Another popular question Thom and I get in the classrooms is "How far is too far?" Basically, the students are wanting to know what are the appropriate physical boundaries for a dating couple. I can remember wondering the same question when I was a teenager. Thom and I answer this question in two steps: first, concretely and then secondly, analogically.
First, we discuss a study that was done by scientist Desmond Morris who developed the Steps of Sexual Progression. There are 12 steps, we discuss the first 8 which are as follow: (1) Notice the other person, (2) Eye-contact, (3) Conversation. These first three steps are the foundation of a relationship, because it is in talking to another person that you get to know them; their likes, dislikes, hobbies, talents, interests, morals, values, etc. The next three steps are side-by-side physical contact that still allow for conversation to take place: (4) Holding Hands, (5) Hand-to-Shoulder, (6) Hand-to-waist. The next two steps are more intimate physical contact: (7) Simple Kiss, (8) Hand-to-Face (This is not a slap. This is a prolonged kiss in which one brings their hand to caress someone face. It is intimate kissing). We do not discuss steps 9-12 because these are steps that begin to prepare one's body for sex with the final step being sex. If we are saving sex for marriage then we ought save sex and all the steps that prepare the body for sex for marriage. It took eight steps to get to intimate kissing and only three steps are left until you reach sexual intercourse so after step eight things escalate quickly and it is good to set up boundaries at step eight or even before. Also, Morris discovered that if any of these steps are hurried along or skipped all together, the bond between the man and woman is weakened. We encourage the students to wait to date until they are much older, but once they do start dating we encourage them to take their time and really get to know one another.
Secondly, pretend it is a beautiful summer day and you are at Niagara Falls with your boyfriend or girlfriend having a picnic. You have never been there before and you want to get a closer look at the falls so you get up and go running over to the edge. How close can you get to the edge before you know that you have gone too far? You can only know when you have gone too far, once you have already fallen. Otherwise, you might think you can always go a little further and a little bit further because you have not fallen yet.
We say that the questions "How far is too far?" is the wrong question to be asking because in a sense we are really asking "How close can I get to hurting you without actually hurting you?" or "How close can I get to sinning before it is considered sinning?" Asking this kind of question is not really loving someone. Rather, if we really love someone, we should be asking, "How can I show my affection for this person?" or "How can I show how much I care for them?" and ultimately, "How close can I bring this person to Christ?" By saying "no" to sex and sexual activity before marriage, we show how much we love someone because we show we are willing to wait for them and that we have their best interest at heart.