Darlingses, you know I hate chastity questions. This is not because I hate chastity. I love chastity. Chastity is marvellous. There is Single person chastity, priestly chastity, religious life chastity and Married person chastity. I love chastity so much that I don't think I should be trusted with people's chastity questions. The conversation is likely to go like this:
You: Auntie Seraphic, should I do X?
Me: Well, I don't see a big problem with X, unless Y is involved.
You: Oh my goodness, I hadn't thought of Y! Y never crossed my mind!
Me: Uh oh.
You: (thinking) Y, eh? Hmmm.... Nah. Not going to think about it... Y... Y... Y...
So after this question, I am not answering any more "How Far Can We Go Questions". If someone (not your spouse) is pestering you with sexual demands, you can write in for advice and sympathy. But I am not answering HFCWG. This is a question for you, your sweetie and your confessors.
Update: When I mention doing menial chores to win love, I am not suggesting that this reader was doing that. I am saying that it is the sort of thing I--and many other women--would do, and why it would be important for us not to do it. Meanwhile, my flippant tone about "love language", which I fear has wounded my poor reader, is exactly why you shouldn't send me chastity questions. You should ask a serious, super-chaste person, like a good priest, instead. Or read How Far Can We Go.
Dear Auntie Seraphic,
I am so excited that, as a long-time reader of your blog and admirer of your great book on the single life, I finally have a question to ask you. That's the good news. The bad news is it's a chastity question! :o
Ok, so as not to prolong the agony, I will try to be brief and to the point. My question is thus: is it all right to give one's boyfriend a back massage? I am smiling at myself even for asking this question, because as a hard-nose and hardline NCG, I've long thought it not appropriate to have that level of physical interaction with someone to whom I am not married. Then why am I asking? Well, my boyfriend [of a short time] is super sweet and serious about me: lately he's bent over backwards to be there for me when I need him, despite the fact that he's going through a rather stressful ordeal himself with his work. We've talked about love languages as well, and I know his main one is physical touch, so all the hugs and hand-holding really mean a lot to him.
Now, having practiced on girl friends in the past, I know I'm a decent massage-giver. At the same time, I also know my boyfriend is a normal, red-blooded male and attracted to me, so I don't want to do anything malapropos on the physical level. So what do you think? Is a massage allowable or verboten?
- Happy Hands Club Member
Dear Happy Hands,
What on earth is a love language? This sounds like something from a women's magazine. Are young Catholic men actually sitting around talking about love languages? I feel really old now. Reality check: most young men's love language is physical touch. But calling it a "love language" is a new one on me. It's usually called business as usual.
Anyway, you should not do anything that might be an occasion of sin for you. Giving an attractive man (who is not my husband) a massage would most definitely be an occasion of sin for ME. I could never do such a thing now; if I were single I would certainly be tempted to. Knowing me, I would plot do it in a schemey way to make the man fall in love with me. Which would probably work just as well as cleaning his kitchen and doing his laundry. You can't actually make men fall in love with you; they just do or they don't. They're binary.
My verdict is Verboten, not because I think a nice backrub through a shirt is necessarily an occasion for sin, but because it reminds me of the menial chores that we are so often tempted to do for men we like and should not do until we are married to them.
Grace and peace,
P.S. For some reason, I keep wondering what girls before WWI did. Sure, they got boxes of candy. But did they give back rubs? Probably not. Did they bake cookies? Hmmm... Probably not. Does anybody know about female courtship behaviour in 1910? Did Frances give Gilbert anything before they were engaged?
Update: Novalis has a nice chastity book called How Far Can We Go; I've met both authors, and although I haven't read their book yet, I think they are solid. Leah and I had a nice chat at a wedding in May.