Saturday, January 6, 2007

Observer (U.K.) discovers Thrill

Reporter Paul Harris, New York correspondent for the Observer — Britain's oldest Sunday newspaper (circulation 460,490; average issue readership 1,445,000), published by the Guardian, today writes about my book and my performance at the debate on chastity in downtown Manhattan last Wednesday. It's more positive than anything I could have imagined from a major newspaper, especially one with such a liberal heritage as the Guardian.

Here is the article, minus a few juicy parts, in the hope that you'll read the whole thing on the Observer's site:

From a sex-loving rock 'n' roll writer to a disciple of celibacy
Paul Harris in New York

The setting was typically Manhattan - a crowded basement filled with attractive single men and women beneath a bar called Lolita boasting murals of topless women.

Dawn Eden was taking part in a debate about dating in New York. As a former rock journalist who once bedded some of her famous subjects, it would seem she was suitably qualified. But her message was unexpected: don't have sex outside marriage. It is bad for you. 'My values now tell me that sex should be reserved only for marriage,' she told the surprised crowd.

Eden's conversion from free-living, free-loving music journalist to leading apostle of chastity has seen her rise to fame in America. She is a regular on radio shows and has been featured in magazines such as lifestyle bible Radar, after recently publishing a book titled The Thrill of the Chaste.

She is at the cutting edge of a movement that has swept America, advocating not just safe sex for teenagers and young adults, but no sex at all. ...

... At first glance Eden, 38, seems an unlikely advocate of celibacy. She still hangs out with musicians and is not shy about admitting her past enjoyment of the rock'n'roll lifestyle. Though she won't name names, she admits she had a particular passion for drummers during the decade she spent writing on the rock music industry. 'I took full advantage of the fact that I was in a very libertine world,' she said. But no longer.

Eden's book is a heartfelt attack on the carefree, Sex and the City-style image of modern American dating. It describes her conversion to Catholicism and chastity. She now frankly condemns her previous sexual antics. 'I feel like I am some sort of heroin addict warning people about this. Some might say that the difference is that heroin is objectively bad and sex is objectively good. But I believe sex outside marriage is objectively bad because it is psychologically and spiritually damaging,' she said.

Eden said the culture of casual sex had demeaned the marriage bond, and that it damaged self-esteem. 'I believe that it is better for everybody to be chaste outside marriage, whether they are religious or not.'...

... Eden's uncompromising Christian views have got her fired from the New York Post, though she has become a hero to many religious conservatives. Her book is a sort of self-help guide to anyone wanting to lead a chaste life, and she has spoken at book signings and addressed church groups on the issue, urging a sex-free America for singles. She has also won the grudging admiration of many liberals, who might disagree with her but who appreciate her bravery in advocating her message in a dating-mad city like New York.

Eden admitted that telling single New Yorkers to abstain from sex was selling a difficult message to a tough crowd. 'It is extremely tough to say these things in Manhattan. People sometimes see me as setting myself up as a moral arbiter, and I want to avoid that,' she said. But her message is undiluted, even though it is coming from someone who used to lead a sex life most people would have envied. 'I regret all the sex that I ever had in my life,' she said.

Even in the Lolita bar, Eden won over some fans. She was debating with Virginia Vitzthum, who is soon to publish a book on internet dating. A show of hands at the end of the evening revealed that Eden had lost on the debate's central question: 'Is chastity a good idea for singles?' But Vitzthum admitted Eden had acquitted herself well, saying: 'She was brave to speak to this crowd.'

Eden was the centre of a lot of attention at the debate's end, as well wishers lined up to congratulate her for putting forward her point of view. Then the evening's moderator declared: 'Let's all go and get a drink and some of us will get laid and some of us won't.' In Manhattan, celibacy is clearly still an uphill battle.

Buy The Thrill of the Chaste at

UPDATE: Virginia Vitzthum objects.