Petting and the sexual progression
Part of the behavior pattern of the youth of today is the practice known as petting. Popular, even widespread, among the young, petting is a trifling with sex that is harmful in its effects; but, because they consider it from a short-range rather than a long-range point of view, young people continually try to justify the practice. It is precisely because there are no easily-perceived unpleasant consequences that petting is not recognized as a lack of control.
Now, as we have pointed out, control is necessary in every sphere of life, and in sex matters, as in all other, a lack of control must inevitably have harmful consequences, though these may not be immediately apparent.
One of the most serious dangers of petting is that it is merely the first step in a sexual progression. Those who indulge in it gain immediate pleasure, but they need more stimulation on the next occasion in order to obtain the same degree of pleasure. Thus progression is made through kissing to caressing, then to sexual intercourse. As soon as one tension is released, another is created. The problems resulting from such a progression are often involved and frustrating.
The sexual progression ought to be understood by young people. Those who need to express affection in a warm and natural way do not, of course, find the progression inevitable. But those who permit petting for the immediate pleasure it yields should be aware of the problem of control they must face as a consequence.
An argument frequently used by youth in endeavoring to justify petting is: “Everyone is doing it”, Even if this were true – and it is not – the fact would not make wrong conduct right. Nevertheless, youth is inexperience, and the conversation and conduct of others make an impression and influence conduct. This is often the case when virtue is mocked, when the desire for popularity and approval is uppermost, or when the need for affection or the need to be “with it” is felt. Young people do not like to be different: they like to be accepted by their peers. Moreover, to many who are frustrated and unsuccessful in other spheres, petting is a tempting and easy alternative.
These facts give some ideal of the interaction of causes that lead young people into sex experimentation on date and outings. Where couples both have the same high moral standards, they are relatively free from strain and conflict: for they have a better understanding of what sex contribute to life, seeing it as a creative human joy, rather than a negative thing like an avoidance of frustration or a relief of tension.
Sex is for loving, and not for mere pleasure. Young people in love who want to remain chaste must try to keep this clearly before their minds. They will naturally want to kiss and embrace, but these signs of affection will only turn into petting if their purpose, which is to express love, is forgotten. Consequently, couples will avoid caresses that are sexually stimulating and that are likely to lead to further liberties. In avoiding such liberties, they are really showing their love and consideration for each other. The sacrifice entailed is a real proof of this.