The Difference Between Abstinence and Chastity (and why it matters)

First off- I’d like to apologize for lacking in the blogging lately. I went on vacation home to Denver for my birthday two weeks ago and I’ve been slowly recuperating and getting back into the swing of my new life in Dallas. And also accepting that my life here in Dallas is going to probably last longer than I anticipated, wanted, or thought to prepare for. So. Sorry to anyone who adamantly follows me (aka- Mom) and has been actively disappointed (aka- not-a-one).

Now on to the meat of the day:

One of my favorite bloggers, Calah Alexander, wrote this yesterday. She wrote to defend Elizabeth Smart, a woman who, after being raised in the Mormon church and receiving abstinence-only sex ed, spoke out against  it.

A little bit more about Ms. Smart: At the tender age of 14, she was kidnapped off from her bedroom and was held for nine months while actively experiencing sexual  assault until she was found, walking outside with her captor.

Wait a second. So she was just walking about and didn’t try to run? In case you didn’t click the link, that’s exactly what she wrote about. The sexual education that she received told her that virginity is like chewing gum– once someone chews the gum, they throw it away and no one will ever want that piece of gum again. She was taught that her worth lies entirely in her virginity and once that was lost, she felt condemned to never finding someone who would marry her– “chew [her] gum,” so to speak.

Calah did a wonderful job explaining why this is so detrimental:

And what does abstinence-only sex ed teach girls? It doesn’t teach girls anything. It conditions girls into conforming with a sick, “religious-ized” chauvinism that masquerades as concern for moral purity but is really just plain old abhorrence of sloppy seconds. It says nothing to a girl about her inherent value as a human being, about her precious and vital role as life-giver, about her unique feminine genius that is inextricably linked to her sexuality. Like Pavlov’s dog, girls are told over and over in abstinence-only education that sex before marriage will make them dirty and worthless. The conditioning definitely works as intended on us pieces of chewed-up gum; our sexual relationships within marriage are usually fraught with psychological blocks, feelings of worthlessness, and fears of abandonment.

We are so consumed with teaching abstinence that we forget to teach chastity, dignity, and inherent worth.

We are so consumed with preventing pregnancy, disease, and “sloppy seconds” that we forget that our sins do not define us.

The problem with abstinence-only sex ed is that we eliminate our humanity. We are reduced to our sexuality and our bodies. Calah mentions that the abstinence-only mentality that we all see hurts the “good girls” too. They find themselves married and once the wedding night happens, they struggle to continue to recognize the beauty of their virginity… because they no longer have it. They are chewed up pieces of gum as well.

Another thing… abstinence is NOT a virtue. Chastity is a virtue.

We focus so intently on telling our children not to have sex that we neglect to tell of the beauty of it within marriage. We also forget to remind them that their virginity (or lack thereof) is not defining of their character. The beautiful virtue of chastity does not neglect those things.

The virtue of chastity includes all aspect of the person- mind, body, and soul. Physical chastity includes abstinence, but it’s also about modesty and avoiding near the near occasion of sin. Emotional chastity encompasses the protection of the heart and the recognition of the absolute dignity of all persons, regardless of their decision making.

We are all sinners. There is none among us that can cast the first stone. So why are teaching our youth “dirty sex” ? Sex is beautiful. Sex is necessary. Sex is important.  But there is a weight to it. It is so beautiful, necessary, and important that God designed for marriage, which, ironically, is also beautiful, necessary, and important. This is not to say that other vocations do not meet this criteria– they absolutely do! Holy men and women, serving the Church and the world as priests, nuns, and other religious, is (you guessed it!!) beautiful, necessary, and important! Chastity persists in the fulfillment of vocations, though in different ways. In religious vocations, chastity encompasses abstinence. In marriage, it is found in sex that is unitive and procreative, with an openness to creating new life. That is a wonderful thing! There is nothing dirty about sex within marriage. It units spouses with The Spirit to bring forth fruit.

“Comprehensive” sex ed teaches our youth that babies and STD’s are a result of unprotected sex, not of sex in general. Abstinence-only sex ed teaches our youth that any deviance from virginity results in one being less-than a whole person. Neither of these is effective, neither of these teaches the truth: that sex is a wonderful gift from God reserved for marriage that allows a husband and wife to grow closer to each other and God, while maintaining and promoting their individual dignities.

We should be making an effort to teach our children chastity, both of the physical and emotional variety. We should never cease to remind them that they are children of God and their worth is found in that identity– not in their sinfulness. We are created for authentic love, which begins and ends in Christ.

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3 Responses to The Difference Between Abstinence and Chastity (and why it matters)

  1. Pingback: [link] ‘Purity’ culture: bad for women, worse for survivors of sexual assault | feimineach.com

  2. Pingback: Why I’m Fasting from Facebook | virtue by force

  3. Pingback: Walking the Line Between Humility and Hatred |

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