OMG[osh], What did she say?!

The Bright Maidens are back and this time we’re talking about … SEX. We discuss sex, virginity, recycled virginity, women, the value of sexuality the value of being a child of God and a brother and sister in Christ, and TOB in terms of respecting life and pro-life issues.

I haven’t listened to this week’s Among Women podcast all the way through yet, so I’m a little nervous about what Pat Gohn edited in and out. Our conversation for Part 2 was about an hour long, but it’s much shorter in the podcast version.

I’m more than a little nervous.

UPDATE: “It’s really hard out there. It’s really hard. To be a virgin in the 21st century takes heroic courage. It takes the grace of a saint to live the life that we’re talking about here.” –Pat Gohn

Let me know what you think!! LISTEN HERE. Our part of the interview is about one-third of the way through the podcast.

Chastity Carnal-val

Review: The Virgin Diaries on TLC
“Chastity Carnal-val” by Elizabeth at Startling the Day

The “Bright Maidens” were originally three from the oft-mentioned, widely-speculated upon demographic of young, twenty-something Catholic women. Now, we all take up the cross to dispel the myths and misconceptions. Welcome!

The greatest on-screen defense of chastity I’ve seen was in episode 12, season 4 of House, MD. The episode featured a Hasidic Jewish bride who collapsed at her wedding. The Hasidic duo were unable to consummate the marriage due to medical tests and certainly had not touched prior to their wedding day.

At one point, the bride was in shorts and a tank top for a medical test and her new husband said he needed to respect her and look away while she was in such a state. He said he imagines his wife thought the first time he would see her “bare” would be in the bedroom, “celebrating their marriage.”

A doctor politely said, “Given the circumstances, I’m sure Roz would sacrifice her modesty to have you with her.” To which the new groom replied:

“Please, don’t do that…You think it’s sweet that I care for her modesty, but that it’s archaic and ultimately irrelevant. Our traditions aren’t just blind rituals. They mean something, they have purpose. I respect my wife. And I respect her body.

I’d much rather see more bows in respect for those values in secular television shows than the spectacle of “Virgin Diaries,” which looks like a carnival for unsexed folks.

Let’s be honest, because I’m a virgin who hopes more people might find fulfillment in chastity, I’m going to be defensive about a “reality show” on a cable network showcasing virgins.

Another showcase: My Big Fat Gypsy Wedding show

I admit, as I’ve never been all of the way on the other side of the “aisle” on this topic, my opinion is tainted. However, if we can rely on statistics as a guide, the opinions of the producers, feature reporters and much of the laughing audience are also tainted.

To clarify: I’m not condemning those who don’t choose a chaste lifestyle. Believe me, I don’t always get it right, and it would be wrong to think I could ever know anyone else’s mindset or situation.

How easy it is to get fired up over this television show. Watching the commentary and talk show hosts banter on about it makes it obvious that this country, and probably the world, seems to think the people in this show are to be giggled at.

“If it’s half as good as the promo, I think they have a very big hit on their hands,” said Jimmy Kimmel.

Bingo. It’s a hit. The unbearably uncomfortable few seconds of first kiss footage were a producer’s dream!

Just like the iPad solved the chunky laptop problem for a moment and Blueray raises the standard for home movies, someone came along with an idea for a new television show to attract audiences.

Why do people like to watch the Jersey Shore? Because they are outliers to the rest of us who don’t know what that world is like. The concept of choosing (or not successfully pursuing) a premarital sex life is as bizarre to most Americans as the frosted-tip-orange-skin-rude-behavior lifestyle is to me.

We could be the virgin version of these fine people

Being a virgin after the first semester of college is a mythical lifestyle.

I have not seen an episode of the show all the way through, but I’ve watched the TLC-made promotional videos and the episode teasers. In one, we see the couple walking hand-in-hand, discussing the process of their wedding night, from wedding attire, step-by-step until they consummate their marriage, intermittently cut between scenes of them on a see-saw.

Please, TLC. I know you’ve hit network gold with this foreign concept, but handle it with a little professionalism and intelligence. See-saw?

If I put myself in the shoes of those who find the concept laughable, I can understand their grinning quips about how the newlyweds “can’t keep their hands off each other” after the exchange of vows. However, if I may put my cynicism hat on, this reaction shows that it is hard to believe this show can ever be a helpful tool for those who want to share about the benefits of chastity.

We virgins who choose to abstain before marriage aren’t simply “keeping our hands off each other” — it’s just too hard to do so blindly, especially in the twenty-first century. I know I’m trying to make a gift of myself in the most intimate way possible, to one man. Alice von Hildebrand calls it the “intimate sphere,” because the terms “sex” and “making Love” have lost impact.

When I think about how supremely personal the “intimate sphere” will be, I can’t imagine why these two virgins would volunteer a camera to document the final weeks and moments leading up to it, leaving the interpretation of an innocent jaunt on a see-saw to the editors.

I guess it’s still up to those in the trenches to spread the message, via grassroots.

Revealing

Sexy vs. Desirable
Elizabeth at Startling the Day

The “Bright Maidens” were originally three from the oft-mentioned, widely-speculated upon demographic of young, twenty-something Catholic women. Now, we all take up the cross to dispel the myths and misconceptions. Welcome!

I own a dozen cardigans.

My fashion sense has remained unrefined throughout my life, but it has wiggled in and out of levels of modesty.

Let’s face it, my mother dressed me for the first ten years. In fifth grade, I struck out for the sake of independence and wore a lot of vests. In high school, I wore a uniform during the day and a swimsuit in the afternoon at practice.

At the beginning of college, I wore a lot of t-shirts and exercise bottoms to class and to the movies with my sober friends. After I began partying, on “going out nights,” I wore more revealing, tighter clothing.

“Don’t show them everything you’ve got. Leave some for the imagination,” my late grandmother would preach to her granddaughters.

There’s some irony here. No, my belly button isn’t pierced.

When my sisters, cousins, or I wore a shirt cut too low, my 5’2″ grandmother would pace over to us, poke her finger down any cleavage, and chirp, “Woooop!” If this happens, she said, it was time to rethink the clothing choice.

My spunky, slightly inappropriate grandmother wanted others to see her granddaughters for who they are first, not for their packaging.

My woooop-worthy wardrobe progressed like this until I got tired of partying, stopped going out often, and started wearing “adult” clothing to class.

To me, this meant unnecessary layers of drooping fabric, no matter how unflattering. Vague cardigans became my staple.

They say when the economy starts to tank, it takes the skirts down with it. When the economy recovers, mini skirts are all the rage. My clothing choices mirrored my emotional economy directly.

I wanted to become entirely undesirable and unsexy so as not to accidentally use my body for attention.

Rather than placing my worth on my body by revealing more of it, I overcorrected and placed my worth on my body by excessively covering it up. It was a form of punishment for my past by lowering the confidence of my present self.

My earlier begging of “look at me” switched tracks to “look away from me.”

As we explored with “The Dress” and “The Interior” posts, God didn’t give women gifts unique to our femininity to be ashamed of them. We mustn’t disparage the gifts God gave us as dirty and lust-inciting. We are women for a reason and those of us who are called to marriage were made with our husbands in mind.

There is always going to be someone who finds something desirable about you. There is always going to be a characteristic that someone is going to find sexy or desirable. It could be the way you wear your neckline down to your belly button, or it could be the way your glasses flatter your face.

Desirability and sexiness overlap; the distinction is respect for person.

The trick is to avoid letting what you put on your body distract others from your feminine genius. It is also important to avoid letting your clothing distract you from your own feminine genius.

When you’re staring at your closet, err on the side of classy rather than sexy. Think refined instead of revealing. Flatter your feminine genius without thinking it resides in your body.

Wooop.

Be decent to each other

Catholic Modesty
“The Gucci Awakening” by Julie at The Corner with a View
Never Give Beauty Another Negative Thought” by Trista at Not a Minx, Moron, or a Parasite
“Be decent to each other” by Elizabeth at Startling the Day

The “Bright Maidens” were originally three from the oft-mentioned, widely-speculated upon demographic of young, twenty-something Catholic women. Now, we all take up the cross to dispel the myths and misconceptions. Welcome!


If this is your first post you’ve found on this blog, WELCOME! Please enjoy and consider subscribing to the RSS feed for more!

I have begun and erased about three versions of this post and I cannot narrow down why it is to hard to write.

1. Modesty of dress is not something I feel qualified to quantify with inches, measurements, and levels of cloth tightness.
2. Modesty depends on the venue and purpose of one’s outfit.
3. Men and women play roles in the perception of modesty. 

Men are more visually tempted; that is not anti-feminist and I’m not giving men an excuse. It’s a biologically significant difference between men and women.

Women’s Achilles Heel(s) is their romance-craving ears. Romance novels sell like wildfire, burning up women’s sensitivity to modesty. The seduction in those books appeal to the female attraction to “ideal” romance.


The simple fact about modesty is summed up in the Catechism:

2522. Modesty protects the mystery of persons and their love.  It encourages patience and moderation in loving relationships; it requires that the conditions for the definitive giving and commitment of man and woman to one another be fulfilled.  Modesty is decency.  It inspires ones choice of clothing.  It keeps silence or reserve where there is evident risk of unhealthy curiosity.  It is discreet.

Duggars and naked people

The Duggars are a non-contraception, non-natural-family-planning family who became the first modest dual-baseball-team-sized group to hit television.

The girls won’t wear pants (except when volunteer fire-fighting) and opt for loose skirts that fall below the knee and modest t-shirts. All of the women have long, simple hair and fresh faces without make up.

The men and boys won’t wear shorts because, as the Old Testament reads, “the thigh is nakedness.” They certainly don’t go to the pool without their elbow-to-knee swimsuits.

Mrs. Duggar explained that the girls wear swim dresses, like the ones pictured at right, because men “have a hard enough time keeping their minds in the right place.” Essentially, they want to keep everyone focused on what is most important: the inner beauty and appreciating your brothers and sisters in Christ for who they are and not how attractive they can be.

The Duggars are an extreme. They hold to extremely modest qualifications extremely tightly (unlike their clothing, har har har). Their actions stand at the exact opposite of nudists who, paradoxically, have similar reasons for what they do: achieving equality and returning to nature.

The Duggars aim to prevent one sex from influencing the other by way of their sexual desires, so they wear modest clothing. Nudists try to achieve equality by allowing everyone to strip down to their “least inhibited” state: their birthday suit. Though they are on opposite sides of the spectrum, these two camps use their dress (or non-dress) as a statement to point to their inner person.

Brass tacks

I won’t recommend going to the Duggar extreme and I certainly won’t recommend going to a nudist extreme…

This is a topic of contention among modern Catholics, but I do think that women have a responsibility to dress modestly for the sake of men. Men have the responsibility of acting modestly and not flirt with every woman they meet, seducing them the same way a revealing outfit visually seduces men.

Women: Before you get dressed (especially for somewhere like Mass), ask yourself why you’re choosing the outfit. If the answer leans toward wanting to attract someone with your body in a way that may harbor their ability to be attracted to your person, consider a costume change.

Modesty doesn’t have to be synonymous with avoiding looking good. Really attractive women can still be attractive, thus inciting lust in some people, when they dress modestly. Thus, it’s to your discretion where you draw the line.

Men: Before you engage your flirty-touchy routine with every woman you meet, consider how easily our ears are seduced. If you’re going to flirt, flirt with intention. With one of us.

If the goal is to make the greatest impact on our world, the way we fit into the message today is essential. Why cut corners?

Cut to the Chaste

Week Six: Sex Before Marriage

“Cut to the Chaste” by Elizabeth at Startling the Day

This is the sixth post of a blog post series called “Bright Maidens.” We three are from the oft-mentioned, widely-speculated upon demographic of young, twenty-something Catholic women. We’re here to dispel the myths and misconceptions- please join us for the discussion!

The Big Rule: no sex before marriage. It’s a concept that seems pretty simple when you forget that rules are often useless to the flawed human race without reasoning and understanding supporting them.

(I don’t own the rights)

My mom “conditioned” my sisters and me from the tender age of three to follow this big abstinence rule. As I mentioned in my review of Jason and Crystalina’s newest book, my mom sat her daughters in front of the 1954 musical, Seven Brides for Seven Brothers, and drove home the point that men and women sleep separately until they get married.

I intend to buy the Blu-ray version of Seven Brides for Seven Brothers and convert it to hologramray or whatever technology comes next until I have my own children. Learning that men and women sleep separately until marriage when I was still eating glue and drawing incomprehensible crayon artwork on the floor was immeasurably helpful in my life.

This is especially accurate considering life outside of my home tried to make fun of the values that my parents instilled. The TVs played music when the characters finally got together, suggesting there was actual magic shooting back and forth between those kisses. Now we harbor little doubt that the next step these characters take will lead to the bedroom.

The commercials started to use innuendo and now we have public displays of American embarrassment in shows like Teen Mom and The Secret Life of the American Teenager.

My mother got to me early and drove home the Big Rule before the media had a chance to get me, but it was really my peers I had to worry about. The media plague got to many of my classmates before it affected me (thanks mom and dad, for banning shows like “The Simpsons”).  These peers’ influence, sarcasm, and general attitude about topics such as sex and romantic love started acting like a marinade on me.

Society’s lessons about how to be “normal” finally got to me and all of the champion avoidance efforts I could muster were no match for an attack from all sides.

Happily, my parents used anatomical names instead of cutesy names, they were always available to talk, unembarrassed, and transparent when we had questions. We had comfortable talks about sex instead of ones that made you want to crawl into a ball and be absorbed by the carpet.

The supposedly liberated media can’t claim to be unembarrassed like my parents. Movies or TV shows with any sexual innuendo carry a hint of embarrassment, wrongdoing, or “shoulda, woulda, coulda” when the sexual relationship doesn’t pan out as the characters anticipate.

You knew I had to add Grey’s Anatomy (I don’t own rights)

What is missing? Where is the freedom?

I was brought up to mutter commentary like, “Well, maybe you shouldn’t have had sex,” whenever the characters broke down in tears after a break up. I followed the rule to a T. No sex until marriage, at all costs.

Then came high school where my friends and classmates started drinking and having sex, making me feel like I was far better than most and that I didn’t want to judge these people for their decisions.

My solution was to continue my non-drinking, non-sexual ways and decide that my decision was my decision alone. It mattered not what they did — sometimes this attitude led to my encouragement of behavior I would never consider, softening my perception of the wrongs I was opposed to my entire life.

Then came college and the “normal” college lifestyle I knew so well from the movies and TV shows. The fun happens at parties: the end. Therefore, go to parties and do fun things like drink, flirt with the opposite sex, and make-out with complete strangers while the smell of Natty Light and Axe hangs in the air.

Cut to the Chaste

The mantra went: I wasn’t having sex, my outfits were classier than those girls, I wasn’t getting wasted every weekend, and I only had the stranger encounters a few times.

But was I still the three-year-old sitting Indian style in front of the musicals and wholesome movies I would watch as a child? The “bloom” had been rubbed off because I was advancing away from that simple, innocent life, edging as close as possible to sin, and treading through Sin Candyland “for fun.”

I started dating and with that comes smooching.

It’s risky to think we can go at full speed in a passionate make out session with petting and expect to put on the breaks every time. In fact, it’s just plain mean to yourself and to your partner to get hot and heavy with the expectation that you’re going to stop before sex “happens.”

Sex doesn’t just happen, choices are made and then adults consent (except in the obvious cases of rape). One of these choice checkpoint is kissing and it’s up to the individual to know when we start to lie to our body saying, “Hey, we’re going to have sex with this person before we get off the couch,” when we have no intention to advance that far.

Sexuality isn’t one size fits all. Sex isn’t dirty or evil either. It’s supposed to be a beautiful foreshadowing of the union with God in heaven.

(I don’t own the rights)

God is supposed to be involved, much like He is supposed to be involved in relationships leading to marriage and involved in the marriage itself. Sacrament is the key word we’re searching for.

We can blame society until our faces turn blue because it pushes a subtle (and not-so-subtle) agenda on us. However, I don’t think we can be satisfied with this one Big Rule.

We need to understand why we’re choosing differently than the characters in Friends. We need to understand why making out with everything with a heartbeat devalues our perception of what should be a tender moment. We need to date with purpose instead of treating the people of the opposite sex as truck stops on the way to the destination.

Ladies, we need to know we’re dressing modestly so we know that the men in our lives are there because they see something revealed within us instead of something revealed by our blouses. Gentlemen, you need to know you’re half of the equation and your conviction needs to be steadfast and consistent, even if you’re dating someone with a less than pure past.

Chastity means learning and respecting all of the reasons we were created. Love your spouse before you meet them and prevent yourself from making the mistakes that don’t easily leave your memory.

I’ve written letters to my future husband at many points in my transition back to chastity. They explain that I already love him and that I’m excited to share the fruits of my chaste labors in our marriage. I think these fruits will show themselves in our relationship before marriage, on our wedding night, and in our public married life.

A fruit basket from Me, to Me, stocked by God. I bet it tastes like freedom.

Beyaz Yourself

 Week Two: Contraception
“Beyaz™ Yourself” by Elizabeth at Startling the Day 

This is the second post of a Lenten blog post series called “Bright Maidens.” We three are from the oft-mentioned, widely-speculated upon demographic of young, twenty-something Catholic women. We’re here to dispel the myths and misconceptions- please join us for the discussion!
 

***I’m tempted to not put a disclaimer here. The reason I will disclaim is because I want you to know my intentions are to spread love. “The road to hell” being what it is, I know the diaspora that occurs between intention and effect. I understand many women are on hormonal birth control for medical reasons. Just consider what I’m saying, I’m not attacking anyone… except maybe the interns who concocted this commercial…***

“You know what you want today, but you never know what you might want tomorrow. It’s good to have choices…” This is the introduction to the most recent Beyaz™ commercial.

Hey ladies! Life is like shopping! Yeah, in your designer outfits, perfect hair, and thin bodies, you walk around a pale pink store placing life decisions in the shopping cart, one by one!

First stop: grad school. How could you pick up a degree? Well, having sex outside of marriage is a given, of course. Are you expected to complete a degree without the occasional stress release? So, the next logical step is birth control.

(I don’t own the rights)

Now, which birth control should I use? According to the Bayer people, Beyaz™ is formulated with a little extra folate. Yup, that’s right. Prenatal vitamins built in, just in case you get pregnant.

Good choice! You’re hitting the world with a double whammy of responsibility. Wack, wack, take that.

However, as the next shot shows, if you get pregnant, though your baby will have sufficient calcium, he or she will make the diploma fly off into the air to another part of the store of life.

In our walk around the store, we see other admirable life goals like “picnic at a waterfall,” “trip to Paris,” and “buy a house.” People with babies don’t do these things. Celibate people definitely don’t do these things.

When picking out a significant other, as the label portrays on the shelf, one must choose carefully, but not too carefully. After all, there is a whole shelf of them and you’re “protected.”

In fact if you had sex and used this birth control, you’ll probably go to Paris with the goofy Ken doll you just picked out two tables ago.

(I don’t own the rights)

Oh, but watch out. Don’t turn down the wrong isle or you’ll bump into the stork carrying a purple, heavy-looking sack. Awkward. No need to worry, this birth control is 99.99% effective. Just shake your head at the silly bird and move on.

To be clear, there are no men in the commercial. No wining, no dining, no actual romantic dates, just little miniature ones trapped in glass boxes like action figures.

The women are strolling along, presumably having sex figuratively as they walk in this dream-like state through the store without concern.

Natural

Why would a puritan like me disagree with this “freedom” these women have over their own bodies? The world tells us, “Sex is natural” and it is.

Let’s talk about what is unnatural. Birth control. Contraceptives. Separating an entire reason for the marital bond in order to use your significant other, husband or wife for pleasure only. That is unnatural.

Literally: look at the ingredients in hormonal birth control or barrier contraceptives, ask a 3-year-old to pronounce it for giggles. Then ask a 15-year-old to pronounce it. After that, try pronouncing it yourself.

Woooo blod clots. Actual Beyaz girl.

Crystalina and Jason Evert break down the carcenogenic that is “the Pill” in this article and I highly recommend it if you’re looking for a scientific answer to your question.

As a sneak preview, hormonal birth control can cause heart attack, blood clot, stroke, liver cancer, breast cancer, gallbladder disease, headache, bleeding irregularities, ectopic pregnancy, weight gain, mental depression, yeast infection, changes to the curvature of the eye, excessive hair growth in unusual places, loss of scalp hair, acne, partial or complete loss of vision, and more.

Put that in my shopping cart, right away!

My ex-boyfriend, who is very involved in the pro-life movement, once exclaimed that the anti-contraceptive voices should be detached from the pro-life movement. Detached.

No. The pro-life movement gives away too much when it says contraception is okay.

It means we’re okay with irresponsibility. You can have all the pleasure you want without “risk,” but if biology WHOOPS gives you a baby, then you have to start being responsible. Let’s be clear, a baby is always a potential result of sexual intercourse, even if it’s “protected.” A baby is never the result of not having sex.

Unless you’re Mary.

The only “safe” sex is that between two people who are entirely committed to one another. This doesn’t include people who are paying rent together, people who have bought meals for each other, or people who met ten minutes ago. This includes those bound in matrimony.

Two bound in matrimony are not granted permission to lust for each other and “have at it.” That corrupts sex. They are invited to share in God’s gift of making love, or the “intimate sphere,” as Alice von Hildebrand calls it. This is only fully realized when the two unite in pleasure and understanding that a child may result from their physical manifestation of love.

More pet peeving

You know what is most annoying about this commercial? Most of the things that these women are shopping for are related to men. If you’re so independent and you haven’t been “duped” by your biology like those of us who are oppressed by abstinence, why are you still tied to how a man sees you and how you spend time with a man?

The picnic by a waterfall and trip to the “most romantic” city in the world are certainly supposed to be shared with one of the Ken dolls in an earlier shot. How are you more independent with this birth control?

I was going to share with you the video for the commercial, but it has been removed. I can’t find it anywhere. Perhaps they made a sour choice and now they see the backlash?

UPDATE: John Jansen found it!