Saturday, 13 November 2010

Auntie Seraphic & Chastity Shame

Dear Auntie Seraphic,

First of all, let me just mention what a HUGE relief it was to stumble upon your blog about a year ago when I was adjusting to life outside of my Catholic university bubble. I had gone straight from a place where everyone was a practicing Catholic to a [graduate] school where no one else was. Your blog and book was a huge comfort for me that I was not all alone.

Now, please enlighten me in your Auntly way.

I am a single Catholic in a secular place full of intelligent guys who share my dream about becoming a [professional] and helping others, who share my hectic lifestyle, and are like me in many ways. I also have very few Catholic friends here (but I have found a few through sheer effort). Naturally, I get crushes on these [grad] school guys. They usually are attracted to me as well.

However, the CHASTITY talk looms over it all since even if these guys go to church on Sunday, none of them are waiting for marriage. Last time, I told the guy really early on and while he claimed to "respect" my choices, it all fell apart very quickly. Currently a different guy likes me (and, of course, I am attracted to him as well) but while I made sure that he knows I am a believing Catholic, I am certain he doesn't know what that means. So a) when is the best time to tell a guy and b) what is the best way to tell him? I feel weird bringing up sex even before we have our first kiss, but I also don't want to get hurt again.

Also, Seraphic, I am guilty of feeling ashamed about being chaste. I love theology of the body and I am grateful that I have managed to save myself for marriage. But, in this setting with all of its secular values, I often feel like I will be very judged about this. I don't want to be "that virgin girl". And I always think , "well this or that guy is nice but still he'll turn and run when he knows he won't get any sex for at least a year if he's with me". This all partially stems from my last experience in dating where that pretty much happened. Even though I know that it is a clear cut sign that such a guy wasn't good for me, it just re-enforced my faulty thinking. How can I put all this in a better light in my own head?

One last thing: ideally I'd like to marry a Nice Catholic Boy and I am doing everything I can think of to make that more likely. I go to mass, I go to young adult groups, I tell all my Catholic friends to introduce me to any NCBs. I'm even on a Catholic dating website (I know how you feel about this and I'm not crazy about it either, but who knows what God's plans are!).

The fact is, though, that 90% of my time is in school because that will be my life for the next two and a half years. I know I will continue to be attracted to non-Catholic fellow students and I don't want to be single that whole time, either! Please help me figure out how to handle this situation.

Thanks for all you do for us NCGs!

Chastity Shame


Dear Chastity Shame,

Ah, those church-going Single guys who put out. I have a lot to say but this morning, but I am distracted by the thought of all those Christian guys getting action, half-encouraged by the silence of their preachers on the issue. And I am thinking too about guys from Mediterranean cultures whose parents don't really care what their sons get up to, but heaven help their daughter if she behaves like a putana, blah blah blah.

I have a theory about guys like that. So far I can't prove it, so just take it as a theory--and a not very original one, at that. My theory is that guys from Latin Catholic or other Christian backgrounds who put out have two lists they carry around in their heads. Most of the time, when they see a girl they'd like to sleep with, they put her on the "potential girlfriend" list. Then, when the subject of sex comes up, and the girl gives him The Chastity Speech, if he really likes her, he puts her on the "potential wife" list. If he doesn't, he vamooses, and good riddance.

This is why, in fact, The Chastity Speech is our good friend. Though embarrassing, it gets rid of the real jerks and it puts us on the correct list of the Good Hearted But Culturally Conditioned Towards Double-Standards. Incidentally, I occasionally get emails and search words from girls who are utterly horrified to discover that their boyfriend/suitor is not a virgin. But this is a whole other topic I will write about later.

So enough about them. What about you? Well, first, it is not a good idea to tell people you are a virgin, or to bring up virginity or sex or any of that. For one thing, it is so not anyone's business. For another, there are some disgusting men who love to date virgins because they think virgins are challenges to be conquered. Men aren't challenged much any more, so many find a virgin-challenge either a major affront to their rights or a problem to be solved or both.

Virginity is a very, very good thing. However, it is also a very private thing. And therefore, even when we are proud of being virgins, we don't tell people. The only people who need to know are (A) your doctor, (B) your confessor (maybe) and (C) your fiance, whoever he is, once you're engaged.

Remember that chastity is RIGHT and sexually active unmarried people are WRONG, and that legions of women of all religions and none refuse to just go along with lustful men's plans for them. You are not robbing men of their rights; they have no right to sex. If they want to have sex, they should get married. End of story. (For millennia before 1960, men who really couldn't wait went to prostitutes and paid money for the privilege. Now respectable women, women who would make great wives, are expected to act like prostitutes who don't even get paid; to hell with that.)

You don't owe anyone The Chastity Speech up front. When it comes to those who have sexual relations outside of marriage, they are the weirdos, not you. Meanwhile, there are thousands of non-Catholic girls (even atheist girls) from all over the world who tell men every day "No thanks. I'm not interested in that." So don't bother with The Chastity Speech UNTIL the guy brings up sex. Be very careful about third dates. Make sure they are in public, and don't go back to his place or invite him back to your place. Meanwhile, you are NOT wasting anyone's time by dating them chastely. Chaste friendships are the norm, premarital sex is not.

Meanwhile, I have become super-strict in my old age, and I don't think a girl should even make out with a guy unless they are engaged or almost engaged. This is because even just making out releases a "bonding hormone" called oxytocin in your brain that makes you fall in love with a man before you really know who he is. In short, this hormone can overcome your reason and lead to your putting up with bad behavior and generally behaving irrationally. If a guy really cares about you (the only guy you should give a minute of your time), if you say "I'm not ready for that yet", he will respect you. If he ditches you, the sooner he does, the better for you.

But don't think that all guys will run. We kind of get this idea that most guys--especially if they don't belong to "our group" (e.g. Protestants)--are absolutely allergic to chaste girls. But this simply isn't true. There are decent men of all religions and none who are delighted to find girls who think sex is just for marriage.

One way to make sure you are courted only by those men who think you are marriage material is not to chase after men yourself. Sadly, men who are chased after will encourage a girl even if they're not serious about her at all, and would never have gone after her, because they think she might be "easy." Yes, this sucks.

Finally, it is better to be completely single for 2.5 years than to go through the dating-break-up treadmill, believe me! (Cultivate friendships, especially with fellow girls.) Incidentally, being attracted to lots of lovely clever men and doing nothing about it is good training for being a married lady, if that's what God calls you to be. Married women are not magically blinded to the attractions of men-not-their-husbands. If you cultivate chastity in Single Life, it will be easier to stay chaste in Married Life.

I hope this is helpful.

Grace and peace,
Seraphic

Update: Once again, I would like to remind Catholic virgin girls that you are not the only chaste girls on campus. There are dozens and dozens of women of all religions and none who simply do not go to bed with men. No matter what people tell you, you are not THAT unusual, courageous, blah blah blah. You are simply as most societies in most of history expected respectable girls to be. And that is a very good thing. Try not to obsess on it.

Meanwhile "My body, my choice" is a slogan that makes no sense when it comes to the lives of the unborn, but it makes complete sense when it comes to sex. No-one has the right to lay a hand on you without your permission. You don't have to give them permission, and most of the time (if you're unmarried) you shouldn't.

Update 2: Yes, I know it's hard. It's probably harder now than ever before. But we all must deal.

Update 3: How did I end up talking about chastity again? Aaa!

17 comments:

Tara said...

I was a virgin until I married and I'm a Protestant. We are out there, silently (and verbally, if it comes up at a girls' night) giving our support to women (and men!) of all religions and none who are saving it for marriage.

(My husband was also a virgin until we married and he is a Protestant. I did use the Chastity Card as a kind of filter for the jerks, but it was always pre-going-out with a guy. It never really came up during dating-- I went out for coffee and such with guys, but didn't really have a boyfriend before I met my husband-- but it did serve as a mental filter. Based on the way he acts and what he talks about, would this guy support my desires? No? Then I won't go for coffee with him.)

Anonymous said...

Dear Chastity Shame,
I have felt your pain!
I am in my 30s, and in a very busy professional degree. I haven't dated very much at all the past couple of years, and though it has been frustrating at times (and I've occasionally felt the same way you do about the chastity shame) it has also been very protective and freeing at the same time. God has a plan for me and for you! Remember that above everything else.
In the defence of men, I think that there are many good NCBs out there. I really do. At 31, however, I am not naive enough to think that there will be a plethora of male virgins my age or older who will jump at the chance to date me and not have sex with me. But it does only take one... :)
From my experience of having wonderful NCG friends who did marry wonderful NCB husbands, their husbands did bawk a little at not having sex before marriage. These men (who I think are good men) were misdirected by a cultural double standard (as Seraphic puts it), and just didn't see why not having sex when you're not married was such a big deal. What was most important, though, was not whether or not they'd had sex before, or were initially resistant to wanting to wait when they first started to date my friends, but that their hearts did gradually change to desire to do what God wants. When they did wait until their wedding night, it was because the couple was committed to chastity, not just the NCGs.
I had one dating experience with a guy who brought up sex after a few months, wondering why I never wanted to spend the night and why I wouldn't sleep with him. I gave him the Chastity Talk, and although he SAID that he respected my values, he didn't SHOW me that he respected them. He continued to pressure me and push me beyond my boundaries, and I let him, because it became easier to go further the more we dated, and because it's awfully hard to remain chaste if you're the only one who wants to.
It turned out that this guy was selfish in many other ways as well, and thank goodness I moved away to start this degree and didn't date him anymore.
If I could do things over again, I would have stopped dating him the moment I saw that he would not limit his physical affections with me. And I would have set clearer boundaries for myself.

I once watched an awesome video on the Song of Solomon. The speaker in this video talks about chastity and boundaries. While I'm not writing to specifically delineate each and every behaviour a couple can or can't engage in if they wish to remain chaste, I will quote the speaker in the video.
He talks about owning a fancy sports car and not wanting to drive the car in inclement weather so as to preserve its sleekness and perfect condition. If he's not going to drive the car, why would he get inside the car, shut the door, play with the lights, honk the horn, test the brakes, spray the windshield fluid, and put the key in the ignition? Wouldn't it make more sense to just not get in the car at all and wait until he's actually going to drive it to test out all of its features? (it was much funnier to see this little monologue on the video).

I have recently become more and more peaceful about being single, and I've also been doing something extra. I found a website where a Christian woman prays for something different for her husband everyday. I have taken her prayers and have been offering them up for my own future husband (if God has one for me). The prayers include all sorts of things like changing the husband's heart to seek God's will and to become more like God's. It's worth doing, I think, because you'll stress way less about everything you really don't have control over and be reminded of all of the good things God can do.

Peace!

Seraphic Spouse said...

The above Anonymous comment can stay as itis obviously by a Single of Good Will and full of good sense.

Seraphic said...

Incidentally, it is amazing the number of untruths people utter: our words and actions again and again just do not match up.

Sometimes we utter untruths thinking we believe them (e.g. "I respect you") because we know we should believe them. But we don't really. When I was in my early 20s, I was quite sure I would eventually marry this person or that, and spoke as if I would, and then I didn't. It was appalling behaviour, but I had no consciousness of lying at the time.

It may be in general that men lie more than women do about these matters, perhaps simply because they are less aware of how they actually feel.

Men and lying is a fascinating topic. To this day when men lie to me, even when completely frivolously, I tend to believe them.

Andrea said...

Thanks for this post. I think it's important to talk about this, because Heaven knows our churches (Catholic or PRotestant) aren't. People who very much long to be good Christians will go wrong on this simply because they haven't had a lick of teaching on it. (Parents think it is someone else's job, or that their children will just magically be chaste in face of every movie, ad, song, teacher, boyfriend etc. they ever meet. Teachers don't teach on it. And our churches--again, nada.) I myself got this line from a young Catholic many years ago: "I am not a priest, so why should I act like one." Sigh.

Just by the by, for a bigger context outside of a personal relationship, the book Men and Marriage by George Gilder is very helpful. It puts sex in a socio-economic context. And while this may sound condescending, it kind of says that when women make men wait, we make them into better people in the long run. Interesting non-religious book on men, marriage and masculinity.

Pedantic Classicist said...

Classicista Paedagogus optimae Seraphicae et eius benevolis lectoribus SPD:

This is a good post, and good advice on the whole. I know only TOO well the pitfall of saying it and thinking you mean it in terms of the future, marriage, children, etc. (gasp! was that ME??! I thought I meant it at the time...). I AM at least a little comforted by the realization that I'm not the only one who's done this. In my old age (I'm one of the 3 men in his 30s! ha ha), I think I've come to realize that one must be VERY careful discussing such things with the object of one's affection, holding back even when you feel like you can TOTALLY see marriage, etc. (unless, of course, you've got a ring in your pocket, or will very soon). This is, for me at least, the biggest of the challenges of emotional chastity. It seems clearly to be more of a pitfall for men--who may lead on their poor dates/amiculas without realizing it--but your experience seems to show it can happen to either sex. Could it perhaps be an extroverted thing? (I assume you're somewhat extroverted, and I know that I tend to say whatever comes to *my* mind, at least) What do you think, Seraphic?

Also: I enjoyed going back to the old HFCWG question. I'm still tickled to read Seraphic's first response to the "Love Languages:" "Reality check: most young men's love language is physical touch." Ha ha! Still, I guess what I (and Seraphic too, yes?) am saying is that HFCWG also has to be asked of emotional bonds. When in doubt (whether with respect to physical or emotional chastity), go to Hootie and the Blowfish: ask yourself, "How can I love this person 'the best that I can.'?" Sometimes love is expressed most powerfully in restraint: watch Crouching Tiger Hidden Dragon sometime, or consider God's own restraint in His love for us, and see if you can disagree with me! VALETE καὶ ἔρρωσθε omnes!

Clare C said...

I respect chaste men. I can respect non chaste men of good will. What I can't stomach (especially in a suitor) is someone who expects his future wife to control her instincts while giving free rein to his own.
Just haven't reached that level of Bless His Little Heart zen.

Off to chant the mantra in front of a mirror.

theobromophile said...

For millennia before 1960, men who really couldn't wait went to prostitutes and paid money for the privilege. Now respectable women, women who would make great wives, are expected to act like prostitutes who don't even get paid; to hell with that.

THANK YOU! When I was in college, I often felt that way, but could not articulate it as effectively. Put that into the "wish I had seen it back in the day" pile.

(Of course, that was during my hard-core atheist days - living proof, I guess, that chastity is just plain good sense.)

Back to "Chastity Shame". I'm so happy that you can articulate it as being shame - the "feminists" usually rail against slut shaming, but endorse a culture that makes us feel like freaks for not having sex on the first date. I don't think that the emotions of shame nor pride should attach to chaste living, but we still live in a culture that works very hard to make us feel ashamed of ourselves, our psyches, and our bodies when we don't put out.

And I always think , "well this or that guy is nice but still he'll turn and run when he knows he won't get any sex for at least a year if he's with me". This all partially stems from my last experience in dating where that pretty much happened. Even though I know that it is a clear cut sign that such a guy wasn't good for me, it just re-enforced my faulty thinking.

I know that Seraphic is the one of the awesome auntly advice, but she has not (to my knowledge) had this happen to her, let alone had a string of men do that to her (which was the story of my dating life from age 18 to age 24). I also attracted every jerk that Seraphic describes - those who saw my virginity as a challenge and a conquest. Sooo... from the chocolate-lover's Been There, Done That Archives:

I wish that I could go back to my (hurting and confused) late teens/early twenty-something self and let her know how much things would change. Men calm down as they get older, and their values change. With those two changes come a change in the way they view women and approach dating.

A lot of men are beastly for several years after they start having premarital sex. About five or ten years later, the good ones start to realise that there's more to life than screwing. They also come to really respect women who have waited and have values surrounding sex. Also, at the same time, men who are virgins become less shy around women - they lose their chastity shame, too!

So... if you're a NCG, and you're not in a community of devout Catholics, you're probably not going to find your husband for a while: he either has to grow up and out of the "sex is the best thing EVA!11!" phase, or has to grow into himself to gain confidence with women. In the meantime, please PLEASE don't let this eat you alive, because the scars of dating unchaste men - no matter how chaste one may be - can take a long time to heal. (Yes, I'm here to tell you that not having premarital sex is not a foolproof way to avoid deep romantic pain surrounding sex. Go figure.)

Alisha said...

Part 1:
Yes, you wrote about chastity again but it's super SOLID! :)
In terms of weeding out which ones would have double standards, basically just talk about Church authority in terms of moral issues a bit and see their reaction!

Seraphic,
I was wondering if you might post on this particular comment:

"About 5 or 10 yrs later, the good ones start to realise that there's more to life than screwing. They also come to really respect women who have waited and have values surrounding sex. Also, at the same time, men who are virgins become less shy around women - they lose their chastity shame, too!"

It's all well and good that people come around and change. God rejoices over lost sheep coming home, etc. I know, personally, however, that I wouldn't want to be with someone who had a promiscuous past, and I imagine a lot of other women feel similarly. People sin, yes, but there is a difference between someone who struggled or strived to be chaste and believes the teachings of the Church are actually good, and those who just slept around a lot. Who wants competition of old images and past experiences? Ew. I certainly wouldn't expect ANYONE to accept me if that was my past. If they did, that's generous of them - they should never hold it over my head, but, if someone had a more chaste past than I, I would completely understand if that was a dealbreaker. I honestly think men like that should be grateful if a woman even looks at him twice. Should I be more merciful even though I think that point of view is natural - i.e. wanting to be the "only one" for another?

Alisha said...

Part 2:
In my experience NCBs are just not as attractive as non-Catholics and I think it's in part because of this weird shame. With one mild exception, I have only ever been attracted to non-Catholics. Even as a Seraphic Single, this is troublesome, as you can imagine!
I don't know how to put it but a lot of Catholic young men I’ve met seem afraid of life! I went to a faith discussion group the other day, which was mainly attended by men, and they were like mice - generally timid, awkward...In efforts to get the atmosphere more lively, I cracked some jokes, and contributed my opinion but it was distressing to feel like not one of them could match me in some way. Not because I'm looking for a spouse but because these men seem unequipped to handle being the light of the world or the salt of the earth :(

As for this, it's my new FB status :):
"For millennia before 1960, men who really couldn't wait went to prostitutes and paid money for the privilege. Now respectable women, women who would make great wives, are expected to act like prostitutes who don't even get paid; to hell with that."

Seraphic said...

Thanks Theobromie & Alisha for your recent comments!

Alisha, I do mean to address the "He's Not a Virgin" issue in the near future.

Anonymous said...

Will you really post that on FB, Alisha? Gosh.

I'm not being ironic here for once. I just got into serious trouble with a relative for daring to question her praise for David Suzuki. Now we aren't on speaking terms.

Both her comment and my question took place on FB.

I find FB is no use whatever as a place to post anything remotely provocative or controversial. Doing so seems to make people angrier than either argument in real time, or in blog conversation in which there is room for extended commentary. I can't afford to go irritating so many of my acquaintances. But perhaps you have a lighter touch?

Clio

theobromophile said...

It's all well and good that people come around and change. God rejoices over lost sheep coming home, etc. I know, personally, however, that I wouldn't want to be with someone who had a promiscuous past, and I imagine a lot of other women feel similarly. People sin, yes, but there is a difference between someone who struggled or strived to be chaste and believes the teachings of the Church are actually good, and those who just slept around a lot.

I hear you. My point was more that chaste dating is an option as one gets older (at least, that has been my experience), but it's always up to women whether or not they want the particular man!

Also, there is a distinction between men who at least tried to be chaste, or to have some values surrounding sex, and those who just slept around. I have friends, virgins until their wedding nights, who married men in the former category and are blissful. Then again, those men had been celibate for several years (often) before meeting their wives, and were happy to continue that until their wedding night.

I really do hear you on the issue of living up to what an ex-girlfriend did in bed... have definitely dated my share of men who either expected me to be their exes (eeewww!) or would just make mention of what they did, and I've just known that I couldn't ever match that. Again, there's always the option to say, "Lovely guy, great that he's willing to wait, but just not the one for me."

theobromophile said...

In terms of weeding out which ones would have double standards, basically just talk about Church authority in terms of moral issues a bit and see their reaction!


Oh, I always went the route of the wide-eyed deadpan, "So I assume it's okay with you if I go out and sleep with a few men to even things up, right?".

Alisha said...

@Clio:
I actually didn't find that really controversial, just funny...and I think a lot of women, even those who wouldn't consider themselves morally conservative, would agree. Re: the appropriateness of posting things on fb, I think people need to realize that FB is an open forum, and one that encourages feedback - so it's open season, as far as I'm concerned (with hopefully a spirit of charity prevailing). I have gotten into arguments, but it's because people have made really stupid comments that were either false or irrelevant or personally insulting with regards to things I've posted. If someone decides to publicly share their rudeness or lack of intelligence, they have to be prepared to have it publicly called out, I say. There have also been really positive discussions that have resulted from my posting things that might be considered controversial (an atheist friend ended up having a positive 3 hour discussion with a mutual Catholic friend, for example)
Admittedly, I do not err on the safe side...in part because the safe side doesn't seem to be what I'm meant for :)

Christine said...

Alisha said...
"In terms of weeding out which ones would have double standards, basically just talk about Church authority in terms of moral issues a bit and see their reaction!"

Personally, that's a given in my book. If they don't warm up to a discussion of moral/Church issues, then they wouldn't go on my mental "NCB" list.

Alisha also wrote:

"It's all well and good that people come around and change. God rejoices over lost sheep coming home, etc. I know, personally, however, that I wouldn't want to be with someone who had a promiscuous past, and I imagine a lot of other women feel similarly. People sin, yes, but there is a difference between someone who struggled or strived to be chaste and believes the teachings of the Church are actually good, and those who just slept around a lot. Who wants competition of old images and past experiences? Ew. I certainly wouldn't expect ANYONE to accept me if that was my past. If they did, that's generous of them - they should never hold it over my head, but, if someone had a more chaste past than I, I would completely understand if that was a dealbreaker. I honestly think men like that should be grateful if a woman even looks at him twice. Should I be more merciful even though I think that point of view is natural - i.e. wanting to be the "only one" for another?"

I agree, Alisha. I would have a VERY hard time dating any man who had a promiscuous past. If such a man underwent a monumental conversion, then I'd be open to such a relationship. If, however, he didn't have such a conversion experience and wasn't completely 100% interested in being chaste, then I'd not give him the time of day.

And yay for chaste men losing their timidity and "chaste shame".

Anonymous said...

I just wanted to thank you for posting this!

I too am a Catholic single female age 34, never married and yes, still a virgin. The Chastity bomb as I call it, has kept many at bay and I have yet to find a suitor willing to slay their own beast within, till we're married.

I haven't had many long term relationships due to this "issue", as most see it.

Chasity Shame, You are not alone!
Auntie is right! I have advised my female virgin christian and catholic friends Not to share that they are virgins with anyone other than their doctor, because unless they're married to them, it's none of their darned business. (they can take that info and run wild with it or worse use it against you- gossip, etc).

I still have yet to find a tactful way of expressing the want/need for chastity in a way that won't make them bolt for the nearest exit, but as Auntie has said, Good riddance. I'm baggage free because of my virginity.
It's actually strange when single men my age meet me, they're almost shocked that I'm not a baby mama and don't have kids trailing behind me. Um, yeah... that's because I don't go to bed with everyone I date (like the secular society wants us to do) and I didn't waste my time by getting a degree or two. They want a supposed "good girl" to marry, but want her to be bad, just for them. I pounce on double standards and I'm miffed every time I get into a discussion like this one with a potential exit bolter.

Ugh, where are the Good Strong willed Catholic Men these days?

Sincerely,
Not jaded older virgin