Last updated on August 29, 2020
Before I begin my question I will tell you about my sexual history, and how much I have changed. I fornicated once when I was about 14 years old, I am currently 19. When I fornicated I did it not because I wanted it so bad but because of peer pressure. And in a way, I did it because I was curious. I was not that close to God back then, and I knew it was bad, but I did it anyway. I did it with a prostitute. That was the only time I did it, and ever since I have gotten closer to God, and I kept myself pure for all these years. At first, I thought about fornicating some more, but then I changed my mind and tried to follow the path of God. I am very good at controlling my actions, but it is my thoughts and feelings that I can’t control very well. I used to watch pornography and I have been very good at not watching it. I admit that in my attempt to not watch it, I have failed a couple of times, but I have it under control now, and I have not watched it for some time. I have been invited to strip clubs, porn conventions, and parties where sin and lust are very present, and yet I have rejected them all. When someone invites me to these types of places I always find a way to avoid them. I had chances to go to places where there are girls who are willing to have sex, but I still avoided them. I know I can control myself and if a very attractive woman offered sex to me, I would be able to avoid it, yet I still do not go just in case the temptation is too strong for me to handle.
Now my problems are relationships. I have no idea why, but I get extremely aroused even if I just hold hands with a girl and kiss. I even get aroused when I talk to a girl I like over the phone — and we are not even talking dirty. I like showing affection and care for any girl I like so cuddling and kissing is a natural part of it, but even if I don’t touch her in a sexual way, every kind of physical contact I have with her feels sexual. I know deep inside my mind and heart that I would not fornicate, but for some reason, I get these desires and thoughts that suddenly pop up inside my head. You said that it is also a sin if I just think about it and that lust is a strong desire for sexual sin and the only reason why you have not done it is that you did not have the chance to do it. Even if I did have the chance, I would not do it because I am trying my best to keep myself pure until marriage.
So what am I supposed to do when my body reacts that way? If I could, I would not have these thoughts that pop up inside my head, but they do. I even get aroused when I see a girl that I am very attracted to.
We need to make a distinction between arousal, temptation, and lust. They are related ideas, but they are not the same thing.
Arousal is your body’s physical reaction to anything you think might be a sexual situation. Arousal is a fact of life for males from their teenage years to the end of their life. When you first started developing, your body had a new capability to have erections, but it did not know when that ability was to be applied. As a result, in the beginning, you had erections frequently for a variety of reasons, and some times for no particular reason at all. Over the years, that has become more finely tuned. You are at the point where your body responds when you are interested in a girl. As time goes on, if you continue to behave yourself, it will become even more narrowly focused on the woman you marry.
God made you with the desire for sex, expressed by your arousal, but Satan uses that desire as leverage to get you to sin. “But each one is tempted when he is drawn away by his own desires and enticed” (James 1:14). He sets up situations where you are tempted to follow through on your desires in ways that require you to break commandments of God. Being tempted to sin is not a sin. Just because you get aroused or a thought passes through your head that you could drop your pants and do more, that alone doesn’t constitute a sin. Satan wants you to sin, but he first has to get you to think about it.
“Then, when desire has conceived, it gives birth to sin; and sin, when it is full-grown, brings forth death” (James 1:15). The question is what you do with the temptation. You realize the danger of sexual temptation and have been avoiding most situations. Many guys don’t realize how strong the desire for sex is, or how strong arousal impacts the mind so that the person doesn’t think things through. So far, you’ve been rejecting the temptations Satan has offered you. But when a guy stops rejecting temptation and starts contemplating it, dwelling on the idea, finding excuses for why it wouldn’t be such a bad thing, or pushing his limits, so long as he doesn’t “cross the line,” then he has moved beyond temptation and is lusting for what Satan is offering him. “For from within, out of the heart of men, proceed evil thoughts, adulteries, fornications, murders, thefts, covetousness, wickedness, deceit, lewdness, an evil eye, blasphemy, pride, foolishness. All these evil things come from within and defile a man” (Mark 7:21-23). Lust, a strong desire to do what is sinful, then becomes a sin.
Notice the distinction. Lust is a strong desire to commit fornication. Arousal is just that your body wants sex. Temptation is the realization that you could get sex by breaking God’s laws. But then you choose to wait until marriage, and you don’t fall into lust. When a person is willing to have sex without waiting for marriage, then he has slipped into lust.
Guys ought to use their body’s reaction as an early warning signal that they are entering dangerous waters. It ought to be a signal that they need to be on their guard. That is why Solomon described the young man in Proverbs 7 as being naive. The young man didn’t pay attention to the many warning signs and got pulled into the trap of fornication.
One last point before I let you go. There were a few statements that cause me to wonder if you are focusing on avoiding fornication but forgetting that this isn’t the only way to sin sexually. You talked about cuddling with girls, and stated, “even if I don’t touch her in a sexual way.” Depending on how that is read, it could mean that you sometimes do get involved in sexual touching. “Now concerning the things of which you wrote to me: It is good for a man not to touch a woman” (I Corinthians 7:1). Paul wasn’t talking about holding hands, but touching with the intent of arousing sexual passion in another person. In a similar way, you said, “and we are not even talking dirty,” which can mean that sometimes you do talk dirty with girls. “But fornication and all uncleanness or covetousness, let it not even be named among you, as is fitting for saints; neither filthiness, nor foolish talking, nor coarse jesting, which are not fitting, but rather giving of thanks” (Ephesians 5:3-4).
I want you to focus on getting to know a woman without having sexual issues get in your way. Once sex becomes a focus, it dominates the relationship and you lose. Perhaps that is why your relationships so far haven’t been as stable as you want. Focus on getting to know a girl, finding out if you like her as a person. Sure your body is going to get aroused at times, but don’t let that become the center of your relationship. Kissing and cuddling don’t tell you a thing about whether the other person will make a good companion. “Yet she is your companion and your wife by covenant” (Malachi 2:14). When you are looking for a wife, you are looking for a companion — a best friend.
I have not done the actions you think that I may have done, but they have crossed my mind. My concern is that I am scared of being in a relationship with an attractive woman because I am scared of my lust or have sexual thoughts. I feel that I can’t handle being with an attractive female and that either I stay single or I should only date women who I am not physically attracted to. My problem is not the act of fornication, I can control my actions pretty well, or at least I never put myself in such situations in which I may be tempted to commit sin. My problem here is that I cannot control my mind. I never had problems controlling my actions, but it is my thoughts that I cannot control. I am making a serious commitment to saving myself until marriage, which I have successfully done for several years now. I never involve myself in sexual touching with intentions to arouse myself or another person. In fact, I don’t think I have done more than putting my hands in a woman’s posterior. The times I have done that are in public places because I have seen a lot of people do it. But other than that I have never touched a female’s sexual organs or breasts, I have never been naked in front of a woman and I never had a woman naked in front of me and I have never let any female touch my sexual organs besides that one time I told you about that I sinned.
I read some of the questions you have answered on your web site, and I am still confused about something. When Paul said that it is best for a man not to touch a female was he saying that it is a sin to do so or was he saying that it is not convenient to do so? I am also wondering if it would be a sin to gently rub a girl’s legs in a public place like a beach or something, in a place where I can’t possibly fornicate because there are people around? Is that a sin even though I do not think about having intercourse or any form of sexual contact with her?
I’m glad that it was just the way things were worded, but I wanted to make sure rather than miss mentioning something that needed to be brought up.
In regards to your thoughts, if you are aiming to never think about sex, then that is not possible. It would mean that you would never be tempted and Satan isn’t going to bypass an opportunity. You can control your thoughts by determining not to dwell on in proper ideas. “But also for this very reason, giving all diligence, add to your faith virtue, to virtue knowledge, to knowledge self-control, to self-control perseverance, to perseverance godliness, ...” (II Peter 1:5-6). It seems to me that you are well aware of the potential dangers. But you have put a standard on yourself that cannot be met because it is out of your control. You know lustful thoughts are wrong, so continue not to give in to them. But do not let your fear of what might happen to stop you from finding a wife. “It is not good that man should be alone” (Genesis 2:18). Don’t choose a woman for her looks, but for her friendship. Looks are a secondary matter. Who she is is everything, so focus on that.
In regards to touching, the wording is done so that people don’t declare it to be a sin just because you brush by a woman in a crowded hallway. It is sinful to touch another person, whom you are not married to, in a way that rouses sexual passion. It doesn’t matter whether that passion is roused in you or the other person. The reason it is wrong is that it stirs a lust for something that cannot be fulfilled because you are not married.