Chastity for the right reasons
Letters to the Editor | Tuesday, March 18, 2008
Chris Spellman acknowledged in his letter to the editor (“Save sex for marriage,” Mar. 17) that many readers would disagree with his assertion, reflecting on its controversial nature. I am not here to attack Mr. Spellman’s assertion (I am a member of such Facebook groups as “I Am Going To Have Crazy Sex Once I Am Married” and “I’m Saving Myself For Wild, Passionate, Awkward Honeymoon Sex”). Rather I would like to play Devil’s Advocate with some analogies and arguments that are prevalent on the abstinence side of the debate.
Without any concrete privately collected empirical evidence, I concede that sex is likely far more meaningful and enjoyable between husband and wife. While sex is likely improved by marriage (and marriage by sex, otherwise count me out), I doubt that abstaining from sex before marriage improves it the same way that dessert is “improved” by having dinner first, as Mr. Spellman believes. Often the dinner itself is too much, and I find that starting with dessert gets me the most from my dining hall brownie sundae. The dessert analogy fails not out of a misunderstanding of sex, but a misunderstanding of dessert.
Making sex and food analogous sometimes works to inspire others to chastity, and sometimes it doesn’t. One other such failed example is “Why have burgers when you can have steak?” While this worked great for me in my pubescent years, as time passed and neither burgers nor steak were on the horizon, I started getting antsy for anything that smelt like a dead cow. People who are getting married later and later into their 30s or even 40s must be starving waiting for that steak, and I’m afraid they’ll too anxiously attend to the first burgers that come their way. Comparing food and sex gets you in trouble pretty fast. If I’m flirting with a girl, does that hint that at some unspecified time in a hypothetical future, I would enjoy playing cannibal with her? Of course not. But thinking of it that way is a good guard against coming off as too forward.
I could go on all day, but let’s look at one last point brought up in Spellman’s article: “Do we fight the heroic struggle of saving our sexuality for our future spouse, knowing the rewards will be great, or do we cheat[?]…. [This] is in no way easy, but neither is accomplishing other lofty goals like getting into Notre Dame or winning a national championship.” I take particular issue with the phrase “knowing the rewards will be great.” If you’re in the process of saving yourself for marriage, you might believe the rewards will be great, but do you really know? And what, specifically, are the rewards in a positive sense (beyond negative descriptions like you won’t get AIDS or you won’t get pregnant)? As someone who isn’t married and is saving himself, I take it more as a matter of faith that the rewards are worth it, since really there’s no second life to compare this strategy against. And while staying steadfastly chaste before marriage is no simple task, the belief in its “loftiness” is completely a matter of faith.
For my part, I do not demand that I marry a virgin, as I am uncertain of reasons why this should be such a requirement for two people to commit to each other and raise good Christians and citizens together. It seems like it’s lofty because it’s difficult instead of being difficult because it’s so lofty.