What makes the difference is the relationship within which it occurs.Sex is most joyful, meaningful, and fulfilling — most emotionally safe as well as physically safe — when it occurs within a loving, total, and binding commitment. Sexual union is then part of something bigger — the union of two people's lives. "The Neglected Heart: The Emotional Dangers of Premature Sexual Involvement." American Educator (1994) revised January 2007.Consistent and correct condom use during vaginal sex can reduce the risk of sexual transmission of HIV/AIDS by about 85% but only if a person uses them correctly 100% of the time.Consistent condom use reduces by only 50% the risk for chlamydia — the cause of virtually all cervical cancer in women — a significant risk remains.And here is Cathy, a high school girl who is putting her mistakes behind her: "I've had sex with a lot of guys, but I was always drunk so I didn't think it mattered.Now I realize that I gave each of those guys a part of myself. I'm going to make a new beginning and not have sex again until I'm married." Stories like these teach a vital life lesson: We can't change the past, but we can choose the future. But it's clear that it can also be the source of deep wounds and suffering.Many of these students were preoccupied with the passing of time and with death. "When some of them moved away from moral relativism to a system of clear values — typically embracing a drug-free lifestyle and a strict sexual code — they reported that their relationships with the opposite sex improved, as did relations with peers in general, relationships with their parents, and their academic performance." The Harvard study, besides showing the negative effects of uncommitted sex, also shows that individuals can choose to change their sexual behavior and reap the rewards of sexual self-discipline.
Many of these psychological consequences are hard to imagine until they've been experienced.
That's why sexual intimacy has potentially powerful emotional consequences.