Wednesday, 17 November 2010

Father, Forgive Them

I realize that by writing about this, I am writing about chastity again. Oh, cringe. To talk about chastity is to talk about sex, and I hate doing that. It is the obsession of our age, and not only is it bad for Single people to think about all the time, it gets boring. The subject may be incredibly interesting to the Single and celibate, but to the happily married---zzzz.

However, I promised to write about girls being icked out by non-virgin men, so here I am, writing about them.

The first thing I would like to say is that I loathe the double standard of most cultures regarding sexual abstinence. Almost every culture (certainly every culture older than 100 years) believes that the fewer men a woman sleeps with, the more valuable she is. This is not held for men. Whereas it is on several books that men are not supposed to sleep with anyone but their wives, almost every culture throws up its hands and sighs "What are you going to do?"

Of course, there is no culture older than 100 years that has thought it okay for men to be outrageously promiscuous, and the ancient Romans, who thought the less sex you had, the more manly you were, would be horrified at the lack of sexual temperance on display today. All those stories about randy Roman emperors and princesses were propaganda to hammer home how rotten they were.

The sexual revolution was a disaster, and what we learned from it was that "repression" is not always a bad thing. "Repression" fosters fidelity to one person, protects from disease and regulates pregnancy like nothing else. If all the babies conceived in Dundee, Scotland (for example) were allowed to be born, Dundee would have a thriving, booming birthrate. Sadly, the abortion figures for Dundee are horrific, and the population of Scotland is 5 million and dropping.

Before the sexual revolution, male chastity (in or out of marriage) was officially the norm, and society's hypocrisy on the topic was at least the tribute vice paid to virtue. Now we are all supposed to be very anti-hypocrisy and yet pretend that all sex is fine as long as it is consensual. We are supposed to forget the fact that its primary purpose is to make babies and that it has very real psychological effects on men as well as on women. Not only can women not "have sex like men" without emotional and spiritual damage, men cannot "have sex like men" without emotional and spiritual damage.

However, this is not what is taught in school, on TV, in music lyrics and, most of the time, from the pulpit or even in the confessional. I once dated a man who lost his Catholic faith because--get this--he lost his virginity to a married woman and when he confessed it in fear and trembling, his confessor gave him a penance of three Haily Marys. He was (then) under the impression that a pilgrimage to Jerusalem should have been suggested. Presumably the priest didn't give him a rousing lecture on chastity. Another friend of mine was electrified (and edified) when he was praying near a confessional and heard a clerical voice boom out, "Good God, man! Think of the woman!" If young men now think being continent is itself a perversion, whose fault is that?

Men need to be challenged to be chaste because nowadays it hardly occurs to most of them that chastity is at all a virtue. It takes a disease, a broken heart or--perhaps--a startled look of disgust from a woman to get the message across.

And meanwhile--here is where I get to what I really want to say--some men are forever damaged by their sexual shenanigans. Taught to be sexually selfish, they will be sexually selfish forever. Others, disgusted at their past behaviour, pray to be chaste or, if not religious, determine to "get serious" and find one woman to settle down with.

Some men become complete rats. Among these are unchaste priests who inwardly whine, "I've given up so much; I deserve 'love', I deserve this one little thing," and seduce whomever. How much better than these men is the agnostic who regrets drunken flings and, even after a period of cohabitation, mans up and married his beloved girlfriend!

I have met some really horrible misogynist men who were probably virgins when they married, and I have met some very kindly men who probably weren't. Then again, I know many marvellous, holy men who probably are virgins, and I have met some ghastly characters almost eaten up with sexual vice. And that's just my fellow Catholics.

About two years ago I got an email from an observant Jewish girl who was morbidly afraid of falling in love with a man who wasn't "a virgin". Her non-observant mother had told her that this was crazy, and that she was limiting herself.

I forget what I said at the time. It was probably something about not crossing bridges until you came to them, and seeing men first as the concrete individuals they are. It was not "what if he's never had sex with a woman but he masturbates 15 times a day?" although that is the snarky thought that comes to my mind right now.

The truth is, you can't make generalisations about men or women based on their sexual experiences. What counts is their kindness. The sweetie who slept with his fiancee before she ditched him is not on the same level as the jerk who slept with his girlfriend and then tossed her aside as used goods. Meanwhile, you can only get to know each person that you meet, using your reason to determine what they are like and to make decisions about whether or not you want to be friends, let alone romantically involved, with them.

Meanwhile, I once read a chastity manual from the 1970s by a very non-1970s priest. Possibly it was Father Lovasik or Father Robert Fox. Anyway, he was solid to the point of scary. I didn't agree with his pastoral approach, but one thing he said I thought was absolutely wise: confess your sexual sins to a priest and to no-one else.

Never ask for numbers. Don't ask, don't tell. The only time I can think of when anyone's sexual past should be discussed at all, it is during an engagement, and then only to determine if tests should be done and how much care will be needed when marriage begins. For example, I know a very nice married woman who got herpes from an ex-fiance (who had not bothered to mention that he had it). Obviously she had to tell her husband-to-be before they married. And virgins, who 99% of the time (believe me on this) will not know what the heck they are doing on their wedding night, need to inform their fiances or fiancees. That way they can muddle through together without trauma.

Now I shall wipe away the beads of sweat on my poor auntly forehead and have some breakfast. But to sum up: Ladies, forgive them their pasts unless they are swine. What matters is who they are today and who they are on their way to becoming tomorrow. Send them for HIV tests. The end.

P.S. Not quite the end: don't marry beloved homosexuals hoping it will all turn out okay in the end. With a few, miraculous exceptions, adult ex-gays have a tendency to become re-gays. But, once again, only the concrete is good: just make sure you are seeing your beloved with your reason, not your wishful thinking.


dark but fair said...

Dear Auntie Seraphic,

Thank you so much for this post. You are one of the few authors I have encountered who has mentioned the double-standards in chastity in a lot of cultures. You are also the only author I have read to respond to this concern that some women and men about marrying someone who "is not a virgin".

It is good to be concerned about the state of a person's soul (so long as you accept that there is only so much you can know or do about that) but what I get irked by is that the people who express inordinate worry about their (usually hypothetical) future spouse's physical state are fixated in an objectifying and uncharitable way with precisely that: something physical.

I mean, we are Catholics/Christians! We are supposed to love and respect our brothers and sisters in Christ and look at them as concrete people. How is it any of my business whether the man I am out on a date with is a virgin or not? Why does he feel the need to announce it to me if he is not? How is that any of my business? It also irks me to no end when gentlemen ask me an intrusive question like that about myself. It is none of their business if we are not engaged.

Thank you once again for standing up for the dignity of the individual, concrete person! It is really appreciated, and I believe it is a message that needs to be heard.

ClareC said...

I recently was seriously dating an agnostic who didn't really see any big deal about chastity and had led a very wild-child lifestyle. Nonetheless, once he found out where I stood, he wouldn't let me lie with him on his bed or couch, or stay late at night, or kiss him too passionately. He told me that as much as he wanted all those things, if the deepest part of me didn't want to have sex he wasn't going to put me in a position where I might compromise that. Men can surprise you with their's like they have these reservoirs of virtue and honor that no one has ever tapped.

and PS-I know the things I just mentioned are VERY bad ideas.

Kate P said...

I'm just going to say it--I'm freaked out about getting HPV. Apparently it doesn't affect men but it really can hurt women.

Alisha said...

Very very wise. :)

Flora said...

Hi Seraphic - I don't know if the magic of Blogger flags new comments on old posts and if you will even see this, but reading this post makes me feel so overwhelmed. I think there's a lot of truth in what you've said. There are so many ways that the gift of sexuality gets distorted. A few months ago I got out of a relationship with a guy who used pornography every day and didn't see a problem with it (and not surprisingly, didn't understand my huge problem with it). He was a good, sweet person in other ways, but I know that there would have been more problems if we got married. There are so many people out there who think promiscuity, porn, cohabitation, etc. are ok. I don't know how I'm going to find a guy who not only agrees with my values 100% (or at least 80-90%?), but is also fun, attractive, etc. (I know fun and handsomeness are not the only things in life, but they're important too, right?) I just feel really disheartened and discouraged.
Another scary thing - I went to a Catholic talk a couple years ago by a woman who is a big Theology of the Body speaker, and she shared her story about how she married a fellow Catholic fresh out of Steubenville, and learned several years later that he was gay. He left her and their son, and their marriage was annulled. To her credit, she seems pretty happy now, but I'm terrified of something like this happening to me. I'm sure she didn't see it coming. There is so much that can go wrong.
Anyway, I know this is a Debbie Downer response, but how can I avoid worrying about this? I keep an eye out for red flags in dating and try to react accordingly, and I trust that God will help me find the right guy. Maybe that's all I can do. Any other tips are appreciated.