March 18, 2009
Advocates of so-called “comprehensive sex education” have tried to convince us that kids should be taught in the classroom simply the basic scientific facts about sex, with no values getting in the way. But a new book tells us that science actually demonstrates just how much we need values in the sexual realm.
In Hooked: New Science on How Casual Sex Is Affecting Our Children, Doctors Joe McIlhaney and Freda McKissic Bush explain how kids are being taught that there are only two major risks that come with sex: pregnancy and sexually transmitted diseases.
But they’re not being taught about another major risk that can’t be reduced with birth control or vaccines. This risk has to do with the impact of sexual behavior on the brain—an impact that’s always been very real, but one that “scientists are only just now beginning to be able to see and understand.”
Of course, we’ve known for a long time that “misused” sex, as McIlhaney and Bush put it, can have serious emotional and psychological consequences—especially for young people. But it seems these consequences aren’t always taken seriously by those who encourage the recreational use of sex.
McIlhaney and Bush note that such people tend to “minimize” the emotional effects of extramarital sex because it doesn’t fit with their theories about teen sexuality. But with new scientific evidence showing that sexual activity has a demonstrable physical effect on the brain, they may not any longer have any choice but to take it seriously.
The authors put it this way: “Our decision-making ability, coming from the highest centers of the brain, can guide an individual to the most rewarding sexual behavior—unless bad programming from premature and unwise sexual behavior during the adolescent years has occurred, causing the brain formation for healthy decision making to be damaged.”
As the book explains it, sexual activity triggers chemical reactions in the brain that help shape how we think and feel—in fact, they help shape the very development of our brains, especially in adolescents.
This makes teens susceptible to getting “hooked” on “unwise sexual behavior.” Their brains actually can come to perceive dangerous and unhealthy behavior—like sleeping with one partner after another—as normal. And this can damage the brain’s emotional bonding mechanism, making it difficult for a teenager to form healthy, long-term relationships in the future.
Changing this pattern and “remolding” the brain takes a fundamental shift in attitudes and behavior.
Although Hooked is not an explicitly Christian book, it acknowledges the role of spirituality in developing healthy sexual behavior. And it uses the science of how the human brain and body work to demonstrate the consequences of abandoning the Christian view of sex—that is, that sex is a gift of God intended for the enjoyment and life-long bonding of husband and wife, and for the procreation of children.
Hooked is very important reading for parents, educators, and anyone else who cares about and wants to help teens. And the next time someone tells you that sex education should be all about science, well, you can agree with them—and then explain to them exactly what science says.
Chuck Colson’s daily BreakPoint commentary airs each weekday on more than one thousand outlets with an estimated listening audience of one million people. BreakPoint provides a Christian perspective on today’s news and trends via radio, interactive media, and print.