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I Love You, Let's Meet » debating chastity: they cast me “against”

debating chastity: they cast me “against”

I’d just been grooving on Dawn Eden’s book promo


when I got this e-mail from my peppy libertarian friend Todd:

Todd Seavey wrote:

Dear Dawn and Virginia,

We have our differences, we certainly do, but what better ends to turn them to than civil debate and book promotion?

Dawn’s December book (_Thrill of the Chaste_) argues that premarital sex is an unhealthy component of modern dating, while Virginia’s impending Feb. 1 book (_I Love You, Let’s Meet_) describes the pitfalls and sometime successes of online dating (and follows on the heels of Virginia’s years as a writer about sex for Salon and others).

Could I interest you in cautiously working out a balanced topic on which you came down on opposite sides (shouldn’t be too hard — but let us not make any hasty assumptions or get into any fights before the actual debate) that you might be willing to duke it out about at Lolita Bar? …..

P.S. I think the likely optimal debate topic would be something like “Is Modern Dating Worse Than Pre-Sexual-Revolution Dating?” Each of you will probably have quibbles with any formulation, but keep in mind we’d want something short, relatively clear, and not too biased (from the voting audience’s perspective) in one direction or the other, framing-wise. So, for instance, “Is Modern Dating in Keeping with All the Rules in Leviticus?” would probably not play to Virginia’s strengths, and “Are Christians Good Lays?” would be hopelessly at odds with Dawn’s core points — but then again, if we want to make it startling and you happen to both think it would be amusing to “go all the way,” as it were, and do a topic like, “Should Women Refrain from Premarital Sex?” then let’s do it.

Dawn said she’s in and also not interested in a smackdown. So if any single smartypants out in Blogville has thoughts on what’s the pro-having-sex side of the “debate,” send them on. Thankfully, as Todd says, it’s a pretty big tent: I think Libertarians vs. the Borg was once a Todd title card.

I love that Dawn is an expert on 60s garage rock, some of the most lewd and ecstatic devil music ever. It’s music designed to lead teenagers astray — and works on some grown-ups: I made out with someone once just because the 17-minute version of the Seeds’ Up In Her Room came on.

So funny then that Dawn wants to hide her love away. I gotta get her book.

6 Comments so far

  1. jamy on December 14th, 2006

    The arguments for having sex? There are so many! It feels good? I think the problem with the “old” dating paradigm is that it’s terribly oppressive to women. It assumes they don’t want sex and are always resisting. We know that’s not true, right? So why don’t we get to have sex if we want to? Why are we required (still) to repress or diminish our desires?

    I’m sure I could say more, but that’s a start.

  2. virginia on December 14th, 2006

    Yes, and there’s this lingering implication that women get used up by their experience rather than their experience making them who they are — which is more how it works for men. The Dylan dude in Dawn’s remake sings to the lady listener: “You don’t need another man to wear you out like old shoes.”

    So what’s happening to HIS shoe leather meanwhile?

    I should shut up, Todd wants me to keep some steam for the debate, but I’d love to hear what other people have to say. There are certainly secular daters who suggest waiting to have sex….

  3. karen on December 15th, 2006

    Well Todd sounds just delightful. And I look forward to this debate. Although less so if the topic is something as dry as “Is modern dating worse than pre-sexual revolution dating?” “Should women refrain from premarital sex?” is more like it.

    Now. About this book. Here’s what I don’t like. Well, there’s a lot. But to start with, I really hate when people find something that works for them and then proclaim it to be the way for everyone. Good for Dawn and her chastity. But who is she to tell other women we are being used? It’s misogynist AND misandrist! Most women can think for themselves, and most men aren’t pigs.

    I haven’t read the book, but if what I read in the NY Times review is true, well, I am annoyed at this woman:

    “Ms. Eden argues that women who have premarital sex injure their self-esteem and hurt their chances of finding the Right Man.”

    “What is ‘a furtive fumble with a handsome hedonist’ against the promise of marriage and salvation, Ms. Eden asks. The chaste life is ‘more hope-filled, more vibrant, more real,’ than the ‘superficial and libidinous’ gallivanting of the ‘Sex and the City’-style single girl, she promises.”

    And from a radio interview on her blog:

    On her pre-chaste life: “The reason why I did it was because I enjoyed it but it was like a drug habit, where you do it for the high and then you wind up feeling lower than before. And then the only way to feel better again, the only way to do it is to have someone find you attractive enough that they’ll share their body with you.”

    Well I’m truly sorry for you Dawn. But my life isn’t like that. I don’t believe the majority of women’s lives are like that. And if they are, I think they could use some advice that helps them enjoy sex, and their lives in general, and feel good about themselves. But this book doesn’t help women who aren’t interested in giving up sex. It just gives them another reason to feel bad about themselves.

    More from her: “I define fulfillment as having a reason to get up in the morning and being able to enjoy friends and being able to feel like everyday has meaning regardless of whether I meet that special someone.”

    My question: And it’s not possible to have that kind of fulfillment and also have sex?

    Her theory of “single versus singular: “…where, if you’re single, then you’re just directing all your energies toward finding someone, and you’re feeling like my life is not good; it’s not worth it going to a party unless there’s someone there I can meet. That sort of thing. Where if you’re singular, you’re focused on being the best person you can be and on really enjoying the company of other people in general, and once you open up your focus then you find that chastity isn’t just a waiting game.”

    You know what? I’m glad she came to learn how to be “singular” and not just single. But she loses me with the chastity thing, and never seems to come to the point of why it’s necessary. I keep wanting to stop her and say WAIT – why can’t you be that way AND have sex? Or, if YOU can’t, fine, but why do you think I can’t? Why can’t I be fulfilled, be “singular” AND have sex? Of course I can;. I do!

    I don’t live my life trying to find “the one” or feeling like a night out is unsuccessful if I didn’t meet someone. Most women I know don’t.

    My final thought is the same as my first: that this is HER journey, from Judaism to atheism to Protestant to Catholic; from someone who has sex to someone who doesn’t; and I can see wanting to share your journey, for others with similar concerns. But to preach your path to others, as if your problems with sex and relationships are universal truths, well, that’s both hubristic and naive.

    And to end on a particularly snarky note, I really have to wonder where someone who changes religion so often gets off preaching to others.

  4. Lovable Know It All on December 16th, 2006

    I agree that the one-size-fits-all attitude is rationally—never mind practically—flawed. But it’s hard to argue with someone whose system of inquiry has unquestioning faith at its root. Relativism does not make sense to the dogmatic. That whatever baggage she carries makes her feel per force diminished by premarital sex is her issue to deal with; by whatever means works for her and her ilk. I’d also like to remind Ms. Eden that if she smells something foul, it may be her upper lip.

  5. JohnG on January 2nd, 2007

    I agree with LKIA’s Kierkegaardian analysis [above] that there’s no practical point in “arguing” with someone whose belief system ends in a cul-de-sac of (a different) faith. Attempting to do so would be such a non-rational event that it wouldn’t even make the menu at Monty Python’s Argument Clinic.

    In that same spirit, respectfully submitted for your consideration are suggested debate themes and titles:

    – The Kinsey Retort

    – Our Bodies, Our Burdens

    – Ibsen’s Lapland Tragedies: “The MasturBuilter,” “Headda Gobbler,” “An Enemy of the Peephole,” and “When We Dead Awaken In A Doll’s House with The Pillars of Society”

    – The Critique of Pure Heathens

    – A Yoknapatawpha Trilogy: “Abstinence, Abstinence,” “The Sound of the Furious,” and “As I Got Laid Dying”

    Of course, other, braver souls have tackled this vexing issue, and I commend to us all, including Dawn, as a follow-up to Kierkegaard’s Either/Or:

    Is Sex Necessary?
    Or Why You Feel the Way You Do
    By James Thurber, E. B. White

    Publisher’s blurb: “The first book of prose published by either James Thurber or E. B. White, ‘Is Sex Necessary?’ combines the humor and genius of both authors to examine those great mysteries of life — romance, love, and marriage.”

    I think this will be a very lovely affair. Would it be too mean of me to distribute the lyrics to “Delta Dawn” during the debate and attempt to lead a sing-along during the Q&A?

    The first two lines of the chorus go:
    “Delta Dawn, what’s that flower you have on?
    Could it be a faded rose from days gone by?”

    The rest of the lyrics are just as florally apropos. Maybe she could cover the song–with a fig leaf.

  6. Lovable Know It All on January 4th, 2007

    I am anxiously awaiting a postmortem. I’m sure the casualty was Eden.