By Robert P
The idea of chastity – how quaint. Or is it?
At this point I have lived through two major sexual revolutions. The first was in the 1970s, when the pill lowered the risk of pregnancy. Not being particularly religious at the time, I bought into the notion that this was an acceptable idea and experimented. Afterward, I felt no abiding sense of emotional fulfillment or pleasure or much of anything. However, to my dismay, I felt even more lonely and depressed than I had felt before; I asked myself, “Is that it!” And this reaction may be fairly common. While I was fascinated by stories about “free love” communes, when a friend later invited me to join one, I declined. So do most people; most of those communes have since faded away.
My daughters are living through the second sexual revolution, where many embrace “sex as recreation.” At the university they attended 70% of students engage in “hook-ups” where they go to a party, become sexually involved with minimal emotional commitment—the goal was a good time without even remembering the name of your partner(s) in the morning. To a lesser extent that was around in my younger years, too, but the prospect of casual sex always felt too cold, and hook-ups are so lonely they are scary. Relationships are not supposed to be as disposable as Kleenex tissues.
To my surprise, I found I wanted a real union, a lasting commitment (such as marriage), where sex can become a sacred, even “sanctifying” spiritual experience.
Adam Lowen and Robert Levin, writing in “What Sex Means in a Happy Marriage” state:
”Love means not only loving, but loving back. It means not only being cared for, but caring. … a man and a woman feel the unmistakable need to express love by the act of giving. For them, the act of sex is a gift of love. … In day-to-day living, the man who is diminished by a world that forces him to compromise or accept defeat, finds total acceptance in the arms of the woman that loves him. And the woman that feels diminished by niggling chores and [family] obligations received heartfelt homage from the man that loves and desires her. With sex and with love, the man restores her integrity and she restores his, and both have been nourished by sexual pleasure, which they seek as roots seek water.”
This is the “mature” love I found when I was married. I found that unless sex is based on caring and grounded in long-term commitments, it can become ruthless. Without those higher principles, lust tends to undermine love: “bridle all your passions, that ye may be filled with love.” The Lord does not interfere with our fun on a whim, but because the uncontrolled pursuit of sexual pleasure is spiritually destructive. Two of my in-laws were caught in this trap—porn and lust eventually undermined their capacity for love and spirituality, and destroyed their families. I saw the fruits of lust—vice, crime, misery and disease.
So the law of chastity may be old-fashioned and quaint, but its alternative is empty and lonely and not really all that fun. Jeffrey Holland said that sinning leaves you with little more than a series of empty candy wrappers. That is my experience—getting more and more of what I do not need never satisfies, only frustrates. Only the gospel of Jesus Christ promises joy and peace which are abiding instead of momentary. This was the key for me. When sex is selfish and self-gratifying, it spiritually corrodes; when it is selfless, it edifies and strengthens. Sexuality is a gift and blessing from God. If we want more divine gifts and blessings, we have to prove we can handle them righteously. And sex is one of the major tests of the selflessness of our love.