What Teens Should Know about Sex
"Friends with benefits" is a popular phrase to describe causal sex between friends that don't consider themselves to be in a traditional boyfriend/girlfriend relationship. It's a fling, and according to Teen Mania Ministries founder Ron Luce's new book, it's commonly accepted among pre-teens and high schoolers as valid behavior.
Luce recently spoke with CBN.com about his book, Friends Without Benefits, what teenagers should know about sex, and how parents can effectively talk with their kids about it.
CBN.com: What caused you to recognize that “friends with benefits” was an issue that you needed to address in a book?”
Ron Luce: I was in the process of writing a sex book. As you can tell, there are a lot of other topics in the book besides “friends with benefits”. But we realized as we were polling kids how widespread this is and how ubiquitous. It’s not a foreign topic anywhere you go in the country with kids. It’s like the elephant in the room that no one’s talking about. We need to talk about it. We need to get it out in the open. We need to let parents know about these tendencies. But we also need to let kids know what the other side looks like. Letting kids tell the stories of what happened to them hopefully will be like a big, yellow flag: “Stop. Stop, don’t go there!”
CBN.com: Friends Without Benefits highlights comments from teens about sex. Are these excerpts word-for-word what they submitted?
Luce: It’s word-for-word, with kids from all over the country about all the different topics… what virgins say about sex, what do experienced people say about sex, what do porn users say about sex, what do confused people say about sex... what do people who waited till they were married to have sex have to say about sex. So what we’re doing is trying to educate kids from people’s perspective. Then, of course, ultimately what does God say about sex, the inventor of sex, and from a biblical point of view why God put it there. Of course, you have a chapter of what parents say about sex. That’s a blank chapter, because they didn’t say much.
CBN.com: For someone who has no idea about God or is an atheist or an agnostic, how can they apply what you suggest in this book to their life?
Luce: If you want to know how something was intended to be used, you go back to the person who invented that. The inventor always knows the best way to use the thing even if you don’t believe that he invented it. Even if you don’t believe in God or that God created sex or mankind, His ways are best. In fact, look at some of the data that we’ve sited in the book, for example, when scientists poll who has the best sex life. It’s not the people that are sleeping around with a million people. It’s not the guy that can have any women that he wants. It’s the people that have been married over the course of a lifetime and that have been married a long time. They have sex more often and they have more satisfying sex lives. It’s not the people that lived together. So what do you know, God’s plan actually is the best. Even data from scientists now verify that.
CBN.com: What about the thought that waiting till after marriage is unrealistic, outdated, and old-fashioned?
Luce: I think it’s interesting that you can teach a dog not to go to the bathroom on the house, but you can’t teach young people the wisdom of holding their sexual purity until they’re married. It’s just dumbing down young people, not respecting them enough to think that a dog can have more self control than a teenager. It’s ridiculous.
CBN.com: The book has an entire chapter about the animal kingdom. Why?
Luce: There are a lot of different examples of sex in the animal kingdom, some of them which are very funny: the preying mantis that eats the head of her husband as soon as they’re done. But the fact is that animals run their lives off of instinct. So Fifi can go down the road and have sex with Fido and his brother and his dad and not feel bad about it. It’s just instinct. A lion can go and kill an antelope and not feel bad, “Oh, no. I wonder if he had brothers and everybody’s sad.” He doesn’t feel bad; it’s instinct. And we kind of get this thought, at least for guys, “Well, guys got our instincts. A man’s go to do what a man’s go to do.” So we run our lives by instincts like animals? No, we’re not in the animal class. We’re in the God class. We’re made in God’s image, and with that He’s given us a moral code that some things are right; some things are wrong, even if you don’t believe it. It’s still true. Even if you don’t believe there’s a God, it’s still true. And when break the moral code, consequences happen. So Fifi doesn’t get her heart broken, but guys and girls do all the time. You break the moral code. God says this is the way sex was intended to be used. We get diseases. We get unwanted pregnancies and people without their moms and dads and growing up in a dysfunctional home. Dogs don’t have that problem. So we’re in a different class with a moral code, because we were created in the image of God.
CBN.com: What about those teens who have gone down that road? How can they turn around?
Luce: If they’ve gone down this road, they know the brokenness. There’s forgiveness; there’s restoration. God puts us back together. We put a commitment form in the back of the book where you can commit your heart and your mind and your body. It’s not just your body, but you’ve got to think about your heart and your mind. You don’t let yourself go there. Let God make you new in your heart again, and start from this point on living pure, reestablishing the value of your own sexual worth, and your own value as a human being, and that you’re worth waiting for, and you’re worth giving your body away only on that day of your marriage.
CBN.com: How do teens in relationships who want to stay pure keep that code. Where is the line?
Luce: First of all, let me say a word to parents. I have two girls and a boy, and what I did is I dated my daughters all the time, spent a lot of time with them, hung out and had fun. When girls have a lot of wholesome affection with their dad, they don’t crave unwholesome affection from a guy. So moms, dads, we need to be spending the time.
Now kids that have messed up… You don’t have to have a girlfriend or boyfriend in order to have a great teen life. [My daughters] went out with groups and did fun things and went on mission trips and events with friends, but they weren’t stuck to one guy the whole time. Never had one boyfriend [during high school] and never missed it. So you don’t have to buy the lie that the media sends that if you don’t have a boyfriend or girlfriend that you’re going have a lame teenage life. No, there are a lot of great things to do, and it’s actually smarter to not get involved emotionally and just have a lot of fun and not just save your body, but save your heart for the person you marry.
CBN.com: For parents who have questionable pasts, how can that help or hinder open communication with their children about sex?
Luce: One of the things parents are afraid to do is bring up the topic because of their own past because then the kids are going to say, “We’ll what about you?” So they don’t bring up the topic at all. At some point, we’ve got to be honest enough as we’re talking about things to admit our profuse regret for things that we did and how that messed us up. I know parents that have been very, very honest with their kids like this, and you think, “Oh, no, it’s going to give kids a license to do it: ‘My parents did it so I can do it,’ but I’ve seen plenty of examples where it does not do that at all. It actually helps the kids see the authenticity there, so there’s not this fakeness between them and their parents and that there’s true regret there because of the consequences, whatever they may have been, mental or physical, and that they’re sharing that with their kids out of hope that they wouldn’t have to bear those consequences too.
CBN.com: During your research for the book, what did you discover about the use of pornography amongst teens?
Luce: Oh, it’s like living in Los Angeles and trying not to breathe smog. Pornography is everywhere. It’s not like when we were kids if you wanted to sneak that magazine. About 90 percent of boys, 70 percent of girls see pornography. Almost 80 percent of teens across the board have seen multiple examples of hardcore porn on the Internet. So we need to be smart as parents, make sure we’ve got protection on our computers, on our iPhones, and iPads, and anything that kids have access to or you have access to.
But it’s not just hardcore porn. It’s soft-core or R-rated movies. Do we want the world telling our kids what sex is about? Let’s be smart about what might accidentally, our kids might stumble into. Ninety percent of kids online get an unwanted sexual solicitation. Twelve- to seventeen-year-olds are the largest viewers of porn. It’s not the dirty old men; it’s teenagers. So yeah, it’s messing up their minds right now, and there are a lot of physiological things that actually happen in their mind as a result. These kids are getting married at 20, 21, 22, and now they can’t have a normal sex life with the person that they marry because they’ve seen so much porn. So it’s not just, “Oh, you shouldn’t look at that”; there are real consequences.