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Virginity, Chastity and Love


The idea of chastity often gets entangled with the idea of virginity, and historically the two have often been indistinguishable from one another. Conceptually, however, they are distinct. Virginity is usually present in the non-marital state, while chastity is mostly evident in the marital state. However, at the foundation of virginity and chastity is the virtue of love. Love nourishes and sustains virginity and chastity in their different states.

Chastity is the idea that sexuality is a God-given power and gift, one subject to limits that are not exhausted by affection and consent. Chastity insists that sexuality be nested within a context of restraint, commitment and family formation

Virginity is a state of not having had sexual intercourse. Here, the individual has not been receptive to sexual intercourse through the genitals; it addresses abstinence and sexual self-denial. Virginity concerns our sexual history, of which it is presumed not to have started.


Sexuality and Chastity

More theologians today are proposing a sexual morality that makes sense in terms of personal relationships. More and more, it is acknowledged that sex does not create a relationship; rather, it expresses a relationship that already exists. The question being asked is whether or not the physical sexual relationship corresponds to the depth of intellectual, emotional and interpersonal commitment that is shared by two people.

Bishop John A. T. Robinson has made the suggestion that chastity is honesty in sex; it implies, in other words that we have “physical relationships that truthfully express the degree of personal commitment” that is shared with another. What this means is that two people, in their physical sexual relationship, should not transcend, or go beyond the degree of activity that is appropriate for the commitment that actually exists between them.

The criterion of honesty is not verified by what two people tell each other about the level of their mutual commitment but rather by whether or not their physical sexual expression exceeds or goes beyond their overall level of mutual commitment, regardless of what, or how much they tell each other. It is honesty in action and not just promises.

Once chastity is described as honesty in sex, it becomes necessary to distinguish between chastity and virginity. There are obviously people who give up their virginity but who in no way abandon their lives of chastity. Such people are spouses whose physical relationships give honest testimony to the deep commitment and love which they share. Chastity is for all people and not just for those who are single. Spouses are, ideally chaste non-virgins.

At the same time, however, it is possible to be an unchaste virgin, which simply means that a person may retain his or her physical virginity, that is having no sex, but still be involved in a relationship that is not honest in terms of physical sexual expression.

Some people are technically virgins, but they compromise their purity in countless ways. Many virgins assume, “As long as I retain my virginity, I’m good. Therefore, everything short of intercourse is OK.” They may give parts of themselves to people they know they will never marry and assume that they are still pure because they are not having intercourse. Thus the question of chastity should arise in a relationship before the question of virginity because often chastity is forgotten long before virginity is lost.

Donald Goergen identifies chastity as a virtue that accepts a person’s striving for pleasure and attempts to put that striving in the service of other humans and Christian values.” More specifically, he says that chastity moderates one’s sexuality and enables a person to place genitality’s intense physical pleasure at the service of love.

Chastity is more than continence. It must be view in the light of the values that it is called upon to assert and to protect. It is an attitude of reverence for the mystery of life and for the personal dignity of the partner, who may not be abused in a selfish way, but who has a claim to protective love. Chastity shapes and orders the sexual powers in such a way that they are truly able to serve the human relation of conjugal partnership.

Chastity is not abstention from all sexual desires. Rather it includes the mutual self-giving of the partners in the happiness of their sexual intimacy. It is a responsible sexuality. Yet while this responsibility affirms the value of sexual love and cares for its proper development, it does not make of it an absolute, since it is aware of ends that go beyond it.


It must be said of course that while genital sexual expression is properly limited to those relationships which embody a living love, it would be quite another thing to say that relationships of love are limited to those in which physical or genital sexual expression would be appropriate. Such a stance, in fact, could never be maintained, because the reality of love is far more inclusive or more comprehensive than the reality of genital sex.

In other words, even though it is argued that genital sexual expressions should be limited or confined to relationships in which love has come to life, love is certainly not confined or limited to expressions of physical or genital sexuality. Thus, while it is true that love is always a necessary condition for expression of genital sexuality, love is not always a sufficient condition for these expressions; rather a special form of love, namely, pledged or committed love, must provide the setting for genital sexuality.

Moreover, while genital expression should reflect the level of personal commitment between two people, love itself may very well decide sometimes that such expression would be inappropriate, precisely because it would be unloving, and must therefore, be curtailed or sacrificed. Thus, for example, husbands and wives may refrain from sexual intercourse with their spouses out of consideration for their physical or emotional well being. Such sensitivity reflects one of the key insights of the Christian tradition, namely, that true love is distinct from physical sex.

Genital sex is not the primary language or ultimate proof of love; rather, the greatest proof of love is caring for others even to the point of self-sacrifice (Jn 15:13). In one way or another, the lover must die to self so as to live for the beloved.

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Joshua Dehi (author) from Lagos, Nigeria on August 21, 2020:

I will like to say that there should be a normative moral code for the society, each of us having our moral code surely holds especially in our relationships. Like you said, the goal is to find someone who shares your values.

I am really concerned with the depreciation of value...A 19 year old virgin has more value than a 39 year old virgin in the eyes of most people. Should this be the case?

Strict parents emphasize virginity and keep their daughters indoors while their sons are free to roam the street.

These girls are then put under pressure when they attain the age of marriage and suitors are not forthcoming...In their naivety and pressure they fall into the wrong hands.

The myth around virginity is too is good to keep one's self pure...however, virginity is just an episode that passes after the first stroke, what last long is chastity.

dashingscorpio from Chicago on August 21, 2020:

Each of us has our own moral code.

There is no "right" or "wrong" only "agree" and "disagree"

The goal is to find someone who shares (your) values.

Throughout history man has always sought to control women's sexual behavior. Chastity belts were worn by (women).

King Solomon had 700 wives and (300) concubines.

Can you imagine a woman with 700 husbands and 300 "boy toys"? Sexism is alive and well even by today's standard.

In some countries women must endure {forced circumcision} to remove their clitoris in order to deny them sexual pleasure.

Society has always placed more value on young women's virginity over that of male virginity. However there is an "expiration date". A 19 year old virgin has more value than a 39 year old virgin in the eyes of most people. Whereas other things of value such as gold, diamonds, real estate, and even wine "appreciate" over time.

Life is a (personal) journey!

Your sexual experience is your personal business.

You don't have to discuss it with anyone you don't want to.

Ecclesiastes 7:20

"For there is not a just man upon earth, that doeth good, and sinneth not."

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