The destiny of sex

Next City
Cecily Ross
March 21, 1996

The party is over, Chastity’s back


AT 8 P.M. ON A WEDNESDAY EVENING, THE SECOND FLOOR BARat the Imperial Pub is buzzing with expectancy, though as far as I can see, nothing in particular is about to happen. It’s business as usual, my daughter says. We are sitting together at the end of a long table cluttered with overflowing ashtrays, discarded newspapers and partly consumed glasses of draft beer. The tables are filled with university students, some of them leaning across the detritus, deep in conversation, others slouch in their chairs, staring at nothing, waiting.

“Why are they here?” I ask my daughter.

She shrugs. “Because, it’s warm and noisy. Because there’s beer and smoke and talk. Because . . .” and I follow her gaze as it settles on a slender, bored looking young man leaning against the bar surveying the crowd, “because, who knows, he might get lucky.”

Leah has agreed to meet me here to talk about my current research project.

“Do you know any virgins?” I asked her on the phone last night.

“Virgins?” she repeated as though I had asked for directions to Saturn.

“Yes, virgins. I’m writing an article on chastity, and I need to interview virgins.”

“Virgins? I don’t think so, well, maybe. There’s Maggie’s little sister . . . and my friend Allison — I think. She’d never admit it though. Look, if you buy me dinner tomorrow night, I’ll try to come up with something.”

In desperation, I have turned to my 20-year-old daughter for help. She is not a virgin, but it is possible, given her age, that she might know one or two. I, myself, have not been a virgin for some time, and none of my middle-aged, children-of-the-sixties friends have either. Many of them, single and married, are celibate, but this is not the same as being chaste. Chastity, my Webster’s tells me, is: “a. abstention from unlawful sexual intercourse. b. abstention from all sexual intercourse. c. purity in conduct and intention. d. restraint and simplicity in design or expression.” Celibacy is defined simply as: “abstention from sexual intercourse.” There is no moral imperative involved. Celibacy is a physical state. Chastity, on the other hand, is a state of mind. A priest, in other words, may be celibate, but he is not necessarily chaste.

The idea for this article grew out of a theory I have that, as we approach the millennium, the ideal of chastity is making a comeback. Why do I think this? Well, let’s just say I have a gut feeling. And a sense that once a resource has been squandered, what’s left of it increases in value. My supply-and-demand theory of sex. Anyway, the first thing I needed to do was find a bunch of virgins, interview them about the new Victorianism that is overtaking Western society, throw in a bunch of statistics about rising divorce and abortion rates and voilà. Chastity becomes the flavor of the month. So much for gut feelings.

I couldn’t find any virgins. Or at least, not very many.

The first thing I did was to place a classified ad in this magazine. “Wanted: Virgins of all ages. I am compiling research into the resurgence of the ideal of premarital chastity. If you have yet to go all the way and you like it that way, please call Cecily Ross” and so on. I received one reply.

“Found: A virgin of 23 years,” the letter began. “I have read that you are compiling research into the ideal of premarital chastity. I am for this idea. Please contact me about how I may be useful. Martin.”

When I phoned him, Martin turned out to be functionally inarticulate. At first, I put his inability to utter a complete sentence down to embarrassment. A person’s sex life, even if it doesn’t exist, is still a personal thing. “Uh, uh, I don’t know,” he kept repeating in a lazy uninflected drawl as I peppered him with questions about why he was saving himself for marriage and about the quality of his relationships with women. Finally, I asked, “Do you use drugs?” “No,” he said, “of course not — except for the tranquillizers.” One way to ward off temptation, I suppose.

Daniel, a 24-year-old graduate student in physics, was referred to me by a friend of a friend of one of my co-workers. The only trouble was that David is an evangelical Christian. It isn’t that I have anything against Christians, but the evangelical kind have never been very big on illicit sex, and the fact that they are abstaining from such behavior hardly constitutes a trend. Still, Daniel was a committed virgin, and a very articulate one at that. “God is trying to protect us from being hurt. Sex creates a deep emotional tie and when it is broken it can be devastating. That’s why He requires that we make a commitment of the heart and mind before we have sex. Sex is not just glorified masturbation. It’s not about gratification. It’s an emotionally binding act. God intends sex to be a kind of glue that keeps a man and woman together.” Phew. Glue, maybe, but chastity as a trend? Not even Daniel thought so.

“I am the norm in the Christian community,” he told me, “but I am an anomaly in the world. Everybody is doing it.”

I fared even worse when I posted my appeal on the Internet. The responses are still trickling in, but so far I have unearthed only one virgin, called Alex, whose gender I have not yet determined. Someone else accused me of acting like Geraldo Rivera. And then there was this cryptic message from a university in Indiana: “I have forwarded your ad to all my chased [sic] friends. Best of luck with your research. Amanda Plummer.” And that’s about it.

I was beginning to conclude the inevitable — there are not a lot of virgins left. Indeed, Statistics Canada figures show that 60 per cent of Canadians report having had their first sexual intercourse before age 20. Keep in mind, that figure includes your parents and mine. No wonder finding a 23-year-old virgin was proving so difficult. I even tried to find people who used to be virgins. One young mother I know said that she remained chaste until she was 23. Why? Because, she said, “I wanted to save myself for someone I truly loved.” As it turned out she didn’t marry number one, but never mind, the next man turned out to be Mr. Right and the rest is history. I also asked my own mother if she had saved herself for her wedding night. She refused to discuss it with me.

Many of my single friends admitted that they are definitely not having sex, but it is not by choice, and they are anything but chaste. According to a 1994 article in Essence magazine, when women over the age of 35 are celibate, it is because they lack a mate. When women under 25 are celibate, it is usually by choice. It looked like my daughter was my last best bet.

I think anything is all right provided it is done in private and doesn’t frighten the horses. — Brendan Behan, 1923-1964

The girl across the table from us is wearing a tiny, fuzzy sweater, cropped about an inch and a half above where her jeans stop. She has a very pretty navel. She is smoking a cigarette and talking in a loud voice to a boy with dreadlocks sitting next to her. As she leans close to him, she appears to be drunk. The boy doesn’t seem to mind at all.

MY DAUGHTER, IT TURNS OUT, DOESN’T KNOW ANY VIRGINS EITHER . So I decide to find out about her attitudes (and presumably the attitudes of her generation) to sex. She tells me that most of her girlfriends are serial monogamists. They want to be in relationships. “The women I know who sleep around are pretty troubled,” she says. “The men, well, there still seems to be a drive in some men to sleep with as many women as they can.” Aha. That old double standard is alive and well. Men want sex and women aren’t so sure. This is something I have always known, that everyone knows in their bones, but that somehow my generation tried to forget on the road to Woodstock.

A funny thing happened in the late 1960s and early 1970s. Women, thanks to a miracle called the pill, realized that in the sexual arena they could behave like men. They could have sex whenever they wanted. The old rule that women had to be chaste no longer applied. I was there and I remember. We were told, and we believed, that the notion that male and female sexual impulses differed was a relic of the 1950s, attributable to fears of unwanted pregnancies. At last, men and women could be what they really were: the same. So we dressed the same (remember unisex?), we wore our hair the same, and we said we wanted the same things. Sex differences were considered superficial and socialized. Liberation was at hand.

Today, the realization is slowly dawning on some of us that we were wrong about some of these things. Men and women are not the same. My daughter knows this is true. She knows that if you want to get a particular guy, the one thing you do not do is sleep with him on the first date. And generally speaking, women want to get the guy and men want to have sex. I know this now too. But it took a long time to sink in. I am a child of the sixties and after my divorce 10 years ago I still believed that I could just hop into bed with whomever I pleased and that would be okay. It wasn’t.

‘Tis Chastity, my brother, Chastity: She that has that is clad in complete steel. — John Milton, 1608-1674

THE IMPLICATIONS OF ALL THIS ARE SIMPLE. And my feminist friends are not going to like what I have to say. Women have something men want, and if we are smart we will learn to value it too. I have a coffee table book at home. One of those huge heavy things with luxurious reproductions of medieval paintings. Looking through it the other day, I came across a panel painted in the 15th century by Francesco Pelellino. It is a visual allegory that depicts a resplendent queen sitting on a high throne, sceptre in hand, surveying her people and her domain. At her feet is the bound and prostrate figure of a beautiful, winged youth, his bow and arrow lying uselessly by his side. According to the notes, the queen is Chastity, the youth, Love.

In the Middle Ages, virtue was a source of power for women. It was an era in which chastity and modesty were idealized in women, and honor and goodness, in men. Passion was seen as a weakness, and self-denial was in. In the traditions of courtly love, virtue was paramount, anticipation, not consummation, was everything. The agony of yearning after the beloved was celebrated in music and art. By our standards, these were not the best of times for women, who were relegated to either Madonna or whore status and had little freedom and few rights. Men, too, though to a lesser degree, were subject to rigid moral strictures. It was a time of order and repression.

All of this changed when the French Revolution burst the stays of European morality. The bonds of authority and community that had anchored society were unravelling until, by the 1820s, the moral fabric in England was as frayed as our own appears to be now. According to American author Alan Ehrenhalt, “The king and queen were national laughingstocks, exposed as such by a sensational divorce trial that documented the stupidity of both. The political system was distrusted as a cesspool of corruption . . . and the Church of England was widely regarded as a bastion of clerical privilege rather than religious devotion. The cultural superstars were artists such as Byron and Shelley, notorious for their rejection of what they considered obsolete standards of family life and sexual morality: Byron boasted publicly of having slept with 200 women in two years, while Shelley was a wifeswapper and founder of a free love colony. The country was in the midst of a widespread and poorly concealed wave of opium addiction that was disabling some of its most promising talents.” This is eerily familiar territory. Surely it would have been inconceivable to Lord Byron that a scant 30 years after he invented free love, the stern shadow of Queen Victoria would loom over England. Just as today, a scant 30 years after John Lennon’s generation invented free love, it is hard to believe that repression may once again be gaining ground. Many of us today shudder at the thought of what our Victorian ancestors had to endure — the prudishness, the elaborate manners and the rigid social codes that made pariahs out of all who dared to flaunt convention. And yet, Victorian society was stable and ordered. Political institutions flourished, the economy thrived, authority prevailed and families stayed together. They had to, divorce required an act of Parliament. Both men and women were expected to remain virgins until they wed, and wed they did with alacrity since marriage was the only legitimate arena for regular sex.

Viewed this way, the ideal of chastity has undergone a roller-coaster ride through history. After the First World War, the laces of Victorian values loosened dramatically. Women won the right to vote. Cultural icons like Virginia Woolf and the famed Bloomsbury Group experimented with homosexual, premarital and extramarital unions, pushing the parameters of relationships to new extremes and questioning the institutions that had given them the unprecedented carnage of the First World War.

Flapper flamboyance eventually solidified into the Campbell’s Soup culture of the 1950s, a time of strong family values, of rigidly prescribed roles for men and women and of strict taboos against premarital sex. The 1950s in turn erupted, with a lot of help from the pill, into the free-loving 1960s and 1970s. My generation thought that if we were more open with one another and truer to ourselves, we would avoid the oppressive silences and the crushing monotony of our parents’ marriages. Instead, we got AIDS, spiralling divorce rates and unhappiness in equal measure, if not in kind, to theirs. (In 1951, according to Statistics Canada, one couple divorced for every 24 couples that married. In 1990, one couple divorced for every 2.4 that married.)

In the past decade, a chill has once again crept into the air. Like a pendulum swinging through history, one excess gives way to another. The sexual licentiousness of the Romantic period triggered a reaction that culminated in the extreme prudishness of the Victorian era. So many baby boomers have watched their ideals and their marriages dashed that they are beginning to actually see the merits of restraint. For every action, there is an equal and opposite reaction. And my bet is that Western society is swinging slowly but surely, not toward another Victorian era exactly, but toward a period of restraint, a reining in of appetites and a toughening of attitudes to sexual behavior. I say the big freeze is at hand.

Human beings are not animals, and I do not want to see sex and sexual differences treated as casually and amorally as dogs and other beasts treat them. — Ronald Reagan, 1975

The girl with the pretty navel is putting on her coat. The boy with the dreadlocks helps her as she tries, in a cute and clumsy way, to connect her arms with the sleeves. They laugh together. He grabs his jacket, slips his arm around her waist and guides her out of the bar.

ALL OF THIS IS MORE THAN JUST SOCIAL HISTORY REPEATING ITSELF, HOWEVER. A powerful evolutionary force may also be at work. In his 1994 book, The Moral Animal, author and editor Robert Wright applies the theory of “the selfish gene” (developed by biologist Richard Dawkins in 1976) to humans, arguing that human emotions — even love — are actually mechanisms devoted to getting our genes into the next generation. According to evolutionary psychology, the human male’s ability to experience romantic love is part of nature’s plan to ensure that he stays around to help care for his offspring, which, unlike those of most other mammals, are completely helpless at birth. Chimpanzees’ and other primates’ strategy for the survival of their species is less refined; they rely on prodigious and indiscriminate breeding. For the most part, though, male monkeys do not seem to care much whose baby is whose, nor do they spend an inordinate amount of time changing diapers or going fishing with the kids. These are human occupations. Mind you, men are not so removed from their tree-swinging cousins that they have given up entirely on the practice of multiple sexual adventures as a way of passing those genes along. So, what we have is a male animal who is partly driven by lust for numerous and varied partners and partly motivated by an endearing tendency to fall in love. I imagine that these two impulses are at war to some degree in most men. For women, who can only have about one pregnancy a year, promiscuity is not an effective way of ensuring the survival of the species. Far better to size up a potential partner carefully before succumbing to his charms. And if survival is a priority, which is the best choice of mate? The handsome cad, because he is virile and strong and will pass those qualities along to his offspring, or the quiet, dependable gentleman, because he will stick around for a while? This is a dilemma that has occupied women throughout history, and has resulted in a situation that is as true today as it was for cave dwellers. My mother knew it, I know it, my daughter knows it. Men want sex, women aren’t supposed to be so sure.

Along with their need to sleep around, and no doubt because of it, men like to keep track of whom their women are sleeping with just in case they decide to stay around for a while. They wouldn’t want to be stuck looking after some other guy’s genes. This has led to very harsh penalties for female adulterers throughout history; some Islamic cultures still stone women to death. And even today, male adultery is more widely tolerated than female. Because of the need to keep track of whose genes are whose, many societies hold virgin brides in high regard. A society that values chastity, Wright says, is likely to be a society with high “male parental investment.” And a society with high MPI is stable and strong.

Things begin to go awry during periods when women are promiscuous. Wright writes: “There is some level of female promiscuity above which male parental investment plainly makes no genetic sense. If a woman seems to have an unbreakable habit of sleeping with a different man each week, the fact that all women in that culture do the same thing doesn’t make her any more logical a spouse. In such a society, men should in theory give up entirely on concentrated parental investment and focus solely on trying to mate with as many women as possible. That is, they should act like chimpanzees.”

And in the 1960s, as women began to exercise their new found sexual freedom, men began to do just that. This state of affairs is not good for the survival of the species and it is not good for human society. Could it be that rising divorce rates and the proliferation of deadbeat dads are a sign that men are less willing to stick around to raise children? By extrapolating from Wright’s theories, it is possible to conclude that men, bewildered and alienated by their waning control over women, have been opting out of the social contract that made the 1950s so outwardly serene. And this has not been good for women or children, either. Statistics show that a man’s socioeconomic status rises when he divorces. Women and children are poorer after divorce. The breakdown of the family, nearly everyone agrees, is a threat to the stability of society. Wright would probably say it is also a threat to our selfish genes. And when a species is under siege, it regroups and retrenches. It happened in the 1850s. It happened in the 1950s and it is very likely happening again. As women realize sexual freedom is a bogus concept and as men feel increasingly insecure, chastity could very well make a comeback.

Give me chastity and continency, but not yet. — St. Augustine, AD 354-430

The crowd in the bar is beginning to thin. It’s late and tomorrow’s a school day. The slender youth who was leaning against the pillar earlier is sitting at a table now, listening intently to a young woman with short red hair. She is speaking quietly, looking down into her drink as she talks. Every so often she raises her eyes to his and then modestly lowers them again.

I RUN MY THEORY PAST MY DAUGHTER. She is skeptical — and incredulous. “You seriously think premarital sex is wrong?”

“Not wrong, exactly,” I reply, “but a U.S. study by the National Survey of Family Growth shows that virgins have dramatically more stable marriages than people who have had sex before marriage.”

“You mean to tell me that you would refuse someone really gorgeous and smart and rich?”

“I might,” I say. “But for sure, I would make him wait awhile. Ten years ago, I wouldn’t have been so prudent. But things have changed. They could change a lot more.”

“You think that we’re just big genetic bundles falling all over one another to get into the next generation? You actually think, that because the species is threatened, I might decide to raise my children to be virgins?”

This seems improbable. And the likelihood that I would remain voluntarily celibate for the rest of my life seems unlikely too. Maybe she’s right. I like my sexual freedom. I like the idea that I can do what I want. I’m glad I have more choices than my mother did. I really don’t want to be chaste. I can’t believe that romance is nothing more than a biological imperative. And yet . . .

The bored looking young man is alone again, sitting at his table, staring into his beer. He no longer looks bored, just pensive, maybe even happy. The girl with the short red hair is gone. In her haste, she has forgotten her scarf. It is hanging over the back of the empty chair where the young man wraps it absently round his fingers, round and round and round.

Cindy Conway, Generation X, responds: March 30, 1996

I have had much the same hypothesis about history’s pendulum swinging back in favor of more restrained activities, and not solely in regards to sex. Like you, people to whom I have mentioned this have not been so willing to agree with me. Despite their resistance, I do think we are on to something. Does society have any other direction to go in? How much further can the pendulum swing towards individual freedom and power before it has to start swinging back the other way towards a sense of responsibility and community? My concern is not so much if it will swing back, but how much longer it will take and how far back in the other direction it will go. My worry is that history will repeat itself, and that society’s turn toward the more reserved will bring unnecessary constraints on selected groups (women and minorities come to mind). I really hope that for once we as a society can get it right. I hope that we can bring about fundamental change in our culture without going to excess the way cultural change has occurred so many times in the past. Can we create a balance or will we be forever destined to going from excessively decadent behavior to excessively prudish behavior?

Cecily Ross’s reply to Cindy Conway

Dear Cindy,

I agree with you that the current swing back to more traditional values is probably not good news for women. Indeed, history has shown us that the reaction to increasing freedom for women is usually repression. And that could mean an erosion of some of the gains that the past few generations have fought so hard for. Some women, Susan Faludi, for example, argue that the backlash is already underway, and certainly the family values proponents here and in the United States seem to want to turn back the clock. Let’s hope that this time the pendulum will settle somewhere in the middle as you suggest.

Richard Littlemore, Bowen Island, British Columbia, responds: April 12, 1996

Cecily Ross makes an unrealistically optimistic case for the return of chastity: a prescription for a whole generation of women – and disappointed men – to live in the enhanced state of moral purity that was so energetically eschewed by their sexually active forebears.

She even traces the cycles of sexual expression and repression through the ages, implying that whenever a generation of women spend their currency (which she seems to define as their virginity) indiscriminately, they find their collective value in society plunging. Women in the next generation, she presumes, see the error of this way and flock back to chastity. The argument betrays a low view of men and an even lower assessment of the social value of women. (Really, if the average wife has no more to offer than regular sex, it’s no wonder the divorce rate is high.)

Isn’t a far more reasonable explanation of this cycle of expression and repression the simple exercise of democracy? When young women are in the majority, as they were in the midst of Ms. Ross’s baby boom, they vote for sex. When they slip into the minority, as they are now, their parents, and certain half-witted or disinterested men in their own generation, vote for them not to have sex.

The perverse part is that their mothers lead the campaign because, having exercised their own sexual freedom, those mothers understand the anguish that freedom can bring. Now they blame the pain on the seductive snake who coaxed them out of the garden – whether an individual snake or the mythical snake of public immorality – and they want to rebuild the walls and lock the door to spare their daughters from also falling from grace. It’s a notion that even Ross finds hard to take seriously.

Still, the social repression may work, for some moms and some girls (though there is no evidence that it is working now), but it will only engender another generation of denial and a different kind of anguish.

I vote for sex.

loved the piece, though

Cecily Ross’s reply to Richard Littlemore

Dear Mr. Littlemore,

I vote for sex too. You have misunderstood me if you think I celebrate a return to piety and chastity. I do not. I just think it seems inevitable and that it might be good for society (even if it’s bad news for me and my daughters.)

You suggest that I devalue women when I represent chastity as their only currency, but surely you do the same thing when you give “their parents and certain half-witted men of their generation” a vote about their behavior while you do not acknowledge that they have any control over their own behavior. As a mother of two nearly grown daughters I can assure you that I have never advocated chastity for either of them. For someone of my generation to do so would have been hypocrisy. I tried to keep the lines of communication open and then I just hung on for the ride. And I can tell you it was pretty wild, a lot wilder than my own adolescence. But the worst is over, and they’re going to be okay, I think. They are empowered sexually for sure — the first generation of women to really have that power. But now I can see a new conservatism taking hold of their behavior. Their attitudes towards family and relationships are very conventional. The truth is that the baby boomers only had the illusion of freedom. My kids really tasted it and now they’re opting for security, stability and — I hope — responsibility. But I also hope they have the good sense not to give up any of their rights along the way.

Jeff Mooallem responds: April 18, 1996

What I find curious is what appears to be the burgeoning and almost embarrassed support many former sixties children have for the notion of chastity.

This very notion is decidedly a Judeo-Christian one, to put a moral value on (fill in : pleasure, procreational urge, conquest, seduction) and then put rationalization spins on it, such as the so-called “evangelical Christian” did in the article when he reasoned chastity to be a protective mechanism from getting hurt.

I disagree, and believe it to be a step backwards (well, within a couple of thousand years and no more than about five thousand) to be that artificially restrictive on our nature. I, for one, believe in getting in touch with our feelings, and that which stimulate them. One of the awful burdens we’ve left on ourselves, particularly on women, is the feeling of guilt in our sexuality. Our sexuality should be encouraged to be explored and felt. Getting hurt is part of the experience of feeling.

Sex should have no more destiny than we do.

Daniel Holmes, Ontario, responds: May 15, 1996

Dear Cecily,

Thank you so much for portraying me fairly and accurately in your article in The Next City this spring. I was very pleased when I read it that it did not paint me as a fanatic but merely expressed those ideas and feelings which I had conveyed to you. I was especially glad that I was quoted verbatim; I had worried that perhaps as a Christian I was vulnerable to being painted as a right-wing mindless automaton whose only purpose in life was to pray for brimstone to rain down on the Sodoms and Gommorahs of our time. Thankfully this was not the case. You did a fine job of the article.

One of the last, Calgary, Alberta, responds: August 14, 1996

I am speaking on behalf of the virgins you “couldn’t find.” I think there are virgins out there, like me, who are not “celibate” but “chaste” as defined in your article. At 26 years of age, and without explosive love encounters or hundreds of opportunities, I have had sexual relationships (to a degree) with a few men. I am Catholic and was raised in a strict family where sex before marriage was and is “unspeakable.” Yet despite this upbringing, which once dictated my reason to remain chaste, I remain a virgin for other reasons now. Why? You mentioned a number of good reasons to be a virgin. The ideal of chastity is perhaps a trendy thing. Your “supply and demand theory of sex” seems probable as the number of possible partners decreases with the increase of STD’s and AIDS. Saving oneself for marriage has always been a diehard reason to be a virgin. Women of the past have tried to obtain a “quality” relationship, a true commitment of heart and mind or a true love, but I think our modern “feminist” would laugh at these reasons for remaining a virgin. Perhaps a feminist would argue that she chooses to remain a virgin because of her right to choose, and her power in saying “no,” but certainly not because she is unsure. A lack of mate is hardly a problem with more teens having sex before their sixteenth birthday. The fears of unwanted pregnancy, trying to keep a relationship going, sizing up a potential partner, etc. . . . etc. . . . etc.

I suppose I am a virgin for a number of the above assorted reasons. Undoubtedly, sex is not as fearful and threatening as one would expect and with the proper timing, education, and a partner’s commitment, anyone could arm herself with enough ammunition to prevent the unwanted baby . . . STD . . . love ’em and leave ’em partner. (Phew! if those aren’t enough reasons . . .) As I said, I am not so hung up on my morality as before. Anyone with a good love partner, as I have now, would be more than jumping at the chance to lose her virginity. But I’m waiting . . . waiting for what? I am beginning to think of it in terms larger than sex. I’ve always put more emphasis on it than just a biological urge. Perhaps I’m being selective. Perhaps I am trying to protect myself from needlessly giving away what seems so desirable. Perhaps it’s been so long that I just can’t give it away – like a sweater that’s taken shape with my person. I don’t know.

Is celibacy making a comeback? Maybe more for fearful reasons than biological. I don’t think that men are being more selective in choosing a love partner, especially with divorce rates rising every year. Sex has and will always be a biological thing for most men.

Maybe celibacy is a reaction to a new society which is becoming more selfish – a society in which people are thinking more of their future and well-being than anything else. I don’t care if I have something that men want. I believe in doing the best for myself, and in protecting what I deem most valuable – a sense of sharing with another the very “personal” part of me, and a bond that I hope to secure with someone who is willing to do the same. Anyway you cut it, a virgin still is a dying breed and a very old-fashioned concept. As David said in your article more or less, “Virgins are rarities.” Perhaps that is the best reason of all to be a virgin in our modern and common world?

Sarah Volschlager, Iowa, responds: November 28, 1997

It may be a little late but I stumbled across your article recently and felt compelled to respond. I am a 17-year-old high-school senior who has joined the ranks of a movement that is rising among my generation. Virgins and now recommitted “second virgins” are taking a stand for our future.

During the summer of 1996 some 22,000 “sexually pure” young people converged on Washington, D.C., in a show of strength that included the planting of 200,000 pledge cards on the Washington Mall. The following year the same organization strung 4 inch by 5 inch purity pledge cards on a cable from the floor to ceiling of the Georgia Dome twice.

On the question of why do we wait — you simply have to look at the statistics. Sex is not exactly a safe past time any longer. Studies show that by the age of 21, 1 in 4 people is already infected with an STD. They also show that between 1960 and 1989, the percentage of teens who were unmarried when they had their first child rose from 33 per cent to 81 per cent.

It has been said that the opposite of repression is obsession. This has become evident in regards to the sexual revolution of the ’60s. But besides the fear, I believe the best things come to those that wait. So I’d like to introduce you to the next generation of the new and improved sexual revolution.


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