Editor’s note: Emily is the author of The Catholic Girl’s Survival Guide for the Single Years. This Q&A is continued from last week’s discussion with Emily.)
Chapter four, “Sex, Chastity & The Biological Clock,” is a big one – it covers so many key issues for single women. You give clear-cut advice on physical parameters in a chaste relationship, and you write that “If you’re serious about embracing chastity, you have to become a bit of an old fuddy duddy.” You spell out situations to avoid:
Drinking too much at parties, on dates, or during events out; talking too long and too late in the car; talking too long and too late anywhere; sleepovers; laying down together; kissing laying down; kissing sitting down; maybe even kissing standing up; not to mention kissing with any portion of your clothing removed. And backrubs. Definitely backrubs.
Break this down for CatholicMatch members.
Just so we’re clear right up front, I’m not saying everyone should make a hard-and-fast rule to never stay up late talking to their honey or not kiss a guy until they’ve got a ring on their finger. People know their own personal strengths and sources of temptation way better than I do.
I’m just giving a list of situations that can become – or are – minefields for a couple trying to date chastely. Now, a couple of those situations listed are “avoid at all cost” – drinking too much, clothes off. Most are “it’s really wise to avoid.” And one or two are for those who know they’re no good at putting the breaks on once things get going even a little bit and find it safer to avoid letting things get going in the first place.
So with that list, you’re trying to get people to think about chastity differently?
Too often we approach questions about chastity from a negative standpoint. We ask ourselves, “How much can we do before I have to go to confession.” But if that’s the question we’re asking, the battle is already half lost.
Partly because the farther we go, the harder it is to stop, both physically and emotionally. Most of us understand the physical part of the problem. The emotional part is a bit more subtle. A romantic kiss between a man and a woman – as opposed to a peck on the cheek – isn’t just a kiss. It’s the beginning of the gift of self.
For a moment, we share breath with another person. For a moment, we share life. That’s serious business – entertaining business, mind you, but not mere entertainment. We shouldn’t treat it like it is. At least for women, the more serious smooching we do, the more of our hearts we give. And the more we give our hearts, the more we want to give everything else. It’s just how we women folk are wired.
What’s the other part of your reasoning?
The rest of the reason is that such a question reveals we’re not thinking about sexual intimacy properly. The ability to give ourselves, body and soul, to another is a tremendous gift. It’s a sacred gift actually. It’s one of the most beautiful and powerful ways in which we image God, who is self-gift. And when we understand just how very precious that gift is, the goal shouldn’t be to use it and abuse it as much as we possibly can without getting into trouble. The goal should be safeguarding the gift, protecting it as much as possible until we can use the gift the way God designed it to be used.
So that’s where the list comes in?
As I explain in the book, avoidance has always been strongly recommended by those men and women who have “St.” before their name. That’s because avoiding temptation is a lot easier than running from it. If you’re running from it, you’ve already seen it, and its power to stop you dead in your tracks is immense. If you avoid it, however, there’s no temptation dogging your steps. You’re free, at least relatively speaking.
This applies to cookies. If you don’t buy or bake any, you’re not going to blow your diet. It also applies to boys. If you don’t put yourself in situations that can easily lead to sins against chastity, you’re going to have an awful hard time sinning against chastity.
So how has this advice been going over?
The book just came out a few weeks ago, so thus far no one has rolled their eyes to my face. That doesn’t mean they haven’t rolled their eyes behind my back though. I’m sure some have.
I’m also sure some are asking, “But how can you tell if you have chemistry with a person if you don’t [fill in the blank.]”
I think what most of us who’ve been in chaste relationships, including those who’ve gotten married after being chaste, would say is, “You know.”
When you’re not getting too intimate too fast, every little touch and glance take on a heightened importance. You can feel all sorts of sparks without being unchaste. Then, once you’re married and can be intimate, the hormones and sacramental grace kick in and help things along…or so I’m told.
Besides, ask the happiest married couples you know about chemistry and they’ll usually laugh. Attraction matters to a marriage – you need to find your spouse appealing enough to go to bed with and wake up with after all – but it doesn’t matter as much as kindness, generosity, honesty, and fidelity.
When we put so much emphasis on the chemistry question, we’re just showing how much we’ve bought into the culture’s understanding of love and happiness. And we all know the problems to which that understanding leads.
- “Why Women Should Set The Pace With Physical Affection” by Mary Beth Bonacci
- “53 And Chaste Again” by Barb Tess
- “Is It OK If I Sleep Over?” by Stephanie Wood Weinert
- “37-Year-Old Virgin: ‘Knowing God Is Better Than Sex’” by Christina Ries