Last week, I put out an article called Interviewing Six Conservative Female Bloggers On Dating. One of the featured bloggers in that piece, Dawn Eden, is the author of a book entitled, The Thrill of the Chaste: Finding Fulfillment While Keeping Your Clothes On.
I read Dawn’s book in preparation for the interview and honestly, I wasn’t expecting much and anticipated just skimming it. But, after reading it, I was extremely impressed by the depth, spirituality, and personal stories in the book and would, without hesitation, highly recommend the book to people. That’s why I was pleased to be able to get together late last week for a phone interview with Dawn. What follows is an edited transcript of our conversation.
First of all, in the book, you said that you used to live by the Sex and City rule when it came to relationships. Tell us what that is and how it worked out for you.
Well, the Sex and the City rule is that sex should push the relationship. Watching that TV show, that’s the message. Men will not love you, will not marry you, unless you have sex with them. …More than that, the rule is that sex is supposed to be the harbinger of this emotional intimacy.
The interesting thing is that part of the power of the show is that this never actually happens. You really don’t see Carrie and Mr. Big getting closer and closer after all the sex they have. What you see is Mr. Big sleeping with Carrie and then running away and breaking her heart, sleeping with her, then running away and breaking her heart and so on — which is quite a bit more like real life — and certainly you see the reverse, too, with women sleeping with men and breaking their heart. But, the reason why the show tied everything up in these neat marriages is because the show knew that its viewers wanted to believe that they, too, after having sex lives of heartbreak, could be happily married.
Unfortunately, the statistics don’t bear that out. The Heritage Foundation did some great number crunching…on women’s sexual partners and (marriage). …What they found were that the (most stable marriages) were among women who had only one sexual partner in their lifetime…and the (chances of having a stable marriage) decrease with each sexual partner they’ve had in their lifetimes.
…Let me ask you another Sex and the City related question: why do you think that women are really incapable of being happy long term if they’re “having sex like a man?”
Because they’re trying to forcibly separate what they’re doing with their body from what’s going on in their head and in their heart. The more you try to separate your actions from your feelings, the more you develop a fragmented personality. Then, when you meet someone you do want to give your heart to, you have to unlearn this separation. It is possible, but it’s hard.
Now tell us what prompted you to become chaste again at 31.
Well, I was really becoming chaste for the first time because back when I was a virgin, I wasn’t chaste. I talk about that in the book, about how chastity isn’t just abstinence. …We can be abstinent from the time we’re born until we lose our virginity, but chastity is a state of mind. …Being chaste means not objectifying other people. It means not thinking, “what can I get from this person?”
I began to attempt to practice chastity seriously — it wasn’t right when I was 31. It was at 31 when I had a conversion experience and became a Christian. At first, even though I knew at first that my sexual lifestyle wasn’t Godly, I wasn’t ready to change. I began to get serious about chastity just over four years ago. There were two things that made me change: number one, as a Christian, I believed that God was calling me to something higher than the way I was living. Number two, I wanted to be married and I knew that my lifestyle hadn’t brought me any closer to marriage. Now, over four years later, I am still not married, but I am much happier than I was back then and I know that if I am meant to be married, I have a far better chance of having a lasting marriage than I ever did when I was unchaste.
What would you say to women who might be inclined towards chastity, but think it will make it much harder to find a boyfriend?
I’d say that you have to look at what you really want. If you really just want a warm body next to you at any cost, then don’t be chaste, because (it’s not going to deliver that). But, if the most important thing to you is to have someone who loves you for who you are and not just what you do, then you’ll be much happier being chaste and you’ll start to experience some of that joy even before you meet the right person. That’s because you’re going to find that chastity enables you to bear fruit in all your relationships with people…
Now a related question, obviously, there are a lot of women who are having premarital sex who do find husbands…
…If I could just address one thing: I wrote my book for women because I was relatively new to chastity and I didn’t think I could presume to write from a perspective that men could relate to, but chastity is for everyone. That’s a big mistake the conservative movement, including many Christians, have made over the years. They think women are most hurt by unchastity, because of pregnancy and because they’re more vulnerable to STDs than men are, so we should just direct our chastity education at women. I think that’s terrible because it makes women feel singled out and it makes men feel like they’re exempt from respecting women’s human dignity. So, it really is for everyone. I just specifically addressed women with my book because I felt like they could better (relate to) my experiences…
Well obviously, there are a lot of people who are having premarital sex and still manage to get married. Why would you say being chaste is better than going that route? What would you say to them if they said to you, “I think I can have premarital sex and I’ll still get married.” What would you tell them about why they should be chaste?
I would say it’s better to be chaste because you’re learning how to really love and you’re learning how to give out your whole self and not just parcel out parts of yourself. What I’m learning is how to give my heart, which is the most important part of me. You don’t have to learn how to give your body. Nature just does that. But, giving your heart is something one can learn how to do better and better over the course of a lifetime… But, the more you learn to do it before you’re married, the happier your marriage is going to be.
I know you describe being chaste as rebellious, which is the opposite of what a lot of people probably think. Talk about that a little bit. What makes that so? Why is being chaste more rebellious than having premarital sex?
It’s really the most countercultural action that anyone can take in today’s culture. …Our culture teaches us to measure ourselves and one another by what physical qualities we have that can attract others. So, when you’re chaste, you’re off the market in that sense and you demand to be taken seriously for what’s inside of you and not what’s on the outside. So, it is very radical in the best way.
We’re just about done. How about telling us a little more about your book, The Thrill of the Chaste, and why people should want to buy it.
You want to buy my book if you want a good, fun read in which I use my life’s experience to show, not in a graphic way, but in a stark way, what it’s like to live according to pop culture’s rules which say that our happiness is in the pleasure we receive. I show that there is actually something more than pleasure, there’s joy. I show I how I found that joy, how it’s possible to find that joy, and how you can have it even when you’re foregoing temporal pleasure.
Dawn, thank you for your time.
You can read more from Dawn at her blog, The Dawn Patrol.