Thursday, January 4, 2007

Chastity as Spectator sport

Pia de Solenni, a moral theologian who was awarded the Pontifical Prize of the Academies by Pope John Paul II, today reviews The Thrill of the Chaste in the American Spectator online.

It's the kind of review that authors dream about. Although I don't know Dr. de Solenni, save for having met her briefly at my Catholic Information Center (D.C.) appearance last month, I feel in reading her review as though she knows me, as she so perfectly grasps why I wrote the book.

Following is the bulk of the review; I've left out some juicy bits in the hope that you'll read the whole thing on the Spectator's site:

SEX USED TO HAVE SOMETHING to do with marriage. That was then, this is now. Now, sex happens in more ways and places than perhaps ever before; but people don't seem much happier for it. Consider the fact that sex is everywhere, men and women claim to be looking for love and commitment, and the singles industry is booming; but the marriage rate doesn't appear to be keeping pace and people seem to spend much more of their lives being single. In such a light, the sexual revolution appears to have been more limiting than liberating. ...

... Extremely honest and forthright, Eden details her decision to pursue chastity as a way of ultimately being happy, whether or not she ever meets Mr. Right. Fortunately, her writing style lacks the saccharine drama commonly found in inspirational books. Rather than condemn a particular lifestyle for pages on end, she helps the reader to understand the lifestyle. Whether one is on the outside looking in or completely immersed, Eden provides a framework that helps explain the choices that so many people assume are "natural."

But it would be a mistake to think Eden simply attempts to make the case for a return to traditional sexual mores. She identifies a condition that generally has been reserved for discussion in the academic circles of philosophers and psychologists.

EXAMINING THE DIFFERENCE BETWEEN the lifestyle choices of sex (mostly casual) outside of marriage and the decision to wait until sex can be fully experienced within marriage, Eden identifies two types of women: single women and singular women. ...

... The single woman is excessively utilitarian, and auto-determining; she defines her relationships, her circumstances, and her future, according to her desires. The "other" only comes into the picture insofar as that person is useful to her. She spends her time resenting what she does not have, especially the lack of an intimate relationship, even though she bases her identity on that very lack. Her identity is about what she hasn't got (a boyfriend or a husband), not who she is.

A singular woman acts integrally. She chooses to do things because they are good in and of themselves, not because they will serve her immediate interests whether they involve dating and romance, getting a job, or any other desire. She allows herself to actually experience what a situation offers, even if she didn't foresee it. Unlike the single woman, she will go to a party simply to have fun and be with people she enjoys. If she meets someone at the party, it will be all the better. But whether or not she meets someone won't determine the success of the party.

Eden also identifies gratitude as the distinguishing factor between the singular woman and the single woman. In stark opposition to the single woman's focus on her lack of a partner or mate, the singular woman expresses gratitude not only for what she has and is given, but for what she can give. ...

... In addition to the well-placed Chesterton quotes in her book, Eden has some memorable lines of her own. Articulating the root of the problem, she writes, "Once you allow yourself to be defined by your loneliness, it's a small step to violating your most deeply held beliefs." Precisely this action determines whether an individual woman or man is single or singular. The single person defines the self with her loneliness, i.e. the lack of an intimate relationship in her life. The singular person has an intimate relationship first with God and subsequently with others. The various authentic friendships probably won't be as intimate as the healthy relationship between a husband and wife; but some of them certainly will be close and others still good even though they are more removed. More importantly, these real friendships will prepare the singular person for marriage. They'll learn to expect nothing but the best from people who are close to them, especially a spouse, and that will affect their decision in whom they choose as a spouse. ...

... In many ways, Eden's book is about loneliness and what we decide to do with it. As such, her book is not simply for unmarried women who are making a choice about their sexual behavior. All of us are faced with loneliness and we can choose to distract ourselves with sex, work, shopping, sports, and numerous other activities or any combination thereof.

Eden's decision to face the loneliness directly evidences its success in the fact that she no longer suffers from depression. Sex -- without a context -- played a very big role in obfuscating the real issues in her life. But the change in her life wasn't just about sex, it was about living the principle of gratitude, thinking of the other. This book represents Eden's gift to us, to her readers. And it looks like she's more prepared than most people not just for marriage, but for life.
Buy The Thrill of the Chaste: Finding Fulfillment While Keeping Your Clothes On at