The last two weeks have brought good news for proponents of abstaining from sex until marriage. Two Fridays ago, for example, the House Energy & Commerce Health Subcommittee released a report which said abstinence-only education is superior to so-called “comprehensive sex education.” The subcommittee, which has jurisdiction over the nation’s federal sexual education policies, released its report almost concurrently with a report from the National Youth Risk Behavior Survey, which reports 53% of high school students are abstinent and two-thirds are “currently abstinent.” And just last week Mitt Romney referenced abstinence in his speech to the NAACP, saying, “A study from the Brookings Institution has shown that for those who graduate from high school, get a full-time job, and wait until 21 before they marry and then have their first child, the probability of being poor is two percent. And if those factors are absent, the probability of being poor is 76 percent.”
Of course, one can dismiss the House report as mere hyperbole from social conservatives, but that does not take away from the fact that abstinence is the most effective form of birth control (100% effective!) and the effects of unmarried sexual activity among teenagers (and people in general, and women particularly) are fairly well-known. Additionally, the utter failure of “comprehensive” education is evident in the rate of out-of-wedlock births and higher divorce rates among those who are not abstinent until marriage.
Rather than rehash the debate over public policy related to abstinence, however, this piece examines two specific aspects of abstinence and chastity: how chastity and the relationship between men and women is viewed in the Bible and how today’s sometimes hypocritical view of men and woman who “sleep around” was originally designed not as a way to put women down… but as a recognition of natural law related to men and infidelity.
First, the Bible. Over the last 40-odd years, feminists have made the claim that the Bible is sexist. Citing, for example, the oft-misquoted “wives, submit to your husbands as to the Lord” and warnings from various prophets to men that they should resist the wiles of women, they have convinced a good deal of society that the Bible is indeed intended to demean women. Yet in examining these and other quotes, the case can be made that the Bible – to use the feminist language – is instead sexist against men, casting them as subordinate to the fairer sex.
Of course, the Bible isn’t actually sexist (it actually reveals the strengths and weaknesses inherent in both men and women), but using the language of feminists, consider the following:
- The Bible consistently warns men against sexual temptation from women. It rarely warns women against sexual temptation from men.
- Thus, the Bible is admitting what natural law and various religions have recognized for thousands of years – men are, by and large, weaker when it comes to resisting sexual temptation than women.
- Thus, women in the Bible actually have, to a degree, more power than men. Look at Judith, who manipulated the head of an entire army into trusting her in only a few days, only to have her kill him when the moment was right, or Solomon and David, who ignored literal conversations with God because of their lack of sexual discipline, or Samson, who was led to his own death by his wife.
Feminists have more of an argument when they point out that many people in America are hypocritical when it comes to sexual immorality among the sexes. Example: a male who “sleeps around” is seen in some circles as cool or powerful. A woman who “sleeps around” is seen in, shall we say, a less hospitable light in some circles. Yet we hypothesize that this was originally due to a negative view of men, not of women.
Consider the following: at its core, acceptance of men sleeping around essentially admits that men don’t have discipline when it comes to sex. Women are looked down upon because they are considered beings of higher discipline and control. Thus, the expectation that women be more chaste is actually a compliment.
This is not to say men should be praised or otherwise not critiqued for sleeping around. Not at all – immorality is immorality, no matter who engages in it. It is indeed hypocritical of segments of society to accept or praise men for immorality while shunning or demeaning women who do the same. However, there is a solution, albeit one that puts perhaps unfair responsibility on women: ladies should hold themselves to a higher standard of when to engage in sexual relations.
Look at it this way – men who are often very willing to impress a woman to sleep with her. If she tells them they’d better get their act together, or she won’t, they either will acquiesce to her or find another, more sexually willing partner. But if women revived their roles as sexual gatekeepers rather than permissive collaborators, this would induce men to control and rise above their lust rather than constantly satiate it.
This is not a new idea, using the sexual weakness of men to make them better human beings; a number of Kenyan women famously declared they would not have sex with husbands and partners unless war was avoided in 2009, for one example. While the actions of the wives were, Biblically speaking, immoral, this effort does reveal the effect of lust in men’s lives and women’s ability to exploit this sin or, preferably, shield men from it, via their behavior or even their self-presentation. It also is reminiscent of the new Facebook meme making the rounds: for women who dress a certain way, it’s like rolling in mud – you will attract attention, but only from pigs. If women want fewer pigs around, they may have to make the first effort.
Of course, as Catholics, we do not believe men and women should date solely for satisfying sexual desires. Sex is not just an added bonus of marriage or a mechanism for baby-making – it’s a “mutual exchange of the gift of the person,” as alluded to in Genesis 2:23 – 25. However, asserting this truth about sex requires the collaborative effort of both genders, even if some Theology of the Body texts assert that men should bear the primary responsibility of promoting physical chastity. If society is in a moral tailspin, why quibble about who should pull up on the controls? When women treat their bodies with dignity and respect, men are eventually forced to do the same. This change will help men reform themselves and become the moral authorities they need to be. Like Christians who develop a relationship with God that grows from fear of Hell to respect to love, women could force men to become better, and recognize the true dignity of women they wish to be with.
About the authors
Dustin Siggins is a policy and politics blogger who regularly contributes to HotAir.com, HotAir.com’s Green Room, Race42012.com, and RightWingNews.com. He is the co-author of a forthcoming book on the national debt with William Beach of The Heritage Foundation.
Erica Szalkowski is a graduate assistant at the Center for the Advancement of Catholic Higher Education at Mount St. Mary’s University, and is pursuing her Masters degree in Business at Mount St. Mary’s University.