« Making Love Last at Princeton | Main | Adult Content Malcontent »

January 29, 2007



She is doing brave and important work. I heard her say something that struck me in an interview, something like: "For a woman, having sex involves an unspoken promise of love even if the promise is unconscious." No one is saying things like this! [Except us (:] I hope people begin to catch on...


"Women are built for bonding. We are vessels and we seek to be filled."

What about men? I understand what the author is trying to say, but I feel that in a way she is buying into/reinforcing societal expectations of women as more emotional, and men as uber-rational . Admittedly, it is harmful to hold women to the expectations of fulfilling "male" stereotypes. I know this is not a typical ModestyZone example, but in the first episode of Sex and the City, the lead character Carrie tries to "have sex like a man," that is, with detachment, and finds herself disappointed and a bit sullied.

On the other hand, I feel that it is not helpful either to continue holding men to these expectations. Perhaps men are generally less emotional in degree or in number, but I doubt that any such difference, if it is real, warrants the way in which we exaggerate gender roles in our society. Much of the apparent tendency of men to be more emotionally detached is due, I suspect, to social conditioning. I think this sentiment was reflected in previous discussions on the rap song promoting modesty for girls.

Our perceptions of men's and women's attitudes towards sexual behavior (and resulting behavior) are deeply influenced by societal expectations. Modern American culture expects men to be more sexually driven, but (if I am not mistaken) ancient Greeks believed women to be nymphomaniacs. For appeals to modesty to have the effect they seek, they need a more gender-balanced approach, lest they preach only to the choir. How can we ask women and girls to be chaste/modest when we do not do the same of men and boys?

Amy K.

shilpa, Dawn was writing a book specifically for women, although she has often noted that chastity is something that men also benefit from.

I'm glad this lady is no longer living a lifestyle that brings her pain, but I do take issue with blanket statements about women (in the article and blog- haven't read the book yet). The fact is, there ARE women who do NOT find casual sex damaging or dissatisfying. I don't want to label them as crazy or 'not normal' women. All kinds make a world after all. It's normal FOR THEM. We may think it's not for us, but some women really don't have a problem with it. And it bears saying... even among women who don't have a problem with casual sex, few of them, I would think, would go to the extreme sexual lengths that Miss Eden did in her younger years.

I will seek out and read this book, it's piqued my interest definitely. And I am glad that it's out there- the gals for whom the notion of casual sex is HORRIFYING really, really need this kind of support. They sure as hell are getting a very blunt message from our culture that THEY'RE 'not normal', and the social approbation one gets from coming out as a 'virgin' or saving yourself for marriage is just plain sick.


I wish that someone would write a book on this subject without infusing it with religion.


I think that a few books have been written recently on this subject from a similar perspective that are not religious. Pamela Paul's Pornified and Ariel Levy's new book. There are no religious messages embeded beneath or above the surface of these books.

Both ^^^ those books are really good.

I'm not religious at all, and my attraction to the concept of modesty and chastity is more along the lines of it's a demonstrably SENSIBLE idea, irrespective and apart from any religious arguments. It holds up on its own merits.


"[Women] are vessels and we seek to be filled."

Someone has a lot in common with the health minister of Japan.


Mary O'Hayes

L.B., religions are one of the few institutions that have theology and doctrine about chastity and modesty. The thinking goes back thousands of years. So don't be surprised that many books on the subject are infused with religion.

That's part of the tremendous value of religion, even for the irreligious. It's not all make-believe and rituals.



I simply don't understand what you're trying to say. As a person from a devout Catholic background, I don't find it at all surprising that most books and materials encouraging chastity and modesty come from religious sources. (I'm also very pragmatic and cynical about abstinence education, knowing many children conceived while their teenage parents were on church retreats.)

I was expressing my disappointment that nobody from a secular point of view writes books on the subject. I know full well why this is. The lack of binding rules about sexual behavior removes any incentive that people might have to hold off on having sexual intercourse until, at minimum, they're in a loving and committed relationship.

It seems to me that people advocating chastity and modestly turn off people who aren't religious. Those women and men read sites like this one, glean that the message is "don't have sex and put on a long skirt because God says so," and they don't return. Even if this message isn't consciously sent by bloggers here, it's implied, and overt in many comments.

You seem to be encouraging me to observe religious rules even though I gave up after a decades-long struggle with not believing in the substance of my religion. This is deeply dishonest. I recall that Wendy has posted many times on this site about how, for her, practicing a religion that one doesn't sincerely believe because one agrees with its teachings on sex is a very bad idea. Removing divine disapproval and eternal consequences from religious teachings gets rid of both their context and their enforcement.

I haven't read Ariel Levy's book, but I did read Pornified, which despite its anti-pornography and anti-objectification stances, I still found troubling since Paul seems to have no issue with casual sex as long as it's not being filmed. Are there indeed any compelling arguments to encourage secular kids not to have sex?


Secular reasons to stay chaste before marriage: success of one's ultimate marriage; sexual satisfaction (doesn't tend to be high when the encounters are casual); not using another person as a means to your ends (which is more of a Kantian moral principle than a religious one, I believe).


Very well said, LB.

Wendy - you're confusing correlation with causation. While it is true that the people who live together and are sexually active (and the living together is a necessary addition to the statement) prior to marriage have a higher divorce rate, this is not caused by being sexually active prior to marriage, it's caused by not having the values that discourage divorce. People who are liberal enough to have sex and live together before marriage are liberal enough to divorce. Conflating the two is an unfortunately sloppy argument.

Likewise, sexual satisfaction tends to track more on frequency of encounter and attitude towards sex than the level of casualness or not - and again tends to be a reflection of value-system, not how much sex one is having. (If anything, there is some empirical evidence that the more partners you have, and the more variety of experience, the better lover and more sexually satisfied you are, while those with few partners consistently score very low in satisfaction with their sex life.)

Utilizing Kant is a bit of a smokescreen, too, and it is, as I understand, an incorrect understanding. Very basically, the categorical imperative, and thus all formulations of it, are based on the notion of free will. The second formulation of this says that, and I quote, "Act in such a way that you always treat humanity, whether in your own person or in the person of any other, never simply as a means, but always at the same time as an end." (Emphasis mine.)

This means that you must respect the autonomous desires of other humans who are also pursuing universal maximizing principles. For example, you can't sell someone into slavery because you are removing their autonomous desire for freedom. But you can have casual sex with someone, so long as you are upfront about it being sex and not, say, a relationship or commitment. What you cannot do, by Kant's principle, is agree that you're in a relationship in order to have sex.


Hi Kelly, I am leaving for a trip so I have to be brief but I would be very interested in what studies suggest "that the more partners you have, and the more variety of experience, the better lover and more sexually satisfied you are," since those I've seen say the opposite.

Several "sex-positive" sex therapists have recently come forward about how unsatisfying casual sex is for so many of their patients, and one approach would be to ignore these women, I suppose--another would be to ask why they are unsatisfied.

The problem is that if someone doesn't care about you, he doesn't tend to care much about your satisfaction either.

This fact is difficult to ignore.

Your website looks interesting, though--thanks for stopping by,

Mary O'Hayes

L.B., it wasn't my intent to encourage you to "observe religious rules even though I gave up after a decades-long struggle with not believing in the substance of my religion." I'm not sure how you read that into my brief comments. You don't have to be an observant Jew or Catholic or Bahai to appreciate the good stuff that different religions offer.

I suppose there aren't many books about modesty/chastity because these concepts go against the dogma of the liberal, secular progressives. Seculars generally believe that men and women are the same, any differences are "social constructs." Therefore, in an "open" society without the hang-ups found in our oppressive patriarchal society, men and women would act the same. We'd all be discovering our sexuality all over the place, there would be no point to either modesty or chastity. Self-actualization is the highest goal of the secular progressives, and trying to satisfy the desires of the ego.

Modesty and chastity are built upon a host of other concepts: the inherent dignity of the human person (made in God's image); wanting to live one's life for God's glory; the differences between men and women, whom God created for each other; creating a spiritual union with another person; and creating a family. Modesty and chastity are practiced in a context. I think that seculars lack the context and "infrastructure" (if you will) that religions provide. So those concepts will just never be that important to the secular folks.

Some advantages of modesty/chastity for non-religious people:

- Health/medical benefits, less exposure to STDs and subsequent complications from STDs,
- Keeps you from being taken advantage of and having your heart broken,
- Protects your inner spirit and keeps your heart tender,
- People respect you more when you dress modestly, and generally treat you better,
- People look at your eyes, not your boobs, when they talk to you,
- There's less unwanted attention,
- Your clothing is more comfortable, it doesn't cut off your circulation, and
- You don't have "wardrobe malfunctions."

That's all I can think of, of the top of my head.

Jay Draiman

We pave the way for women to act irresponsibly, promote promiscuity and disregard for family values.
This is hollywood's fault. Sex has become "entertainment" instead of what God had intended.
The double standard for women is an issue, but men and women both should be moral, and sexual purity is a part of that for both sexes.
The fact that men think they have an absolute right to relieve a young girl of her virginity can be a definite problem. It is also unfortunate that our schools expect our children to engage in sexual behavior, which tells the children ...boys and girls, that it is expected behavior and perfectly all right to engage in.
I believe that remaining a virgin is liberating. A virgin doesn't have to worry about catching diseases. When she marries, if she also marries a virgin, she doesn't have to worry about how many other people he or she is sleeping with either. It has been proven that who you sleep with can have a definite effect on whether or not you get HIV, or cervical cancer. The bible speaks to virginity and the funny thing is that the things that the bible has said have only recently begun to be found true by science.
The "fact" is, is that "men" are the ones who relieve a girl from her virginity. Who else is there? Because of all the feminist crap, women are at the lowest ebb in history. Never have I seen a more pathetic group than American women(perhaps global). With their promiscuity, lack of good grooming, tattoos (another story), lack of self esteem, the killing of their children at a pace never seen by mankind, highest percentage of the prison population in known history. And they still want to find sexism where ever the can make it up. Women have always been as sexually active as men(duh). But men have always felt that they had to "act" like they were not virgins or there was something wrong. That is the problem with society. The pressure put on men to not be a virgin is much higher than that to be a virgin is put on women. Even though common sense would tell anyone with a firing synapse that it is and always has been pretty much equal. But I look at young men ( I am the father of 3 boys) and then girls. it is clear to me that feminism has had a very dire impact on our females. What has been traded for perceived equality has done great damage to our precious American girls. And shame on those who have championed what passes itself as a "feminist movement".

Morality taught to the young men and women in my family included modesty, virginity, honesty, compassion, honesty, courage, etc. They were taught EQUALLY to both genders. This author just has an emotional hang-up over being a slut in high school and having some kind of messed up childhood

The comments to this entry are closed.