by David Sisler

One of life's little amusing ironies occurred while I was writing this column. One of the pieces I used in my research was titled, simply, "Intimacy." While clearing out some items I decided not to keep, I highlighted that file, and pressed the delete key. My computer asked, "Do you want to send ‘Intimacy' to the Trash Bin?"

Our society is starving for intimacy. A few years ago I read two fascinating studies about intimacy: one dealt with physical touch, the other dealt only with eye contact. In both cases, chimpanzees were the subjects.

In the first study, the physical touch study, two separate "mothers" were constructed for baby chimpanzees. One was made only of chicken wire, but contained a bottle from which the baby fed. The other "mother" gave no nutrients, but was made of soft material into which the baby could snuggle. Every subject chimpanzee spent only enough time on the wire mother to get sufficient nourishment and then went immediately to the cloth mother and stayed there long past the onset of hunger. This study demonstrated that intimacy goes beyond the satisfaction of a basic need, in this case, hunger.

In the second study, the eye contact study, baby chimpanzees were fed by identically dressed human beings. The humans showered with identical soap and used identical perfume and deodorant in order to appear as exactly alike to the chimpanzees as possible. One "mother" would feed the baby chimpanzee without every making direct eye contact. The other "mother" constantly looked into the baby chimpanzee's eyes. In every case, the baby chimpanzees spent more time with the "mother" who made long, direct eye contact with them. The authors of this study declared that intimacy is more than touching — intimacy has a spiritual side represented by the eye contact.

Of course, these were only chimpanzees, but we human beings should be smart enough to know that true intimacy does not come from "monkeying around." We have been lied to and continue to believe the lie that sexual contact creates intimacy. Alice Fryling writes, "True intimacy is built on a commitment to honesty, love and freedom. True intimacy is not primarily a sexual encounter. A prostitute may expose her body, but her relationships are hardly intimate."

The word "intimacy" comes from the Latin word intimus, meaning that which is "deep seated, most inward" about us. No dictionary I checked listed "sex" as the primary definition of intimacy. The Wordsmyth Dictionary placed it sixteenth (following such ideas as "closeness," "familiarity," "friendship," "fondness," "warmth," and "affection").

Dr. Joseph P. Murphy, Governor of the American College of Physicians, writes, "Intimacy moves well beyond sex. This is often difficult to sense in a world sotted with sexual themes. Moral focus belongs on people, not just acts."

Teenagers are pressured to become sexually active, frequently with the lie that no one is practicing abstinence. However, a recent report from the Centers for Disease Control indicates that 46 percent of all high school students have never had premarital intercourse. The same survey indicates that only 21 percent of high school students are currently "sexually active." The other 33 percent, although not virgins, were abstinent — sexually inactive — during the three months before the interview. That means that 79 percent — a clear majority — were practicing abstinence. Evidentially, not every one is doing it.

For the last 25 years the message to teens has not been, wait for marriage before engaging in sexual intercourse. Instead, the message has been use contraceptives, it is okay not to wait. In the process, the future is mortgaged for instant gratification. When no emphasis is placed on personal responsibility (i.e., It is my body, I am responsible for me, I do not have to say "yes" to your selfish demands) there will never be a change in behavior.

"True Love Waits," a powerful abstinence movement started by Southern Baptists, and directed by young people themselves, is promoting sexual abstinence. On February 12, teenagers will publically declare that they will not be pressured into accepting the lie that sexual contact creates intimacy. They will pledge themselves to wait for marriage before becoming sexually intimate. Supported by parents and friends, each teen will enter a powerful covenant: "Believing that true love waits, I make a commitment to God, myself, my family, those I date, my future mate and my future children to be sexually pure until the day I enter a covenant marriage relationship."

And for those teens who have already crossed the boundaries and surrendered their virginity to someone who is not their marriage partner, there is another message which warrants discovery: it is never too late to start waiting.

Published in the Augusta Chronicle 2/6/99

Copyright 1999 by David Sisler. All Rights Reserved.

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