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Why I Do Not Heart Chastity Talks

Saturday, April 27, 2013
Everybody who writes me letters should know that I do not like chastity talks. When I was a teenager, the chastity talks at life issues conference were always packed. Dozens of bright-eyed Catholic and Evangelical teenagers filled the room to listen to a heavily made-up Evangelical lady talk about sex---I mean, chastity. And, of course, since the American Evangelical tradition involves public "When I was a sinner...." confessions, we heard some deliciously gory details. We also heard some absolute codswallop.

I once read a chastity book, written by a priest, that said God might punish boys and girls who snogged (although he probably wrote "necked") in the back of cars by giving birth defects to their future children.  I think it was this book, which I read at twenty or so, that gave me my great distaste for chastity lectures. The fact that listening to chastity lectures is in itself a mild turn-on I merely thought was funny. I thought the chastity book was sick.

Oh, I should mention that I also got a chastity newsletter.  Like the paradoxical sexual thrill of chastity talks, it was rather funny. It gave helpful hints on chaste things you could do on dates, and included back massages. Hmm. Yes. Great idea. Not.

Another problem with chastity talks, one to which readers have alerted me, is that they tend to be over-optimistic about the extent to which women suffer from celibacy. Chastity speakers concentrate on making women understand how very, very, very difficult celibacy is for men, which is why we must make things easier for them by wearing denim sacks, etc. Chastity speakers focus less on how very, very, very difficult celibacy is for women, who "just want love", which makes the poor hormonally-crazed women think that there is something seriously wrong or unwomanly about them. There isn't. They're just human beings.

I was thinking yesterday about the expression "I'm not that kind of girl." I have never come across the expression "I'm not that kind of boy." While reading an Art of Manliness chastity talk, it occured to me that when men shout at each other about chastity and fidelity, they seem to assume that they're all that kind of boy. In reality, there are probably many men who are just not that tempted and toddle along quite happily, unless they hear that they are supposed to be raging hippopotami of lust and begin to worry that there is something seriously wrong or unmanly about them.

The myth that absolutely all men are raging hippopotami of lust can cause quite a lot of misery, especially to women who throw themselves in a hippopotamus's path, expecting wild thrills, and then open their eyes to discover the hippopotamus peacefully plodding about in the river, humming to itself. The women feel like unattractive morons, and well they might. But instead of apologizing for their folly, they throw rocks at the poor hippopotamus, who feels sad and wonder if there are any nice women left in the world, etc.

But most of the time sexual attraction is one of the most powerful non-lethal forces there is. It's amazing that something inside you can be as dangerous and potent as vodka or other drugs, but it really is. It can make you do all kinds of terribly stupid and unkind things, even if you are not "that kind of girl." Actually, newsflash, most of us would be "that kind of girl" under certain circumstances, at a certain age, with certain people. The greatest protector of chastity is humility, and the sooner we stop telling lies to ourselves about how wonderfully chaste we are, the better.

The other great protector of chastity is distance. The best and most effective way not to end up on the couch under someone with whom you have "great sexual chemistry" is to stay far, far away from him.   Saint Paul's advise was a terse "Flee fornication." The second word, which sounds so nasty said out loud, will no doubt make you all flinch, so just concentrate on the word "Flee." Saint Paul didn't say, "Have a heart to heart chat" or "Sit on another couch."  He said flee. So flee.

We all hate the word fornication, particularly when it is associated with our beautiful selves, and I am using it deliberately so that nobody gets any illicit thrills from this post which, I see, has turned into a chastity talk. Usually fornication is not what we want from the incredibly cute guys we (you, anyway, since I'm hors de combat) meet at parties. No, the most we want, at this stage, is a bit of a snog.

Well, I am not an anti-snog hardliner although there was a Church ruling in the fifteenth century or something like that that deliberate snogging outside of marriage was a mortal sin. The way the chastity books used to put it was "deliberate excitation of the sexual appetites" which is actually a very sexy phrase in itself, shame on them.  But if a friend of mine got drunk and snogged some pretty girl or cute guy at a party and then called me up the next morning in floods of tears of remorse, I would say, "Ah, well. What are you gonna do?"

I also shrug at marriage-track Catholics and engaged couples snogging because sexual attraction goes to the head like vodka, and what are you gonna do? If they must snog, let them snog, but let them do it in private and not tell me about it.

However, constantly meeting up for a snog with some guy who is just not good marriage material for you, either because you don't know him that well, or he's the wrong religion, or he's used to fornication as an "ordinary, normal part of every relationship", is rather more serious in my book. It's almost as stupid as drinking-and-driving. It's one heck of a risk to take. And anyone who writes to me about how to manage such a relationship without the snogging is not going to get a satisfactory answer from little Auntie, because all I will say, with Saint Paul, is "Flee fornication." Snogging really is a gateway drug. Avoid it if you can.
Oh, and the last thing I will say is that the best way to stop feeling terrible about living an admirable life of chastity in continence is to stop thinking about sex stuff at all. And that includes chastity stuff. Don't read about all the things you're not doing and how delicious wicked they are. Don't read trashy romance novels. Don't watch trashy movies. Don't read trashy blogs.

By the way, nobody has told me yet: is any of the Theology of the Body stuff about sports, breathing, running, dancing, eating, singing, or any kind of movement not directly involved in the unitive-and-procreative-aspects-of-marriage? Because if it is, I may actually get around to reading it. Otherwise, zzzz.

Update: No time like the present to mention that one of my readers was pressured into much sexy talk and making out by a professional chastity speaker. Just because a boy talks about sex, I mean, chastity all the time and enjoys the applause doesn't mean he is automatically and immediately to be trusted.