Virtue is often defined as holding and exercising high moral standards. For those who are religious, being virtuous when it comes to sexual behavior has been largely tied to the “do nots” of sexuality intimacy. Do not have sex before marriage. Do not view pornography. Do not put yourself in compromising positions with those of the opposite sex as a youth. These “do nots” have their place and are important factors in living and maintaining a virtuous life and for most religious youth, they seem to work. But being a voice for sexual virtue is more than simply not doing things; it’s also about doing some things. Being a voice for virtue means being a voice for the power, beauty, and binding power of sexual intimacy within its proper context. One of the most powerful concepts from the research on human sexuality is that those that sanctify sex, those that view sexual intimacy as sacred, often have better and more meaningful relationships. But are you being a voice for the sacred power of sex? Too often, religious individuals are seen as sexual prudes or uneducated; naysayers who simply are afraid of human sexuality. Unfortunately, this can sometimes be the case. Religious youth are in fact more prone to sexual guilt later in life. But this isn’t and shouldn’t be the case for those that want to be a true voice for virtue. Let me suggest three ways that you can be a voice for virtue in ways that promote the positive and sacred nature of sexual intimacy.


1. Be A Voice for the Power of Marital Sex


Abstinence is not just the absence of sex before marriage, it’s the celebration of sex within marriage. It is not about tolerating sex after marriage but saving one’s self to preserve the power of sharing yourself fully with someone for the first time. Sexual intimacy between committed partners, bound through matrimony, is one of the ultimate expressions of love and commitment one can express in a relationship. It is precisely because of this expression that it is virtuous to wait until marriage to share this intimacy with another person. Celebrate this. Let others know that you practice and believe in abstinence not just because you are waiting for sex, but because you are waiting for a time of sexual intimacy that is simply impossible to have without the life-long commitment of marriage.


2. Be A Voice for the Power of Having Positive Conversations between Parents and Youth about Sexuality


Being educated about human sexuality, puberty, and sexual arousal should never be viewed as a negative thing. This is especially true if this education comes from parents to their children. Too often, parents feel awkward or nervous about talking with their children about intimacy. Yet positive sexual communication and the transmission of values about sex between parents and children is one of the most important factors in promoting virtue in the rising generation. If we want to raise a virtuous generation when it comes to sexual intimacy, parents are a vital part of that solution. For youth, don’t hide the fact that you want and desire to talk to your parents about sexual intimacy. They should be your source of positive encouragement. For parents, be a leader to others by modeling healthy sexual communication with your children. Teach virtue and sexual values to children in ways that uplift and edify them. Share your experiences and successes with others.


3. Be A Voice for The Sacred Nature of Human Intimacy


Human sexuality within the commitment of marriage is one of the ultimate expressions of our God-given capacity to love and “cleave onto” our spouses. It is through this expression of love that we exercise control of our procreative power and become “one flesh” with our spouse: body, mind, and spirit. This bond is beautiful and sacred. Share this message with others! Share that human intimacy and sexuality is not just a behavior, not just an act, but a sacred expression of the gifts God has given us. It is not just a physical connection but a spiritual one. This is why virtue is so important.


Let’s commit ourselves to changing the public perception of those who wish to celebrate sexual purity and virtue. Let us show others that a person can celebrate human sexuality while also persevering the sacred nature of the sexual act. Let us truly be a voice for virtue for others and be a light on a hill that beckons others to understand and appreciate the power of sexual virtue.



Brian J. Willoughby, Ph.D. is currently an associate professor in the School of Family Life at Brigham Young University. Dr. Willoughby is considered an international expert in the field of couple and marital relationships, sexuality, and emerging adult development. His research generally focuses on how adolescents, young adults, and adults move toward and form long-term committed relationships. Dr. Willoughby has been married for fifteen years to his wife Cassi and together they have four children.

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