Tuesday, April 19, 2005

Abstinence and Chastity

There was an article in the New York Times yesterday about a new student group on Princeton's campus that promotes chastity outside of marriage, as well as "traditional" views of marriage and family, including "pro-woman, pro-motherhood feminism." This was a little bit encouraging to me, as my husband and were abstinent until we got married, and there is very little societal support for that. Very, very little. If you're still a virgin after the age of about 20, then there's just not much that society is doing for you to help you stick to your beliefs. And after you graduate from college, every message you get tells you that you're weird for not having sex.

According to the article, and the Anscombe Society echos this on their website, some students decided to start up the society in response to the huge number of resources they saw on campus for students who were having sex and the utter lack of resources they saw to support students who decided to remain abstinent.

This got me thinking- what could Princeton, or any university, for that matter, provide to support students' decisions to wait until marriage to have sex? One might argue that providing easy access to free condoms promotes a sexual freedom that undermines societal support for abstinence, and I might agree; however, I don't think the solution is taking away those condoms, or easy access to birth control, or free STD tests (as someone pointed out to me, just because you aren't having intercourse doesn't mean that you can't get an STD!). I am not interested in taking away resources from my friends who have decided to have sex (pretty much all of them), I am interested in how to make sticking to my decision easier.

In terms of what the university can do, I think the answer is: not much. I think the most helpful thing is social support for your decision, which the university is providing by giving money to this group. In my case, even though pretty much all of my friends had decided to have sex, they were all supportive of my decision. They never made me feel weird or strange for making and sticking to my decision. I am also lucky because my mother is very pro-abstinence, so back when I had a boyfriend who was pressuring for sex, she was able to be supportive during the relationship and after he broke up with me.

The other thing that I think would help encourage an understanding of the decision not to have sex outside of marriage is a toning down of the commerically sexual culture. Not in a "sex is bad" way, but honestly, I have seen so many movies where the protagonists rush to sleep together when it is totally unnecessary. I'm trying to remember the specific example that I have in mind, but I can't. Oh. Garden State. That's what I'm thinking of. And I liked that movie, otherwise. But it's little things like that.

And also, I hear a lot of people criticizing celebrities who talk about celibacy- people like Jessica Simpson and Kristin Chenoweth. The criticism is that these people are crass for making their sex life (or lack thereof) public. I disagree with this 100%. It is really helpful to see others making and sticking to the choice to not have sex before getting married. I would love to see more!

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