Monday, February 14, 2011

In Defense of Chastity by Emily Baratta

Over at the excellent integral blog, Beams and Struts, Emily Baratta, a recent graduate of the JFKU program in Integral Psychology, has written a defense of chastity - which I read not so much as about chastity as it is about using discriminating awareness in all the realms swirling around sexuality and sexual intimacy.

Favorite line:
Conforming to norms set by self-authoring folks, does not make you self-authoring; it makes you conforming.
Damn straight.

Here are a couple of excerpts, starting at the beginning because (of course) that is where things start.

In Defense of Chastity

Written by Emily Baratta


I have a great idea for a new series of spiritual practice DVDs. It's called Goddesses Gone Wild.

Nubile coeds exposing their radiance for you, the spiritual practitioner, as you activate your second chakra in ecstatic states of mind/body bliss. You will expand your consciousness in an act of self-love, until rays of cosmic milk spew forth from your rod of creative power, bathing the universe in life force.

I'm kidding, of course, but only about this series being new.
Emily is a fine writer (and I know this because I am currently reading her thesis), and this opening was sure to get people's attention.

But here is where the article gets interesting
Maybe we need to recall that individual development does not always correlate with specific cultural values. In other words, I can be a conformist, blindly following the dogma of political correctness or the free market or sexual empowerment and that conformity is healthy, up to a point. Today the idea that sex is a wonderful part of human expression is not all that edgy in many communities, including ours. What seem to be missing is the big bad voice of traditional values (as opposed to a conformist orientation to those values) and the virtue of chastity with it.
And this:

Values are distinct from levels of individual development. Ascribing to postmodern values, does not necessarily indicate a capacity for self-authorship. It very well might mean that I grew up in a postmodern value sphere and I am a die-hard conformist. Where the dominant cultural message is open sexuality at all costs, chastity is a move away from conformity. Maybe we can call it pre- vs. trans-chastity. Having sex before marriage because everyone else does is not the same thing as really inquiring into what is right for you and then having sex before marriage. Chastity is a prerequisite for mature, responsible sexual expression as well as sexual sin. The Catechism makes clear that you need "full knowledge and complete consent" to be in mortal sin (1860). In other words, you must recognize you are doing the wrong thing and do it anyway. If you can't control yourself, you can't make a choice in either direction.

For those of us who were born into modern and postmodern milieus, a dose of traditionalism may be required to get us to truly self-authoring levels around sex. This is not to say that any tradition is correct in every sexual teaching, but that an unexamined acceptance of sex-positivity is just as immature as an unexamined acceptance of any other ideology. For those of us who are deeply embedded in postmodern sexuality, a virtue like chastity can be the detox agent we need to truly reflect on what is right and wrong regarding sexuality.

For me, these sections get to the heart of the issue. There are a whole lot of people my age or older who are preaching the integral beauty of polyamory, and they base part of their arguments on the need to loosen up and allow people to explore their sexuality in whatever way they please, with as many people as they please.

They also tend to present data from the somewhat sketchy ("dodgy" for my British friends) field of evolutionary psychology that suggests human beings were never meant to be monogamous. Sure, maybe that was true 50,000 years ago. But even that is not known for sure but only speculated - newest thinking by some is that we have been measuring the wrong qualities in early humans and that they were not that different from us.

So let's assume they are correct, and we (men in particular) used to be all about "spreading our seed," I'm willing to wager that if our consciousness has evolved in the last 50,000 years, and if our morality has evolved, and if our intellect has evolved, and if even our emotional intelligence has evolved - if all of that has happened, then I am willing to bet that our capacity for intimate and monogamous relationships has also evolved.

Wouldn't you bet on that, too?

But it could also be that I have done that - and it was not, for me, in any way fulfilling. I'm just telling my story - you need to write your own narrative - be self-authoring, not simply going along with the integral "leadership."

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