“Chastity” has been made a derided word by the sexual revolution. It became associated with an arcane concept in religion with little relevance to the modern hedonistic society. It came to represent sexual repression, guilt trips, fear from sex, domination of others by controlling their sexuality, etc. People just shrug it away. My contention, then, is that we should start using a new word for the concept in order to communicate the validity of the value behind it.
Chastity is sometimes thought to be the exclusive virtue of celibates but as the Catechism of the Catholic Church (CCC n. 2349) affirms, all are called to live chastely according to one’s state in life. What makes life a chaste one? It is when sexuality is lived as an integral part of who the person is (“the successful integration of sexuality within the person and thus the inner unity of man in his bodily and spiritual being” CCC n. 2337). Sexual integration could be a new name for the virtue of chastity.
Sexual integration should start from the person not from a focus on sex and genital activity. The person should start by asking who he/she wants to be and to become. Having a clear self-concept and a clear aim in life will necessarily lead to natural consequences and decisions. A confused person in search of love is more likely to indulge in promiscuity and in a series of botched up relationships.
Secondly, human beings find fulfillment when they relate deeply and intimately to each other. Relationships should be the context within which one expresses one’s human sexuality. Relationships also entail other values such as: respect, growth over time, affective bonding, loyalty, etc.
Sexual integration is a process, not a singular achievement. It is challenged with one’s developmental stages; with the circumstances one find oneself in; and with one’s personal weaknesses. Thus the process of feeling one with oneself in all external expressions of self is a continuing process over time. This is why sexuality tends to have many shadows …until it becomes a beam of light. Having self-awareness, and a strong aim in life undoubtedly helps the achievement of sexual integration. We, Catholics and other believers, also believe that our weakness is supported by God’s grace who wants us to be fully human and fully alive.
In short, I am my body. My body is my interface with the world and with others. The way I express myself through my body reveals my inner self and who I want to be. Self-awareness, a strong concept of the self, having a goal in life, owning a good and truthful character and dignity will all combine to make one a fully integrated person who expresses one’s sexuality as a function of who one is.
Perhaps we do not need to change the word after all. I have come across an American website promoting chastity: www.chastity.org, claiming the the new sexual revolution is here: chastity. An old concept found anew!