebrates the role of sex in marriage. It is also pretty explicit about the danger of premarital and extramarital sex. In Proverbs, we read some advice to a son:

‘My son, pay attention to my wisdom, turn your ear to my words of insight, that you may maintain discretion and your lips may preserve knowledge. For the lips of the adulterous woman drip honey, and her speech is smoother than oil, but in the end she is bitter as gall, sharp as a double-edged sword. Her feet go down to death; her steps lead straight to the grave … Keep to a path far from her, do not go near the door of her house … Drink water from your own cistern, running water from your own well. Should your springs overflow in the streets, your streams of water in the public squares?  Let them be yours alone, never to be shared with strangers. May your fountain be blessed, and may you rejoice in the wife of your youth. A loving doe, a graceful deer—may her breasts satisfy you always, may you ever be intoxicated with her love. Why, my son, be intoxicated with another man’s wife? Why embrace the bosom of a wayward woman? (Proverbs 5:1–5, 8, 15–20)

This is fairly direct, isn’t it? God has given you the covenant relationship of marriage as an appropriate place for the one-flesh relationship of sex. He has also programmed your brain to bond you to the person you have sex with.

Want more information?

Read ‘Teen Sex: By the Book’ by Patricia Weerakoon. Available from CEP: https://www.cepstore.com.au/teen-sex-by-the-book

 

 

[1] Watch this video clip: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=yPOSG5l_bY4

[2] Young, LJ, 2009, ‘Love: Neuroscience reveals all’, Nature, vol. 457, issue 7226, p. 148

[3] Fisher, HE; Aron, A & Brown, LL, 2006, ‘Romantic love: A mammalian brain system for mate choice’, Philosophical Transactions of the Royal Society B, issue 1476, pp. 2173–2186.

[4] Paik, A, 2011, ‘Adolescent sexuality and the risk of marital dissolution’, Journal of Marriage and Family, vol. 73, issue 2, pp. 472–485