On Centers for Abstinence and Chastity; or, In Which I Have a Lifestyle Choice

If you’d been paying attention to Princeton politics over the past couple weeks, you’d really think there was some serious repression going on. First, a small group of people started flipping out, rather loudly and ostentatiously, because we have gender-neutral housing now, which is obviously going to cause sexual activity on this campus to skyrocket (hint: it’s actually not, and whether it would is sort of a moot point anyway). Then, another small group of people who, I’d hazard a guess, probably has some significant overlap with the first group, decided what this school really needs is a Center for Abstinence and Chastity. Their proposal has since been categorically denied by our fabulous university president, but it hasn’t stopped quite a lot of the campus from talking about why or why not we ought to have this center.

I walked into one of these conversations the other night, in which the argument for such a center was largely that students who choose to be abstinent are a discriminated-against minority who therefore need the support of institutional resources. The argument against such a center was twofold: a) being in a minority is not the same thing as being discriminated against; b) choosing not to have sex is not precisely equivalent to being, say, African-American, or gay, two groups of people conventionally defined by a particular immutable characteristic who have a long history of being and still are discriminated against in this country (no, I’m not equating the two histories. I’m just saying that both involve discrimination). Basically, I think, the majority of students I’ve spoken with agree that students who aren’t having sex are probably not nearly as small a population as they may think, and the university resources are more than adequate to address their needs.

But I’ve been thinking, over the past few days. I’ve been saying through this entire abstinence-center episode that what we need is a test case to lean on the Anscombe crowd’s assertion that this center wouldn’t itself discriminate. What would they say if a gay student who was comfortable with being gay, but also felt pressure to have sex and wanted support for remaining abstinent, came to this center? And then it hit me: who needs a test case? I’m talking about myself here.

I’m not saying that the hookup culture agenda is recruiting me, because in my experience, if there is a “hookup culture” at all, it’s an opt-in scenario. My social scene isn’t one that features a lot of hooking up, or any expectation that it’s something people will do on a given Saturday night—but nor does it put any stain of moral disapproval on doing so. As long as folks are using protection, I personally don’t care what they do on their own time and in the privacy of their own homes (or eating club cloakrooms), because it really has no effect on my life.

But there’s something far more insidious that does directly impact my life, and about which I do experience a lot of untoward pressure, and that’s serial monogamy. People in our culture—men, women; straight, queer—are expected to date. They are expected to identify people whom they are interested in dating, and pursue them. They are expected to court, and to receive courtship, and eventually to form partnerships. They are expected to end those partnerships at some point, unless they become permanent, in which case marriage or its moral equivalent tends to result. And reader, I wish this didn’t happen. Because I don’t want to “date” anyone. I don’t want to be set up by my friends with eligible types. I don’t want to be asked if I’ve met any cute, bright young things. I am not interested in playing this game. And then, frankly, I tire of hearing the trite stories of the people who do, the young people who live in cities and go to bars and be someone else for a night in order to attract the nicest and nicest-looking people there. And who expect this encounter in a bar not, in fact, to turn into a hookup, but into a monogamous episode. (I know it sounds like a sitcom, but I heard a lot of this during my summer in DC.) It’s overpoweringly absurd—and yet it’s overpowering. And no, for the umpteenth time, I have not met any cute girls (or boys depending on who’s doing the asking), and even if I had, I wouldn’t be trying to pursue them and enter monogamous relationships with them (serially, obviously; if I entered relationships with them all at once that wouldn’t be very monogamous).

Of course, I suppose the chastity center would tell me, after they finished lecturing me on how my lifestyle leads to disunitive sex, and therefore our civilization will perish, that you can date someone without having sex with them. That’s sort of the whole point of the chastity thing. I get it. But I really haven’t talked to anyone (particularly any men) who aren’t part of a conservative group like Anscombe and still don’t believe that there’s going to be sex at the end of the line. The payoff for all this pursuing is sex, it’s just that our culture would prefer that you work harder for it than getting drunk and coming on to someone you dance with at an eating club (hmm, I guess that could be “coming on to” or “coming onto,” when you think about it. Errr… sorry).

If the chastity center crew is feeling pressured to have anonymous quick sex, well then, I’m feeling pressured to have sex with the same person for months on end after playing a delicate dating game. Dude, it really sucks being in the cultural minority here. Can I please have a center too? Or at least get to use your center? No?

Oh well. Guess I’ll just have to go get wasted and hit on a lot of people at Terrace instead.

3 thoughts on “On Centers for Abstinence and Chastity; or, In Which I Have a Lifestyle Choice

  1. While I cannot speak for Princeton’s Anscombe society, I believe it is a Catholic group. The Catholic Church makes a distinction between engaging in homosexual acts (which is a sin under Church doctrine) and having a homosexual orientation (which is not). If you are attracted to women but committed to celibacy, there are support groups available in many areas. I don’t know if Princeton’s Anscombe society sponsors one, but they would likely be able to give you a referral if you are interested.

  2. I’m not interested in celibacy, Crimson Wife, and I’m not Catholic. I’m not interested in a Catholic support group, and I’m not interested in the teachings of a church that say that being who I am and having the same rights to that existence as straight people is a sin.

    Although many members of the Anscombe Society are Catholic, and their positions are pretty heavily informed by Catholic doctrine, they would be the first people to say that they are an officially nonreligious group. It’s interesting that despite their pretensions to secularity, they appear Catholic in affiliation even to their fellow Catholics.

  3. I wish we can do whatever we want without the fear of being judged or assumption of being judged when I happen to agree totally with you.

    would you form a support group near me? I will join for sure.

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