Virgin Shaming: It's A Thing That Exists

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Warning: This post is gonna sound like I’m being a bit-ca. Not my usual sweet tone. But that’s what happens when I get on the soapbox.

I will be the first to admit that this country isn’t perfect. We fought over the color of a dress and think that “Deez Nuts” is an actual person that could run for President. We also think that a guy who’s more famous for his hair, beauty pageant and reality show than for any actual actions relating to politics and philanthropy is presidential material. But last week, I came across an article that made me think this country just hit a whole new level of stupid: The Catholic Response sharing the internet’s confused and hateful reactions to Jessica Hayes becoming a Consecrated Virgin.

I’ve written about consecrated virginity on this blog before. Heck, one of my friends became a consecrated virgin this summer. So why is it that the internet is going nuts now?

I guess it’s because Indiana was prominent in the gay marriage debate and Jessica Hayes happens to be from Indiana. But seriously, people, women marry Jesus more often than you think. Most of them do so by becoming nuns. Jessica Hayes, however, chose to remain a lay person and devote her entire life to serving Christ. It’s no different than a man choosing to be a diocesan priest instead of entering a religious order.

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I don’t understand why people don’t give a hoot about the Dalai Lama being celibate but yet want priests to be married. I don’t understand why gays demand to be married in a church that won’t comply to them and sue people who refuse to bake cakes for them instead of taking their business elsewhere. I don’t understand why people aren’t arguing for civil unions. And think of the divorce rates!

It really stems from a misunderstanding of what love and marriage mean. Society these days sees sex as the be-all, end-all with marriage being just a “bonus.” Marriages aren’t about big weddings and exotic honeymoons or even about being with somebody until you can’t take it anymore. Love and marriage are about sacrifice. And love can manifest in a million different ways that have nothing to do with relationships.

Being a virgin isn’t a disease or something to be ridiculed. At the same time, people shouldn’t put such an emphasis on “purity” that they have entire dances revolving around it. Being a virgin means simply to embrace a life of chastity, which means putting one’s desires aside for a greater cause.

 

When I first read about Jessica Hayes choosing consecrated virginity, my first question wasn’t “Why isn’t she getting married to a man?” but “Why isn’t she going to be a nun?” She answers that question in an article she wrote in Our Sunday Visitor.

“Miss Hayes, why did you want to become a consecrated virgin instead of a religious sister?” posed an inquisitive student in my Women’s Dignity class. “Because I wanted to stay with you,” was my immediate and honest response. Without missing a beat, she replied, “We wanted you to stay with us, too.”

Hayes is a teacher. She wants to devote her life to serving the church through her teaching. She’s not denying herself sex or children.  The bishop who consecrated her goes more into this in his homily that you should seriously read. While many, many nuns out there serve as teachers, the life of a nun belongs to her convent first. By choosing to marry Christ and stay a lay woman, Hayes has a bit more freedom than a religious sister. Her time can be her own, to do whatever she pleases. She’s giving her love to the diocese she serves and to the kids that she teaches. I think that pretty much trumps whatever stuff a certain HBO show can come up with in regards to sex in the city.

So yeah, people. Stop shaming Jessica Hayes for choosing to stay a virgin. Learn from her. And learn what love and marriage really mean.

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Images by Joseph Romie. Posted with permission.

 

10 Tips on Learning How To Date Like An Adult

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There’s this funny commercial from Match.com that kind of sums up the three paths people tend to go when it comes to dating.

The first extreme, as you can see in the commercial, is that people want sex and they want it now. Think Sex and the City or Girls (which is really a poor man’s Sex and the City, in my honest opinion). Teenagers especially are filled with lust. I still remember listening to Leah Darrow’s testimony about how her friends were pressuring her to have sex after Homecoming back when she was just fifteen years old. Many Catholic chastity speakers like Jason and Crystalina Evert preach about the importance of being chaste. Arleen Spenceley said that chastity isn’t abstinence but “a virtue that aims to integrate sexuality with the rest of the stuff that makes us human.” The thing is, though, learning how to be chaste is only the beginning.

The other extreme people go, and this applies to people who misunderstand chastity, is an overemphasis on marriage. Marriage is beautiful, marriage is important, and yes, young adults should date with the intention of eventually getting married. But marriage shouldn’t be a be-all, end-all when it comes to starting out. The way people meet will always be different and I can’t speak for everyone on how one should start out a relationship aside from the fact that you need to treat the other person with respect because they are your brother/sister in Christ, not the fulfillment of your fantasies or someone you’re entitled to have.

Dating as a young adult is vastly different from dating in high school or even dating in college. In this new stage in life, some young adults are already getting married and having babies while other young adults are searching for full-time work and binge-watching shows on Netflix and aren’t ready to settle down but are still going out on dates. I’m gonna be addressing the latter group here. This list is for those who are just starting out in the weird world we call “dating.”

1) Don’t stay stuck in the past. The first thing people need to learn when it comes to dating as an adult is that this will be an entirely new experience so don’t compare the person you’re dating to past relationships. You don’t want to compete with the ghosts of your significant other’s past so don’t put them through the same comparison process. Also don’t compare yourself to how you were in past relationships, either. Learn from the past, but move on from it.

2) Don’t be pressured to go the whole nine yards. If you’re just starting out, it’s good to go out on group dates where there’s less pressure or meet the person at events where there will be lots of people. You don’t have to start out with the whole flowers and dinner kind of date. Go bowling or play laser tag or volunteer together. If it doesn’t end up working out with them, at least you had a good time.

3) Don’t let your relationship define and consume you. Love as adults isn’t obsessing over the other person the way you would over your favorite TV show or sports team. Adult love means that we come into the relationship as ourselves and the best kind of love is one where we maintain our authenticity and integrity. You shouldn’t bend over backwards to try and please the person you’re with. Real love is the kind where the one we love stands beside us instead of making our choices for us or trying to take the parts of us that they like and putting the rest of us in a box. If the person you’re dating seems to be a control freak, get out of that relationship ASAP!

4) You are not entitled to have a relationship just because you want one. Let’s say that you have a crush on somebody and you’ve had feelings for them for a long time. Then you ask them out only for them to turn you down. As someone who’s been “friendzoned,” here’s some advice. When the person you want rejects you, you have to accept it and move on. Don’t beg or lash out at them or take your anger out on someone you see as “competition.” Your heart is going to break, but you can’t hate a person for not wanting you.

5) It’s okay to avoid exes. If you had a particularly awkward rejection or particularly sucky breakup, you do not have to talk to your ex if you run into them somewhere. On a related note, don’t stalk them on social media either. Defriend and unfollow ASAP from every social media you have connected with them. Delete their number. You can’t heal from the hurt if you keep thinking about the person who caused it.

6) Don’t put so much importance on being “official” right now. Give the relationship time to grow before anything becomes “Facebook official.” Chances are that you’re still getting to know the person you date. Take it easy on yourself and start out as friends. Life isn’t like a Nicholas Sparks or a Hallmark movie where you meet the right person right off the bat. Some relationships take time to grow.

7) Don’t be a perfectionist. Girls especially have a tendency to read into every minute detail and action that goes on during dates. I implore you to put aside the worry. There’s also a tendency for people to hold the one they’re dating to impossibly high standards. Don’t write off a person just because he showed up five minutes late or you don’t agree on everything. Focus on what’s important. It’s more important that the date showed up at all rather than promising something and not showing up without a very good reason for standing you up. It’s more important that you agree on, say, what beliefs you share and how much you actually value those beliefs than whether or not DC is better than Marvel.

8) Chastity is still important. You don’t have to hold hands or be touchy-feely with the person you’re dating if you are uncomfortable with that kind of affection. There are many ways that people can express their love for someone else. That being said, physical and emotional chastity are always going to be important when it comes to dating, even when you’re starting out. This is why you need to take things easy because putting your whole heart into something that’s just starting out will have major consequences later on.

9) If you’re dating someone who doesn’t share your beliefs, proceed with caution. While flirt and convert is a very popular catchphrase amongst Catholics, you don’t want to date someone with the sole mission of trying to change them. You can’t force someone to change unless they themselves want to change. The person your dating is still a person, not a project. It’s good to hope that the life you lead will inspire the person you’re dating and if you’re like me, your faith is probably part of everything that you do. But when you just start out with a person, it’s better to keep evangelizing off the table for the time being.

10) Pray through everything. When you first meet someone, pray. When you’re just starting out as friends, pray. And regardless of whether things progress into something more than friendship or if things stay platonic, you need to pray. God is the one who created your heart and He will get you through whatever happens. Offer your heart to Him so that if it breaks, He will fix it. Pray for the person you’re dating so that they will be led to whatever God wants from them.

The point I’m making from this list is that real, authentic, grown-up love isn’t about getting what we want all the time. It’s not about the emotional highs or kissing or being “Facebook official.” It’s about wanting the good for the other as other. It’s about learning more about who we are when we’re around other people.  And when we start out in this weird world we call “dating,” we still have marriage in mind, but it’s not an urgent matter. The more important thing is to treat the person we’re dating as just that, a person, an equal.

Chasity Is For Lovers: A Review

First of all, I think a really good alternative title for this book could be: You Say “Virgin” Like It’s a Bad Thing. I’ve read books about finding love and the standards one should have when it comes to relationships, but the best thing about Arleen Spenceley’s Chastity is For Lovers is that it provides a lot of perspective on being single.

I love that she saw her dating history as a series of learning experiences. Yes, she cried and racked her brain trying to figure out what went wrong, but she eventually learned from her relationships and in my opinion, she has a wonderful, healthy, honest perspective of them. The entire chapter about dating is worth the price of the book alone because it reveals the actual purpose of dating. Dating isn’t about having fun or riding on the emotional highs of attraction, but about finding a spouse and gain learning experiences. And I mean learning experience, not sexual experience. She emphasizes the importance of having boundaries and standards, but never in a way that shames the reader.

Next to the dating chapter, the chapter that deals with the concept of purity has got to be my favorite. I still have bad memories of seeing rants and raves on Tumblr about the concept of purity, smashing of patriarchies, slut-shaming…you know, the usual Tumblr stuff. I want to share this book with those people in particular because purity is a very, very sad misconception. I might start calling the ring I wear on my left ring finger a chastity ring as opposed to a purity ring now.

Overall, I highly recommend this book for people who want a different perspective about relationships. I also recommend this book for people who have misconceptions on purity and abstinence because chastity is very, very different. Bust most of all, I recommend this book for us single ladies. Whether we are single by choice or by circumstances or because we’re all socially awkward, we need to at least appreciate that being single is a blessing and this book will show you why.

Interview With Arleen Spenceley

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Photo courtesy of Arleen Spenceley

Arleen Spenceley is author of the book Chastity is For Lovers: Single, Happy, and (Still) a Virgin (Ave Maria Press, Nov. 2014). She works as a staff writer for the Tampa Bay Times, and has a bachelor’s degree in journalism and a master’s degree in counseling, both from the University of South Florida. She blogs at arleenspenceley.com.

What was the inspiration behind
Chastity is For Lovers?
Chastity Is For Lovers was inspired by my desire to encourage the people who already practice chastity, and to present chastity to the people who don’t practice it yet. I want people who are virgins to know they’re not alone, and I want people who are saving sex from now on to know that chastity truly is possible, and I want people who haven’t heard of it, or who’ve got it confused for abstinence, to know what it actually is.
Do you feel yourself drawn towards any particular vocation or do you prefer to be open to all of them?
I am most drawn to marriage, but I’m not married to it. I’m still not sure to which specific vocation God will call me, but I hope to be open to any of them when that’s clearer to me. In the meantime, seeking Him first is a fantastic way to prepare to accept the call to any vocation. Doing so will refine our desires, and pave the way for continuing to seek Him first when I become a wife or a nun or otherwise consecrated single person.
Tell me what it’s like to be single. How is that different from dating, marriage, and religious life?
I’m two kinds of single: unmarried, and also not currently in a dating relationship. But I’d consider myself “single and mingling,” ’cause I do date. I can’t tell you what it’s like to be perpetually single, because I don’t know yet if I will be. But I can tell you that this season of singleness — if it indeed is a season — is actually kind of exciting. That has less to do with what I’ve done during this season and more to do with what God is done. It is clear to me, almost always only in retrospect, that how single I am has been integral for my ability and availability to do some of what God has invited me to do.
Had I not been single while writing the book proposal for Chastity Is for Lovers and then while writing the book itself, I probably would have neglected the writing or the relationship. That isn’t to say a person can’t write a book, or travel and speak, or otherwise serve the Church while dating or married. But because of my particular circumstances, another commitment would have been a bad idea.
I wrote the book proposal during my second to last semester of grad school. At the time, I worked 32 hours a week as a staff writer for the newspaper, interned 14 hours a week as a counselor at a youth shelter, took two classes and lived, interned, worked and went to school in four different cities. As much as I had moments of hoping I’d meet a guy to date, God didn’t open that door and in retrospect, I’m super glad that he didn’t.
One problem I personally have with being single is loneliness. How do you deal with that?
When loneliness hits, I say “focus on Jesus, focus on Jesus, focus on Jesus,” over and over, in my head. The last time I “ached” like we sometimes do while we’re single was when I was interested in a specific guy — a guy from whom I wasn’t hearing. And while I hoped he’d text me or call, God legit spoke to me when this thought popped into my head: “You don’t ache because you’re alone. You ache because you’re looking in the wrong direction.” I hadn’t been seeking first Jesus. I’d been seeking first some other guy. So I needed that reminder to focus on Jesus.
Who’s your go-to saint when it comes to anything relating to dating/boys/love life/etc?
For most of my adult life, St. Francis de Sales has been my go-to, ’cause we’re basically BFFs.  In undergrad, while I studied journalism, I suffered from anxiety. One day, I stumbled upon a quote from St. Francis de Sales about anxiety, and it really helped. A few days later, I stumbled upon another de Sales quote. It was also about anxiety, and it also really helped. I’d never heard of de Sales before I stumbled upon his quotes, so the journalist in me had to do some digging. I looked him up, which is how I discovered that he’s the patron saint of journalists. I’ve felt a connection to him ever since.
If you’d like to see the quotes I stumbled upon, click here.
What advice would you give to young girls and boys right now?
I’d give both females and males the same two pieces of advice: a) Reflect a lot on the fact that you are of infinite value because you exist, and b) Focus on Jesus, focus on Jesus, focus on Jesus.

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