A recent television program on teen-age sexuality reported that there is more sex, more pregnancy, more abortion, and fewer marriages today than ever before in history. More and more of today’s young people question traditional morality. Today premarital sexual activity is being judged not in terms of whether it is right or wrong, but whether it is a genuine expression of love that should be used in relationships. No longer do young people ask, “Is it right for us in our relationship?”
Before we view premarital sex, however, let us turn our attention to the form of sexual activity that precedes actual intercourse – the practice of “petting.” Petting includes a wide variety of body-exploring activities, and every group of young people seems to have its own definition of what constitutes light and heavy petting. But whatever its definition, petting in an activity that says something important. It goes a step beyond hugging and kissing but not as far as intercourse. When a couple engage in petting, they feel they are saying, “I love you and care about you. Someday our relationship may blossom into something more, but right now this is where things are.”
Petting, inside the bonds of marriage, is a beautiful experience. It is the natural expression of love called foreplay, which leads to sexual intercourse. What, then, is the difference between petting and foreplay?
Petting can be the exploration of each other’s body by two persons who do not intend for intercourse to occur. And that’s the trouble with petting. It doesn’t stand alone. It is designed to move on to something else. By itself, outside of marriage, it is more frustrating than satisfying.
Petting should never be viewed as an end in itself. It is a mistake to think of petting only as an adventure in the cool calculated exploration of another’s body. Petting involves emotions and passions that all too quickly send inner controls into oblivion. Petting is dangerously progressive. Next time you will want to go step further in order to get the same thrills you enjoyed last time.
Guys and Petting
Another interesting thing about petting If affects guys differently than girls. But since members of both sexes wear many masks, they often do not understand what the other is feeling. Society rears boys to feel differently about themselves – to be strong, tough, forceful, aggressive, and capable of functioning in many manly way. Being capable sexually is one of the most important tests of masculinity.
The male is stimulated sexually in ways that few females realize. He is more sex-driven than the female, and this holds true for him throughout life. Males are more visually oriented than females and have a stronger desire to prove their manhood than women do to prove their femininity. Peer pressure motivates many males to improve their position with the crowd, to accept a dare, to make out or whatever with a female. Some devious males play at love as though it were a contest, and therefore exploit women. Others use sex as a form of rebellion, to show superiority, or as a thrilling adventure.
Females and Petting
Males who do not really understand the female nature often assume that she is as eager to make out as they are. Actually, females respond much more slowly. It isn’t that a woman cannot respond; it is just that she takes longer. He responds more to physical factors, whereas she responds to emotional ones. So here we have a young man and a young woman involved in petting. He’s enjoying every minute of it and secretly hopes she’ll get carried away and give him what he really wants. She probably isn’t as aroused as he is. What she is enjoying is not the physical thrills as much as the felling of being “loved.”L
When women engage in petting activities, they usually do so for different reasons than does the male. Women pet more in order to get love, to gain popularity, to work out feelings of rebellion (particularly against parents), or to see how far they can do with a guy. Some one has described a smart woman as one who can hold a man at arm’s length without losing her grip on him. This can be difficult but possible.
How Far Is Too Far?
People are interesting. They are forever wanting to know how far they can go and still stay within the limits of propriety. Other than warnings against intercourse outside of marriage, the Bible never explains whether petting is right or wrong. But a few guidelines governing relationships with the opposite sex should enable us to make some judgments concerning our behavior.
1. Sexual intercourse for unmarried persons is condemned in the Bible. Check Acts 15:20, 29; Romans 1:29; 1 Cor. 6:13, 18; 2 Cor. 12:21; Eph. 5:3. Thirty-seven times in the Bible God excludes premarital sex from His plan for men and women. Therefore, if any of your petting activities lead to intercourse, you have gone too far.
2. You have gone too far if you unduly arouse sexual desires. Almost all guys have problems after prolonged kissing (especially “French kissing”), whether she realizes it or not. If the tension becomes so strong that your passions begin to dictate your actions, then you are in trouble.
3. If your conscience bothers you, you have gone too far. One of the functions of the Holy Spirit is to convict us of sin through our conscience. If your conscience tells you that something you are about to do is wrong and you do it anyway, then it becomes (or already is) a sin (see Romans 14:14, 23; 1 John 3:21).
4. You have gone too far when nudity is involved. In several places the Old Testament associates nakedness with illicit sexual conduct. If an unmarried couple remove their clothing or if they caress under the clothing, they have gone too far.
5. You have gone too far if it hurts your relationship. Petting can hurt your relationship by keeping you from developing the techniques necessary for getting and staying in touch with each other. Some couples have indulged so heavily in physical intimacies prior to marriage that they never could develop meaningful verbal communication. When petting gets going verbal communication shuts down.
Long before you ever caress the erotic areas of another person’s body, your total life experience has determined how far you will go. How do you feel about yourself? What takes first place in your life? What are your values? What goals have you set for your life? In short, the sum total of your character begins to emerge now. You have started to write your life story. Will the script glorify God?