Thursday, 13 January 2011

Note to Young Virgins

This post is not at all to make young women who are not virgins feel badly. I am not a virgin myself, obviously. I've even been married twice, which is slightly mind-boggling to a trad Catholic, but there you go. From the start, B.A. knew perfectly well that I had married at 25, got a divorce, got an annulment, and all that stuff, and he didn't care. He fell in love with me anyway.

Occasionally I make a reference to my first wedding to make super-trad friends shriek with horror, and I have super-trad aquaintances who would find this in the worst of taste, but I myself am pretty sanguine about it. I dealt with all bad stuff in the confessional and therapy and in the fullness of time healed and moved on.

I've also written about the problems of obsessing about purity (see "Pure" in my book). And before I married the first time, when I was a virgin (with beautiful, radiant skin, too--sigh!), I worried about purity an awful lot. Probably I should have worried more about being a kinder, more prudent person. And, really, I shouldn't have been snogging boyfriends--not because it was perhaps sometimes impure to do so*, but because it made it so much worse for them and me when we broke up.

It occurs to me that there are many very innocent young girls who think, in their innocence, that they are sexually impure. It is good to be humble, but it is not good to dwell on one's sinfulness (real or imagined) so much that it leads to despair. When I was a virgin, I thought I was almost entirely corrupt, jaded, and knowledgeable about the facts of life. In hindsight, I knew and had done almost nothing.

One of the blessings of a good confessor is that he will convince a virgin--if she has ears to hear--that the sinful thing she did doesn't matter any more, now that she is sorry and has confessed it. Of course she should leave off such sinful silliness, but she should not mope and feel ruined. If she does, she must pray for the grace to accept God's forgiving love.

Actually having sex--not just kissing--has important psychological ramifications. It is a crossing of a sexual Rubicon and actually matters. I know perfectly well that there are those who say that this is only a social construct and are doing their damnedest to change six thousand years of human nature about this, but as a matter of fact, it matters psychologically quite a lot. And that, after God's injunction, is why you should wait for a man who has given you himself and his whole life in marriage.

I feel, probably like many, many, many traditional married Christian ladies through the centuries, protective of young virgin girls and women. You are so vulnerable, and so many people wish to prey upon you--not just immoral or weak men, but bitter women who resent their own mistakes and/or your happiness and peace. We old trad married ladies, on the other hand, often get maternal and wring our hands a bit. "Take care," we cry, fearing embarrassment or rejection. "Take care!"

As a Single, divorced and annulled woman, I felt even more protective of non-virgins like me confronting those elements of conservative Catholic male society who were obsessed with marrying virgins. And whenever I heard of someone telling a woman practising "secondary virginity" that this didn't count at all, and she should stop giving herself airs and just come across with the goods, I hit the roof.

However, I seem to be moving psychologically from sisterhood to motherhood**. Maybe I should try to remain in the middle, in auntiehood, where I can balance my championship of young virgins on the one hand and of Single non-virgins on the other. You are all so precious in God's sight.

*At the time I was confused on this issue. And then at the age of 36 or so, I was amazed when I heard a Theology of the Body speaker admit that his answer to "HFCYG?" was "no prolonged kissing." And now I am more of his mind, and yes, I know how hard that is.

**This does not mean I am pregnant. Don't phone, family! (One family member just did.)


mormorador said...

Dear Seraphic,
Speaking as a man, your post on reticence is excellent, at least the bit about men 30-70 not really wanting gore and details. Indeed, it is surprising how the hint to move on and drop it *isnt* received. Your comments helped iron out something that has been mystifying in previous relationships.
Likewise, your comments on kissing are wise. Your analogies elsewhere on 'don't issue an uncashable cheque' can be applied here, as far as giving 'green light' to men goes. Hence when I last dated a NCG, we have agreed no kissing until etc. To men in particular I recommend it highly as a way of excluding delusional thinking - the best way to have your wits about you so that you can see whether your date is marital material, or unsuitable, is to not get yourself too excited. Exuberant kissing makes it far easier to self-delude and stay with the psycho chick longer than you should once the brain chemicals start rolling.
I am wondering about the acronym HFCWG - could you perhaps cross your roles in the world (advisor and lit-person), and give us a review/notes inspired by reread of David Lodge's How far can you Go?
Seems the Church's teaching on chastity leaves us with the world's most profound teaching on these matters, and its people in a juvenile state of 'how-far-can-we-go" in their courtship period of navigating-out-of-singleness.

Re purity issues - what do you say to the idea that marian piety enhances the weird conflicts women have over these issues, by setting an unmatchable goal and a virgin/whore complex? What is your intelligent lived-life/apologists response to that? Seems Eucharistic adorationist & traddite types are particularly prone to purity bizarrenesses - which way (if any) does the direction of causality go?
Great blog.

dark but fair said...

Thank you for the post, Auntie Seraphic. I just would like to add that the root of purity is charity and prudence. Scrupulosity is not purity precisely because it is not being rooted in reality. Prudery is not purity. The obsession with physical virginity that you mentioned is not purity but blatant lust of a particularly detestable brand.

Being pure means being firmly rooted in reality, with your gaze fixed on God and loving all people made in His image and likeness. Purity is having the humility to know that human beings are not perfect and can make mistakes sometimes. Purity is having the trust and faith in God's mercy that after going to confession and doing penance and having sincere contrition and firm resolution, God has forgiven you.

Moreover, if any fellow, Catholic or otherwise has the effrontery to ask a lady about her physical state, I think it would be most charitable for the lady to box his ears for objectifying and marginalizing a child of God and a temple of the Holy Spirit.

Seraphic said...

Mormorador, I had to pause over your comments and think about it a little while as I, like some of my readers, am definitely Eucharistic adorationist and traddie. There's a ban on insults in the combox, but I think you manage to squeak in under the wire.

I can't expound on David Lodge, for I found the opening chapters so painful that I couldn't continue that book. And I am moved by the fact that Catholic teenagers STILL ask "How far can we go?" I don't like to call it an immature question. It's great that they are asking at all. And it is a starting point for a discussion of Catholic teaching.

Although I haven't read it, I have met Leah and Brett, the authors of "How Far Can We Go?" (Novalis), think they are great, and suggest that young people read their book. Christopher West is another name that comes to mind.

As I have a lot of respect for Marian piety and other Catholic devotions, I'm not sure what to say. I am sure there have been thousands upon thousands of Catholics--and Anglicans, and Eastern Orthodox people--who loved Mary dearly with no ill-effects on their lives as married men and women.

I think a woman is going to have a problem if she thinks her virginity makes her JUST LIKE MARY. None of us are just like Mary. And the girl will have a problem if she thinks Mary won't her mother or advocate anymore once she herself isn't a virgin anymore.

Choosing perpetual virginity out of love for God is a wonderful thing, and it is a sign of the Kingdom, but we shouldn't worship virginity. Respect it, yes. Extoll it, okay; many saints have. Worship it, no.

I have not come across purity bizarreness amongst traditional Catholics more than other among Catholics. (And I've met some non-traditional Catholic with some anti-purity bizarreness!) I have heard some freaky stories about men's attitudes in the Mediterranean, but that seems to occur across religions there.

Seraphic said...

Please pardon my weird combox spelling and word order conventions!

Anonymous today said...

Please may I ask your and your readers' prayers for my younger sister M., who has got into water that is much too deep for her? I pray that she will realize that she is headed in the wrong direction and that she doesn't get too badly hurt before that happens.

Seraphic said...

Yes, and I just did!

Anonymous said...

I don't like posting anonymously, but this is a delicate subject that I wouldn't feel comfortable posting about, even under a pseudonym.

Can you address the topic of how Nice Catholic Girls feel about the past sexual sins of Nice Catholic Boys who are now on the straight and narrow? Especially if those sins were committed long ago or before his conversion? Do NCGs who are virgins even consider marrying NCBs who are not?

Seraphic said...

I wrote all about this here:

And I would like to point out that virginity does not necessarily make a man a good man or even a good husband. The best reason for a man to be a virgin into his twenties and thirties (and beyond) is out of obedience and love for God. For many men it can be chalked up simply to lack of opportunity.

Bad as the sexual pressures on women are, with the exception of girls on the street they are even worse on men.

Meanwhile, I feel it is way, way better to marry a man who, although he ought not to have done so, slept with a girlfriend (or girlfriends) he deeply loved than a virgin man with a raging pornography habit.

Seraphic said...

Here's a link to her famous anti-porn article:

Seraphic said...

Whoops. Wrong commbox.