Every year we dedicate a series of messages to the subject of dating, love, sex, relationships, marriage and stuff like that. We change up the “theme” and write new material and include new voices every year. Currently, we’re a few weeks into our series called “Uncovered” and on the first Sunday of the series, we passed around “anonymous surveys” about sexual opinions and experiences.
We asked our students to list NO names, only check a box indicating their gender. In addition, we specifically asked them not to lie or make crap up because it would not help us and we’d rather they didn’t fill it out if they couldn’t be honest. Then we then had them fill out the survey, fold it in half, and then give it back.
Here’s the exact list of 11 Questions. The first 10 are Y/N and the last one was multiple choice:
- Have you ever viewed porn videos, websites or pictures?
- Have you been part to an explicitly sexual conversation w/friends?
- Has a parental figure ever discussed the issues of sexuality w/you?
- Have you had an intimate kiss?
- Do you feel it is alright to “make out” with someone outside a boyfriend/girlfriend situation?
- Do you feel it is alright to “make out” with someone if you are in a boyfriend/girlfriend situation?
- Do you feel it is alright to explore one another’s bodies “above the belt” within a boyfriend/girlfriend relationship?
- Do you feel it is alright to be in a sexual relationship with “someone you love” outside of marriage?
- Have you had sexual intercourse?
- Have you been involved in sexual activites “below the belt” but not to the point of actual intercourse?
- I feel same-sex sexually active relationships are: God’s plan for some __ A sin____ Not sure___ Great if monogamous ___
Today I tallied the results. We had a total of 44 high school women and 39 high school guys fill out the survey (so 83 total) on one Sunday morning in Encounter on April 27, 2014. You can download the results here if you want.
As I tallied this stuff up, I discovered some things you’d expect and some you probably wouldn’t. But here’s the stuff that wrenched my gut and keeps me up at night. Don’t forget, this is ONE survey of ONE high school youth group on ONE Sunday morning. Students who came to church at 9 or 11am on a single weekend. That’s limiting your audience by a lot and “ruining” all statistics for “the big picture” of teens in our culture. But it’s enough to give me a reality check in my own ministry.
If you attend JCC, here you go. If you don’t, you might do this in your own youth group. Here’s my reminders:
PORN IS TAINTING EVERYONE’S VIEW OF SEXUALITY: This is no news flash. But statistically speaking, 79 % of the men compared to 36% of my women admitted to seeing it. I constantly talk with guys who have computers in their room, cell phones with no limitations, and access to porn with great ease. LONG gone are the days when you have to hunt for it. It’s teaching women they are a sexual commodity and reminding men that they are visually stimulated and should enjoy that. It is creating false expectations, decreasing men’s ability to have healthy social relationships with women, and telling lies about what sex could or even should be about.
EVERYTHING IS RELATIVE TO TEENS TODAY- ESPECIALLY SEXUALITY: The survey is all over the map. One person will say that sex outside of marriage is wrong, but it’s ok to be sexually active below the belt as long as intercourse is not involved. 85% of them will make out with someone they’re dating and almost 1/2 of those women will also let that guy explore their breasts. At least 25% of them will sleep with you if they think they’re “in love”. They are all over the map on same sex attraction and tons of them are just plain confused. Really, there’s no rhyme nor reason to these decisions. It’s not like you can find a trend in these surveys or interview a student and get a logical formula for these decisions. Many of the students I work with are arbitrarily picking values based on culture, upbringing, desires, and whatever feels right at the time.
MY GIRLS ARE TWICE AS SEXUALLY ACTIVE AS MY GUYS. Yup. You read that correctly. 30% of my girls have had sex with a guy and 41% of them have done just about all but had intercourse. Compare that to only 15% and 23% of my guys respectively. What does this mean? I don’t know what it means in your context but I I’ll bet you my right arm in my context it’s tied to three things.
1. PORN IS ENOUGH FOR GUYS. they’re not sexually active because they’re visually stimulated and porn pseudo fills a need. It’s a lie. But it does. My girls are not visually stimulated. They are not interested in 2 dimensional intimacy and are not fooled by it. They are hungry for affection and love and will give up a lot to a guy who claims to love her. She wants a love that is real and many believe they’ve found it at some point.
2. FATHERS ARE ABSENT AND OUR GIRLS FEEL IT. It’s not on my survey, but it probably should have been. If you ask the 40% of girls who have been sexually active below the belt, either with or without intercourse, my bet is that a HIGH percentage of them will also tell you they do not get love, affection, or regular time with their earthly father. It starts at puberty in middle school with girls and everything changes. When they need affection the most, even a present Dad often gets weird about it and subtly stops showing the same level of affection. Then, by the time she’s 16, Dad is so emotionally distant from her that she’ll go looking in any guy who can fill the role. She looks for one who is strong, provides for her, tells her she’s pretty, and even buys her meals. He becomes her provider and when he tells her she’s beautiful, she hasn’t heard it in so long that she’ll give him anything she can- sexually or otherwise to keep his love that she so desperately needs.
3. MANY OF MY WOMEN ARE DATING GUYS WHO ARE DISTANT FROM GOD. Part of the reason why our guys numbers are so much different is because in our youth ministry, many of the women are dating guys who have no theological center. They are not active in their faith, don’t attend our youth ministry or any other, and despite invitations from their dates, will still remain distant from God. Nonetheless, they fall in love with the girls and they make excuses for him. He does all the providing and “nice guy” stuff I listed above, and she justifies her love by seeking to satisfy his sexual desires. So, in the search for love, 41% of them gotten as naked as you can without “going all the way”.
SO WHAT DO I DO? What do we do?
SAY NO TO SHAME: you’re not going to guilt teens or shame people into following Jesus. I really have no interest in correcting some “moral standard” that is outside of God’s grace anyway. I have cried and prayed over these stats, but I’m not going to beat students up with them. One of my favorite verses in all the scriptures is the pre-fall truth that Genesis 2:25 records: Adam and Eve were both naked and they felt no shame. I think students need a better view of sexuality, not a more shame filled one. Healthy sexual expression is just that… it is healthy. I’m going to lead them to fresh water as best I can.
INVITE AND WALK WITH STUDENTS BACK TO JESUS: I think it all boils down to, “Do I want to honor God in all I do?” If the answer is yes, then the rest will follow. I will continue to invite students to ask themselves “Did I follow Jesus into where I am now?” If the answer is yes, they it should be good regardless of the subject we’re asking the question about. If however, the answer is no, then the only question remaining is “Will I follow Jesus out of where I am?” I’m committed to walking with students in this, regardless of their answers.
SAY THE HARD STUFF: I will continue to confront both the men and the women in my ministry with the love of God. I will not sit idly by while this culture destroys the dating and sexual experiences of the teens I work with. I won’t be the quiet observer. I won’t be the angry yeller. But I will be the firm reminder, that there is a better way. I don’t need to be a teen’s best friend. But I refuse to let the pursuit of wanting to be liked turn my pastoral and even parental voice mute. Sometimes, I have to ask questions or make observations that make me uncomfortable.
RAISE UP MEN AND WOMEN TO WALK WITH THIS GENERATION: Calling all the Adults around me. It’s game on. This generation needs your wisdom and your presence. It’s time to step up our game.