You know that book you read in high school about chastity?
The one that said that if you had sex your life would ruined. FOREVER. The one about how your virginity was a precious gift to your future husband (who would definitely appear if you prayed hard enough). The one covered in pink flowers and that awful, treacly, preachy tone that made you want to throw it across the room?
Yeah, this isn’t that book.
Arleen Spenceley’s Chastity is for Lovers: Single, Happy, and (Still) a Virgin is the book you read when you’re sick of those books. As Arleen explains,
This book is not about virginity pledges, abstinence rallies, or purity balls (which, for the record, are pretty disturbing). It’s about a life of reckless abandon to a radical “homeless guy” who is both human and divine.
This is a book about what chastity actually means and how to live chastely today. It’s about how to be a virgin who’s not socially incompetent or in a doomsday cult. (Although to be clear, both groups would benefit from this book.) It’s about how chastity fits in with all those other Christian virtues like patience, generosity, kindness and yes, love.
Because above all, this really is a book for lovers.
Arleen shows how the Catholic Church’s teaching on chastity are a way of loving people — all people! She helps us not just to accept these truths but to embrace them. Our world is obsessed with sex — but pretty cynical about real, lasting love. But this book shows us how “the Church digs deep, exposing truths the world obscures: love is selfless, marriage is a miracle, and sex isn’t solely for pleasure.”
Chastity is for Lovers covers a lot of ground with remarkable ease.
She deals with what chastity actually is (which is not the same as either virginity or abstinence), how we should think about and live virginity, and why our culture has this thing against chastity. She looks at dating pitfalls, purity culture, contraception, falling in love, how to talk about sex, discerning your vocation, and whether Goodyear is a good place to find your future husband.
Throughout, Arleen weaves her own personal stories. The ones about her “coming-out” as a 26-year old virgin had me giggling, groaning and my stomach twisting in knots. (Ugh, Arleen — the photo! I feel ya, sister. I feel ya.)
I have two favourite parts of Chastity is for Lovers. I was trying to narrow it down to one but I just can’t.
My first favourite is when Arleen explains why pre-marital sex actually isn’t a good preparation for marriage. She writes,
Sex is good practice for sex; patience is good practice for marriage. Chastity helps us cultivate other skills that are readily transferable to marriage: governing our urges, creating and maintaining healthy boundaries, respecting somebody else’s boundaries, accepting discomfort, communicating, making sacrifices, having empathy, and making selfless decisions. By not having sex when we date, we build these skills… A marriage is not intrinsically impaired if a newlywed couple’s sexual relationship has to start with awkward practice, direct conversation, and a sense of humor. Chastity prepares us for that, and it teaches us to trust.
My second favourite part, though, completely changed my view on dating — okay, well my view on my own dating history. Arleen managed to convince me that what I had thought were dating failures are actually successes.
That’s not easy.
So what was it, you ask?
Well, for that one you’ll just have to read the book to find out… ;)