a note to parents
In Every Young Woman’s Battle,
we discuss sexual purity from emotional, mental, spiritual, and physical perspectives, teaching readers to guard their minds, hearts, and bodies in this sex-saturated world. We do so using very frank, contemporary language, writing especially for young women in their teens to early twenties.
Perhaps you are wondering how frank we’ve been or if this book is appropriate for your daughter at this point in her life. If she regularly watches television, listens to pop music, or reads teen magazines, nothing in this book will be too graphic or shocking for her. Our goal is to present a credible, helpful, Christian perspective on the images your daughter is exposed to every day.
If, on the other hand, you believe she is already committed to sexual purity, or you fear that a frank discussion on the topic may be inappropriate for her, we encourage you to review Every Young Woman’s Battle
before passing it on to your daughter. We have made every effort to address sensitive issues with tact and respect, emphasizing God’s desire that young women live with sexual integrity. Our commitment to helping young women requires us to be honest and open with them, and we hope that our doing so will pave the way for your daughter to make many healthy choices about her sexuality.Chapter One
daring to be truthful
If you hold to my teaching, you are really my disciples. Then you will know the truth, and the truth will set you free. -- John 8:31-32
Truth or dare. You’ve probably played this game with girlfriends at a slumber party or perhaps been warned by your parents not to play it at all. It’s a game where you agree to do anything another player dares you to do, regardless of how embarrassing or disgusting it may be, or else to tell the absolute truth in response to a particular question, regardless of how private or humiliating your answer may be.
As a young girl, I never opted out of playing such games. It never even occurred to me I had a choice. My friends dared me to do some ridiculous things–eat a ketchup, mustard, and mayonnaise sandwich; drink a Dr. Pepper as fast as possible and then burp as loudly as I could in front of my friend’s older brother; and passionately kiss my stuffed monkey while my friend took a Polaroid picture. But I usually took the dare because I didn’t want to answer questions such as these: Who do you think is the cutest boy in school? How many boys have you kissed? How far have you ever gone with a boy? Eating something gross or making an idiot out of myself was easy compared to telling the truth about certain things.
Sometimes the truth hurts, and it’s much easier if we can keep it hidden. As a matter of fact, sometimes the secrets we harbor are so painful that we don’t want to face them ourselves. We assume that these secrets will go away if we don’t think or talk about them with anyone. But the opposite is true. Shameful secrets fester like a splinter in a finger, and it’s much better to name the secret and to let someone help us remove it from our lives so the wound will heal.
You will read many stories in this book from young women (ages twelve to twenty) who have courageously done just that. They’ve dared to tell the truth about their battle to guard their minds, hearts, and bodies from sexual sin. We hope that you will learn some lessons the easy way and avoid making mistakes of your own, or that you will recognize the truth about any struggles you are currently facing in your battle for sexual purity and understand how you can overcome them.
IGNORANCE IS NOT A VIRTUE
You may find some of the stories in this book eyeopening or surprising. Please know that we are not trying to shock, disgust, or defile* you in any way. We want you to be wise to the ways of the world so you can guard yourself against them. Ignorance is not a spiritual gift, nor is it a virtue. You can be wise and
innocent at the same time, and we intend to prepare you to make responsible decisions if and when temptations come across your path. Also, don’t assume that the temptations we’ll be discussing won’t come to call in your life. The apostle Paul wrote:
So, if you think you are standing firm, be careful that you don’t fall!…
Therefore, prepare your minds for action; be self-controlled.… Do not
conform to the evil desires you had when you lived in ignorance. But
just as he who called you is holy, so be holy in all you do; for it is written:
“Be holy, because I am holy.”… Among you there must not be even a
hint of sexual immorality.” (1 Corinthians 10:12; 1 Peter 1:13-16;
Let’s peek into the private lives of some of your peers who were brave enough to tell the truth about their battles for sexual purity.
MOLLY ’S PRIVATE WAR
Molly’s struggle began when she stumbled upon a pornographic television show and later chose to stumble onto it again…and again…and again.
–to corrupt one’s purity
I know that it was wrong and that everyone messes up big time, but I still feel bad, mainly because I not only exposed myself to pornography,* but I also exposed two of my very best friends. One of them was a good enough friend to me to confess to her parents what we had done. My parents were extremely upset, and I don’t blame them. They even helped me by having someone change the television settings so that nothing pornographic comes in now, and that channel is blank.
I was fine for a while and tried very hard to forget what I saw, which worked for the most part. But recently I have developed a habit of masturbating† to these images and cannot stop. I know this is wrong, and I feel
dirty and guilty. I have confessed my sins to God, but that doesn’t seem to be enough. I don’t want anyone to find out, because I know that they would be disgusted and disappointed in me.
We’re sure that if Molly had known how addicting pornography can be, she would have avoided it altogether. If either pornography or habitual masturbation have become problems in your life, this book will help you break free from these habits that hinder your sexual integrity and spiritual peace.
LAUREN’S PRIVATE WAR
Lauren attended a sexuality conference when she was in junior high and made a pledge to remain sexually abstinent until marriage. Now in high school, she is disheartened by the choices her friends are making and can’t help but wonder if it’s realistic for her to maintain her pledge.
I went to a dance at my school and most of my friends were freak dancing, moving around like they were having sex with their clothes on, and doing nasty stuff with each other–girls with guys, girls with girls, anything goes.
–material that graphically demonstrates sexually erotic behavior
–touching one’s own genitals in order to cause self-arousal
Everyone looked like they were having so much fun, and they kept telling me to lighten up and join the party. Also, a couple of my girlfriends accepted a dare to perform oral sex* on some guys in the back of the bus–and now those girls are really
popular with the guys. I try to remind myself that they are popular for the wrong reasons, but sometimes I wonder if I’m being too prudish and am missing out on all the fun it seems that everyone else is having.
We know many of you reading this book want to maintain sexual purity, but like Lauren, you feel all alone in your desire and are wondering if it’s even possible.
Don’t be discouraged. It’s not only possible, but we believe you’ll agree that it’s much better to wait to enjoy sex according to God’s perfect plan–in marriage someday–than to engage in sexual activities as if they’re just another recreational hobby. Keep reading and we’ll show you exactly how you can do just that.
EMMA’S PRIVATE WAR
Emma was daring enough to share the truth about her struggles in hopes of encouraging other young women to avoid the mistakes she made. She felt very insecure in her early teens and believed something was wrong with her because guys never seemed attracted to her. Even though she had good relationships with her parents, she wanted to be pursued by a young man. In order to make herself look more like the popular girls at school, she started dieting and exercising to lose weight.
It didn’t take long for my weight loss obsession to turn into a serious eating disorder. I felt desperate for boys to notice my slender body, and I craved compliments like crazy. When a guy did compliment me, it puffed me up with pride and I felt like I was really something. I would hang around him more as some sort of “payment” for the attention he gave me as well as a “security deposit” so that he’d keep the compliments coming. I’d also flirt by linking arms with him buddy-style, bumping into him on purpose, or leaning up against him.
* oral sex
–placing one’s mouth on the partner’s genital area for sexual stimulation
Over the next three years I got into a couple of relationships that I thought were serious, but the guys weren’t so serious. I gave these guys all I had, including my body, but eventually I got dumped for the next girl.
Every time I experienced another breakup, I wondered what was wrong with me. Why didn’t he want me anymore? Was I not attractive enough? Was I still too fat? Abusing my body and giving it away was how I tried to get the attention and affirmation I wanted from a guy, but what I got was never enough.
The battle to be thin enough, as well as the battle to get your emotional needs met by any boyfriend, can seem like a never-ending one. If you’ve found yourself craving a relationship so much that you engage in behaviors you are not proud of, this book is for you. It will help you gain a healthy balance between your natural, God-given desire to be loved and your ability to avoid sexually tempting situations. As a matter of fact, I wish I had known the information in this book when I was your age and fighting my own battles.
SHANNON’S PRIVATE WAR
If anyone had asked me when I was twelve if I wanted to remain a virgin until marriage, I would have said, “Of course I do!”
At thirteen, I would have said, “I think so.”
By fourteen, I would have replied, “Maybe.”
At age fifteen, my response would have been, “I don’t see how that is possible.”
Unfortunately, my innocence became just a memory that year. I was date raped, which I never told anyone about for fear that I would be blamed. I had, after all, flirted with this eighteen-year-old boy to get his attention and had agreed to spend time alone with him behind my parents’ back, so I mistakenly said nothing. Because I kept this secret, no one helped me heal from the abuse or told me I was still a virgin in God’s eyes. (We’ll talk more about the nature of virginity in the next chapter.)
A few months later, my parents allowed me to begin dating. Because I believed that my virginity had already been stolen from me, I didn’t feel I had a reason to withhold my body from most of the young men I dated. Sex became a routine part of my romantic relationships–the price that I felt I must pay for the attention and affection that I craved. This is one of the reasons I want you to read this book. I want you to have information I did not have. I also want you to live without secrets and to be open about who you are and how you feel about boys and what they want to do with you.
NO EXEMPTIONS FROM SEXUAL TEMPTATION
As you read about the darker side of my younger days, you might think I was a messed-up girl from a dysfunctional home and a bad neighborhood, or that I wasn’t a Christian, or that I wasn’t too smart.
I grew up in rural Northeast Texas with educated, middle-class parents who were faithfully married to each other. My family lived in a modest home in the country where safety was never an issue. Mother took me to church regularly, and I confirmed my belief in Jesus Christ at the age of twelve. I even served as president of my youth group for several years. I got straight As in high school and went on to graduate from college.
As my life shows, you don’t have to be messed up or even come from a messed-up family to make irresponsible decisions that will mess up your life. Not even “good Christian girls” are exempt from sexual temptations. Not even you.
What would cause someone like you or your friends to go from saving herself for her Prince Charming to kissing toads? Is it possible to climb out of the toad swamp once you are in it? Is this a war that can even be won? If so, how?
This book answers these questions. It will show you how you can maneuver through the minefield of youth without losing the battle for sexual and emotional integrity. If you can avoid the land mines and be victorious in the battle, you will be more likely to enter your adult years with confidence and purpose. Your life will be free of desperation, and you will make great choices for your future. The world can be yours, but first learn more about the intensity of your own private battle by answering yes or no to the following questions.
1. Do you watch television shows or movies with sexual jokes or graphic sex scenes?
2. Does the music you listen to talk blatantly of sexual desires outside of marriage?
3. Do you ever act overly friendly or seductively* to get a guy’s attention?
4. Do thoughts of having or keeping a boyfriend consume your mind to the point that you find it difficult to concentrate on anything else for any length of time?
5. Are you looking for or entertaining the idea of a serious romantic relationship even though it will be several years before you are ready to get married?
6. Do you habitually masturbate to pleasure yourself sexually or as a means of resisting sexual involvement with others?
7. Do you consider oral sex or other sexual activities okay because they’re not vaginal sex and you can’t get pregnant from them?
8. Do you feel that your virginity has been stolen from you?
9. Do you feel as if you are “damaged goods” that a “respectable guy” wouldn’t want?
10. Do you believe it is ever okay for a couple to live together even though they are not married?
11. Do you believe it is ever okay for a couple to have sex before marriage?
12. Have you ever lied to your parents about where you were going or whom you were with because you knew they wouldn’t approve if you told the truth?
13. Would you lie to your parents in order to go out with a particular guy you liked a lot if you knew you could get away with it?
14. Have you ever made out with a guy just because it seemed like the thing to do?
15. Are you anxious to get out from under the control of your parents and gain your freedom to pursue any relationship you want?
16. Do you go into Web sites or chat rooms that you know your parents would not approve of ?
–in an alluring or sexually tempting manner
17. Have you ever given your phone number or physical address to a stranger you were flirting with over the Internet without your parents’ knowledge?
18. Have you set rules or guidelines for your behavior or your relationships that you’ve already broken?
19. Do you hide certain things, such as steamy love letters, magazines, or videos?
20. Do you envision that getting married someday will be the answer to all of your problems and relieve you of your sexual and emotional temptations?
Which questions did you mark yes? Each one reveals a potential pitfall that makes you more likely to give in to sexual temptation when it arises. Whether you are just entering puberty and new to this struggle or an experienced young adult, you can design a rock-solid defense to avoid becoming a casualty of this war.
Whether you are sexually pure, hanging on to your virginity by a thread, or sleeping with a guy, you can maintain and/or reclaim your sexual integrity not just throughout your youth, but throughout your whole life. Recognizing and understanding what kind of things can cause every woman, regardless of her age or marital status, to stumble and fall into sexual temptation is the key. By learning to guard your mind, heart, and body against sexual compromise and understanding God’s plan for your sexual and emotional fulfillment, you can maneuver your way through your teenage years with grace…and without regrets.
As you begin to understand this gift of sexuality more fully, you will be able to dispel some of the myths that can keep you entrenched in this battle. The coming chapters will help you
• understand the complexity of your sexuality and what part your emotions play in the battle;
• recognize the myths about sexuality that dominate our culture and how they can affect your sexual beliefs and choices;
• embrace sexual purity as a preferred lifestyle, not just physically, but mentally, emotionally, and spiritually as well;
• enjoy healthy, satisfying relationships with yourself, God, and others;
• find the love that you are looking for without looking in the wrong places or placing unrealistic expectations on your boyfriend or future husband;
• feel good about yourself not just for a moment but for the rest of your life.
If you have been successful in overcoming temptations thus far, praise God for His protection, and prepare for further victory. If you have given in to any of these temptations, if you wonder why you feel so disconnected from God, or if you feel anxious about your present or future relationships, this book could be your pathway to peace.
Our prayer is that you will find wisdom, courage, hope, and strength to face and win
the battle for sexual and emotional integrity.
He holds victory in store for the upright, he is a shield to those whose walk is blameless, for he guards the course of the just and protects the way of his faithful ones. Then you will understand what is right and just and fair–every good path. For wisdom will enter your heart, and knowledge will be pleasant to your soul. Discretion will protect you, and understanding will guard you.
Excerpted from Every Young Woman's Battle by Shannon Ethridge and Stephen Arterburn. Copyright © 2004 by Shannon Ethridge and Stephen Arterburn. Excerpted by permission of WaterBrook Press, a division of Random House, Inc. All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.