Theology of the Body // Celibacy and Virginity

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Matthew 19:10-12  1 Corinthians 7:8-9

You’ve probably heard that when it comes to being in a relationship, “everybody’s doing it.” Secular society tends to make fun of people who are inexperienced, or *gasp* virgins. Sex is valued by the world as the be-all and end-all,  with marriage being just a “bonus” that focuses more on the wedding and where the couple goes for a honeymoon than on making the marriage work. 

Love is not about how good you are in bed. It’s not about having the most lavish wedding,  or going on an exotic honeymoon,  or even about being with somebody until you can’t take it anymore. Love and marriage are about sacrifice. Love can manifest in a million different ways that have nothing to do with relationships. One of those ways that love can manifest is through celibacy and virginity.

Being a virgin isn’t a disease or something to be ridiculed. At the same time, people shouldn’t put such an emphasis on “purity” that they basically pressure women into roles they may not want to take on. Being a virgin means simply to embrace a life of chastity, which goes way beyond whether or not you “do it” before you’re married. 

Arleen Spenceley, author of Chastity is for Lovers, says that “Chastity infuses sex with love and love with sacrifice...Chastity never trivializes sex, and it refuses to use or objectify people. It says we can have what we want when we want what is good for us and it equips us to discern whether it is.” Chastity is not exactly the same as virginity or abstinence. Abstinence is merely the act of refraining from having sex. According to The Catechism of the Catholic Church: “Chastity means the successful integration of sexuality within the person and thus the inner unity of man in his bodily and spiritual being.” In order to practice chastity, we need to acknowledge that our sexuality is only a part of ourselves and not define our entire identity around it. 

Chastity provides a middle ground. Being a “chaste” person means practicing authentic love. When we practice chastity, we aren’t defined by our sexuality alone, nor are we considered “impure” for not being a virgin. Chastity gives those who want to reform a chance to start over and helps those who are still virgins maintain their integrity.

Chastity gives us the dignity to be women, regardless of whatever careers we decide to have or what vocation we are called to. There are way too many people who do so, whether they devote their lives to being “pure” for all the wrong reasons or being a “slut” with pride for the sake of “female empowerment.” Both of these mindsets are extremes that we can lose ourselves in.

Reflect: What do you think being “chaste” consists of? How do you think being chaste applies to people who are married or choose religious vocations? Which “extremes” on “purity” do you encounter in your life? How do you think you can help people understand the middle ground?

Act:  Practice being chaste in small ways, particularly by treating everyone (even the very handsome man on the cover of a magazine) as a brother or sister in Christ.

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