Men aren’t the only ones who wrestle with sexual temptation. In fact, women today need clear guidance on where to draw the line.
in a steamy romance novel … going out of your way to pass by the
attentive co-worker’s desk … surfing in cyberspace to find a chat room
buddy who’ll stroke your ego. None of these seemingly innocent
activities could be considered cheating or sexually compromising, right?
Or could they?
Where is the
line between sexual integrity and compromise? What constitutes marital
unfaithfulness? Can we consider ourselves “pure” as long as we’ve not
been physical with another man? Or, does sexual purity go deeper than
Christians often assume that until they actually engage in intercourse
with another person, they’re acting with sexual integrity. But our
sexuality isn’t just what we do, but rather who we are.
created us with not just a body, but also with a mind, heart and
spirit. These four components combine to form the whole of who God made
us to be.
bodies are only one aspect that we must guard against sexual compromise.
It is vital that we also carefully guard our minds, hearts and spirits.
The Components of Sexuality
Over the last decade, pursuing my own healing from these issues, as well
as teaching on the topic of sexual purity, I have come to understand
that in some way or another sexual integrity is a battle that every
and Ruth’s experience can help you visualize this four-component
concept. After their wedding, they proceeded into the reception hall
where a long, lace-covered banquet table displayed the beautiful
multitiered wedding cake, the crystal punch bowl and cups, sterling
silverware and frou-frou monogrammed napkins. The only problem was that
whoever set up the table forgot to fasten the latch on one of the
folding legs. As soon as the red punch was poured into the crystal punch
bowl, the leg buckled and everything slid down to the floor with a
When all four of a
table’s legs aren’t securely fastened, the possibility of a mishap is
pretty good. The same can be said of our sexuality. All four
components-mind, body, heart and spirit-must be guarded in order for our
lives to reflect purity and integrity.
how can we securely guard our minds, bodies, hearts and spirits from
sexual compromise? What things are women prone to do that undermine our
sexual integrity? We’ll need to examine the most common temptations
Seven Pitfalls to Sexual Purity
1. Unhealthy comparisons.
Whether it’s the Hollywood hunk, the passionate pastor or the charming
neighbor, it’s tempting to compare our mates to other men and meditate
on the many ways he fails to measure up. But what man can possibly live
up to the bright and shining qualities of all others?
we compare ourselves to the magazine model or the younger, smarter,
prettier secretary in his office, discontentment is sure to follow. We
can become so disillusioned with our less-than-perfect partners or with
ourselves that our sex lives are negatively affected. If you find
yourself falling prey to 1unhealthy comparisons, remind yourself of
three wonderful things about your husband (or about yourself), then say a
prayer of thanks to God for His wonderful creation.
2. Mental fantasies involving others.
If you discovered that your husband fantasizes about other women while
being intimate with you, would you feel offended? Sure. And most
husbands would feel the same way if the tables were turned.
safeguard your mind from straying outside of your marriage bed, I
recommend leaving the lights on and keeping your eyes open during
intimate moments together. It may seem unusual at first, but think about
it: When we talk with someone, we don’t usually turn our backs or close
our eyes. We prefer the intimate connection of face-to-face and
room or closed eyes can hinder, rather than foster, genuine intimacy if
our minds are prone to wandering. Remaining mentally and visually
focused on your husband during lovemaking will help you feel more
too, must be aware that allowing their minds to envision inappropriate
activities or relationships paves the way for their defenses to become
so weakened that they eventually act out their thoughts. Avoid tempting
fantasies by limiting their access to your mind.
3. Emotional affairs.
Many women protect their bodies from sexual sin, but allow their hearts
to stray far from home. Even if the relationship never becomes sexual,
for a man to lose his wife’s heart to another is a crushing blow. Some
women seek to medicate the pain of loneliness or rejection when they
feel love is eluding them. Some take solace in food; others in sexual
relationships with any willing partner.
don’t usually intend to get tangled up in an emotional affair. If you
find yourself sensing an improper attraction to or from a man, avoid
being alone with him (even in a public place) and refrain from
conversations that you wouldn’t want others to know about, including
private e-mails, chat rooms and telephone conversations.
the heart is to be guarded above all else! (See Prov. 4:23.) Find an
accountability partner, and give her permission to ask you the hard
questions to keep you from falling into an emotional affair.
4. Pornography and Internet chat rooms.
Men aren’t the only ones tempted to peep at porn. Many women admit to
compulsively accessing Internet pornography, at first perhaps out of
curiosity or to see what their husbands were looking at, but later to
satisfy their own lustful curiosities.
at pornography pulls our minds away from God’s plan for sexual purity
within marriage like nothing else. Those graphic images of other people
often continue to flash through our minds even when we are making love
with our spouses.
prefer cyber sex (or cyber foreplay) in chat rooms with strangers.
While it may feel exciting to be intimate with a stranger, divulging and
learning new things about each other, such isn’t intimacy-it’s just
intensity-a cheap substitute for the real thing. Genuine intimacy is
achieved only by personal contact over long periods of time, such as in
An unmarried woman
demonstrates her love for God by focusing her thoughts on Him and on
those things He has prepared for her to do that are pleasing to Him.
Cyber relationships of a sexual nature fuel unhealthy appetites and
foster a sense of guilt that will inhibit intimacy with the Lord.
5. Romance novels and soap operas.
It’s no coincidence that I was experiencing the most extramarital
temptation during the days that I watched All My Children, One Life to
Live and General Hospital while my children were napping. When we put
garbage into our minds, we can expect it to rot and create a stench that
infects our lives.
novels can have a similar effect, stirring up cravings for illicit
sexual encounters. Even though there are some great Christian romance
novels out there, if you find yourself feeling disappointed that your
husband doesn’t sweep you off your feet like the hero in the story, it’s
a threat to your emotional sobriety and faithfulness in marriage.
who indulge in this kind of sexually suggestive entertainment can find
their struggle with temptation intensified, as I did. They may also find
their future attempts at enjoying intimacy in marriage hampered.
While some experts say that masturbation doesn’t hurt anyone, we are
being selfish lovers when engaging in sexual pleasure apart from our
spouses rather than sharing a mutually satisfying experience. I suggest
incorporating a “no masturbation” rule in marriage. When sexual tension
is felt by either or both partners, it’s a great motivator for us to
draw closer to one another, creating a stronger, more intimate bond.
often think, “Once I have a husband, I won’t feel the need to
masturbate any longer.” However, a wedding band on your finger and the
freedom to have guilt-free sex doesn’t always remove the craving for
women remain addicted to masturbation even after marriage. We train our
bodies as to what it finds pleasurable, and once you train your body to
fly solo, sharing the experience with a partner can prove challenging
argued that the Bible doesn’t expressly forbid it. However, let’s be
honest, when women masturbate, they don’t think pure thoughts, and the
Bible is very clear about that issue (see Phil. 4:8). Masturbation
enslaves you and is a very proud response to our human desires. Such
actions tell God: “You can’t satisfy me, nor is Your Holy Spirit strong
enough to control me. I must take care of my own physical desires.”
God does know what will truly satisfy you. Once you allow Him to prove
Himself in this area, you will understand that God-gratification instead
of self-gratification will ensure that your body, mind, heart and
spirit remain pure.
7. Using sex to manipulate or control.
A woman doesn’t have to engage in secretive extramarital acts to defile
her own marriage bed. Using sex as a reward for good behavior or
withholding sex as punishment for not-so-good behavior makes a mockery
of God’s design for sexual intimacy. Marriage should be about
ministering to each other’s needs, not manipulating each other.
you have a tendency to use sex as a bargaining tool, make a concerted
effort to engage in sexual pleasure with absolutely no strings attached.
Some women may also use sex as a form of control, avoiding it
altogether while appearing to be disinterested.
a sexless marriage is a sure sign of trouble. God created us to be
sexual beings and if our libido is low, there are likely medical or
emotional issues hindering your natural sexual desires. Talk to your
doctor or professional counselor if such is the case.
issue of sexual flirtation should also be addressed here. Some women
are too naive to recognize the impact of their words and mannerisms on
men. Others are so hungry for affirmation that they will continue to
jeopardize their integrity in order to fish for compliments anyway.
must recognize when our communication begins to border on becoming
flirtatious. Whether the relationship is a forbidden one or one you do
not want to cultivate, keep your conversations on a level that does not
lead to intimate talk and compromise.
The Rewards of Sexual Integrity
Once a woman learns to guard her mind, heart, spirit and body from
sexual compromise, she is free to discover the joy of connecting
physically, mentally, emotionally and spiritually with her husband.
help you visualize the powerful bond that such a connection creates,
imagine a light bulb and a laser beam. The power of a single light bulb
is limited because it sends light in many different directions. But with
a laser beam, light rays are parallel to one another, instead of
fanning out in all directions. A laser beam is so concentrated that you
can cut metal or perform surgery with it.
marriages have only experienced “light bulb sex.” Because of
pornography, masturbation, emotional affairs, fantasies and such, our
sexual energies are often spread out in a multitude of different
directions. But I want to challenge you to concentrate your sexual
energies just like rays of light are concentrated in a laser beam.
is nothing sexier or more satisfying than two people, committed for
life, focused solely on each other’s pleasure, and on meeting each
other’s sexual and emotional needs. Make your spouse the sole object of
your sexual desires and the beneficiary of your passions, and you will
both discover the definition of sexual integrity and fulfillment.
you are single, allow yourself to be courted by our Creator. Focus your
energies on Him. The same God whose words formed the entire universe
longs to whisper into your hungry heart words that have the power to
thrill you, heal you and draw you into the deepest love relationship of
One day a husband
may say to you, “I’m committed to you until death,“ but God says to all
of us today, “’Never will I leave you; never will I forsake you’” (Heb.
I encourage you
to draw a hard line against sexual and emotional compromise. Be honest
with yourself about any hidden motives you may have and, above all,
pursue a love relationship with Jesus Christ. Once you experience a love
so pure and so passionate, your heart will be strengthened in a way
that you never imagined possible.
Shannon Ethridge is the author of several books on sexual integrity, including Every Woman’s Battle (WaterBrook), from which portions of this article were adapted.