Tuesday, April 12, 2011

Cut to the Chaste

Week Six: Sex Before Marriage

"Cut to the Chaste" by Elizabeth at Startling the Day

This is the sixth post of a blog post series called "Bright Maidens." We three are from the oft-mentioned, widely-speculated upon demographic of young, twenty-something Catholic women. We're here to dispel the myths and misconceptions- please join us for the discussion!



The Big Rule: no sex before marriage. It's a concept that seems pretty simple when you forget that rules are often useless to the flawed human race without reasoning and understanding supporting them.
(I don't own the rights)

My mom "conditioned" my sisters and me from the tender age of three to follow this big abstinence rule. As I mentioned in my review of Jason and Crystalina's newest book, my mom sat her daughters in front of the 1954 musical, Seven Brides for Seven Brothers, and drove home the point that men and women sleep separately until they get married.

I intend to buy the Blu-ray version of Seven Brides for Seven Brothers and convert it to hologramray or whatever technology comes next until I have my own children. Learning that men and women sleep separately until marriage when I was still eating glue and drawing incomprehensible crayon artwork on the floor was immeasurably helpful in my life.

This is especially accurate considering life outside of my home tried to make fun of the values that my parents instilled. The TVs played music when the characters finally got together, suggesting there was actual magic shooting back and forth between those kisses. Now we harbor little doubt that the next step these characters take will lead to the bedroom.

The commercials started to use innuendo and now we have public displays of American embarrassment in shows like Teen Mom and The Secret Life of the American Teenager.

My mother got to me early and drove home the Big Rule before the media had a chance to get me, but it was really my peers I had to worry about. The media plague got to many of my classmates before it affected me (thanks mom and dad, for banning shows like "The Simpsons").  These peers' influence, sarcasm, and general attitude about topics such as sex and romantic love started acting like a marinade on me.

Society's lessons about how to be "normal" finally got to me and all of the champion avoidance efforts I could muster were no match for an attack from all sides.

Happily, my parents used anatomical names instead of cutesy names, they were always available to talk, unembarrassed, and transparent when we had questions. We had comfortable talks about sex instead of ones that made you want to crawl into a ball and be absorbed by the carpet.

The supposedly liberated media can't claim to be unembarrassed like my parents. Movies or TV shows with any sexual innuendo carry a hint of embarrassment, wrongdoing, or "shoulda, woulda, coulda" when the sexual relationship doesn't pan out as the characters anticipate.
You knew I had to add Grey's Anatomy (I don't own rights)

What is missing? Where is the freedom?

I was brought up to mutter commentary like, "Well, maybe you shouldn't have had sex," whenever the characters broke down in tears after a break up. I followed the rule to a T. No sex until marriage, at all costs.

Then came high school where my friends and classmates started drinking and having sex, making me feel like I was far better than most and that I didn't want to judge these people for their decisions.

My solution was to continue my non-drinking, non-sexual ways and decide that my decision was my decision alone. It mattered not what they did -- sometimes this attitude led to my encouragement of behavior I would never consider, softening my perception of the wrongs I was opposed to my entire life.

Then came college and the "normal" college lifestyle I knew so well from the movies and TV shows. The fun happens at parties: the end. Therefore, go to parties and do fun things like drink, flirt with the opposite sex, and make-out with complete strangers while the smell of Natty Light and Axe hangs in the air.

Cut to the Chaste

The mantra went: I wasn't having sex, my outfits were classier than those girls, I wasn't getting wasted every weekend, and I only had the stranger encounters a few times.

But was I still the three-year-old sitting Indian style in front of the musicals and wholesome movies I would watch as a child? The "bloom" had been rubbed off because I was advancing away from that simple, innocent life, edging as close as possible to sin, and treading through Sin Candyland "for fun."

I started dating and with that comes smooching.

It's risky to think we can go at full speed in a passionate make out session with petting and expect to put on the breaks every time. In fact, it's just plain mean to yourself and to your partner to get hot and heavy with the expectation that you're going to stop before sex "happens."

Sex doesn't just happen, choices are made and then adults consent (except in the obvious cases of rape). One of these choice checkpoint is kissing and it's up to the individual to know when we start to lie to our body saying, "Hey, we're going to have sex with this person before we get off the couch," when we have no intention to advance that far.

Sexuality isn't one size fits all. Sex isn't dirty or evil either. It's supposed to be a beautiful foreshadowing of the union with God in heaven.
(I don't own the rights)

God is supposed to be involved, much like He is supposed to be involved in relationships leading to marriage and involved in the marriage itself. Sacrament is the key word we're searching for.

We can blame society until our faces turn blue because it pushes a subtle (and not-so-subtle) agenda on us. However, I don't think we can be satisfied with this one Big Rule.

We need to understand why we're choosing differently than the characters in Friends. We need to understand why making out with everything with a heartbeat devalues our perception of what should be a tender moment. We need to date with purpose instead of treating the people of the opposite sex as truck stops on the way to the destination.

Ladies, we need to know we're dressing modestly so we know that the men in our lives are there because they see something revealed within us instead of something revealed by our blouses. Gentlemen, you need to know you're half of the equation and your conviction needs to be steadfast and consistent, even if you're dating someone with a less than pure past.

Chastity means learning and respecting all of the reasons we were created. Love your spouse before you meet them and prevent yourself from making the mistakes that don't easily leave your memory.

I've written letters to my future husband at many points in my transition back to chastity. They explain that I already love him and that I'm excited to share the fruits of my chaste labors in our marriage. I think these fruits will show themselves in our relationship before marriage, on our wedding night, and in our public married life.

A fruit basket from Me, to Me, stocked by God. I bet it tastes like freedom.
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18 comments:

Stacy Trasancos said...

"It's supposed to be a beautiful foreshadowing of the union with God in heaven." So true and sadly this is lost on people who are not taught it that way. It's something we can learn by thinking about the Trinity. Great post!!!

Sarah said...

"We need to understand why we're choosing differently than the characters in Friends. We need to understand why making out with everything with a heartbeat devalues our perception of what should be a tender moment. We need to date with purpose instead of treating the people of the opposite sex as truck stops on the way to the destination."

I love that paragraph! Great points about the power of media representations of "love." I may have to write a whole post in response...

vercfamily said...

Great post, as usual, Elizabeth.

Liesl said...

OK, I found evidence of us NOT being the same person....


Just kidding. This is a great post... I experienced a very similar upbringing and experiences in our lovely culture. Love the marinade analogy! Haha.

Julie Robison said...

"Ladies, we need to know we're dressing modestly so we know that the men in our lives are there because they see something revealed within us instead of something revealed by our blouses. Gentlemen, you need to know you're half of the equation and your conviction needs to be steadfast and consistent, even if you're dating someone with a less than pure past." >> my favorite graf!

"I bet it tastes like freedom." >> almost died laughing. Great way to close, E! Nice job, pal. :)

Homeboy McCoy said...

I love that "dating with a purpose" line. I used to get chastised by my friends when I'd pass on certain women because they weren't "marriage material."

And then other women would pass on me because I was "too nice"--WTF?!? I got rejected because I was polite, chivalrous, respectful of their boundaries, and treated them like the most precious of gems?!?

Oy, that's another anomaly I don't get. They want me to be a jerk and try to sleep with them?!?

Anthony S. Layne said...

"It's risky to think we can go at full speed in a passionate make out session with petting and expect to put on the breaks every time. In fact, it's just plain mean to yourself and to your partner to get hot and heavy with the expectation that you're going to stop before sex 'happens'."

Too true. The further you get into "innocent" making out (let's call it what it is: foreplay), the more chemicals released that depress critical judgment, and the more difficult it is to keep yourself from giving in ... the very point Fr. Kenney tried to beat into my fourteen-year-old male animal head so many years ago.

Homeboy "And then other women would pass on me because I was "too nice"—WTF?!? I got rejected because I was polite, chivalrous, respectful of their boundaries, and treated them like the most precious of gems?!?"

(*sigh*) Been there, done that. I don't try to explain it or figure it out anymore.

not a minx, a moron, or a parasite said...

My mom just referenced "Seven Brides for Seven Brothers" the other day. Clearly she's been holding out on me!

E & Anthony, very true re: make out sessions. Even less passionate kissing over a few hours revs the body up (and if it's been really passionate, then watch out!). "When are we getting to the good part?" the body asks. "Oh silly body, did you think we were about to have sex just because we've been cuddling and kissing and alone for five hours?" "Ugh...yes?"

Jackie said...

Good post!

I don't think you are doing this...but a lot of what I was taught growing up was that sex was basically a prize for being a goody goody. And if you waited, sex would be awesome, best thing ever, and completely wonderful.

With all my -down there- health problems, let's just say it isn't. (full disclosure: we waited *almost* till marriage :-( thank goodness for forgiveness). It does bother me that my whole life I was taught that sex was like this end-all-be-all but really like everything else in life, it can be hard, frustrating, beautiful, and worthwhile. But it's not God himself. I think as Christians we can easily turn sex into an idol, which is ironic, cause that's what we are trying *not* to do.

Sr_Lisa said...

Congrats, again, E!

During a half-day retreat last Saturday sponsored by my Convent, I was helping the group of young women (14-22) try to grasp that in God's creation of man/woman, he gave us not only a physical body, but a soul. It was a deep revelation for most of them to realize, that what goes on inside of them is way more important than that minuscule piece of them (the exterior part, or container for the soul) that the world sees and tries to manipulate. They realized how much energy/time our society spends on physical aspects of our being, and tries to cut away the spiritual life, thus the soul, and stuff it in a closet. From there, they could see the benefits to purity in body, so as to protect the soul, and nurture their inner beauty, and how they are both intrinsically connected.

Like you said so well, "God is supposed to be involved, much like He is supposed to be involved in relationships leading to marriage and involved in the marriage itself."

This is my continued prayer for each of my retreatants. That as they grow, that their relationship with God will help them to desire to protect their inner life, so that they may one day share it fully - on their terms - through their called vocations.
God bless!

vitaconsecrata said...

AMEN!
I agree with everything you said.
I do have to say though that the Grey's Anatomy picture threw me off...I mean, it's not like they have sex on that show or anything!! ;)
I do love that show though...

Marc Cardaronella said...

"My mother got to me early and drove home the Big Rule before the media had a chance to get me, but it was really my peers I had to worry about." It's funny, I always think it's going to be the media that gets you but I can see how you're right. All that constant peer pressure and negative example and frank talk could probably really work to wear you down. Eventually you just get conditioned to the fact that everyone is doing it and decide to cave. Your parents were very wise. I learned a great lesson for my own kids today.


This is just awesome! "A fruit basket from Me, to Me, stocked by God. I bet it tastes like freedom." Yes ma'am!

Spence Ohana said...

Great post! Gosh maybe I should by that blu-ray and have my daughter watch it. She just told me yesterday she received her first love letter from a boy in her first grade class! Luckily she said she didn't like him because he doesn't use proper spacing when he writes his words. LOL

Christine Falk Dalessio said...

great to have found you` I will be passing your blog along to the beautiful young Catholic women I work with - can't wait to read more.

Elizabeth said...

Thanks, y'all!!
Stacy, I'm sure you are already teaching this with your kids!
Sarah, I can't wait to see your post!
Liesl, hahaha thanks!
Julie, :) thanks, haha
Homeboy and Anthony - yeeeeeah... I don't have an explanation for you. I don't think I've ever turned away a guy for being too nice, but I know it happens all the time. They learn to regret it a decade later, or when they start dating a real jerk.
Anthony - YES! It is foreplay, as much as we don't want to believe that because that means we shouldn't test those waters.
Trista Well put. That's exactly what we do to our bodies. And yes, you must watch that movie!
Jackie Those are some superb points, wow. I had this idea that my first kiss would be magical and it would change my life (much like people idealize sex) and... womp womp, it stunk. It was awkward and uncomfortable. I was self-conscious and a little grossed out? That didn't stick around... but I finally realized that it will probably be similar with sex. Not that it won't be awesome eventually, it's just not the end-all, be-all.
Lisa WHOA! That was the most succinct and thorough explanation about this!!
Tina I used to watch Grey's, but it's just ridiculous. Ridiculous.
Marc Yay! I'm sure you're already doing well on this front anyway, but might I suggest Seven Brides for Seven Brothers...
Spence Thank you! Yes!! Warning: watching this movie as you grow up makes you very attracted to the "backwoodsman, red head, dancing, singing" type. Hahahaha a girl after my own heart!!
Christine YAY! Welcome, Christine! Please do, and join in the discussion!

Queen Mab said...

Beautiful!

I just wrote a long response, and *poof*! It's gone, after trying to sign in to comment.

Do you watch "Parenthood" by any chance? This past weeks' episode featured Hattie, 16, having sex with her boyfriend, and her parent's response to the news...Seven Brides for Seven Brothers? Love it!

Peace,
Melissa

not a minx, a moron, or a parasite said...

I ALREADY love "backwoodsman, red head, dancing, singing" types. Oh dear. Maybe I shouldn't watch it.

Stephen Dobbins said...

I love your blog and everything you had to say. My name is Steve and I am looking for a girl with the same values you have. It's refreshing to see someone with these values. I am single, 35 and hold these values sacred as well. I believe the woman God has for me is worth waiting for. So I am not looking to have sex or anything else with a woman like that until we are married. Any woman God Gives me is worth waiting for and worth waiting to be with. Men these days need to learn the old-fashioned values about how to love and treat a woman with the utmost respect and dignity. I think I have been passed over by many women because I uphold these values in my life. I was brought up in the church and taught all these values by my pastor and my parents. I would not change my values for anything. They are too precious to lose! I hope to one day meet a woman like you with your value system. It means a lot to me. Thanks again for your post. I agree with averything you've stated!

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