10.23.2006

Let's talk about sex...

...because everyone likes sex.
Inevitably, a Catholic all-girls high school education will lead to discussions about chastity. I remember being subjected to a lot of these in four years. All of our theology classes eventually touched on sex, and why good Catholic girls don't have it.
And while I can appreciate the religious aspect, that God meant sex to remain within the bonds of marriage, where it is a sign of mutual commitment, there were two points that made me angry.
The first is that our brother school never talked about chastity. I've questioned several people who went there, including my own older brother, but none of them could remember it coming up to the same extent that it did at my own school. In their theology classes, someone would ask if a certain sex act was ok, the teacher would say it's fine as long as you are both married, then move one. But we girls had entire class periods devoted to sex (specifically, to chastity and virginity). Essentially, the message is that it's always the woman's job to ensure the sexual purity of men. This is the same attitude that in Islamic countries translates to women being beaten for showing their ankles. If you assume that chastity is important in Christian relationships, than it should be taught equally to both sexes.
The second point, and even more disturbing to me, is the shame aspect. I'll share one anecdote. Sophomore year, two or three of the Juniors gave us a talk about sexual purity during lunch. It consisted of showing us three roses. One had all its petals gone; the other had a few stripped away, and the last one was intact. They then asked us which rose we wanted to be, which rose a man would like more.
At the time, I was just annoyed. Now that I think about the message we were being sent, I'm furious. We should maintain sexual purity not for ourselves and our relationships with God, but because no man will want us if all our petals are gone. In other words, you can either be a slut or a nice pure wife.
This message ignores the Catholic model of forgiveness. If our sins are washed clean when we confess them to a priest and do penance, then does it matter if you made mistakes in the past? If God, who is perfect, can forgive your sins, than your (imperfect) husband shouldn't be complaining about it. I would hope that any man I marry is willing to accept me as I am; human, with a whole list of past mistakes. Being a virgin doesn't increase my worth as a person, and not being a virgin doesn't make me unsuitable for marriage.
The idea that a woman's worth is tied up in her purity, while it doesn't really matter for a man bothers me. Double standards are morally repugnant, and my high school didn't do anyone any favors by spreading this one.
-The Quartermaster

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