The Virtue of Chastity in the Modern Age

The other day I explored the Virtue of Chastity as it applied to my own life; this left me with open questions. Keeping in mind, I have not personally defined Chastity as Virtue, simply accepted the original seven Virtues as existing in our lexicon and as social standards from which to begin my exploration. (Part One).

How times have changed, or have they? There was a time when Virginity was sacrosanct, Chastity not a commodity to be traded for popularity or acceptance.

Today the gray areas young people draw cause me to cringe; oral sex is acceptable because it isn’t real sex. Sexting isn’t crossing that line into pornography, unless you are caught. Popularity is traded for the number of partners acquired without trading your Virginity, the only thing you save for True Love. Public displays of sexual favors are not off limits so long as it is between friends. The rules change to accommodate a new morality that places emphasis on Chastity only as it applies to Virginity itself, yet even this is flung to the wind in favor of the need for affection and acceptance.

Girls as young as twelve are giving birth to the next generation. One of the most popular

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shows on daytime television Maury, who has coined the phrase “you are not the Father” while “you the baby’s daddy” is sung viciously by the daily parade of witless women and clueless men who reproduce without restraint or regard. Another popular show is Teen Mom, which follows the misadventures of teenage mothers as they swim the turbulent water of motherhood, welfare and adult relationships with the teenage fathers of their children. We watch fascinated by these forays into other people’s lives, on the one hand publically condemning their choices while on the other making them celebrities by our puerile fascination.

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As I sit sipping my Latte at the local Starbucks, I watch a gaggle of young girls dressed as if they were heading over to the local stroll. I know, terribly judgmental nevertheless with short shorts, midriff tops and make-up plastered on with spatula this is the first impression. Their voices grate on the middle ear, fevered giggles over some boy or other as they call each other ‘slut’ and ‘ho’ affectionately, as if these names have no meaning or force. The persistent beat of music coming from their IPhone repeats the ugly undercurrents, the language of devaluation, ‘ho’, ‘bitch’, ‘slut’, while these future women bounce and titter.

As I watched these young girls, guessing their ages not more than fourteen, my responses were as follows:

  1. Do your mother / father know you are out in public dressed like that?
  2. Do you have the self-awareness to realize what you are agreeing to when you listen to that music and accept that language, those names?
  3. Do you know you cannot reclaim names and make them less or different from what they fundamentally are?

I wanted to snatch all of them wash their faces and take them to their homes; frankly I was afraid of what I would find.

Have we traded some fundamental self-awareness of our core being as women? Indeed, is Chastity an archaic and troublesome Virtue best left in the past now that we have discovered independence and been granted our liberties?

My personal exploration of this subject is leading me down a twisting path. I will finish Chastity as a Virtue in Part III.


  1. I think it is a mass hysteria, not unlike the witch trials. There are those women to this day who would not dream of leaving the house without the accepted couture simply because they fear reprisal. (See me spit on sidewalk.) That level of acceptance is one to which I will not cater.

    I am afforded the freedom of doing as I desire (within the bounds of the law). To that end, I engage in opinions and behaviors not always (and some not often) accepted sans condescending judgment. That judgment falls squarely in the flat portion of my hearing bell curve…completely out of my pitch range. Why? Simply, I do not live a life other than the one which services myself in my pursuit of happiness for me and my family.

    Isolationistic? At times. But islands are so very private when what you want is to sunbathe as you came into the world. I consider the trade off one in my favor.

    Would that the rest of the world would be so free.

  2. I defined this based on social terms nothing else. The entire premise is we have a set of “Virtues” that have been with us for nearly 2000 years. We don’t really think about them, don’t consider what they really mean we simply read to the bottom of the list and without thinking check the box and agree. Then we beat the hell out of people if they don’t fit.

    The entire idea is to pick it apart as it applies to me first and then on a more social level in the context of today. It wasn’t my intent to try trace the historical concepts, except at a high level, only how those concepts apply to the here and now.

    Is it mass hysteria? Perhaps, but this hysteria has produced many terrible things and it has only been in the past 40 years that women have been truly free to choose to ignore those social mores that did not suit their individual ethical code without severe consequence. Even a decade (60’s to 70’s) produced enormous change in personal freedoms, views and options. The struggle to define ones self in light of those changes is also not without consequence.

  3. Interesting conclusion…One I have a hard time conceptualizing based on the root of the etymology, which I see as the biggest issue with my acceptance.

    Virtue comes from the Latin Virtus, which means manliness, excellence and goodness, which is based on Vir, meaning man. Through the French, we get to vertu which means “habit of the will, acquired by repetition, which enables man to act well.” At this stage, I could connect to your self-imposed virtue by considering “man” as the race rather than the individual.

    The Middle English adaptation into virtue, which made obsolete the inherent maleness of the word, morphed it into “Chastity, especially in women”. Leave it to the English to bastardize a perfectly good word. But I cannot lay all the blame at the feet of the crown.

    Our society’s complete disregard for the meanings of the words they employ (See ‘ho and bitch as terms of status and endearment.) renders my acceptance of chastity as a virtue impossible. Just because my neighbor calls the sun an apple does not mean I am willing to make cider.

    Again, the hinge pin for me is the morality. Whether or not I could ever agree to a joint moral code with anyone else, I simply cannot abide assigning moral capital to an action as natural and animal (Humans are mammals.) as sex. The misuse of sex, yes. The act of sex, no. Morality, by design, requires a consensus of what is and is not acceptable to the society. Violations of such morality garner judgment: verbal, personal and societal. Assigning such judgment without a working concept of the morality upon which it is based is, frankly, capricious, pious and repugnant.

    Perhaps, my skewed view of the world in general leads me here, but it does not allow me the rejection of my fellow planet-mates their propensity to engage in what I can only classify as mass hysteria around needing to be accepted to the point they are willing to forgo any conscious examination of principles presented to them. As I am wont, I remain the Red island.

  4. Just no…on so many levels. I have seen those sucked into the celebrity of degradation associated with the television genre. They are not lamenting your little girls in Starbuck’s. Nor are they standing against the language or the music or the culture in which the little girls partake. Yet, when it is their little princess in the obstetrician’s office, the worm has turned. It is everyone’s fault but theirs. I find the level of emotional maturity necessary to have responsible sex is absent in both generations.

    Despite ample education and/or availability of facts, these and many others hold the belief sex (intercourse, with or without foreplay) is the purview of love. They wholeheartedly believe sex merely exists as a symbol of adoration or adulation. Absent are the biological and physiological facts concerning sex as a biological, chemical function. History is rife with examples of jilted lovers on murderous rampages spawned from this very fundamental difference of perspective.

    While I will not subscribe to chastity as a virtue, I do know the emotional and physical ramifications of unprotected sex and the prudence which dictates sex should only be an adult venture. After giving birth as many times as I have, I know the emotional and physical demands of parenthood are neither for the fainthearted nor children. I use the term children both in the traditional sense of one not yet an adult and one, despite age, not yet mature enough to comprehend the consequences of its actions.

    Arguably, the latter category is populace, with those aged to the day of the grave. While I have been slapped for such “eugenic” opinions, it remain. Sex is best left to adults, not toyed with by children of all ages. Regardless of this opinion, I cannot denote chastity a virtue, albeit a wise choice for many.

    • I think though Red, it is a virtue as long as it is self-defined and not socially defined. That is ultimately the conclusion I drew. Everything else, well it isn’t hard to see the links between how media portrays women and how young women portray themselves.

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