Wednesday, July 25, 2007

Email: The Thrill of the Chaste [DB]

Thank you for sharing this book excerpt [from The Thrill of the Chaste] with me! It's astonishingly insightful and well-written (though it has a few jarring bits) mainly because the author has the experience to know what she is talking about plus the integrity to face and discuss both sides of chastity (generally as well as personally) in an unflinching manner. I have nothing but the deepest respect for the author because I rarely see writing with this degree of candor and personal integrity among Christian writers. (Usually they seem to care more about formulaic prescriptions and chastisement than about forming or discipling a lifestyle of chastity.)

It's interesting that she [Dawn Eden, sounds like Penn Name] admits several times how women use sex as a way to plant a flag in their hope of winning a relationship commitment from men ("but by then, your hooks will be in too deep for him to change"). That, more than anything, is an indictment of premarital sex: When women give in to men's agenda (sex, to put it baldly), men do not have to (and very rarely will) accommodate women's agenda (love and commitment). Negotiation is Darwinian too!

With the wisdom of hindsight but also a bit of approaching-middle-age revisionism, she now sees casual sex as "a slimy slope." (Ex-smokers can become the most strident crusaders.) And it seems quite jarring, self-denigrating and bitter to conclude that men only see women as "a piece of meat." Male bashing that bashes oneself too -- eeww!

In the end, it seems, premarital sex and rushing towards marriage is about insecurity (esp. where excess weight is involved). Men have it no different, actually: Women expect them to be handsome, physically fit, prosperous (with a tidy retirement portfolio), witty, and romantic. I think it's a tough balance for anyone on either side of the gender aisle to balance what he or she wants against who she or he is.

When a company uses sex to sell its product, I've always asked "Can't the product sell on its own merits?" If we can all just be who we are, and become who God made us to be, I believe it can all work out in the end. This is not to say we should stop considering who might be a potential mate, but to trust God as opposed to excluding him (or praying to him in a codependent or self-serving fashion).

Meanwhile, the fruit of the spirit is self-control (temperance -- which is not strictly abstinence but knowing one's limits). I have always resisted boiling the debate down to the merely external and physical: premarital sex -- that is, genital stimulation and penetration (which some people do not need to reach the forbidden pinnacle). One's mind, emotions, and will have already become engaged long before one's vesicles become engorged.

It starts with the eyes, when you first see or meet someone. It moves on to the mind and the will, and this is the core of chastity: Each of us is responsible for keeping a lid on our passions. This is not to say we can never turn on the burner or allow a slow simmer. Boiling over is the danger (sin). That, and getting scalded.


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