When Is Sex Not Sex?
by Willie and Elaine Oliver
Many teens at my church are saying that oral sex is not sex. I am family ministries leader at my church, and I feel responsible for having a discussion on this topic with the youth. Please help me.
This is a serious question that deserves a delicate and careful response.
First, to engage in a conversation about sexuality with teens at your church, you must make sure that their parents are aware of what will be discussed, and have consented in writing for their children to participate—especially if the youth involved are not yet 18.
Second, you must make sure that the person leading the discussion is someone trusted and respected by your congregation, and has been approved by your church board. Having said that, we support you in your desire to encourage your congregation to engage in this conversation with your youth.
We are aware that many young people, even Christian young people, believe that oral sex is not really sex. They believe it is an activity in which they can participate because it is not intercourse, and they can still remain “virgins.” To be sure, according to a recent groundbreaking study by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, more than 50 percent of 15- to 19-year olds in the United States are involved in this type of activity.
Psychologists and mental health professionals, however, believe that this kind of behavior among teens demonstrates their lack of understanding about the connection between intimate sexual behavior and emotional health, putting them at risk for being in emotionally warped relationships as adults.
It is important for Christian parents to understand that they cannot afford to not talk with their youth about sexuality. Sexuality is a gift from God that can only be enjoyed to the fullest when we follow God’s instructions. For this to happen, parents must come to grips with their own sexuality and develop a level of comfort with this topic for the sake of their children.
The earlier children are taught about healthy sexuality by their parents, the better their chances for developing a healthy, God-directed approach to sexuality by the time they are teens. To increase their knowledge of this topic, and to have a framework for this discussion from a Christian perspective, we recommend the book Human Sexuality by Karen and Ron Flowers, which can be purchased through AdventSource (1-800-328-0525 or at www.adventsource.org).
The apostle Paul outlines in 1 Corinthians 7 that God’s plan for sexuality is in the context of marriage. In this relationship of mature commitment and devotion to only one other individual, sexual relations of any kind be appropriately managed.
We hope you will trust God to lead you as you take on difficult subjects with your church family. When we safeguard the youth of the church, we also protect the future of the church. We are praying for you.
Willie Oliver, PhD, CFLE, an ordained minister and family sociologist, is director for the Department of Family Ministries at the world headquarters of the Seventh-day Adventist Church.
Elaine Oliver, MA, CFLE, an educator and counseling psychologist, is associate director for the Department of Family Ministries at the world headquarters of the Seventh-day Adventist Church. Address your questions to them at family.adventist.org.