I’ve participated in or witnessed numerous conversations about whether or not the Church talks about sex enough. Regardless of the answer to that, I think secular society talks about sex too much. It shows it too much. It plasters it all over the place too much. It makes us think about it too much. I want to talk about one particular aspect of purity, which is chastity.
Chastity isn’t sex; and to most people today, it’s not sexy. I’m not trying to be cute with the words here, or be provocative, I’m speaking the same language that we’re bombarded with. Even the word sexy has become either so dissociated from sex or too associated with sex. We use it to describe cars, meetings, ideas, nuclear physics, people, and even religious ideas. Sexy has come to mean something akin to stimulating or attractive. We use a word that used to denote erotic stimulation to mean very casual or holy things. Hmm. How we use language really says something about us. I’ll leave it at that, because it’s not the point of this particular blog.
The point of this particular blog is to start something like a conversation about chastity, how hard it is and some ways we can strive for it. The struggle for me is real, and it’s the same as your struggle. As a vowed celibate servant living in a hyper-sexualised world, the battle is as real as yours is. The difficulty of the battle differs according to the strength and skill that you train for, and the grace that you receive to do that. I hope to discuss some general concepts, but this isn’t mean to be the be-all-end-all blog on sexual purity (aka chastity).
Asking that question is like asking “why be healthy?”. It’s not [supposed to be] about a list of pros and cons. It’s not [supposed to be] about personal preferences. It’s not [supposed to be] about personal ideologies. It’s not [supposed to be] about what you personally think or feel. It’s a matter of identity; it’s a matter of design. Asking ‘why be healthy?’ is the same as asking ‘why is there such thing as health?’. You could certainly come up with a list of pros and cons, but it wouldn’t be why, because it is something that simply is.
The same is true of chastity. Sexuality (note that I’m not just saying ‘sex’) is for something. It is a matter of identity, and it has its own uses and its own place. You don’t insert gum into your nose (even though you can) for a reason. You don’t give your bodies and sexuality to people (even though you can) without solid reason. At the end of the day, if you believe in God, then you’re compelled to believe in chastity because it’s Who He is, and consequently, who you are. So, I won’t write a long blog article here about the whole reason of ‘why chastity?’ but will give you the abbreviated one: it’s who God and you are.
Chastity is romantic
Let’s consider that for a moment. Chastity is romantic. Why? Because in choosing it, you are saying that I belong to only one person and one person alone: my [future] spouse. Naturally, you belong to God first and foremost, but bear with me, I speak as a man.
In saying that you will not make out, not get sexually involved, not look at other peoples’ nakedness, not observe others having sex or doing sexual things; in saying that you will not let another person touch you in a sexual way and will not touch others in a sexual way (other than your spouse), you are being deeply romantic. You are saying I’m so in love with my [future] spouse that I will share myself only with that person and that person alone.
It’s romantic. If you think there are exceptions to being romantic with your spouse alone, then I beg you to ask yourself if you expect fidelity from your spouse. If you think that sharing your body and sexuality are nothing more than expressions of love and affection, then you should ask yourself why you don’t share it with just anyone at school, work, or forgive me, in your family. If you are not comfortable with doing it to just anyone it means that you do not believe, actually, that sexuality is not just an expression of affection. It’s a specific kind of expression directed at a specific someone. Your battle for chastity is equivalent to your battle for fidelity in marriage. It’s romantic. It’s faithful. It’s…well, sexy. In an appropriate way.
How you value yourself and your [future] spouse is not something temporal only to the day of your union and crowning. It’s a part of the process of your eternal faithfulness to your spouse. So what can we do to fight for our chastity?
Use your senses properly: Eyes
Don’t take second looks. Don’t watch porn of any kind. Don’t read porn. Don’t watch your equivalents of porn (Instagram, Reddit feeds, Twitter etc.…). Don’t watch movies or TV series that make you weaker in your resolve. Don’t watch the person at the gym that you think is hot. Don’t look where you shouldn’t look.
Do look at things that help you, do read the things that help you, do look at everyone as your brother and sister (and not as a piece of meat). Do look at movies or TV shows or media that either do not provoke you to sin or that do actively help you toward chastity.
Use your senses properly: Ears
Don’t listen to things that get you stimulated. If you’re listening to music like Zayn’s “Pillowtalk” or Akon’s “I wanna love you” or Flo Rida’s “Whistle”, it’s no surprise that you’re stimulated. If you’re listening to people at work or school describing their sexual escapades, you’re going to struggle. If you’re listening to sexual jokes or stories, you will be weak. Don’t listen to things that get you weak.
Listen to things that are either neutral (good) or make you stronger (best). I’m not criminalising music, but I’m saying do listen to things that do not harm you. Some might say, ‘are you saying that I should listen to Church hymns or sermons’? No, I’m not saying you have to do that –> although, that’s a great idea that you should consider trying sometimes rather than treating it like it’s a ridiculous idea. I’m saying do listen to things that build you up, that do not harm you, that are in a worst-case scenario neutral. Do be honest about how things affect you. I speak of music in particular because it affects me, and I love music.
Use your senses properly: Mouth
Don’t make crude jokes. Don’t talk about sexuality all the time. Don’t sing the lyrics of songs or other content that cause you to lose your resolve. Don’t say things you don’t mean or that are not true or that compromise your character. If you’re comfortable compromising your character, you’re comfortable not being yourself (chaste).
Don’t eat too much (self-indulgence) or you will not only be unable to say ‘no’ to yourself in general, but you will often be putting yourself in a lustful mood. We all know what food comas look like. Don’t put your mouth where it doesn’t belong (and yes, I also mean that sexually).
Do say things that are true, lovely, kind, helpful, build-up. Do speak reverently about everything, including sex and sexuality. Do speak kind words and good words and decent lyrics and conversation. If you have trouble doing this, it means you’re probably not used to having a good conversation. I’ve had many in my life and they rarely were about sexuality. It’s not impossible or boring to have a stimulating conversation that is not about sex.
Use your senses properly: Nose
Yes, even your nose matters. Are you wearing cologne or perfume to make yourself more sexually attractive? Let’s face it, I’ve walked through the Macy’s and Hudson Bay companies and even the airport. What are the pictures usually adorning perfume and cologne ads? Naked people. Often, naked people engaged in sexual contact. Why? Because perfume/cologne are, apparently, sexy. I’m not saying don’t ever put these on you, but I’m saying don’t do this provocatively and be real about it. Do care about personal hygiene and not smelling like you rolled out of a workout, but do not be ultra-attentive to making sure that you can be smelled a mile away, and that the smell is meant to stimulate people.
Use your senses properly: Touch
Keep your hands to yourself. We’re in an era where we’re constantly hugging each other. That used to be weird. I don’t think it’s a coincidence that as we got more sexual as a society, we got touchier. It’s not because we’re less primitive and know that touching is ‘not a big deal’. Touching increases the likelihood of tipping – you can read tons of papers and studies on that. We like touch; it feels good. It’s stimulating. Don’t touch. Don’t tickle people. Don’t put your arms around people, pretending that it’s innocent when really, you’re longing for that touch.
Don’t touch people where you shouldn’t (I also mean that sexually). Learn to keep your body to yourself and you will not struggle to keep it for your spouse. It’s actually that simple. If you are used to gratifying your need or your desire for sensuality (because we have both in us) on demand, good luck with being faithful to your spouse.
Do touch people appropriately. This includes within marriage, believe it or not. Spouses, if you deprive your partners of sensual and sexual touch, you may be doing some serious damage and causing your spouse to look outside of the marriage or outside of you to gratify the need or want. So I’m not just talking about negative touch, I’m talking about positive touch and about negative use of withholding touch. Understand your relationships to others and what kind of touch is appropriate or inappropriate. This is sometimes cultural, and sometimes religious. Know the difference between the two.
Don’t use touch as the go-to way of comfort, or you’re normalising inappropriate use of your body. Don’t use your touch to sext people or write inappropriate things. Write positive things and text appropriate things – it’s not like the only source of enjoyable writing is sex. If that’s the case, it means that you’re more taken by society than you might like to admit.
The body in general
Use your body as what it is: a sacred thing that you can share very intimately with your beloved. Don’t go to inappropriate places. If you’re at the club or on the dance floor with a bunch of hot people who are clearly stimulated and often there to hook up in some form, you will not be strong in keeping yourself for your spouse, not now, not later. You will likely become addicted to that rush and to that atmosphere. It’s no coincidence that people laugh at the idea of marriage, or play with the idea of auto-expiring marriage licenses.
Don’t dress in a way that begs people to stare at your breasts, chest, biceps, abs, thighs, rear end or anything that is sexy (by today’s standards). If you think I’m being extra, perhaps you will agree when you recall songs like “Baby got back”. Be real. People like bodies, or they would not be on display all the time. The less clothing, the more attractive (sexually). Do not participate in this.
Don’t be in places or engage in activities that publicly or privately make your body the focal point of attention. The more attention that you give something, the more power you give it. There’s a lot of reason and logic to asceticism, which has been publicly replaced with hedonism. Don’t go on work trips or business meetings that compromise your fidelity. There is no reason why the business meeting with the potential client needs to be at a strip club (yes, I’ve heard of this happening).
Do dress beautifully. It’s just that beautifully and sexually are not the same thing. Do go places you enjoy that don’t hurt you. Do go out and have fun; it just doesn’t have to be at the club. It’s not the only fun place in existence or every human being in existence would be there (they’re not, I promise). Do be fit, do be healthy – but do it in a right way and do it in a way that does not attract sexual attention. Do travel, just not in a way that makes you weaker. You have to train your body and understand the deep romance of asceticism.
I won’t spend a long time on this because the blog is (as usual) longer than intended. Suffice it to say this: if you’re surrounded by people who do not believe what you believe, you are less likely to be able to keep your chastity. Numerous cultures and creeds (even atheists like Lenin) have some kind of form of the adage: tell me who your friends are and I’ll tell you who you are. Choose your friends carefully. You need friends usually, and you need them to be supporting your choices, not making them more difficult.
May God grant us all grace in our struggle for chastity. So, while the world might think that your chastity is crazy or stupid, to that spouse of yours, for whom you have been entirely faithful and protective of, it’s romantic. In choosing chastity, you’re choosing a real and true sexual relationship. It won’t be deformed sexiness, it’s actually sexy.