Chastity in the Age of Sex

When I was a senior in high school, we were discussing sex outside of marriage, in the context of the Church’s teaching and the sexual revolution which was well under way.  I don’t remember most of the discussion, hey this was back in the last century, but I do remember having an epiphany. I could not let go of one thought:

This is not a good thing for women.

Over 38 years later I find myself in a culture that is saturated with sex. I am more convinced than ever, that a sex mad society does great harm to women and girls. Way back when, it was thought that removing the stigma of engaging in sex outside of marriage would eliminate women being viewed as sex objects. Yeah. That really worked.

I now realize that it is not good for men and boys either. It has resulted in too many men not growing up, boys failing to respect girls, and the failure of far too many to learn responsibility.

Today, there are people who see nothing wrong with their little girls, teenagers, and young women dressing like they are getting ready to work a street corner. Oh and did you hear about the little girls dance competition where at least one of the routines was extremely provocative? All they were missing was a pole. It was up on YouTube where it was quite popular until it was taken down.  You can read about it here:

Young people are no longer taught self mastery or chastity. They are told that they, of course  will have sex, even if they try to wait until marriage. Often teens who try to live chastely are mocked. Sometimes by teachers.

When you are in Church ministry you really see the damage that our permissive society has caused. Families are broken. Children are broken. Marriages are broken.

People can no longer discern the difference between real lasting love and plain old lust. Marriages break up, often, because one spouse is looking for greener fields.

When we counsel engaged couples who are cohabitating, Deacon and I challenge them to live apart until the wedding . We do this in the course of presenting the Church’s teaching on marriage and human sexuality. But there is a second reason that we present to them. Very often sex covers up problem areas that divide them.

Believe it or not several couples took us up on the challenge. It caused most of them to reevaluate their relationship and question their readiness to marry.

I am convinced that one of the factors that contributed to the success of our marriage, is that deacon and I had an old fashion courtship. Short version. We met the summer before my senior year in high school. He was a college student on a work visa from Ireland; when we met he was at the end of his stay in the US. Yep it was one of those love at first sight—well first discussion–things. We talked nonstop for hours.

There was no internet, web cams, live messenger, or email. So we dated for the first year via the US and Irish postal service as international calling was cost prohibitive. When I traveled to Ireland after graduation, my husband proposed almost as soon as I got off the plane. On a beach.

I still have deacon’s letters. In the sometimes stormy early years of our marriage those letters reminded me that I loved him. I still have those letters. Of course he was a college student, so I can still smell the cigarettes and Guinness when I open up the tin box that I keep them in. Heh.

Time Magazine has an interesting article by a journalist who wrote a book on her year long experiment of celibacy. Here is the introduction to the article:

“People have long tried to give up various vices, habits and proclivities in their attempts toward self-improvement. Coffee? Sure. Television? O.K. But sex? Hold on there. Cambridge-educated journalist Hephzibah Anderson, in an effort to try to untangle and distinguish her desire for love from her desire for sex, chose to go a year without the latter.”

She learned that celibacy is not so weird, and that it has benefits.  Apparently she also discovered, contrary to popular opinion, that being celibate does not mean one becomes asexual or repressed. Ms. Anderson writes:

“I was certainly surprised by how sensual the world seemed. We tend to stigmatize the dry spell. But it was so far from being arid. I learned so much. One of the things I learned was that we’ve become quite reductive in our idea of sexuality, and sensuality doesn’t really feature much. You don’t have to be having sex to still feel like you’re a sexual being and still feel like a woman. I felt much more confident in that respect by the end of the year. And much more happy. There was a lovely tranquility in my life that let me put the quest for love into perspective.”

She also admitted that she felt isolated”

“It did cast me as an outsider, although there are far more people than we imagine who do lead their private lives along similar lines, and they don’t behave the way we are led to believe that everybody is behaving just by watching TV and movies. It made me realize we’re under such pressure to be sexual beings all the time and constantly up for it. It gets exhausting.”

It is an interesting interview. Do Read the whole piece.

Unfortunately, Ms. Anderson returned to her non celibate lifestyle. Even though she discovered joy.

A pity.

About Susan Kehoe

I am the wife of a Catholic deacon living in Des Moines Iowa. My husband Larry was ordained in 2006. We have two children and five grandchildren.. Our daughter and her family live in Ireland, and our son and his family live in Franklin Massachusetts.
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1 Response to Chastity in the Age of Sex

  1. Pingback: Sex and the Christian | A Deacon's Wife

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