New Man

Want to receive New Man by email? Sign up here
Men marriage
Does your church provide a safe haven to talk about sex, before and after marriage? (iStock photo)

Bragging of sexual conquests, suggestive jokes and innuendo, and sexual one-upmanship can all be a part of demonstrating one's manhood--especially for young men eager to exert their masculinity.

But how does masculinity manifest itself among young men who have pledged sexual abstinence before marriage? How do they handle sexual temptation, and what sorts of challenges crop up once they're married?

"Sexual purity and pledging abstinence are most commonly thought of as feminine, something girls and young women promise before marriage," said Sarah Diefendorf, a sociology graduate student at the University of Washington. "But I wanted to look at this from the men's point of view."

Studying a group of 15 young evangelical Christian men, Diefendorf learned that support groups and open discussions about sex with trusted companions were key in helping the men during their pre-marital years. But once married, they faced trouble.

Instructed by the church to keep problems "in the dark" after marriage, the men reported feeling like they couldn't discuss sex with their friends and didn't know how to comfortably broach the subject with their wives. The newly wedded men also expressed surprise that sexual temptations continued to taunt them.

Diefendorf presented her findings Aug. 17 at the annual meeting of the American Sociological Association in San Francisco.

At the start of her study, in 2008, the men were in their late teens and early 20s and part of a support group for young men who had pledged to remain virgins until marriage. The group was affiliated with a nondenominational evangelical megachurch in the southwestern United States that had about 14,000 attendees at Sunday services.

Over the course of a year, Diefendorf attended their meetings and conducted one-on-one interviews and focus-group meetings with the men.

The men talked about sex as both "sacred"--a gift from God meant for the marriage bed--and "beastly" if it occurs outside of marriage.

"To maintain this gift from God, they believe that they must control sex before marriage," Diefendorf said. The support group is one way for the young men to explore their sexual urges, she said. Many of them opened up to struggles with pornography and masturbation, which some considered as "destructive" and a threat to their commitment to abstinence.

"People think that evangelical support groups are just about suppressing men's natural urges, but really they are caring, supportive and safe space that allow men to have a remarkably open and frank discussion about sexual desire," Diefendorf said.

Besides the support group, the men sought out accountability partners to help control their behavior. One of them, for instance, had an accountability partner who would text-message him each night, "Are you behaving?" Some of them used software to track which websites they visited and shared the results with the partner.

A few years later, in 2011 and 2012, Diefendorf followed up with the men. Fourteen of them were married, and she wanted to find out how the men's views of sex and masculinity had changed since marriage.

During a focus-group meeting in one of their homes, it soon became clear that as taboo as sexual activity had been before marriage, it was now taboo to talk about sex, because it was seen as disrespecting their wives.

"After marriage, the church culture assumes that couples become each other's support, regardless of the issue at hand," Diefendorf said. "There's little support in figuring out sexuality in married life, and these men don't know how to talk to their wives about it."

As one of the men put it: "For me to come home from work and say, 'hey, did you like it last time?' I mean that would be--that would be such a weird question for me to ask."

The newlyweds also revealed they continue to think of sex in terms of control, and how the so-called beastly elements of sex--temptations by pornography and of extramarital affairs--do not disappear with the transition to married life.

"Before you get married, the biggest thing you struggle with, usually, is premarital sex," one of the men told Diefendorf. "But once you are married, you can't be tempted by that anymore, so you get attacked by completely different things. ...Essentially Satan has to find a new angle to attack on."

They wished for more guidance from the church, and someone in the group said he'd cheer if his pastor decided to talk more about sex.

"While the whole point of these support groups is to honor sex in marriage, these men have gotten so used to thinking about sex as something negative that they bring those concerns with them to the marriage bed," Deifendorf said. "Once they're married, these men struggle to manage those concerns in the absence of the supportive community they once benefited from."

She hopes that her study leads to more positive discussions of sex and how it is healthy, especially within the context of abstinence-only sex education.

"There's an obsession with virginity in this country," Diefendorf said. "And we forget to have informative, successful conversations on sex."

Best Magazine Deal. Subscribe now and get 3 magazines for the price of 1. Get Charisma, SpiritLed Woman and Ministry Today, all for $24. YES - I want this deal!

3 Reasons Why you should read Life in the Spirit. 1) Get to know the Holy Spirit. 2) Learn to enter God's presence 3) Hear God's voice clearly! Click Here to draw closer to God!

Your Turn

Comment Guidelines
View/Add Comments
  • Donald Trump certainly needs your prayers.

    Why You Must Pray for Donald Trump

    Here are eight ways I plan to intercede for President Trump regularly.

  • Pastor Jim Garlow in a file photo shown praying.

    Conservative Christian Leaders Gather in DC, Calling Trump's Election an Answer to Prayer

    "Although the news media is predicting protests, what I'm seeing is that everyone is abuzz ...

  • Inner Healing Is the Fruit of the Spirit

    Inner Healing Is the Fruit of the Spirit

    I have been puzzled about the subject of inner healing for some time.

  • Here's a prophetic word for Washington, D.C.

    Prophecy: The Lord Is Raising Up Daniels in DC

    I believe we're on the precipice of a Third Great Awakening the Lord spoke to my heart about in ...

  • 2017 is the year that swords will clash.

    Prophetic Word: 2017 Will Bring a Clashing of Heaven and Hell

    "This is a time to cross over and not pull back."

  • Bishop Eddie Long died at 63.

    Bishop Eddie Long Dead at 63

    "Although his transition leaves a void for those of us who loved him dearly, we can celebrate ...

  • Roadblock

    6 Roadblocks That Will Stop Your Spiritual Growth

    God wants you to grow in your faith, but many of us get stuck along the way.

  • The devil will try to silence you in any way he can. Don't give him the satisfaction.

    Satan's 2 Most Potent Lies to Render You Ineffective

    There's something in you so powerful that Satan doesn't want it out. Kyle Winkler reveals ...

  • Watch for these danger signals for choosing poorly.

    4 Signs You're Making a Bad Decision

    Avoid distraction and disappointment by testing your choices with these 4 principles.

  • Continue Your Journey with the Holy Spirit

    Continue Your Journey with the Holy Spirit

    Follow God on the most fulfilling journey of your life with Encounter the Holy Spirit! Break away from past hurts and press into the One who wants a personal encounter with you.

  • Dream the Unimaginable In His Presence

    Dream the Unimaginable In His Presence

    Reach your full potential and be led by His Spirit. In His Presence takes you to a deeper understanding of who God is and how he communicates with us.

  • Set Your Spirit on Fire

    Set Your Spirit on Fire

    Receive the power and gifts that come through the Holy Spirit Baptism. Don’t go empty-handed; accept all that He has for you! His power is available to those who ask.

  • Put on the Full Armor of God

    Put on the Full Armor of God

    Break every stronghold with the power of the Holy Spirit. Use the power of your tongue to declare and decree the Word of God. Witness heaven move on your behalf.

Use Desktop Layout
Charisma Magazine — Empowering believers for life in the Spirit