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I Love You, Let's Meet » last post about chastity I swear

last post about chastity I swear

I’m getting some comments from some chasties, so I’m going to post my opening statement from the debate. The last commenter said “your message only resonates because sex is perpetually titillating.” And I thought I said a LITTLE more than that, so here it is:

I don’t think we have a debate here so much as two different approaches to life on earth. I have to address the question as an agnostic, and so there are bound to be irreconcilable differences in my and Dawn’s approaches.

As an agnostic, I believe it’s all here – our rewards and punishments, trespasses and forgiveness, heaven and hell. I also think we’re the architects of our own lives, not Him. And so this is our one chance to learn how to become our best, most joyful selves and how to love each other.

Sex is an awfully big data set to leave out of that research. It’s way too central to being human to forgo – or to ask any other adult to forgo it. Sex is rarely as simple as it seems, and I do think Dawn’s book will resonate with lots of sexually active people. Sometimes you do feel cold or unvalued or confused after loveless sex. You don’t need to be religious to figure out that taking a break might help you feel more centered or in control of your life. Other times, a sexual encounter may be exactly what you need to connect you to another human being and back to your own body.

What we all need to figure this stuff out is our experience. Dawn’s path to her current contentment was her own wild life. It was experience, not innocence, that showed her what she needed to do. To deny other adults’ right to experience is like imprisoning them – or treating them as children.

And the push for chastity, targeted as it is at women, is part of this ancient, awful tendency to try to make women into children. We’re supposed to stay fresh and unspoiled by the harsh worldly world. Men are encouraged to go out and adventure and try everything: It’s how they become men. Meanwhile women get “used up” by their sexual encounters. Why would any woman buy into that bizarre theory of self-diminishment? I’m no more finite than a man; I don’t disintegrate when I have sex. And if it’s true that women are more in touch with their emotions – discuss – we’re better at noticing how things make us feel, which makes us better at finding our own sexual balance and happiness.

Fear of women knowing things is central to Christianity, starting with Eve. She could have stayed blissfully ignorant that the body she was just walking around in was actually a temptation to sin. But no, she had to get all grabby at the tree of knowledge and ruin it for everyone. And it’s not just Christianity; fundamentalists of most religions fetishize virginity and ferociously punish sexual women. To prize a woman for her removal from a full life is to make her a commodity, a domestic animal kept penned like some veal calf – or the famous cow whose withheld milk magically produces engagement rings.

Thankfully, these sexist, reality-denying attitudes are on the wane in the United States. Some of you probably read about the recent Guttmacher Institute Report that 95% of Americans have had premarital sex by age 44. 40,000 people were asked between about their sexual behavior, more than 3/4 of them women.

So basically everyone has sex now, and some say the pendulum has swung too far. For some, this may be true: It’s hard adjusting to freedom. But this shift in mores has saved so many innocent people – and by innocent I mean not hurting anyone — from so much unhappiness. Women’s reputations and lives aren’t ruined anymore for doing what we all want – and are designed — to do. Young people don’t have to get married to have sex and aren’t stuck married to someone sexually incompatible. One of the saddest stories in my book is about a Southern couple who met on a site for religious people. During their courtship, he said “We should wait til we’re married.” She was 10 years younger; she didn’t want to wait. But she deferred because she assumed he must really respect her and be very deeply spiritual. He made her feel inferior for wanting sex. After the wedding, he still didn’t want to have sex with her, preferring the stores of porn she eventually found on his computer. She also found out he’d also been arrested for exposing himself outside a women’s dormitory.

You probably thought the story was heading to him being gay, which is certainly another common twist on the long, chaste engagement story. That unhappy ending, thankfully, occurs less and less now. And this is where the chastity platform seems especially cruel. Finally, given the social changes of just the last few decades, people who might have been suicidally unhappy in the closet can come out and celebrate their love like everyone else. And the chastity advocates would have them go back to lying and hiding and shame.

And just as I don’t see life split into before-death and after-death, I don’t see the body as separate from the mind or soul or personality or whatever you want to call it. And medical science is with me here on seeing us holistically, not as prisoners of the flesh. People who have sex are happier and healthier. Benefits attributed to regular sex include
Reduced risk of heart disease among men
Weight loss and overall fitness

Bolstered immunity

Reduced depression among women

Less-frequent colds and flu

Better bladder control

Less prostate cancer

Less tooth decay (zinc)

Sex eases the pain of arthritis and reduces vaginal atrophy in postmenopausal women (or as my Mom puts it, Use it or lose it).

Regular sex even makes people live longer.

It’s not unhealthy, it’s not a sin, it’s not a vice, we all do it, and without sex, none of us would be here.

Thank you

So that’s what I said and then in my last post I added the stuff about how sex is part of grown-up intimacy. If you still want to be chaste after all those good arguments, well, I don’t know. Seems like the chasties have a lot of guilt and regret about something that’s simply not bad! If God didn’t want us to have pleasure, why the reproductively useless clitoris?!?

11 Comments so far

  1. Fitz on January 10th, 2007

    “And so this is our one chance to learn how to become our best, most joyful selves and how to love each other.”

    Towards that end a few general norms beyond “hook up & hang out” seem to be warranted.

    “What we all need to figure this stuff out is our experience. Dawn’s path to her current contentment was her own wild life. It was experience, not innocence, that showed her what she needed to do. To deny other adults’ right to experience is like imprisoning them – or treating them as children”

    And as adults we can impart that experience both to each other and the young. No one is talking about a regime that “deny other adults’ right to experience”

    No one is advocating the establishment of sex police, rather (and obviously) we are talking about a publicly endorsed ethic.. Your talk of “rights” being denied is both a practical impossibility and does not befit a discussion of ethics.

    “And the push for chastity, targeted as it is at women, is part of this ancient, awful tendency to try to make women into children. We’re supposed to stay fresh and unspoiled by the harsh worldly world.”

    This is a proto-feminist myth, fornication is not proscribed on a gendered basis in the Judeo-Christian tradition. (not that I am advocating that standard)

    “ Men are encouraged to go out and adventure and try everything: It’s how they become men. Meanwhile women get “used up” by their sexual encounters.”

    Not under my ethic or Dawns, Having said that, I don’t believe its either sexist or an undue burden to expect women (as well as men) to help set a tone of responsible sexuality.

    “Fear of women knowing things is central to Christianity, starting with Eve. She could have stayed blissfully ignorant that the body she was just walking around in was actually a temptation to sin. But no, she had to get all grabby at the tree of knowledge and ruin it for everyone. And it’s not just Christianity; fundamentalists of most religions fetishize virginity and ferociously punish sexual women. To prize a woman for her removal from a full life is to make her a commodity, a domestic animal kept penned like some veal calf – or the famous cow whose withheld milk magically produces engagement rings”

    Once again your engaging in Proto-feminist myth making. The Chrisitan tradition holds that (while in the Garden) the only “sin” was eating from the tree of knowledge. Both Adam & Eve were forbidden, their bodies held no shame or stigma at that point.

    ”And just as I don’t see life split into before-death and after-death, I don’t see the body as separate from the mind or soul or personality or whatever you want to call it. And medical science is with me here on seeing us holistically, not as prisoners of the flesh.”

    More importantly & contrary to you implicit understanding, Christian theology does not endorse mind/body dualism. In fact this was the worldview of the now famous Gnostics, and was rejected outright as a heresy. The Body is good, an incarnate likeness of God. The flesh is weak and susceptible to temptation from everything from violence, to irresponsible sex, to drunkenness..

  2. kmcleod on January 11th, 2007

    I guess the debate that was expected at the event has happened with the fencing between Max and Fitz–with Virginia caught between the lunging foils. I haven’t read Eden’s book, so I’m wondering if it’s a memoir (“Here is my particular experience, and I hope you find some insights and perspectives of interest”) or a self-help book (“Do as I didn’t do so you can become the person that I am”).

  3. karen on January 11th, 2007

    I haven’t read it either, but I gather it’s some preachy combination of the two.

    Fitz, your “publicly endorsed ethic” (against casual sex, etc — even serial monogamy you have a problem with?) includes a great deal of judgmentalism, which I feel is itself unethical.

    Dawn would deny other people the right to figure out what works for them sexually, and enjoy themselves, free of judgment.

    She said in her opening remarks of the debate that she believes that sex outside of marriage is “objectively bad.” (To which I would reply that clearly you’ve never had sex outside of marriage with me!)

    Look for my forthcoming: “How to Get Laid and Feel Good About It: A Thinking Woman’s Guide to Better Sex and Higher Self Esteem.” It’s a proto-feminist self-help memoir. Ya think “W Publishing Group” would be interested?

    What I wonder is if anyone at the debate made any jokes about waiting until your SECOND marriage to have sex.

  4. karen on January 11th, 2007

    Ha! I just did a search for my fake book title in Amazon and it brought up: “How To Get The Most Out Of The Eucharist.”

    Is this a sign?

  5. Fitz on January 12th, 2007

    “Fitz, your “publicly endorsed ethic” (against casual sex, etc — even serial monogamy you have a problem with?) includes a great deal of judgmentalism, which I feel is itself unethical.”

    Judgmentalism means nothing more than having the ability to come to a judgment about something. We all make judgments as well we should. I suspect you mean it in the Christian sense of NOT judging others. I agree with you, we ought not cast some harsh judgment on others lives (sex or otherwise) and hoist ourselves above them.

    This has nothing to do with individually or collectively coming to a sound judgment about the world. The inability to even posit a rough sexual ethic is itself a judgment about how people should operate sexually, what is proper and improper, and sets it own moral tone about human sexuality.

    “Dawn would deny other people the right to figure out what works for them sexually, and enjoy themselves, free of judgment.”

    I don’t know how Dawn (or myself) would deny anyone “rights” as you put it. Rights based language is an outer legal benchmark and has little to do with a larger sexual ethic. Its rather cheap way of trying to cast the opponents as puritanical and prepared to use the law to enforce their vision.

    As stated above “enjoying yourself” “free of judgment” is a naïve non starter. We live in a world (post-sexual-revolution) were judgments are handed down all the time. A thirty year old virgin will be “judged” by society and her peers. The man who cheats on his wife, or has six marriages is judged. The young women who recommends chastity (Dawn) is inevitably judged to be overly judgmental. Someone who sleeps with a different person every night is judged, just as sure as the person who hasn’t had a relationship or sex for years is judged.

    We have medical ethics, and business ethics, and legal ethics, and journalistic ethics, and any number of social ethics. This is simply a segue into a sexual ethic. Every society has sexual ethics of one form or another. We had one ethic prior to the sexual revolution and we have one now.

    I think it’s worthwhile to consider who thrives and who merely survives under our present sexual ethic. Who are the winners and losers, what are the pitfalls and triumphs.

  6. max on January 12th, 2007

    Fitz, I deeply regret you not addressing Karen’s important concern that couples, particularly Christian couples, whose divorce rate is higher than average, consider saving themselves for their second holy matrimonial union, which tends to come closer to meeting the ’till death do us,’ ect, vow.

    And while you’re at it, do us all a big favor and tell how you define this “society” that has one singular and wild post-sexual revolution “ethic?” Is it the society of Chinese Americans in Chinatown, NYC. Somehow related to all that non-Christian Asian action offered in the back of the free weeklies? Or the one in Dominican Washington Heights? Maybe you’re worried about the Hasids in Williamsburg? No, no, no. It’s the secularized Jews in the Upper Westside. That’s it, right?

    Just let us know, will you? So we can figure out where to picket for better sexual ethics.

  7. Fitz on January 12th, 2007

    Max

    The tone of both your posts seems unserious. If you believe the whole conversation is worthless than why participate. If you really find the two “polar extremes” to be overly moralistic, then it is incumbent upon you to sew a reasonable middle ground. This is something I hope to achieve.

    “Is it the society of Chinese Americans in Chinatown, NYC. Somehow related to all that non-Christian Asian action offered in the back of the free weeklies? Or the one in Dominican Washington Heights? Maybe you’re worried about the Hasids in Williamsburg? No, no, no. It’s the secularized Jews in the Upper Westside. That’s it, right? “

    The presence of multiple religious or cultural groups within a given society does not negate the ability of that society to promote a singular ethic while still remaining elastic enough to retain a degree of pluralism.

    “And while you’re at it, do us all a big favor and tell how you define this “society” that has one singular and wild post-sexual revolution “ethic?”

    The fact of the matter is that sex is important. It has a multiple of very real world consequences. As I state in my response to Karen, there is no avoiding a general ethic of one sort or another. The fact of the matter is a discernable shift in this ethic occurred in what is popularly referred to as the “sexual revolution”, few people dispute this. This is what I mean when I say “we” and “society”..

    You are engaging in an age old tactic that seeks to refute my contentions as being an construct of my imagination. I can assure you they are not.

    If you (and Karen & Virginia) really want to know about the multiple effects of our current sexual ethic, there are multiple scholarly works that approach the subject without the degree of “judgmentalism” that seems to rankle you.

    I suggest (as a good start)

    George Akerlof, Janet L. Yellen, and Michael L. Katz, “An Analysis of Out-of-Wedlock Childbearing in the United States,”
    Or
    The Quarterly Journal of Economics CXI (1996); George Akerlof, “Men Without Children,” The Economic Journal 108 (1998).
    Or
    Cynthia C. Harper and Sara S. McLanahan, “Father Absence and Youth Incarceration,” delivered at the annual meeting of the American Sociological Association in 1998.

  8. max on January 12th, 2007

    Look, Fitz, to take you seriously I’d have see a sign in your gassing on that you were capable of being serious yourself.

    Point: For some reason you are incapable of seeing that Virginia Vitzthum advocates exactly the kind of “healthy” and “serious” care for adult sexuality that you purport to. She is the true champion of your way of ethical sex. Yet you natter on, against Vitzthum, and for Dawn Eden’s loony fanatical religious strictures.

    You can’t be serious. You sound like a thoughtless propagandist, obsessed with an entity that is in your fantasies, this One Big American Society. Maybe you really mean Main Stream Media; the semi-official corporate worldview we get listening to NPR or in the tv news echo chambers? That’s what you want to change?

    You want to be taken seriously but you unseriously conflate the socio-cultural origins of problematic out-of-wedlock birth and father-absence and men-without-children with so-called sexual “ethics” of our society that would be remedied by the kind of silly ideas promulgated by such flavor-of-the-month reformed sluts as like Dawn Eden.

    You directly contradict yourself, again, since Vitzthum, again, is more for a sane and truly ethical sexuality than Eden.

    Fitz, face it, there’s no way to paint Eden’s bigoted, reactionary Christian program pretty, which tells you you’re a sick sinner if you’re gay, for instance. It’s like saying, Hey, at least under Mussolini trains ran on time and Hitler did build the Autobahn.

    Gimme a break, Fitz.

  9. virginia on January 14th, 2007

    oh my.

    While I’m obviously with the happy sluts on the chastity issue, I do have to grant Fitz the point that you can’t really talk about ethics without “judgment” or “being moralistic.” Ethics is the study of what’s right and what’s wrong.

    but what I think Fitz isn’t allowing is that if an ethic like “it’s wrong to have premarital sex” has any clout whatsover (not legal, but social), then it will result in many people feeling guilty for simply being human. And it makes men hate women for tempting them and women hate men for “only being after one thing,” and everyone hate him or herself for their desires.

    And THAT is wrong, i.e., unneccesarily hurtful. People behave better when they’re not denying fundamental parts of themselves (yeah, I do think we’re basically good). I can’t think of many more horrifying examples of sexual misbehavior than the rash of child abuse and cover-ups by Catholic priests. What a damning piece of evidence that renunciation of sex isn’t how we’re supposed to live!

  10. karen on January 16th, 2007

    To be clear — I know that there’s right and there’s wrong and that that’s what we’re talking about. (Or were talking about — I know this conversation is over, I just hadn’t had time to write and really wanted to defend myself here.)

    I certainly wasn’t asking to live in a judgment-free society. But “judgmentalism” doesn’t mean making any judgments whatsoever.

    Being judgmental, essentially, means sticking your nose in and passing judgment on things that are none of your concern. It is simply not Fitz and Dawn’s business whether people have sex before marriage.

    “Judgmental” is the opposite of open-minded and accepting. It is antithetical to a progressive society.

    You say people judge other people’s sexuality all the time. They may. I believe it is wrong of them.

    It’s not naive of me to wish for my sexuality not to be judged. It would be naive to think it wasn’t happening, but I know it is. I just don’t like it. I think it’s wrong. (I’m judging judging — am I blowing your mind?)

    The words “ethics” and “morality” always seem to come up when discussing sexuality, as if sex itself just might be wrong, somehow. But it isn’t. There is nothing “immoral” about having sex, or even being promiscous. The fact that you don’t like it doesn’t make it wrong.

    Yes, in a society there will exist sexual ethics. These should pertain to areas in which sex may hurt someone.

    I would argue for a looser sexual ethic in some areas of American society. For instance where promiscuous women are judged harshly and called sluts, whereas men get freer rein in that arena. I’d like to see more open-mindedness toward sexuality in general.

    On the other hand I would argue for a more stringent sexual ethic in some areas. For instance where young men are encouraged to “score” with as many women as possible, and young women are encouraged to flaunt their sexuality and objectify themselves for attention. The pornography industry, certainly, would benefit from an ethical makeover.

    We should practice safe sex. We should be honest with each other about sex.

    And we should know our limits and have only as much sex as we can handle without freaking out and having to give it up and write a crazy book about it.

  11. Fitz on January 17th, 2007

    Max
    “Fitz, face it, there’s no way to paint Eden’s bigoted, reactionary Christian program pretty, which tells you you’re a sick sinner if you’re gay, for instance. It’s like saying, Hey, at least under Mussolini trains ran on time and Hitler did build the Autobahn. “

    I think we can dispense with max (or I certainly can) To cast this conversation in terms of “sick sinners’ (its my understanding that were ALL sinners in the Christian worldview) and Hitler and Mussolini takes hyperbole to new hights.

    Karen
    Well she says this
    “Judgmental” is the opposite of open-minded and accepting. It is antithetical to a progressive society.

    Momnents after saying this….

    “Being judgmental, essentially, means sticking your nose in and passing judgment on things that are none of your concern. It is simply not Fitz and Dawn’s business whether people have sex before marriage.”

    Well, Karen, you just came to several judgments. One is that progresse somehow requires the suspension of judgment? Two, judgmentalism concerns itself only with what Karen considers “things that are none of your concern” and that “It is simply not Fitz and Dawn’s business whether people have sex before marriage.”

    Well, we live in this world also. A social environment were sex before marriage is the norm, will affect people’s entire lives. Those who cannot compete effectively, who don’t thrive under loose sexual strictures are “judged”… but more than that… they find there lives crafted by that environment.
    The conversation is (or ought be) What sexual ethic leads to human thriving?
    What provides for most of the people most of the time? If you exist under some rubric of fear of “repression” or consider “judging” to be the only human wrong, than you will miss all that very real human pain represented in everything from un-“chosen” childlessness, to venereal disease, divorce, illegitimacy, ect. ect. ect.