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'It's not about the absence of something... but I look forward to sex eventually, I guess'

Two young people talk to TheJournal.ie about how they came to lead lives of chastity.

Image: Shutterstock

TO SOME, IT is a relic of a bygone era, a way of life rooted in a repressive view of sexuality.

But to others, it is a natural and normal part of everyday life.

This is the case for Scott Evans, 32, who says his chastity is about cherishing relationships, not repressing desire.

Sex, as he sees it, is a way of making “a promise of oneness” to someone, a moment where a married couple’s “physical, emotional and spiritual connection all tie together”.

He was at a youth camp when he decided to adopt chastity at the age of 17.

A speaker addressing the teenagers explained sex in a way that immediately appealed, he says.

More than asking what sex is, he was asking, ‘What does sex mean?’ I’d never heard it presented like that before – this idea that it actually means something, that it’s something we say to someone else essentially.

Relationships

Faith may have played an important role in his decision, but religion, for Evans, has never been about hating sex.

Instead, he says he wants a “more healthy conversation” that recognises its emotional and spiritual components.

Emotional intimacy, really getting to know someone and figuring out how to be committed to someone else – these are all really good foundations for a sexual relationship to be built on, rather than trying to build those things on the foundation of a sexual relationship.

Has chastity even been a source of conflict in past relationships? Not really, he says.

Faith is one of the pretty big driving sources of my life, so the chances are that, if they’re on the same page faith-wise, that it’s not too much of a jump [to know] it’ll also affect my sex life.

Temptation

Temptation, though, has sometimes proven difficult to resist. In the past, porn was one such challenge.

Evans now avoids it, he says, because of the way he feels it warped his view of sexuality.

For me, it’s a big no-no, but that doesn’t mean I haven’t watched it and that I haven’t struggled not to watch it.

But he tries not to criticise those with different opinions about sex, he adds.

Faith, in his view, is about self-discovery, about learning to live and love well, rather than judgement.

The challenge that a lot of people have with faith is that it makes them afraid of a lot of stuff. Faith says, ‘Don’t do that – that’s bad. And don’t do that because you should be afraid of some man in the clouds with a stick to punish you for enjoying life.’ That’s a really damaging way of looking at our faith.

How does chastity affect his everyday life? “It’s not something that I think about a huge amount,” Evans says, after a short pause.

You don’t really consider the absence of something on a day-to-day basis. But I look forward to sex eventually, I guess.

Concern

Faith was also an important factor for Rebecca Anderson, 20, in deciding to lead a life of chastity.

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She was 15 at the time and says she saw how those who “stayed pure” had “less complication and baggage in their relationships”.

Others she knew “who had messed around or gone all the way” were often scarred by their experiences, she feels.

“I saw it was better for my emotional wellbeing not to sleep around,” she says.

I don’t want to have constantly think, ‘Is he going to stay with me? Have I given myself away too early?’

But has it been difficult to avoid sex? “I haven’t been presented with too many temptations,” Anderson says.

But, obviously, I would choose not to date certain people [because of my decision] and that can be hard, because [I can only choose] from a much smaller pool of people.

Connection

Because of her decision to live a life of chastity, she says short-term relationships are of little interest to her.

I wouldn’t date someone just to have a boyfriend… If you’re going to wait, there’s no point in dating because it just presents you with too many temptations.

Like Evans, she sees sex as the ultimate form of emotional connection. “It’s on a way deeper level than just the physical act,” she says.

And “emotionally connecting with so many people” can be potentially damaging, in her view.

If I get with a guy and he’s slept with 50 girls before me, I’ll always be questioning my worth. I’ll be wondering, ‘How do I rate compared to them? Am I better or worse than the other girls he’s slept with?’

Damage

That’s why she says she sometimes pities her sexually active friends, who face challenges she feels are thankfully absent from her life.

I love them, so this isn’t a judgmental comment, but they’d mess around with any guy who gives them a bit of attention. It breaks my heart that they don’t have more self-worth than that. I see how great they are, and I think, ‘How could you let guys do this to you?’

“When people get hurt in relationships,” according to Anderson, “they assume it’s the other person’s fault when it’s often [down to] their own sexual behaviour.”

She finds the ease with which women go home with men they meet in nightclubs unsettling. What message would she have for them? “Girls, save yourselves.”

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About the author:

Catherine Healy

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