(Photo: Reuters/Ueslei Marcelino)
TLC’s new television series “Virgin Diaries” has prompted many questions about what level of intimacy is appropriate between today’s unmarried Christian couples.
The premise of the show revolves around virgins who are past their mid-twenties, either by circumstance or by choice. Some of the content portrays the show’s participants in at times “toe curling awkwardness” as they navigate through an over-sexed society.
In the pilot episode of the series, the story of Christians Shanna and Ryan overshadowed every other participant on the show. The couple abstained from every sexual activity, including kissing until marriage, and shared an uncomfortable first kiss at their wedding ceremony.
“Virgin Diaries” brings to mind what choices teens and young adults today must make in their relationships, begging the question of what intimacy is appropriate for unwed Christian couples?
The Bible says in Ephesians 5:3, “But among you there must not be even a hint of sexual immorality, or of any kind of impurity… because these are improper for God’s holy people.”
Although the Bible does not specifically name activities, many pastors and Christian counselors strongly urge couples to not go beyond holding hands, hugging, and light kissing before marriage in order to avoid event a “hint” of sexual indiscretion.
Additionally, Romans 14:23 says, “But whoever has doubts is condemned if he eats, because the eating is not from faith. For whatever does not proceed from faith is sin.” The Biblical verse indicates that premarital sex must be avoided, but does not specifically address behaviors such as holding hands and kissing.
The Christian Post spoke with Dr. Andrew Boswell at the Family Dynamics Institute based in Franklin, Tenn., about what is appropriate behavior between unwed Christian couples. Dr. Boswell serves as the director of crisis marriage programs at the Institute and has counseled couples both before and after the commitment of marriage.
Dr. Boswell suggests that couples questioning what activities are acceptable ahead of marriage to ask, "what would Jesus want me to do?"
“The person in the relationship must ask themselves, ‘Is my relationship with God my primary relationship, or is my primary relationship with this person,’” explained the director.
Additionally, those who wait until marriage enjoy a tremendous level of sharing and exchange of trust.
“It may start off awkward in the marriage, but that’s ok, you have years ahead to perfect sexual relations,” said Dr. Boswell. “But before marriage, you still go through that with someone. With waiting, you go through it with your partner it’s exclusive and private, and yours as a couple, and neither one has shared with someone else, it’s really really special.”
Dr. Boswell also stressed that abstaining from sex is a way to show God your devotion to Him, which in turn, shows your future spouse the devotion you have for them.
Along with raising questions about sexual behavior ahead of marriage, “Virgin Diaries” has ignited responses from viewers and critics who accuse TLC of “intentionally patronizing” the show’s participants and shedding a poor light on abstinence. Adding to concerns that young viewers may be deterred from practicing abstinence, segments from “Virgin Dairies” have been featured on comedian Chelsea Handler’s television show as well on as on Ellen DeGeneres’ talk show, where scenes were cringed at and ridiculed.
Many viewers believe that the episode highlighted Shanna and Ryan’s awkward displays of affection and sincere thoughts on consummation, failing to portray the couple’s real story in “Virgin Diaries,” but TLC executive Timothy Kuryak refuted the charge on ABC News.
“We’re not trying to make light of this or treat it in a sort of trivial way,” explained the executive. “We want to document these peoples’ stories and why they make this decision.”
Kuryak continued, “Losing one’s virginity is a big life decision. It seemed like one of those seminal life moments that are interesting to follow to TLC. A lot of stories about later in life virgins talk about it like a problem. We want to show that it is something that can be celebrated.”
Dr. Jennifer Lander of BodyLogic MD spoke with FOX that the show could be beneficial for the image of celibacy.
“Celibacy is so rare these days, it could be refreshing,” said the Dr. Lander. “This will give other women who may be considering celibacy role models to look up to.”
Josh McDowell, evangelist and author of best-selling Why True Love Waits, wrote of the problems teens face today and of damaging consequences of premarital sex. McDowell includes the feelings of guilt, low self-esteem, and the disillusionment with sex that can occur with when one has sex before marriage.
“I don’t know any area where a man can demonstrate his love for his mate than demonstrating patience through sexual adjustment,” said McDowell in an audio clip found on his website.
“Any man or woman that goes into the commitment of marriage making the sexual adjustments together, they have a tremendous advantage in that relationship,” added the evangelist on the importance of waiting until marriage to have sex.
According to radio show host Dr. James Dobson’s Christian advice website, sexual activity ahead of marriage can be deadly to a relationship.
The Family Talk radio program host explained on the site, “In addition to the many moral, spiritual, and physical reasons for remaining virgins until marriage, there are numerous psychological and interpersonal advantages as well.”
The site noted the cultural image of abstinence, and emphasized why young people need to maintain their virginity before marriage.
“Though it's an old-fashioned notion, perhaps, it is still true that men do not respect ‘easy’ women and often become bored with those who have held nothing in reserve. Likewise, women often disrespect men who have only one thing on their minds,” wrote advisers on Family Talk’s website.