The Raving Theist

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Chastening Thoughts

June 20, 2006 | 76 Comments

Liberal Christian Jill of Feministe is not thrilled by The Thrill of the Chaste, the upcoming book by conservative Christian Dawn Eden. The author’s criticism of pre-marital sex with dating partners perturbs Jill, particularly Dawn’s observation (excerpt available here) that women who indulge in such sex before marriage can’t appreciate men the same as those who practice chastity. “[J]ust as I would never tell [Dawn] that she must have premarital sex in order to appreciate men for who they are,” says Jill, “I find it completely offensive that she would attempt to tell everyone else that we can’t possibly respect and love men as human beings unless we refuse to have sex.”

The disputants do not, at least in the posts linked, cast their arguments in religious terms. I have supplied the labels because, as I’ve noted before, I believe that the opposition to pre-marital abstinence (and chastity generally) is a case of good ideas facing rejection because of their historical association with theistic orthodoxy. The notion of “saving oneself for marriage” has religious overtones, and the term “fornication” is now rarely seen out of the Bible. But a case can be made that Dawn’s position, in addition to probably being more consistently Christian that Jill’s, is more secularly sound.

Like many forms of liberal Christianity, Jill’s faith resembles that brand of misguided atheism which for some reason considers itself bound to pronounce relativism as the only virtue. Thus, she says, “[t]he problem comes when you try and convince the rest of us that making the same choices as you will set us on the path to eternal happiness.” But the suggestion that Dawn has engaged in unreasonable generalization cannot withstand close scrutiny. People often counsel against adultery, bigamy, polygamy and prostitution notwithstanding that others have survived or even flourished after engaging in such conduct. A man who revealed that all of his “relationships” consisted of masturbating to the “About Me” pictures of feminist bloggers after leaving comments on their sites might benefit from advice, even though he insisted that the practice was harmless or “worked for him.” Pre-marital sex may not be, in the scheme of things, a grave moral offense, but its desirability is not something that should be immunized from debate.

And Jill herself is engaging in only the pretense of non-judgmentalism. In fact, she considers Dawn’s advocacy to be a problem, and declares that the world would be a better place if women refrained from trying to convince others of the superiority of non-marital chastity. She is scolding them every bit as much as Dawn, except that her recommendation is that they shut their mouths rather than their legs.

Jill is not truly neutral on the subject of chastity. In at least one context she has pronounced it “unhealthy and sad.” Notwithstanding her claim that she would never project that “personal belief” on anybody, it is in every way a moral assessment whose very utterance is intended to convince others of its truth. Regarding pre-marital sex, her message is equally clear. Jill might “respect” chastity in the minimal sense that she thinks it should remain a legal right, but believes that people like Dawn who actually endorse it are irrational and emotionally unbalanced. And she believes that those who are convinced to follow Dawn’s example will be hurt. Dawn’s book would not otherwise pose a “problem.”

What Dawn’s book poses, however, is not a problem but an ideal. The ideal is to restrict sex to marriage — a state involving the mutual recognition of a lifelong commitment to a monogamous relationship. Viewed as an ideal, the problem people like Jill have is suggesting something better, or establishing the superiority of an earlier consummation of the relationship.

It is not easy analyze the issue without confirming much of the truth of Dawn’s fundamental premise. First, I have to assume that there is at least some point in a relationship that Jill would consider too early for sex for anybody under any circumstance. For example, she might counsel a friend or sister or daughter not to engage in sex with a man the very instant she met him, before she knew his name, before any words had been exchanged — especially if a bag covered his head and she had not even seen his face.

The example might seem ridiculous, but the point is simply that in such a situation most people — even Jill — would likely recommend chastity and in fact would consider it ridiculous to consider any alternative. So clearly the notion that there is something necessarily offensive, much less “completely offensive,” about attempts to convince others of the value chastity is flawed. The man must be known and appreciated, in some way and for some time, in a purely non-sexual way. The woman is indeed “saving” herself for the point at which the relationship has matured enough for it to become sexual.

The basic principle being established, it is a small step to conclude that it might be best for the parties to a sexual relationship to have reached the point where they actually love each other. Again, most people, if asked whether they believed that it was preferable to engage in loveless sex, would answer in the negative without debating whether inappropriate judgmentalism were involved. A woman considering a date with a man who she knew to be simultaneously sleeping with three others might well heed her friends’ advice to forget about him — and his protestations that he didn’t love them or that they “meant nothing to him” would not likely be persuasive.

Finally, the question becomes whether sex is best reserved for the point at which the love has ripened into the desire for a lifelong attachment, e.g., marriage. As an ideal, it is certainly more than merely defensible. One would rather have a stronger emotional bound with one’s bedmate than a weaker one. There was an old Onion headline to the effect of “You Are the Woman Who I Want to Completely Devote the My Next Three Months and Four Days of My Life With” — while sex with such a man might appear to be preferable to sex with one who promised to dump you in the morning, the principle is really the same. Absent a permanent commitment the parties are merely using each other.

Comments

76 Responses to “Chastening Thoughts”

  1. qedpro
    June 20th, 2006 @ 3:07 pm

    Not sure if i can pin this one on religious people only, but i’ll try :-)
    But people are obsessed about other people’s sex life. WTF
    Perhaps its because they don’t have one themselves.
    But for religious people, its not enough for them to privately practice what they believe, everyone else has to be doing the goosestep (missionary style) or it underminds their beliefs.

  2. Jahrta
    June 20th, 2006 @ 3:29 pm

    saving yourself for marriage is retarded. your wedding night is no time to find out that your new mate can only get off when you clamp jumper cables to his nipples while covering him in vanilla pudding and reading from “Horton Hears a Who.”

    Ok, an extreme example to be sure, but many marriages fail (or suffer) due to sexual incompatibility or disatisfaction with someone’s techniques or equipment.

    If you’re in a monogamous and trusting relationship, there’s no harm in having relations with your partner, as long as precautions are taken to prevent pregnancy (if such is your want) and the spread of sexually transmitted diseases (i.e. condoms and/or blood tests).

  3. HappyNat
    June 20th, 2006 @ 3:39 pm

    I never understood how sex before marriage can be dirty, evil, and make women sluts, but then after ‘I do’ it is the greatest thing in the world. Are people really silly enough to believe that saying those words in front on people suddenly makes sex OK? Just kidding I know people are that silly.

    Sex is a fun enjoyable activity that mature adults can engage in, like having a couple beers or snowboarding. What makes sex different is the pressure society puts on the act, but not teaching people about it, ro freaking out when we see a nipple. It is as natural as taking a piss, but it has been put on a huge pedestal and now it freak everybody out.

  4. Dom
    June 20th, 2006 @ 5:01 pm

    “I believe that the opposition to pre-marital abstinence (and chastity generally) is a case of good ideas facing rejection because of their historical association with theistic orthodoxy.”

    “Absent a permanent commitment the parties are merely using each other.”

    Sexual release is a psychological need. Safe, consensual sex is healthy. Chastity is only a better idea than the alternative when safe, consensual sex is unavailable.

  5. Thorngod
    June 20th, 2006 @ 5:49 pm

    Chastity is its own punishment. But I think the taboo and the shame trip laid on illicit sex by religion also serve to make the experience even more exciting. As to the “love” recommendation, there is a lot of confusion involved in the sex-love equation. More later.

  6. "Q" the Enchanter
    June 20th, 2006 @ 6:20 pm

    “Absent a permanent commitment the parties are merely using each other.”

    That line of cynicism cuts anyway you like. You might just as well say that parties to marriage merely agree to “use each other” until death do them part.

    For my part, I think “saving yourself” for marriage is a positively bad idea. You might as well hold off on interpersonal discourse while you’re at it. (“Sorry but I won’t talk religion or politics until I’m married.”)

  7. "Q" the Enchanter
    June 20th, 2006 @ 6:20 pm

    “Absent a permanent commitment the parties are merely using each other.”

    That line of cynicism cuts anyway you like. You might just as well say that parties to marriage merely agree to “use each other” until death do them part.

    For my part, I think “saving yourself” for marriage is a positively bad idea. You might as well hold off on interpersonal discourse while you’re at it. (“Sorry but I won’t talk religion or politics until I’m married.”)

  8. "Q" the Enchanter
    June 20th, 2006 @ 6:20 pm

    “Absent a permanent commitment the parties are merely using each other.”

    That line of cynicism cuts anyway you like. You might just as well say that parties to marriage merely agree to “use each other” until death do them part.

    For my part, I think “saving yourself” for marriage is a positively bad idea. You might as well hold off on interpersonal discourse while you’re at it. (“Sorry but I won’t talk religion or politics until I’m married.”)

  9. benjamin
    June 20th, 2006 @ 7:34 pm

    Dawn gives bad advice on this issue, and Jill (and Jahrta) are right here. Dawn is trying to state something that is not universally true as if it were. She might as well say “when you stop drinking pepsi and start drinking coke, you’ll realize that pepsi drinkers don’t appreciate soft drinks to the extent that coke drinkers do.” I don’t mind Dawn sharing her story with anyone who will listen, but she could easily avoid being presumptious at the same time.

  10. Subvert
    June 20th, 2006 @ 8:28 pm

    I can never understand why poeple are always talking about how you should LOVE the person you have sex with. I could really give a f*ck if YOU love the person YOU have sex with.

    Don’t do it with anyone who doesn’t want you, don’t do it with children, or people who are mentally incapable of making a decision, and don’t do it with animals (unless they’re really sexy). Other than that, why would I care?

    _________________________________________
    http://www.subversiveminds.com/rant/
    Check out the latest RANT,
    funny articles for people who think!
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  11. Mookie
    June 20th, 2006 @ 9:23 pm

    Lame. Chastity makes priests molest children.

  12. SBW
    June 20th, 2006 @ 10:05 pm

    nd Jill herself is engaging in only the pretense of non-judgmentalism. In fact, she considers Dawn’s advocacy to be a problem, and declares that the world would be a better place if women refrained from trying to convince others of the superiority of non-marital chastity. She is scolding them every bit as much as Dawn, except that her recommendation is that they shut their mouths rather than their legs.

    That paragraph pretty much summed the entire situation up.

    Everyone has a right to promote their viewpoint as the correct viewpoint. Liberals believe that liberalism is a better ideology than conservatism, and they have no problem proclaiming this. Atheists have no problem saying that atheism is the only logical conclusion to come to regarding the existence of God. So why does a person practicing chastity not have the right to proclaim that chasity is the best way to live if they truly believe this?

    Jill and her ilk call people homobigots when someone is anti-gay marriage and you are a patriarchal asshole if you are not a feminist. The bottom line is that she ( Jill) believes that the only correct ideology is her own. She is just as dogmatic as anyone the people she attempts to discredit for not believing as she does.

    Furthermore, Catholic books are written for Catholics. Books about atheism are written for people interested in atheism. Dawn wrote a book about chastity for people interested if chastity. If you don’t feel that the point being put forward in a book is one that you agree with feel free to not purchase the book.

  13. Some Guy
    June 21st, 2006 @ 12:11 am

    Do you think people would pay less attention to Feministe if their bloggers were less attractive?

  14. Thorngod
    June 21st, 2006 @ 12:22 am

    I’m very sympathetic toward unattractive women, and go out of my way to be nice and attentive toward them, but my sexual overtures are always concentrated on the voluptuous, yummy, irresistably delicious 17-to-30-year-old sweet tarts.

  15. Snap Crafter
    June 21st, 2006 @ 1:11 am

    Ya know, I’ve always found those people who know they’re pretty to be something of a horrid demeanor. I can’t stand to be around’m. The thing is, most ugly people THINK they’re pretty, and thus have an obnoxious attitude. I think this makes it easier for them to get by in such a material world as this/ actually attracts men to’m.

    I always found that the people who are more individual/not really a people person/ a gamer are far more attractive intellectually and aren’t all that bad a looker either. Too bad that, not only are they far and few between, but are usually taken. And by an asshat too.

  16. Thorngod
    June 21st, 2006 @ 2:19 am

    Snappy, I must be uglier than I thought. When it comes to sex, intellectualism be damned! I wouldn’t screw a real dummy, but I don’t fuck brains! As long as a vuloptuous female is as sentient and as sensible as the average Christian, I’m ready and anxious to transport her to the elysian fields. And those chaste Christian girls are delightfully pliable. I had my first in a chapel, after vespers, on a pew, with a choir girl, an angel–and I was transformed!

  17. bernarda
    June 21st, 2006 @ 2:27 am

    Steven Pinker talks about the evolutionary role of romantic love. For those who believe in a monogamous relationship, there is a decision that has to be made at some time.

    You look for the perfect partner, but time is working against you. At some point to have to say “this is the one”. You could look longer, but you are not getting any younger. So what you do is decide that this is the best one I have found so far. Of course, saying that would ruin the atmosphere.

    Then you live together and you meet more people, maybe someone you consider to be better than the one you chose. Do you switch and go with the next one who is also only the best you have found so far?

    He doesn’t say yet what the factors are that romantic love decisions are based on, but he does think that science may one day resolve that question. In general, he finds that 10’s usually choose 10,s, and 9’s choose 9’s, and so on. Of course there are exceptions.

    If you believe in chastity, just how long are you going to wait for the best one so far?

  18. Thorngod
    June 21st, 2006 @ 2:33 am

    Don’t wait! Check out every one, and then succumb to the one you can’t bear to dessert!

  19. EK
    June 21st, 2006 @ 3:41 am

    In regards to people who want to save sex for marriage because it is what the old testament says:

    Do any of these people realize what marriage is in the OT? It is the purchase of hymenically sealed girls by the dozen to be used as sex objects and baby factories. OT Marriage has nothing to with love, romance, passion, etc… It is just another form of slavery.

    Modern marriage shares one thing in common with that described in the OT. The name.

  20. Jody Tresidder
    June 21st, 2006 @ 7:22 am

    SBW,
    You pack an amazing amount of poor thinking and non sequiturs into this statement of yours:
    Furthermore, Catholic books are written for Catholics. Books about atheism are written for people interested in atheism. Dawn wrote a book about chastity for people interested if chastity. If you don’t feel that the point being put forward in a book is one that you agree with feel free to not purchase the book. ”

    Part of Dawn’s argument is that the benefits of expressly Catholic-endorsed chastity go way beyond religion (i.e. adhering to the doctrinal sacrament of marriage and having sex only within that institution). She thinks it’s good for everyone.

    Hence, in no particular order, the cheeky title of her book, the come -hither cover art, Dawn’s personal testimony about her wilder young days, including her analysis of her often miserable experiences of dating and her description of the secular upside of a chaste lifestyle. You may have noticed she cheerfully posts fierce criticisms of extracts from her book from other blogs as an invitation to all comers to participate in wider debate on her own blog?

    Personally I diasgree with her thesis. Part of my disagreement comes from the crucial notion of the perfection of marital sex as distinct from any other sort, and Dawn has yet to experience the former. Part of it comes from the cultish attitide of Catholics to sex – that its special nature is only available to the inititated because of their inside knowledge. And that’s just for starters.

  21. Lily
    June 21st, 2006 @ 7:38 am

    Jody: I think you are being a bit too hard in your assessment of SBW. She has correctly observed that we all hold positions on issues with which others will disagree. Certainly, I respect those who put their positions out in the public arena for criticism. And truthfully, I don’t think it makes a difference that we want to persuade others that we are right. What would be the point of publishing an article or book otherwise?

    I think you might be mistaken with your last point: Part of it comes from the cultish attitide of Catholics to sex – that its special nature is only available to the inititated because of their inside knowledge. And that’s just for starters.

    I think that the many, many really happy, faithful marriages that others have had are testimony to the fact that the unitive nature of marital sex is available to all. But Catholics think they know something profound about the nature of love and want to inculcate that understanding in their own children and make it available (knowledge, not sex! :-) ) to others.

  22. Will
    June 21st, 2006 @ 7:57 am

    Right again, R.A.
    I read a letter from a local Wiccan HP (in a Christian fanzine, at that) denouncing “unnatural things like strip-mining, Exxon, and sexual abstinence”….. which he went on to explicitly distinguish from contraception, which is “unnatural but useful”, and “things which are a matter of individual choice, like shaving.” That paragraph gets worse every time I read it. Evidently, whether to jump into bed, regardless of inclination or even opportunity (it still DOES take two, you know, unless the “liberals” are advocating some version of Schulman’s satirical “minimum sex laws”) is NOT “a matter of individual choice”, and if you are not Getting It regularly you are somehow a bad person.

    How can one avoid the conclusion that this is simply a matter of “TheChristians think chastity is good, therefore chastity is bad”?

  23. Jody Tresidder
    June 21st, 2006 @ 8:04 am

    Lily,
    I grudgingly admit that’s a slightly fair cop!

    Not my picky criticisms about SBW! But, yes, the Catholic jibe was definitely a generalization based on some of the more intolerably smug comments on Dawn’s site. Ecumenically speaking (if that makes sense), they would have grated on anyone’s nerves.

  24. Not Some Guy
    June 21st, 2006 @ 8:18 am

    Hey Some Guy,
    You might be on to something except that the one with her picture on the website is a 22 yr. old kid and the other one is a 37 yr.old, never married, doesn’t date, and seems to have a million cats which means she is probably really, really ugly and about 150 pounds overweight.

  25. Jody Tresidder
    June 21st, 2006 @ 8:29 am

    Hey Some Guy,
    You might be on to something except that the one with her picture on the website is a 22 yr. old kid and the other one is a 37 yr.old, never married, doesn’t date, and seems to have a million cats which means she is probably really, really ugly and about 150 pounds overweight
    . ”

    Imigod, girls, we have a Heath Ledger, like, double, commenting over at RA.!!!And he’s, like, cute ‘n funny and really, really ironic?!!!!!

  26. Not Some Guy
    June 21st, 2006 @ 8:35 am

    Yes, now you know how ridiculous most of personal attacks about Dawn on the Feministe comments now sound.

  27. Shell
    June 21st, 2006 @ 8:38 am

    One of my problems with this chastity business is the suggestion that it originates as a benefit to women. The idea of saving oneself for marriage came about because the system of primogeniture insisted that men get “legitimate” sons to whom they could pass titles and property. The best way to be sure that the sons born to your wife were yours was to start with a really young (so you’d have more chances before she finally died in childbirth) certified virginal girl.

    Why do you think they hung the bloody bedsheets out the window the morning after the wedding? To prove that any son that came of the honeymoon was legitimate and deserving of his father’s titles and lands.

    It was all about economy; it had NOTHING to do with how satisfying the sex was, certainly not for the woman! This is why the Bible is so full of rules about who gets paid when a girl is raped. She’s a commodity that has been vandalized. No one will pay the bride price for a damaged breeder.

    If these people who want to talk about going back to the good old days would spend some time reading about them…

  28. Some Guy
    June 21st, 2006 @ 10:01 am

    “You look for the perfect partner, but time is working against you. At some point to have to say “this is the one”. You could look longer, but you are not getting any younger. So what you do is decide that this is the best one I have found so far. Of course, saying that would ruin the atmosphere.”

    Bernarda,

    In social psychology, we also dealt with this idea that people aren’t cognizant to a stranger’s faults. So when we meet a different person we might think something like “This person is sooo much better than my husband/wife…why couldn’t I have married him/her?” while not knowing their faults. As my teacher put it, “Then you leave your spouse and elope with the new person, but then you find out that they eat crackers in bed, and make you sleep on that side of the bed.”

  29. Some Guy
    June 21st, 2006 @ 10:04 am

    I just saw this thing on abstinence on Penn and Teller’s Bullshit.

    http://video.google.com/videoplay?docid=-8503508975371819705&q=Penn%2Band%2BTeller

  30. SteveG
    June 21st, 2006 @ 10:18 am

    Shell,
    Is it even remotely possible that the focus of chastity is also rooted in the fact that the woman is the one who exposes herself to a greater ‘risk’ in engaging in sex?

    You see, in a pre-industrialized society, if a guy has sex outside a committed relationship, he has the possibility of simply walking away. But for a woman, even one sexual encounter meant the possibility of 9 months of pregnancy, grueling labor and delivery, years of nursing, and a prolonged responsibility to care for a child.

    So maybe you can see that in the context within which these strictures arose, it was indeed possibly a benefit to women to encourage a couple (the man primarily) to partake of that act within the confines of a committed relationship.

    Now, I wonder if even a secular minded person can consider the possibility that since society has been under that old paradigm for most of it’s development, that there is possibly some very real biological, hormonal, and/or emotional predispositions in the human female to still retain some of that preference for sex within a committed relationship.

    I know that doesn’t fit with the view that all religious strictures have their source in nothing but pure misogynistic motives, but I want to simply offer that *maybe* it’s not quite that simple.

    I realize that with widespread effective contraception, and abortion as the modern norm, women can now engage in sex in the same way that men do (at least to some extent), and can ‘walk’ away if they so choose. But given our evolutionary past (aside from any religious arguments), is it possible that chastity, even under modern circumstances (which constitute at most 40 years or so vs. at least hundreds of thousands of years under the old model), might be ‘healthier’ psychologically, or emotionally for women?

    I am just asking. What do you all think?

  31. Shell
    June 21st, 2006 @ 10:46 am

    Hi Steve-

    Well, since there have been many human societies that were not organized in this way, I would have to say that there’s nothing natural about it. If it were really that natural and instinctive, why would those societies have needed to impose such rigid laws and restrictions and penalties to guarantee compliance? Why FGM? Why “honor killing”? And (currently) why books about chastity for women?

    I have no doubt that plenty of women (and men) decide not to have sex until marriage because that is a meaningful decision for them. I would never try to talk them out of it. I just don’t buy the argument that it’s the right decision for all of us.

  32. Mookie
    June 21st, 2006 @ 10:46 am

    “is it possible that chastity is ‘healthier’ psychologically, or emotionally for women?”

    No.

    Sex releases endorphins, male pheromones are known to boost the immune system of the female, its great exercise. If the sex is good, both (or all) participants have a healthy “glow” to them. Even falling in love makes a person awash in happy chemicals, and if it is a mutual affection, NOT following through to the logical conclusion would be the unhealthy choice. From a biological standpoint, making sex rewarding is far more conducive to preserving the species than is having abstinence be more worthwhile.

    Recent anthropological data shows that to keep the population in check, hunter-gatherers breast-feed their children until they are 4 or 5, sometimes longer, because lactating females are not as fertile as non-lactating females. It is not known how long humans have used this as birth control, but this and other methods (plants, drugs, timing, etc) have been around for a long time, some maybe even as long as humans have been humans.

    Sex in and of itself is healthy and rewarding, a great way to relieve stress. If STDs (and ignorance about them) weren’t so prevalent, I would encourage more bonobo-like behaviour, as sex is a great way to resolve conflict – “make up sex”.

  33. Thorngod
    June 21st, 2006 @ 11:01 am

    Good post, Shell (#25. I wrote the following 15 minutes back but for some reason it didn’t post!)
    It was indisputably economics. Everything is–contrary to George Orwell’s contention that everything is politics. But long before bedsheets were available to smear maidengore on, there was a more compelling reason for virginity and monogamy, and for stoning wayward women to death. In a subsistence society, and unmarried woman with a small child is an unwelcome burden on the group. All early societies imposed severe penalties on loose ladies–or almost all. The exceptions that prove the case were some polynesian island societies whose breakfasts fell plentifully off trees and bushes and who enjoyed a variety of seafood dinners for a minimum of effort. Tahiti is the classic example. (Maybe that’s why Tahitians aren’t Muslim. They don’t have to die to get those virgins!)
    Steve, our recently achieved sexual liberality is also economics. A society permits what it can afford. (Of course, any such change is retarded by religious stricture and other tradition.) But wait until China gains economic and military ascendency, and our society becomes impoverished, and you’ll be amazed how fast the churches fill up again and how quickly we reinstall the chastity belts!

  34. Lily
    June 21st, 2006 @ 11:13 am

    Oh great Shell, that is the oldest line in the world. “I have to have it or I will go blind” (or some variant thereof). So now it is a half-step to “women owe men sex.”

    Yeah. Right! :-)

  35. SteveG
    June 21st, 2006 @ 11:18 am

    Sex releases endorphins, male pheromones are known to boost the immune system of the female, its great exercise.

    Your are being pretty one sided in your analysis here and only taking into account the possible chemical effects of sex without taking into account the complex workings of human relationships in their larger contexts. Let’s grant that what you say is true about sex itself (though you’ve offered no evidence for these claims and I doubt the second one entirely).

    What about the negative consequences of the woman who feel used by a man who has had sex with her and then discarded her in a non-committed relationship. I admit it’s anecdotal to mention it, but we see that reaction all the time.

    What are the negative consequences to her health related to the depression or other negative feelings that a ‘broken heart’ causes? You can try to isolate the sex act itself, but it’s not that simple in reality.

    You might say that she shouldn’t feel that way, shouldn’t take it so seriously, etc., but well, she (figurative she) does. I am asking and suggesting that there might be something more than patriarchal oppression as the source of that.

    If the sex is good, both (or all) participants have a healthy “glow” to them.

    Can you point me to the research that quantifies this glow?

    Even falling in love makes a person awash in happy chemicals, and if it is a mutual affection, NOT following through to the logical conclusion would be the unhealthy choice.

    Again, you are being provincial in your analysis here. Even if this were true, you are not factoring the other side of the equation.

    Yes, falling in love feels good and produces certain hormones, but that’s not the whole story. But being dumped, and having a broken heart is not healthy under your analysis and needs to be brought into the equation if you are going to handle the subject the way you are attempting too (which I think is a very odd way of handling it incidentally).

    From a biological standpoint, making sex rewarding is far more conducive to preserving the species than is having abstinence be more worthwhile.

    Of course sex being rewarding is conducive to preserving the species. But don’t you find it odd that the societies that have adopted your mode of thinking (Western Europe for instance), and dropped the traditional way of thinking have the lowest birth rates in the world. Birth rates that are well below replacement level. In fact, those societies are worst at preserving the species.

    Recent anthropological data shows that to keep the population in check, hunter-gatherers breast-feed their children until they are 4 or 5, sometimes longer, because lactating females are not as fertile as non-lactating females. It is not known how long humans have used this as birth control, but this and other methods (plants, drugs, timing, etc) have been around for a long time, some maybe even as long as humans have been humans.

    And what’s your point?

    Sex in and of itself is healthy and rewarding, a great way to relieve stress.

    Who said otherwise? But this says nothing to the issue of chastity or how we are to engage in sex.

    Eating, in and of itself, is healthy and rewarding, and a great way to relieve stress, but I think we’d agree that there are healthy and unhealthy ways of going about it.

    I think that this was the point of RA’s original post. I think he was suggesting that being an atheist shouldn’t mean that any discussion of the ‘best’ way to engage in sex is off limits.

  36. SteveG
    June 21st, 2006 @ 11:31 am

    Well, since there have been many human societies that were not organized in this way, I would have to say that there’s nothing natural about it.
    Which societies are these that were organized under a principle that a woman could have sex indiscriminately with whoever she chose? Show me one society that lasted even a few generations where that idea was prevalent.
    I am focusing on the woman because of the investment that sex possibly meant for her each and every time. I am not saying that all societies mirrored Jewish or Christian mores in how they handled this. Many allowed for polygamy, or had far different ways of ‘protecting’ the woman.
    The point is that all of the ones that I am aware of that at least had some moderate ‘success’ provided for the woman to have the father of the child take responsibility for her and the child through some sort of commitment, even if it was not purely monogamous.
    What we are labeling chastity would likely have looked very different in different societies, but it seems that the notion of it was present in most if not all of them.
    If it were really that natural and instinctive, why would those societies have needed to impose such rigid laws and restrictions and penalties to guarantee compliance? Why FGM? Why “honor killing”? And (currently) why books about chastity for women?
    Because like many things with human beings we are somewhat conflicted in our instincts. Sticking with the food analogy, I could ask why we need diet books and the like. I mean, eating to survive is totally natural and instinctual after all. But our desire to gratify ourselves with pleasure is extremely powerful. With both sex and food, I don’t think it’s outrageous to say that sometimes those desires get the better of our other instincts and can get out of balance.

  37. SteveG
    June 21st, 2006 @ 11:49 am

    In a subsistence society, and unmarried woman with a small child is an unwelcome burden on the group.

    And not so pleasant for the woman and child either, right? Can you see what I am driving at?

    Simplistically label it economics if you like, but the point is that there are economic stakes on both sides of the table here.

    It’s a burden on society, AND it’s a burden on the woman and child to have no committed ‘caretaker’ (for lack of a better word).

    To deny that encouraging (in some societies requiring) that commitment was of benefit to the woman in pre-industrialized society is to continue to look at only one side of the equation.

    The question is then, is there any case to be made that there is STILL a benefit to the woman to live in traditionally chaste ways of her own choosing, instead of being compelled to.

    That’s the case Dawn is making, and that’s what I believe RA was pointing out.

    Steve, our recently achieved sexual liberality is also economics. A society permits what it can afford. (Of course, any such change is retarded by religious stricture and other tradition.) But wait until China gains economic and military ascendency, and our society becomes impoverished, and you’ll be amazed how fast the churches fill up again and how quickly we reinstall the chastity belts!

    But aren’t you just making the case that it’s better for societies survival as a whole to live by those traditional mores? Harder on the individual perhaps, but better for society. You’ve just laid out that our current sexual liberality is leaving our society in a weakened position, no?

    I will ask again if you can set aside your prejudice that everything is economics and perhaps contemplate that there is some naturalistic, biological moorings to these ideas as well BECAUSE the give societies a survival advantage?

    I am not saying they are the ONLY factor, but that they may be part of the equation.

  38. Mookie
    June 21st, 2006 @ 11:56 am

    “And what’s your point?”

    In response to: “But for a woman, even one sexual encounter meant the possibility of 9 months of pregnancy, grueling labor and delivery, years of nursing, and a prolonged responsibility to care for a child.”

    “What about the negative consequences of the woman who feel used by a man who has had sex with her and then discarded her in a non-committed relationship. I admit it’s anecdotal to mention it, but we see that reaction all the time.”

    I think this has to do more with the societal dynamics. Some cultures have male lines and female lines of the family separated, sometimes the father and mother do not live in the same house. Some cultures even have a very “open” attitude towards sexual partners, permitting all to sleep with all. My uncle was raised catholic, and so had this idea that a woman that was not a virgin was dirty and impure, and so when he would go out and have sex as a teenager, he felt little shame or remorse at dumping the women he helped make “impure”. Could it be the underlying human-hating meme that produces this and other behaviour, in both the male and the female?

    I would offer a resounding ‘yes’.

    “though you’ve offered no evidence for these claims”

    I’m lazy. You can take a human sexuality class at your local community college if you want more info. Or you could go to a used bookstore and read up some on it. A quick look online will also produce some interesting results. I don’t feel like crawling around looking for stuff right now, so you’ll just have to believe me or look it up on your own.

    Sex is (ceteris paribus) healthier – psychologically and emotionally – than abstinence. Slight variations in circumstances will obviously make the subjective experience better or worse, but the biological response to sex is definitely beneficial to health.

  39. GenghisDirt
    June 21st, 2006 @ 12:14 pm

    SteveG said: “…he was suggesting that being an atheist shouldn’t mean that any discussion of the ‘best’ way to engage in sex is off limits.”

    Absolutely. Although I mostly agree with the practical position taken by the majority of the comments above (safe, consensual sex is natural, healthy, and tremendously enjoyable), I believe that people, and atheists especially!, should never shy away from examining, re-examining, and rationally discussing any topic. Whether we are discussing the age of the universe, or evolution, or politics, or human sexuality, everyone should be able to see all reasonable sides of an issue. Simply dismissing someone’s opinion by a simple-minded sentence or two is not a debate (especially when the [well written and quite reasonably stated] opinion is derided as “lame” or “retarded”).

    It is certainly true that the words “chastity”, “marriage”, “virtue”, etc. are enormously loaded terms, rightfully associated with misogyny, slavery, oppression, and really bad psychology. But this does not automatically dismiss RA’s point! Perhaps we should use the term “monogamy” instead. I consider myself to be a monogamist (i.e. I have only one partner at a time) and I believe that exclusive relationships are preferable to casual hook-ups and one-night stands. Monogamy, I would argue, is healthier, both physically (it’s getting harder and harder to have truly “safe” sex nowadays) and emotionally (“love” exists, and is a pretty great thing, in my opinion).

    The problem, of course, is that society (read: religion, the patriarchy, etc.) has skewed all of this into one of the most perverse, fucked-up situations in human history: marriage. That is; a social contract wherin a man has personal dominion over a woman and she is treated as property. This paleolithic attitude towards marriage is slowly changing in the modern world, thankfully, but there are many many people (Mormons, Catholics, Hasidim, Muslims, Hindus, etc. etc. etc.) who take it quite literally. And, of course, the subtext is still glaringly there.

    This does not change the reality, however. Sexuality and reproduction are two of the biggest issues of modern times. Gender equality, LGBT rights, A.I.D.S., a woman’s right to choose, overpopulation, child abuse, sexual slavery…. the list of topics that this touches on is endless. This must be examined, in as much detail as possible, by as many people as possible.

    And atheists are in the best position to examine the issue, if you ask me. Without the age-old shackles of religion distracting us (hopefully), atheists are uniquely able to see clearly about sexuality… and maybe even come up with a reasonable, ethical alternative to either the state-sanctioned slavery of “Federal Marriage Amendment” domesticity, or outright cultural dissolution (unless you like those kinds of things).

  40. SteveG
    June 21st, 2006 @ 12:38 pm

    “And what’s your point?”
    In response to: “But for a woman, even one sexual encounter meant the possibility of 9 months of pregnancy, grueling labor and delivery, years of nursing, and a prolonged responsibility to care for a child.”

    OK, so women could engage in sex indiscriminately during pregnancy and the breastfeeding years. Gotchya. But since I am married, have three kids, and actually know something about the hormonal influences involved on the topic you are discussing, as well as some that you are apparently unaware of*, I’ll simply mention the fact that hormones in women (which fluctuate dramatically in men) greatly affect sex drive and make the chances of taking advantage of that ‘opportunity’ go WAY down.

    Not to mention the fact that with most of the woman’s energies being geared towards nursing and caring for a small child.

    *As a practitioner of natural family planning which relies on understanding those hormones, and as one whose spouse has actually experienced and even made use of the extended infertility of breastfeeding to avoid pregnancy, I’ve studied this particular topic in great detail.

    I’m lazy. You can take a human sexuality class at your local community college if you want more info. Or you could go to a used bookstore and read up some on it. A quick look online will also produce some interesting results. I don’t feel like crawling around looking for stuff right now, so you’ll just have to believe me or look it up on your own.

    Gee, thanks for the condescension. Now it’s my turn.

    I’ll first mention that I didn’t question your statement regarding endorphins, but that regarding male pheromones having health benefits for women.

    Since I’m probably twice your age, and far better read, forgive me if I don’t take your claim at face value as it contradicts what I have read elsewhere.

    Maybe you should investigate such claims a little more rigorously before propounding on them. There’s an obscure little known resource called Wikipedia that’s usually a good primer on such topics and can lead you to other more rigorous resources in any event.

    A little excerpt from the article they have posted on pheromones says…

    Moreover, despite claims to the contrary, no defined pheromonal substance has ever been demonstrated to influence human behavior in a peer reviewed, published study.
    Nevertheless, a few well-controlled scientific studies have been published
    demonstrating the possibility of pheromones in humans.

    …Which confirms my own reading and understanding of pheromones prior to our discussion, which is that they haven’t even yet been proven in humans.

    Sex is (ceteris paribus) healthier – psychologically and emotionally – than abstinence. Slight variations in circumstances will obviously make the subjective experience better or worse, but the biological response to sex is definitely beneficial to health.

    I know you think this so, and continue to claim it, but you’ve really offered no evidence that those who abstain before marriage are somehow ‘less’ healthy than those who act like bonobos.

    If you have anything other than evidence by vigorous assertion, I’d love to see it. See, I am a skeptic like that.

  41. Mark Plus
    June 21st, 2006 @ 12:44 pm

    What Dawn’s book poses, however, is not a problem but an ideal. The ideal is to restrict sex to marriage — a state involving the mutual recognition of a lifelong commitment to a monogamous relationship.

    That way of doing things has fallen way out of step with other trends in our society, along with fealty oaths to the local lord and lifetime employment in corporations. These days it makes a lot more sense for men and women to treat one another as temp workers or free agents you can make short-term contracts with for mutual convenience. See, for example, Intimacy in a Fluid World, by F.M. Esfandiary.

    On a personal note, I turn 47 in November, and I’ve had to endure involuntary chastity all my life because women have never wanted anything to do with me. I have to laugh when christians claim that men become atheists to make it easier to get premarital sex, because that clearly hasn’t worked in my case.

  42. Jody Tresidder
    June 21st, 2006 @ 12:51 pm

    Birth rates that are well below replacement level. In fact, those societies are worst at preserving the species.”

    SteveG,

    You are all over the place here.

    Sure, Christian society – broadly and comparatively speaking – is not doing a great job with the European birth rate at present. But the species is doing fine in Europe: especially first, 2nd and 3rd wave immigrants.

    And, speaking strictly personally, based on empirical experience – a broken and mended heart notwithstanding (I understand physical intimacy is no bar to this condition either?), I’m with Mookie. Great comments by Shell, too.

  43. Tony
    June 21st, 2006 @ 1:40 pm

    Jharta said:

    saving yourself for marriage is retarded. your wedding night is no time to find out that your new mate can only get off when you clamp jumper cables to his nipples while covering him in vanilla pudding and reading from “Horton Hears a Who.”

    He must have dating one of the bloggers on Feministe. :)

    Ok, an extreme example to be sure, but many marriages fail (or suffer) due to sexual incompatibility or disatisfaction with someone’s techniques or equipment.

    How can you be dissatisfied with something you’ve never experienced? (Unless you’ve been watching porn, and you shouldn’t be doing that either.) If you have no point of comparison, how in the world can you know you’re missing something. Dissatisfaction requires a point of comparison, and that point of comparison is denied, by definition, by Dawn’s premise.

    If you’re both chaste, your spouse will be the best sexual partner you ever have, and you will be the best sexual partner your spouse has ever had.

  44. Gathercole
    June 21st, 2006 @ 2:01 pm

    “How can you be dissatisfied with something you’ve never experienced? (Unless you’ve been watching porn, and you shouldn’t be doing that either.)”

    I guess you’re also staying away from all movies rated PG13 or higher?

    Of course everybody is different, and some people may have trouble handling the emotional effects of sex. But I agree with the analogy above: not having sex with the person you intend to marry is like not talking about politics or religion with them. In fact, it’s even more important, because once you’re married you can talk politics and religion with anybody, but you can only have sex with your spouse. If you want to have the best chance of your relationship working, you should make sure you and your spouse are compatible in every way possible… sex being one of the most important.

  45. Jody Tresidder
    June 21st, 2006 @ 2:09 pm

    “How can you be dissatisfied with something you’ve never experienced? ”

    Are you kidding, Tony?

    Books – poetry, memoirs, non-fiction – the whole bloody lot! – as well as films, of course – friends, dreams, yearnings…

  46. Tony
    June 21st, 2006 @ 2:49 pm

    Jody, I said “experienced”. I didn’t say “read about”. Also, couples who are getting to know each other and are thinking of marriage should talk about their expectations regarding sex. Talking about it doesn’t mean doing it.

  47. SBW
    June 21st, 2006 @ 2:50 pm

    Jody Tresidder said: SBW, You pack an amazing amount of poor thinking and non sequiturs into this statement of yours:
    “Furthermore, Catholic books are written for Catholics. Books about atheism are written for people interested in atheism. Dawn wrote a book about chastity for people interested if chastity. If you don’t feel that the point being put forward in a book is one that you agree with feel free to not purchase the book. “

    Jody T., the logic I used is pretty straightforward but I like you so I’m going to take the bait and comment again anyways. When I come to an atheist website I expect to interact with mostly atheists who are going to approach questions of religion from the viewpoint of being an atheist. When I speak to a Catholic, such as Dawn, I expect that they will espouse the Catholic viewpoint regarding sex for the reasons that the Catholic church has traditionally provided and because of their own personal experiences.

    The book description at Amazon. com says the following, ” Finally, a book for single women who, unsatisfied with living a worldly lifestyle, want to give their lives a new and godly direction.” That makes is seem pretty obvious to me who Dawn has written this book for.

    I know that you are an Atheist, which by definition is mutually exclusive of believing in the Christian triune God. So if a Christian comes to you and asks about religion I don’t expect you to tell them that Christianity is just as true and just as good as atheism. So why would you expect that a Catholic would tell you that secular ideas about sex are just as good and just as true as Catholic teachings?

    Part of Dawn’s argument is that the benefits of expressly Catholic-endorsed chastity go way beyond religion (i.e. adhering to the doctrinal sacrament of marriage and having sex only within that institution). She thinks it’s good for everyone.

    And I bet you think that atheism would be good for everyone, don’t you? If you say “no” then you’re admitting that you can’t be sure that there really isn’t a God and if you say “yes” then you are admitting that you hold a view just as dogmatic as the one you accuse Dawn of adhering to.

    I happen to believe that there are benefits to chastity beyond ” just believe it because Catholics say so” but that would be a whole nother post and I don’t want to digress.

    You may have noticed she cheerfully posts fierce criticisms of extracts from her book from other blogs as an invitation to all comers to participate in wider debate on her own blog?

    She’s promoting the book and her blog, I can understand that. She is trying to earn the title of “salty blog queen” used to describe her on the book.

    Note to Dawn: Way to go Dawn! Get all the free promo you can get!

  48. qedpro
    June 21st, 2006 @ 3:38 pm

    My mother slept with only my father.
    Mt father is a great person.
    My mother was miserable until her death at age 59 from cancer.
    Her favorite saying was underneath every successful man is a doormat (his wife)

    Point being, chastity, waiting until your wedding night to have sex has absolutely no correlation with a successful, happy marriage.

  49. Shell
    June 21st, 2006 @ 4:01 pm

    “With both sex and food, I don’t think it’s outrageous to say that sometimes those desires get the better of our other instincts and can get out of balance.”

    When you’re talking about addictive behaviors, yes. That’s a long way from having sex outside marriage, though.

    It’s very strange to me that you don’t seem to believe that men have feelings of the same depth as women. I don’t want to misread you, so please correct me, but why are you so worried about how I would feel if I got dumped? Men don’t feel just as bad when they get dumped? You’re buying into the idea that sexually active women are damaged goods but sexually active men are just men. You say you’re trying to help women who feel “bad” after they have sex with someone, but you’re begging the question of whether they SHOULD feel bad.

    To sort of answer your earlier question, many pre-Christian polytheistic societies (i.e., the ones with goddesses) tended to celebrate female sexuality. Most of the goddesses were presented as having many lovers, and priestesses acting the role of the goddess would do the same.

  50. Jody Tresidder
    June 21st, 2006 @ 5:05 pm

    And I bet you think that atheism would be good for everyone, don’t you? If you say “no” then you’re admitting that you can’t be sure that there really isn’t a God and if you say “yes” then you are admitting that you hold a view just as dogmatic as the one you accuse Dawn of adhering to. ”

    SMB,

    Well, a third possibility is that I trust you know what you think you know better than I do.

    But that on the neutral ground – where we can crash into each other without appeals to dogma or private faith – we should both at least attempt to be persuasive.

    Look, Amazon blurbs aren’t binding contracts on the reader having a pre-approved ideology..but you know that.

    To an extent, I read some non-fiction as an atheist guerilla tactic – to know what people I don’t agree with are thinking. And to some extent, I’m also a sucker for smart publicity. A case in point is the fresh-off-the-press book by Patrick Collins: “The Language of God” (short version, a leading genome scientist ventilates his faith).

    I just read the thing – cover to cover. One cannot doubt his sincerity. And it’s a fabulous title. But I wonder why I bothered. It is completely unpersuasive. Faith, he tells us, is basically all about the “glowing signposts within our hearts”. Collins basically takes a book to say what the poet Tennyson did in two lines of rotten but sincere verse in the 19th century (which I won’t bother quoting here) – using a similarly crappy cardiac image.

    Objectively, Collins is a very, very smart guy. He comes across as rather kind, too (if awfully soppy about waterfalls in some of the sillier passages in his book). Objectively Dawn is witty (ok, maybe that’s subjective) and enjoys some argument. But, essentially, they validate readers’ faith. And that’s it.

    Actually, what it is I snootily require of the religious folk I read is very simple: if you can’t be persuasive, at least be engagingly provocative and/or informative.

  51. Jody Tresidder
    June 21st, 2006 @ 5:06 pm

    Bother.
    FRANCIS Collins.
    I am an idiot.

  52. Jody Tresidder
    June 21st, 2006 @ 6:09 pm

    Tony,

    You wrote: “Jody, I said “experienced”. I didn’t say “read about.”

    Which sounds like a fair distinction.

    Except your original comment was:

    “How can you be dissatisfied with something you’ve never experienced? (Unless you’ve been watching porn, and you shouldn’t be doing that either.) ”

    So watching porn IS akin to “experience” in a way reading isn’t?

    Hence my (understandable) confusion!

  53. Thorngod
    June 21st, 2006 @ 7:09 pm

    After twenty hours I have returned to a flurry of misimpressions regarding my post #31. I had tried, as always, to write as clearly and as succinctly as possible. I will try now to clarify the misinterpretations.
    — In reference to Steve’s #35, “…better for societies survival…to live by those traditional mores.” I was not prescribing, only stating what I am convinced is the case. It may very well be “better” for the health and longevity of the group, but the majority of individuals composing the group (unless the society is ant-like) will quite rapidly gravitate toward extravagance, and many toward hedonism, given the economic wherewithal.
    — In saying that “Everything is economics,” I am using the term in the broadest sense (Darwinian)
    so I do not concede an economics-versus-biology “prejudice.” The course of genetic evolution is steered (selected out) by environmental condtions, and organisms respond to their environment primarily in economic mode.
    — I made no denial regarding benefit or detriment to either male or female resulting from either sexual taboo or sexual promiscuity. Also, my remarks were not directly addressing the Dawn/Jill affair.
    — I was nowhere making a case that “sexual liberality is leaving our society in a weakened position.” My reference to the projected ascendency of China was not predicated primarily on a weakening America, but on several other factors, including the fact that the U.S. is below five percent of the planet’s population and China is near 25 percent. However, it is historically evidenced that once a nation reaches an advanced state of affluence, decadence and then dissolution will ensue.
    — So there.

  54. SBW
    June 21st, 2006 @ 10:39 pm

    Jody Tresidder said: SMB,

    Well, a third possibility is that I trust you know what you think you know better than I do.

    Then would you apply this same line of thinking to Dawns book and admit that she may in fact know what she is talking about, and might even be right, when she says that chasity is a wiser decision than premarital sexual relations?

    But that on the neutral ground – where we can crash into each other without appeals to dogma or private faith – we should both at least attempt to be persuasive.

    I agree. I get the idea though that Dawns book is for people that have already accepted (or may be on the verge of accepting) that premarital sex is a bad idea and the book isn’t really intended to be persuasive but to encourage people that are already on a certain path i.e., a book on the Catholic Catechism isn’t meant to pursuade someone to be a Catholic but to teach those that are already Catholic or interested in learning more about the faith.

    To an extent, I read some non-fiction as an atheist guerilla tactic – to know what people I don’t agree with are thinking.

    I do the same. I recently read Natural Atheism by David Eller and plan on purchasing more books on atheism in the future. It was a damn good book too.

    I’m a pretty reasonable person (or atleast I think so) and if I read a persuasive argument that proves me wrong I would like to think I am not too bullheaded to throw my previous erroneous beliefs out for better ones.

    I also like to know the arguments that any dissenters might present me with. :)

  55. Jody Tresidder
    June 22nd, 2006 @ 7:38 am

    “Then would you apply this same line of thinking [i.e. knowing her own thoughts, at least] to Dawns book and admit that she may in fact know what she is talking about, and might even be right, when she says that chasity is a wiser decision than premarital sexual relations?”

    SBW,
    Obviously I’m going to disagree here (and with bits of RA too) with Dawn, but for two specific reasons re: Dawn

    1. She has never been married. Her attitude towards it is highly idealized and untested. Therefore, her reading on the subject – in lieu of direct experience -has to be deliberately selective and/or naively optimistic. Her book IS, after all, a moral “how to”. It would require a remarkable amount of trust to buy a book, say, on how to build a table by someone who only knows the pretty parts of the theory and essentially says “no, I haven’t made my own yet: but trust me, it’ll be beautiful when I do…” .
    2. Dawn says her book is about discovering chastity. I think it’s about rather slowly growing up. Dawn says she willingly – heavily – had relationships with some arrogant creeps. Ditto (and I bet some of “my” arrogant creeps have their own version of “the truth” which doesn’t reflect well on me. I am just extremely relieved none of them has bothered to write unambiguously about it!). She regrets the wrong investments she made. I don’t, on the grounds that it’s pointless to regret what brings you to maturity – even if it takes you a ridiculously long time to reach that point. Dawn’s book ostensibly promises a short cut to maturity. And I don’t buy that promise.

  56. SteveG
    June 22nd, 2006 @ 7:40 am

    When you’re talking about addictive behaviors, yes. That’s a long way from having sex outside marriage, though.

    Are you suggesting that sex is not one of those things that can fall into the addictive behavior category? I am not saying that sex outside marriage is automatically categorized that way. But as with food (and almost any pleasure inducing object), it can be the object of addictive behavior.
    That wasn’t really the point though. The larger point is that I am trying to get some of the folks here to see what I think RA is driving at.

    With almost any other area of life that involves gratification of pleasure; most people find it reasonable to assert that there are healthy and unhealthy ways to indulge in those pleasures. We think that with food, with alcohol, and I assume that even most advocates of legalized drug use would agree that the user should partake in moderation.

    Somehow, sex has gotten a pass on this in much of this community. Even the mere suggestion that this is something worthy of discussion is met with cries that it’s retarded, and the alternative ethic of the bonobo tribe seems to be prevalent.

    I’ll say it again; I don’t think it’s outrageous to suggest that there might be a ‘better’ way to handle sexuality in order to prevent this admittedly powerful act from getting out of balance.

    It’s very strange to me that you don’t seem to believe that men have feelings of the same depth as women.

    I didn’t suggest such a thing. My comments are more focused from the woman’s perspective because that’s what Dawn’s book is about, that’s what RA’s post was about, and the specific comments I addressed from Thorngod in particular where suggesting that women where forced into chastity merely because of misogyny. The discussion just hasn’t focused much on the male perspective as of yet.

    Now with regard to your comment, I won’t say that men don’t feel as deeply as women, but you’ll not get me to agree to the naïve view that men and women view sex the same way. And THAT is much of my point. In my estimation, that difference is real, and it is rooted as much (if not more) in the biology of the female (and male) body, and the fact that throughout all but the last 40 years, generally speaking, the female has a much higher risk/stake/investment in the sex act than the male does. This is because the ‘burden’ of bearing a child weighs far more heavily on the female.

    It logically follows, in my thinking, that this obvious biological fact would likely have some biological factors (hormones, emotions, etc.) that would also affect how the female participates in sexual relationships.

    I think it makes further sense to suggest that this being the case, the mere fact that for a few decades we’ve been able to efficiently subvert that natural ‘order’, it doesn’t follow that all the attendant emotions, biological influence, etc. that cause women to view sex in certain ways are suddenly vaporized.
    I’ll suggest that many of those things are still present and that on the whole, participating in sexuality in a chaste manner (in particular for a woman) is emotionally, and psychologically healthier. I can start pulling together some of the research that’s been done that supports this.

    Now Mookie would say that the bonobo ethic is much healthier, but then he’d have to do more to assert that. We’d have to see actual evidence that the lifestyle he proposes is in fact quantifiably healthier (i.e. increases life span, reduces rate of disease, improves mental health, etc.).

    I don’t want to misread you, so please correct me, but why are you so worried about how I would feel if I got dumped?

    Honestly, I wasn’t even aware you were a woman, and I am speaking in very broad, general terms.

    Men don’t feel just as bad when they get dumped?

    I really don’t know about ‘as bad’, but I’d suggest that there is likely a difference in the response. The fact that this most obvious fact is somehow contentious shows how far we’ve abandoned all common sense on this topic. I don’t need to make a religious argument to suggest this is indeed common sense. I can again simply point at the respective roles of male and female in reproduction (which from a purely naturalistic standpoint is ultimately what sex is about, right?) and suggest that yes indeed, the VAST difference in those roles would likely affect the responses to how sexuality works out in the respective sexes.

    You’re buying into the idea that sexually active women are damaged goods but sexually active men are just men.

    Really? If you can show even a hint of such a view in any of my comments I’ll be shocked. I never suggested such a thing. As I said earlier, the discussion has thus far been centered on women, so that’s what I’ve been addressing. I never said anything about either being damaged goods and I have said very little thus far about men’s roles.

    You say you’re trying to help women who feel “bad” after they have sex with someone, but you’re begging the question of whether they SHOULD feel bad.

    I didn’t say I am trying to ‘help’ anyone? We have been discussing whether chastity still has any place in modern society, and I am simply trying to get some folks here to 1) quit giving sexuality a pass in regards to analyzing what is the best way to engage in it beyond saying ‘if it feels good do it’, and 2) trying to suggest that there is something more that religious misogyny at work in all of this.

    It’s obvious to me that many folks here have reflexively and uncritically bought into a more or less hedonistic (or sexual liberality) view of sex with very little serious thought about it.

  57. SteveG
    June 22nd, 2006 @ 7:44 am

    crud! My comments keep getting held for review by the comment system. I’ve got 3 that have never shown up yet. Shell, I’ve responded to your latest comment, so if you care, you can keep your eyes out for my response if/when it gets released.

  58. gbusch
    June 22nd, 2006 @ 1:40 pm

    RE “that women who indulge in such sex before marriage can’t appreciate men the same as those who practice chastity.”

    Voice of experience?

  59. Tommykey
    June 22nd, 2006 @ 2:43 pm

    What was it that Woody Allen said on one of his movies?

    “Sex without love is an empty experience, but as empty experiences go, it’s one of the best.”

  60. JUST_ANOTHER_PRIMATE
    June 22nd, 2006 @ 3:23 pm

    I don’t know — I read that excerpt from the book and it sounds like a bunch of (very biased) emotional baggage just spewed into a book.

    UGH !

  61. Thorngod
    June 22nd, 2006 @ 4:39 pm

    We need a Rosetta stone. It’s as though I had written my piece in an unknown language.

  62. SteveG
    June 22nd, 2006 @ 6:34 pm

    Thorn,
    I wrote that last post sometime yesterday before your clarification (which I thought was very good).

    It was held up in comment limbo until this afternoon. That’s why the disconnect and seeming continued misunderstanding on some points you made.

  63. Thorngod
    June 22nd, 2006 @ 11:20 pm

    I will now address a couple of items from RA’s commentary. His comments I found interesting enough, though the Dawn/Jill dispute as such would not have captured my interest sufficiently for me to have taken one side or the other. I can agree somewhat with RA’s judgement that Jill got overheated, but almost all of us who like to contend will often contend too hastily.
    — The point that RA attempts to make regarding “…some point in a relationship that Jill would consider to early for sex…” seems lame to me–and unfair. We all must draw somewhat arbitrary lines constantly, and we draw them at different places according to our individual judgements or needs. Dawn’s line for sexual intercourse is drawn at marriage, which is the church-sanctioned and therefore traditional, “safe,” and, in this country until a few decades ago, the quasi-legally-enforced point of sexual entitlement. It remains the easiest and safest line to choose (and to defend), but Jill has an equal right to select some other. As messy and risky as casual sex and non-marital arrangements often are, marriage is no less messy and risky, and I trust I need not offer statistics or examples in order to convince you. The only serious problem I see with non-marital sex as opposed to marriage is in the production of unwanted and unloved children, and there are far too many of these in traditional two-parent homes.
    — On another tact, RA contends that “…most people, if asked whether they believed that it was preferable to engage in loveless sex, would answer in the negative without debating whether inappropriate judgmentalism were involved.” Preferable to whom? To all those who would disparage “loveless sex,” of course! But so-called “loveless sex” can be a unique and uniquely rewarding experience, and unless I’m misunderstanding something, it’s the kind of sex I hear most guys, married and single, constantly talking about and obsessing over!
    — And now, the sharpest point of all: The phrase “loveless sex” refers, of course, to sex between people who do not love each other. I would contend that that accounts for most sexual experiences. There is great confusion concerning “love” in the contexts of sex and marriage. The term “love” is always misused when used as a synonym for sex. People do not “fall in love.” They are consumed by sexual desire (lust, if you will). Do you disagree? Then I ask you what is meant by “love at first sight”! You can experience an overwhelming sexual urge on first seeing someone, but can you actually love someone instantly?
    When two people engage in sex, the couple for the sake of sex, not for love. Sex is not the expression of love, but the fulfillment of sexual desire. A woman who is “not in the mood” for sex may submit to husband or lover because she loves him, but the sex act is performed for the purpose of sexual pleasure–for the man’s whether or not for her’s. It is not performed so the man can express his love for the woman!
    So why do we confuse sex with love, and use the word “love” when we mean sex? Because that usage encourages the notion of “true love” and “meant-for-each-otherness,” which encourages marriage, which in turn offers the best protection so far devised for the next generation of our species. We have never been conscious, of course, of our reason for using the term “love” in the contexts of sex and marriage. The reason is not exactly “ours.” it is another Darwinian effect.

  64. SteveG
    June 23rd, 2006 @ 7:51 am

    Do you disagree? Then I ask you what is meant by “love at first sight”! You can experience an overwhelming sexual urge on first seeing someone, but can you actually love someone instantly?

    I think we’d agree here. And this is exactly the point. The point of chastity is that we should be wary of engaging in sex with one to whom we do not have any substantial connection beyond that impulse. Traditional values recognize this fact. The counsel here is that you should not let such urges control your actions.

    When two people engage in sex, the couple for the sake of sex, not for love. Sex is not the expression of love, but the fulfillment of sexual desire. A woman who is “not in the mood” for sex may submit to husband or lover because she loves him, but the sex act is performed for the purpose of sexual pleasure–for the man’s whether or not for her’s. It is not performed so the man can express his love for the woman!

    What a terrible over simplification. Engaging in sexual intercourse can have a myriad of different components and motivations. Gratification of the sexual impulse is obviously one, and a very strong one at that. But to suggest that this is the only motivation the male can have is a huge overstatement.

    I for one would be saddened for the person in a relationship in which the expression of love for the other is not at least one component to the sexual act. I can anecdotally tell you that for myself at least (and for many other happily married men I know) that while my motivations aren’t always ‘pure’, and sometimes are simply as you describe them, that indeed sex CAN be a wonderful expression of love for one’s spouse.

    So why do we confuse sex with love, and use the word “love” when we mean sex?

    If this is done, it is not typically much done by those holding traditional values. Again, the very point of the idea of the modern notion of chastity is to recognize this difference. It is to say that the sexual impulse should not be the driving force behind our decisions as to when and with whom we should have sex. It argues that such a ‘powerful’ thing as sex should be placed within the context of a loving relationship that is in part evidenced by the commitment the two parties have made to each other.

    Because that usage encourages the notion of “true love” and “meant-for-each-otherness,” which encourages marriage, which in turn offers the best protection so far devised for the next generation of our species.

    This overly idealized version of romantic love does not find it’s origin in religion (at least not Christianity). This has never been the motivation promoted by either Judaism, or Christianity as ideal. The Christian idea of ‘true love’ is to will and work for the good of the other without expectation of return, NOT to fall madly in lust with someone and then expect to build a lifelong relationship based on that infatuation alone.

    Indeed, the Christian ideal of Chastity is to wait for sex until a time AFTER those passions have cooled to see if there is something to the relationship beyond those passions.

    We have never been conscious, of course, of our reason for using the term “love” in the contexts of sex and marriage. The reason is not exactly “ours.” it is another Darwinian effect.

    Christendom at least has always been conscious of what it means by love, and it never has meant sex.

  65. Jeff Guinn
    June 23rd, 2006 @ 9:39 pm

    SteveG:

    You make a great deal of sense — you clearly recognize what many here do not: that the potential consequences of sex bear particularly heavily upon women.

    Of those you listed above, though, you glaringly ommitted one: death.

    Pre-modern medicine, the cause of death for roughly 20% of women was pregnancy, birth, or its aftereffects.

    Given the prolonged dependency of children, it is no wonder that, except in very permissive environents, women need to be very conservative with regard to sex.

    NB — I’m not saying chastity is some magic answer, but rather that it is a completely understandable choice for women to make.

  66. Thorngod
    June 24th, 2006 @ 12:21 am

    SteveG– You have set me a challenge I don’t relish but should have anticipated and should probably have avoided. I’d prefer not to devote this much time to a blog posting. I have known for a long time that there are many things about human existence that humans do not want to know. The defenses our superbrain has erected against unpleasant truth are staunch and virtually impregnable, and language is a puny petard.
    — When I said “…I ask you what is meant by ‘love at first sight,'” I was trying by comparison to show that “falling in love” was not falling into love but succumbing to the sexual attraction of the object. The different point you made of it was not “exactly the point” as you put it. It was not the point at all. You tried to make a point about chastity, which has nothing to do with what I said. Sex and “love” were my contrasted terms, not sex and chastity. I will try to put it more sharply: Sex is always physical pleasure. Love is always something else. The problem is that you and I both know what we mean by “sex,” but do we both know what we mean by “love”? There is a word “bound” and there is another word “bound.” They are two distinct words. One means “tied up.” The other means to “leap.” Yet they are spelled and pronounced identically. When you use the word “love” in association with sex, are you using the same word as when you refer to the love of your child, your parents, or your god? If not, then the former usage is in fact an entirely different word and means something utterly different from “love” in the other contexts. The first “love” has given sex a bad name!
    — Your take on the ¶ that begins “When two people engage in sex…” is that sex is not “the only motivation the male can have…,” which ignores the blatant fact that, in the case as I presented it, sex is quite obviously the only motivation. I submit to you that had the wife or girlfriend refused him, and gone up to bed, he would in all probability have masterbated, and I further submit that the odds are better than 50/50 that he would have been fantasizing about a different female. He might have prayed for forgiveness afterward, but that is entirely beside the point. The point is that he was not intent in the first place on making “love.”
    — In your remarks that follow, beginning with “I for one would be saddened…,” it is starkly obvious to me that you have not grasped what I tried to make clear. If there is love in the relationship, it is not “one component to the sexual act.” It is entirely aside from the sexual act. It may influence the behavior exhibited in the encounter, but it is not the impetus or motive or reason for the act. It may provide the excuse for it but it does not constitute or define it. The fact that the sexual “union” has been characterized as “love” by Church or by any individual, or that it has been “blessed” under that name, does not convert it into something it naturally and factually is not. And if there is love in the relationship, it is there whether or not there is sex.
    — I don’t doubt your sincerity when you say that the confusion of sex with “love,” and using the term “love” when we mean sex, “…is not typically much done by those holding traditional values.” But I am adamant that it is to virtually 100 percent of traditionalists, which incorporates close to 100 percent of humanity. Were it not for the strangleholds that tradition, religion, self-deception and superstitious fear have on the human mind, I would have no case to make. The truth is that the human brain is entangled in the human’s intestines, and he “thinks” what is safest for him to think. When you say that “…the sexual impulse should not be the driving force behind our decisions as to when and with whom we should have sex,” you are making a moral (and perhaps also pragmatic) judgement that my comments were not addressing. Although I care about what “should and should not” be, the universe does not, and “should” does not alter what is. All my contentions were about what is, not about what should be.
    — Passing on: If you believe that the “…overly idealized version of romantic love does not find its origin in…Christianity,” you might review the course of Christian coercion from (not Jesus, but) Paul’s diatribes against sex, through the early Church fathers’ typically hypocritical pronouncements, through the Christian conversion of a pagan fertility celebration to “St. Valentine’s Day” and the worship of a phallic effigy to the innocuous “May Pole” dance, and on through the varied institutionalized and finally legally prescribed sanctifications of betrothal and marriage by priests and “ministers.” It is very true that the “love” promoted by Jesus, and sustained in somewhat varied form by the Church, is of a higher order than the “romantic love” of the troubadours and our romance novels. But the latter version of “love” came about through the fiction that the marriage of man and woman is a corollary to the union of Christ and Church, that sex within marriage was not really sex but the expression of that higher love, and that that “other” sex was of the beast.
    — So to a fair degree I would concur that “Christendom [official Christendom]…has always been conscious of what it means by love, and it has never meant sex.” No; indeed; it would not touch that thing with a ten-inch pole.

  67. jpe
    June 24th, 2006 @ 10:29 am

    never understood how sex before marriage can be dirty, evil, and make women sluts

    I think it has something to do with transubstantiation. Or Jeebus.

  68. jpe
    June 24th, 2006 @ 10:34 am

    NB — I’m not saying chastity is some magic answer, but rather that it is a completely understandable choice for women to make.

    Bullshit. There isn’t a single woman out there that is chaste w/o religious reasons. Why? Being chaste out of a hyperamplified fear of pregnancy isn’t rational. Modern medicine has invented such wonders as “condoms,” and “the pill.”

  69. Daniel Morgan
    June 24th, 2006 @ 11:40 am

    Valuing ones body enough to carefully share it is a moral good. Defining “careful” is an individual freedom. Thus, it is morally good that we each find the balance between “active natural pleasure” (Epicurus) and overindulgence/risk. So long as sex brings both partners pleasure and no one any pain, and both partners are legally and mentally capable of assent, then sex is a moral good. Seems pretty simple to me.

  70. TTT
    June 24th, 2006 @ 2:40 pm

    Some of these comments read like they were written 30 years ago. Indeed, I’d be pretty curious to find out the age of the people who actually are (and I can’t believe I’m even writing this phrase) “pro-chastity.”

    Sexuality is a fundamental part of human identity. A person who spends their ostensibly adult years in abstinence is to some extent an incomplete person–robbed of the chance to intimately bond with other people, denied the experience of shared acceptance and vulnerability, unable to practice and refine one of the most important acts they will ever engage in, and fundamentally ignorant of one of the crucial factors necessary in choosing a spouse.

    Someone actually said “How can they know it’s bad if they’ve never had it before?” Um, gee, maybe if it doesn’t feel good or is actively painful or the woman can’t be brought to climax because, with both spouses being good little abstinent adult-children, neither has a clue how her anatomy works?

    You owe it to your spouse to be as good for them as you can be. Frankly, I question the “sanctity” of some of these marriages when it is clear that many of them were only instituted so the people could hurry up and screw without being criticized by social primitives. By the time you decide to marry someone, having sex with them should long since have been settled so you can concentrate on discovering more important things such as whether they are the one who emotionally completes you. Unsatisfied sexual longing can confuse that picture and keep the “lust” phase of an early relationship active for an excessively long period of time, making you want to marry someone you’re actually not good for just so you can do it.

    Social primitivism, with its deviant fetishizing of chastity that goes well over the border into prudish pornography, does no good for either relationships or society as a whole.

  71. Thorngod
    June 25th, 2006 @ 9:18 am

    Very well said, TTT.

  72. Steve_G
    June 26th, 2006 @ 9:44 am

    A few things have become very clear to me as this discussion has proceeded.

    First, and unsurprisingly, I believe a lot of us are talking past each other and missing one another’s point/meaning.

    Thorngod has indicated that in his last three posts, and I feel the same way towards his responses. This sense of…are they even reading what I am writing? I am sure he likely feels the same.

    Second, I am more convinced that what I said earlier is true of most of the folks here. There seems to be a refusal to honestly assess the topic being discussed. Rather like the theists they accuse, there is nothing more than a defensive reaction from preconceived notions regarding sexuality. Most of the analysis I’ve seen is so provincial as to border on ludicrous.

    I am going to let the last round of posts mostly pass and use this unbelievably simplistic comment…

    JPE Said: Bullshit. There isn’t a single woman out there that is chaste w/o religious reasons. Why? Being chaste out of a hyperamplified fear of pregnancy isn’t rational. Modern medicine has invented such wonders as “condoms,” and “the pill.”

    …to try to refocus things on the only real point I was trying to make here.

    The point that I am suggesting for your consideration is this: There is, I think, a reasonable case to be made that along with the cultural factors that have caused societies to promote some version of chastity (albeit in different manifestation), there are likely also hormonal, biological, neurological, emotional, and otherwise physical components that have evolved into the human animal that are strong motivators for less than bonobo like behavior.

    I further think a reasonable case can be made that this is particularly pronounced in the female due to the fact that she bears the greatest risk/responsibility/investment in engaging in sex.

    If that is the case, I think it’s further reasonable to assert that it’s possible that engaging in sex less than indiscriminately is probably more in keeping with the biological nature of humans (especially of women) and would make for a healthier (for lack of a better term) individual.

    To flatly suggest that because we now have a pill for the last few decades, suddenly millions of years of evolution can be disregarded in how we approach sexuality is foolhardy in my estimation.

    I am not declaring with 100% certitude that I am correct. I am not making a religious argument here in the least. I am simply suggesting that there are some aspects to this discussion that have been ignored and I am trying to get folks to at least consider them.

    We can certainly see in nature the bonobo ‘ethic’, and seeing how that’s the evolutionary path that animal has trodden, that is their natural way. But we also see other sexual ‘ethics’ in the animal kingdom. We have horses who have a dominant stallion with several mares (polygamy if you will), and gorilla tribes that have something similar.

    We even see monogamy of one sort or another in Empire Penguins (seasonal monogamy). I could go on with other examples.

    Now, which type of animal we are is something worthy of discussion, but I’ve not seen much here that addresses any of this, and certainly nothing to suggest that we are closer to the bonobo than to the gorilla. In fact, even a tiny bit of research indicates that the bonobo is the exception amongst the ape family.

    I am not suggesting that any of this tells us exactly how we should behave, but that it’s something to ponder and might suggest that things are not quite so simple as ‘if it feels good, do it.’

  73. Lily
    June 27th, 2006 @ 11:20 am

    Actually, Thorn, TTT’s comments are unbelievably silly. Can you all really believe that what every 13 year old figures out, if given the chance, he won’t figure out as a 24 year old husband?

    If sex is a skill, like every skill it will improve with practice. You don’t have to change basketballs in order to improve your game. You don’t need to change partners in order to improve your sexual skills. In fact, that is just about as exploitive a reason for sleeping around as I have ever heard. “Gee, Susan. I don’t care about you, but I do want to be good for my future wife…”.

    And what can it possibly mean to say that abstinence robs a person “of the chance to intimately bond with other people” be vulnerable etc.?

    What does it mean to intimately bond with someone? Can you possibly believe that it is a good thing to do that with multiple partners for a limited duration? How does one intimately bond with someone who will play no role in your life after a few months? A year? A couple of weeks?

    This one needs to be thought through a little more carefully.

  74. TTT
    June 27th, 2006 @ 2:01 pm

    Can you all really believe that what every 13 year old figures out, if given the chance, he won’t figure out as a 24 year old husband?

    I suppose a 24-year-old could learn to ride a tricycle like a little kid too–it would likewise just be immature and weird and kinda sad.

    13-year-olds “figure it out” by starting, like pretty much everyone does, with an inept and fumbling first time. They then get better with age and experience. Why should 24-year-olds be forcibly delayed in that awful stage of clumsy embarassment, just because of some primitive hymen-worship?

    And what can it possibly mean to say that abstinence robs a person “of the chance to intimately bond with other people” be vulnerable etc.? What does it mean to intimately bond with someone?

    ……wow. I’d say this is one of those “if you have to ASK” moments.

    Can you possibly believe that it is a good thing to do that with multiple partners for a limited duration? How does one intimately bond with someone who will play no role in your life after a few months? A year? A couple of weeks?

    And I suppose people who remain abstinent into adulthood should never ever smile at or dance with or be pen-pals with anybody other than the person they will marry? Obviously they can tell in advance which one and only one person is worth interacting with. How dare they whore their handwriting before every wantonly pen-thrusting man who gets into their mailbox? You get ONE partner, or else you’re dirty.

    Seriously, where in the world did you get the idea that anybody knows such a thing in advance? Everybody has to start somewhere, somehow. Even the people who go out and hook up at bars may very well end up in a long, perhaps lifelong, relationship with their new partner. Or they may not. There’s never a way to know in advance, unless it’s Fiddler On The Roof in the 18th century and the matchmaker tells you in advance…. yeah, our morals today are so much worse than that.

    Sex is one of many ways in which people interact, one of many important factors that determine if a couple will work. Falling in love takes time–that early burn is largely lust, which as I said before is much better to be crossed over relatively early on so the people can see if there’s something deeper and longer-lasting linking them together.

  75. Thorngod
    June 27th, 2006 @ 5:41 pm

    And it isn’t basketballs you’re changing; it’s players on the team. And that is indeed conducive to improvement. And so long as I do not deceive Susan as to my motives and intentions, she is not wronged.

  76. Thorngod
    June 27th, 2006 @ 5:41 pm

    And it isn’t basketballs you’re changing; it’s players on the team. And that is indeed conducive to improvement. And so long as I do not deceive Susan as to my motives and intentions, she is not wronged.

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