Is Chastity Overrated?

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Chastity is probably the very last thing I would recommend to someone who is seeking to find a compatible mate. Within marriage, one essential area of compatibility is sexual compatibility. And I don’t see any way for two people to determine if they are sexually compatible unless they have sex, and lots of it. Preferably they will do that before marriage, so they don’t end up legally entangled with someone they find they do cannot have good sex with.

But then, I would not just advocate having sex with a potential husband or wife; I would also recommend that both men and women spend some time sowing their wild oats before settling down. Because unless one experiments with different sexual partners, one cannot really get a good idea of the kinds of sex that are enjoyable or objectionable. If you only ever know one sexual partner, then you have no way of knowing how they might compare to another one. (Which, I believe, is one motivation for pushing chastity – men don’t want their wives to know their, um, shortcomings in comparison to other men.)

All this business about how ‘cherished’ virginity is in a wife strikes me as sanctimonious hoohah. A virgin bride is an ignorant bride. She has no idea how to bring pleasure to her mate, or even what she herself might enjoy. And if the man is a virgin, too, that just doubles the trouble. In that case, it’s going to be the blind leading the blind, and it could be a long time before they begin to learn how to have really great sex. And even when they do, there will always be the nagging knowledge that they have no other experiences to compare it to: is it possible their marital sex life is woefully inadequate, compared to the kind of sex they might have had with someone else? They will never know.

I came of age in the 1970s, and my mother was very liberal with regard to sex. She would leave the house so my boyfriend and I could have some privacy, and she would pay for our hotel room when we went off on vacations. She made sure that I was well educated about sex; and also that I had the pill, as soon as I started being sexually active. (At first, we used condoms and foam; but my mom took me to the doctor as soon as I brought it up.)

This was in the “free love” era, before AIDS, and so pregnancy was the only major worry. Chastity was not considered much of a virtue among the folks I knew. And it was a mystery to me why anyone would think that virginity was a good thing, because first-time sex was painful and difficult; it only got better after the virginity was gone. Of all the men I’ve been intimate with, I’ve never met even one who would have preferred a virgin.

My high school romance was sweet, deep, intense, and idealistic, but ultimately short-lived. He was not the man for me, in the long run; nor was anyone else I ever met quite right, either. But that did not stop me from meeting men that I liked and lusted after; as well as men that I loved and spent a few years with, and kept as best friends for decades. But no matter whether it was an exclusive relationship or a one-night stand, the wonderful thing was learning about sex itself, all the glorious ways that a man and a woman could relate at that most intimate level. And as I learned, I became better at loving men; and it was also obvious to me that men who had more sexual experiences were also better lovers.

I suppose from some biblical view, other people would think there should be some shame involved in casual sex, or at least some regret, some twinge of guilt. But that was never the case for me. The whole idea that sex was somehow sinful or shameful just seemed absurd to me. It made no sense at all to me that such a deeply sacred experience should be regarded as dirty or impure. Sex was one thing in life that seemed purely good, and that was that.

That does not mean that I was completely fulfilled in my sexual relationships, though; because I always had this deep submissive longing that never seemed to get completely met. But even plain vanilla sex was a holy thing to me. There was just the sheer wonderfulness of a man’s flesh, the smell and the feel of it, that made me realize the goodness of Nature itself. I only wish that I had been better able to understand and articulate my own needs for sexual submission when I was younger; perhaps I would have been motivated to find more dominant men to relate to.

However, the glorious “free love” years came to an end in the 80s, with the discovery of AIDS and the new emphasis on safe sex. Now I’m all for safe sex, even if I don’t always like the actual mechanics what that means in practice. But it certainly does not need to mean abstinence; condoms and spermicidal foam are very effective at preventing HIV transmission. (And since the female-to-male transmission rate is so low, a woman is pretty safe if she’s sleeping only with straight men, and always uses condoms.) Still, my love life slowed way down as I became much more careful. Even my friends who have open polyamorous relationships have learned to be more careful about who does what with whom and how.

Now, I can’t help but feel sorry for people who grew up in the age of AIDS, and who never had a chance to know the joyous, heady, liberating days of sexual freedom that followed the 1960s. Nowadays, while most people don’t wait for marriage in order to have sex, most of them still seem to feel that you have to be in a committed relationship in order to enjoy sex. For me, that would have been much too stifling when I was young. Sex itself was a holy rite, and it could not be bound by ‘commitment’. Now that I’m older, it’s not such a bad thing to live with; but for a young person to have such tight restrictions on their love life seems sad to me. I can only hope that they will have a large number of such ‘committed relationships’ before they get themselves tangled up in marriage.

Anyway, that’s the view on chastity from where I sit. I just never had any use for it at all, and probably never will. I can see being in an exclusive romantic relationship, of course. But I see no point in abstaining from sex just because one does not happen to be in such a relationship. I would strongly advise safe sexual practices, of course; but no activity in life is entirely risk-free, including sex. There are ways to be safe and still explore the wonders of sexuality.

I would not insist that everyone else should share my views in favor of wild passions, erotic liberation and sexual exploration; but neither do I feel others are justified in implying that we should all share their bible-based views that extol the ‘virtues’ of chastity, either. If that’s the view from within their specific religion, fine. But let’s try to remember that there are plenty of other religions around that would disagree on the value of chastity; as well as atheists and agnostics, too. Not everyone is going to regard chastity as good and virginity as a “treasure”. Some of us regard both of those as unfortunate nuisances, and we happen to regard sex itself as the sacred and priceless treasure.