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Tuesday, January 31, 2017

Live in Nirvana, Live Chastely

by Susan Fox 

In 1994, Dr. Mary Pipher published a book, Reviving Ophelia: Saving the Selves of Adolescent Girls. The book is viewed as a call to arms for the feminist movement to remove the violence and sexism that is affecting young women in the United States. But sadly to me the book was simply a candid and pitiful picture of a society that has totally abandoned the virtue of chastity. And so their daughters’ lives are in ruins. 
Pipher bases the book on case studies from her work as a therapist. Perhaps one of the saddest examples is a young 15-year-old girl, Cayenne, who contracted herpes. When Dr. Pipher met her, Cayenne asked about a recurring dream, in which an old man with a goat walks into her bedroom carrying a sharp knife and begins to cut her in pieces and feed her to the goat. The therapist never tells Cayenne or the reader of the book what she thinks the dream means. But Cayenne said the dream means she was afraid of being cut up and eaten alive. What kind of family would allow such fear into their daughters’ lives? 
Cayenne regretted the loss of her once good relationship with her parents, but rightfully — in my opinion — she blamed them for not keeping her safe. I agree with Cayenne on this point 100 percent. Out of a desire to be loved and accepted, Cayenne gave up her virginity to a boy she hardly knew at a what could only be described as a “sex” party when she was 14. The sex occurred in the first hour of the party. Asked what she felt about the boy now, she said, ”I wish it had been more romantic.” She also told the therapist that a movie in which a teenage girl has graphic sex with  a guy she barely knows “tells it like it is.” Her parents told her nothing of chastity. They simple told her to wait and have sex when she was in love. Pretty limp advice. My task was to restore Cayenne’s confidence in life, and try to teach her that living chastely could be a means of accomplishing that goal. Asked what she thought was her greatest virtue, Cayenne responded, “courage.”  

Cayenne, can I share a story with you?

“Gramma! Gramma!” Little Tommy ran after Rene. The tiny boy is completely devoted to Rene and Rene loves to care part time for her beloved grandson. Rene’s adult children are well adjusted, successful socially and deeply faithful Catholics. 

Renee is happy, committed to her family and her Catholic faith. Her husband of 34 years finds her beautiful and feminine. It’s an amazing secret of lifelong faithful marriages — the husband still thinks his older wife is the loveliest creature on earth — even when her tight abs have sagged, and other stuff has turned to cellulite. However, Rene didn’t always have this happiness.
Rene grew up in a very strict Protestant household, and suddenly had the freedom to discover herself when she went to college. There she decided to try tarot cards and atheism, a deadly mix. She chucked her family’s moral values. She met a young poet and fell in love. They were on the college tract and unlikely to marry, but basically who cares when you are in love right? They slid into an affair.

The guy she dated definitely was romantic in a narcissistic way. Unfortunately, he didn’t see her value as a person nor did he seek her good above his own. In fact, he wrote a poem about Rene and compared having “sex” with her to “pissing” in a famous lake in the United States. Rene had very close family ties back home, and she soon realised that her dream man did not really care for her. He was using her. She had a nervous breakdown, and ended up in a mental hospital. Sexuality used as a casual toy can be very dangerous.

No one had explained the purpose of sex to Rene, nor how devastating a casual affair can be. Sexual relations can be a source of joy in your life, but outside of a committed lifelong marriage, they can be awful. 
My husband told our son that it’s basically Pandora’s Box — if you open it too soon you can become enslaved to behaviours and personal trauma that will haunt you the rest of your life. Your health may suffer too. Cayenne, if you wait until you find a real man willing to change diapers, who wants your good over his own, then marital relations are the frosting on a happy cake.

But human beings have a long way to go before they are able to successfully integrate sexuality within their personhood, and therefore enjoy inner unity in their bodily and spiritual being. They have to learn self-mastery. (CCC 2337) Call this state Nirvana if you want, but it’s basically the practice of the virtue of chastity. Sexuality becomes truly human when it is integrated into the relationship of one man and one woman in
complete and lifelong mutual gift open to new life. That’s what Rene has now.

Waiting is hard though, and men uninterested in marriage may refuse to date a girl unwilling to “fork it over.” This can feel like rejection. I didn’t marry until I was 30, and usually my dating life consisted of one date only. He never called again because I didn’t sleep around. I’m grateful now for these small rejections, but at the time I thought I wasn’t attractive. Being a chaste single requires courage, a virtue you have recognised in yourself.

Sexuality is called the generative power of man because it allows two people to make

new human beings and bond with their spouse for life. Our first parents discovered this, “And Adam knew Eve his wife: who conceived and brought forth Cain, saying: I have gotten a man through God.” (Gen 4:1) Human sexuality is the sweet glue in a lifelong marriage surrounded by a garden — full of the fruit of new little lives. This is the family.

Sex is the language of the body. It says “I give myself to you totally and completely now. I have already committed my life to you. And

with this act I renew that sacramental lifelong bond,” according to author Mary Beth Bonacci. A committed unmarried relationship says “I promise not to date anyone else until I dump you (or you dump me.)” Bonacci adds, “I have never seen an unmarried relationship improve as a result of sexual activity.” No, because people can use their body to lie. With your body in the sexual act, you say, “I give myself to you completely.” But in your mind you think, “If it works out.” That is not romantic at all, is it?

Everything has a purpose. Everything used against its purpose is an act of injustice. What is the purpose of the eye? It is to see. But say I have a delicious brownie and I stick it in my eye to taste it. Ouch. Can I taste a brownie with my eye? No, put it in your mouth. Yum. Sticking a brownie in my eye to taste it is an unjust act. It is using the eye for something other than its intended purpose.

So what is the purpose of human sexuality? It creates new life in the safe and stable environment of the family in which the spouses are committed to sharing the whole of their lives with one another, and no other. Sex used outside of its purpose is an unjust act. People will always be hurt in unjust situations.

Some people think the purpose of sex is pleasure. Pleasure can be part of this activity, but if pleasure is the only criteria for sex, then women can be kept against their will in harems, sold into sexual slavery and prostitution. Homosexual sex feels good too, but doesn’t make people happy. It was just reported that 52 percent of youth self-identifying by their homosexuality in the

United Kingdom have tried to harm themselves, according to a survey conducted by Metro, a pro-homosexual advocacy group. So the sole purpose of sex is definitely not pleasure.

“Sex speaks one language and one language alone. And that language is ‘You and I, now and forever, sacramentally united, ready for whatever happens.’ It means marriage and marriage alone. Out of that context, sex can mess up a relationship badly,” Bonacci wrote.

Rene regretted the fact that her parents didn’t tell her this. She learned it when she became Catholic. From a mental hospital, she applied to graduate school at a prestigious school on the East Coast, and was accepted. She chose to study languages. In her Latin class, she read that God made her in His image and likeness. God is love. Casual sex has nothing to do with real love. Rene lived chastely after her conversion to Catholicism, and then met her lifelong lover, her husband Robert. They consummated their relationship after they were married.

Lost innocence can be restored. During that time of waiting to meet the one, she practiced self-mastery, which is a long and exacting work. Like me, she had to realise that you only need to date one man, your future husband, and that requires a good self-image, the one that God gave us in the beginning.

The very essence of love is ruined when pleasure becomes its sole purpose. Love involves reciprocity — each spouse loves the other as a person, not an object of self-gratification. Each wants the good for the other. 

Men are different than women. When they enter a romantic relationship their physical sensuality dominates. Men are sight oriented. They can fall into the trap of wanting a woman because of how she physically makes him feel, not seeing her value as a person.

But a women gets pleasure from the man’s attention — even if it lasts one hour (the time it took for your first sexual encounter). In high school, my friend Julie decided to have relations with a man. The rest of us girls were virgins so we were curious, “What happened?” Trying to make it sound like more than it was, she said that what she enjoyed was the “closeness.” She didn’t feel any pleasure. The guy used her, gave her a sexually transmitted disease, and she went on to un-joyful closeness with other men.

Years later I asked her if she ever married. She was married, she said, but only for one year. The rest of her 63 years were spent as a single woman raising dogs. She has no children. She has no lifelong emotional “closeness” with a man. Pre-marital sex essentially ruined her life.

Emotional unchastity is often the weakness of women. Without a good self image we can use sex to get a man’s attention for the purpose of making us feel good. It’s a form of pleasure, but also a form of insecurity. “If I don’t go to bed with him, he’ll dump me.” Unfortunately, women feel pressured into sex because of a lack of good self image.

I used to be a very insecure person. But when I met my future husband, I was given a great gift. I felt deep peace. I was not anxious as I had been in previous dating situations. “Does he love me? Will he marry me? What do I have to do to win him?” None of those sort of questions entered my mind. I had a total
Larry Fox, my husband, with our
son, James, the fruit of 
happy chastity
willingness to wait and see how this relationship would develop chastely. We waited during a one-year courtship and now we’ve been married for 33 years. My hope is that all young women will aspire to this kind of lifelong loving relationship. Wait for the right man. Don’t take second best. 

Susan Fox is working on a master's degree in Marriage and Family at the International Theological Institute in Trumau, Austria. 

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Catechism of the Catholic Church, Second Edition, Promulgated Pope John Paul II, (Liberia Editrice Vaticana, 2000)  The Vocation to Chastity, 2337-2350 

Bonacci, Mary Beth. Real Love, Answers Your Questions On Dating, Marriage And The Real Meaning of Sex. (Ignatius Press, 2012,) 76-85.

Wojtyla, Karol. Love and Responsibility, trans. Grzegorz Ignatik, (Boston: Daughters of St. Paul, 2013) 140-141.

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