Interesting Articles

Saturday, September 26, 2009

Saving sex for marriage.

I spend a lot of my time in a newsroom. As an editorial assistant/staff writer for the paper, I'm given the chance to pitch ideas to editors for features and columns and essays. A few months ago, I had a new idea.

I wanted to share with readers the reasons why I'm saving sex for marriage. I quickly pitched the idea, but second thoughts plagued me. Should I really share this with the entire Tampa Bay area? With the world, thanks to the Internet? Is it safe?

Well, Jesus is kind of about reckless abandon, and I'm trying to be like him. So...

It's in print this Sunday, and online now. And the feedback's already started (check out the comments!). In print, over a hundred thousand should see it and online, even more! I pray who needs to see it sees it, and who feels convicted by it acts on that conviction. Click below to check it out.

http://www.tampabay.com/news/perspective/article1039035.ece

9 comments:

Semper Eadem said...

It would be very nice if you could link to our blog: www.catholicheritage.blogspot.com

Aaron said...

The following comments were posted on my Facebook wall, in response to this story. I thought I'd share 'em here, so they might become part of a wider discussion.


Comment 1: Eh.... but she didn't really say much of "why" did she?...

Comment 2: No, she didn't. It's hardly a philosophic exposition and she seems to have been shooting for a pretty broad appeal. But I guess what I liked about it was not only that the story was run, but that it doesn't portray this as some bizarre fringe movement. ("Look at these strange moralists and their odd behavior.") Who knows? Perhaps this IS countercultural and needs to be portrayed as such. But I don't think our culture is at that point. I think there's enough out there that's redeemable that we can still appeal to it. So, no, it's not a masterpiece for the ages, but it caught my eye, for good reasons, I think.

Comment 3: Without the procreative link, this is really just vanity. The little aside about the would-be chaste homosexual emphasizes the confused idea that "sex is for marriage". No, sex is for the unity of spouses and the procreation of children, both of which can only be done lovingly in marriage. But as long as sex is understood as merely affection, or pleasure, or even some kind of abstract gift (as opposed to a real gift of self in openness to life), the promotion of the practice of abstinence is just moralism.

Comment 4: Perhaps. Chastity may at times be vanity. But I think it is often - yes, even perhaps in the case of the chaste homosexual - an intuitive grasping of the truth and an attempt, however clumsily, to make sense of it and live it out. Why is this form of affection and pleasure and gift different from others? Why wait on this one, when not waiting on others? I agree, the article comes up short in this regard, but I think the error is in failing to continue asking questions and pursuing the argument.


So, more, please! Here and in the St. Petersburg Times and everywhere else... This is a topic worth pursuing and a message worth sharing.

Arleen Spenceley said...

Thanks for the feedback, Aaron!

At work, I'm given small amounts of space to share really large sentiments. At my paper, we measure stories in inches. When I turned this essay in, it measured 50 inches. After editing, it measured 35. So as much as I could have delved more deeply into countless other levels of why and how, I wasn't given the option to say everything worth saying. Sorry to disappoint commenter number one... lol.

I did shoot for a broad appeal, to cater to our really broad audience. I don't have much else to say in response to commenter number 2, but I will share the following: the reason I wrote this essay is many-multiple-fold, if ya don't mind my making up words. lol. It's because I'd need more than two hands to count the people I know who are out using and being used, and are aware of it, but don't understand why I don't want to get in on that action. It's because even if the paper probably just let me write the essay because they knew its web site would get a lot of hits (people will read anything with the word sex in it), it's still a chance to try to plant even a small seed in somebody, or to give a little encouragement to a reader who struggles to stay chaste in a world (or a family, or a circle of friends, or alone in an apartment with a significant other) that says he or she shouldn't.

To commenter number 3: In my original draft, procreation had a part. Unfortunately, it was among the many inches edited out. It would take a book (which someday I may write) to talk about everything I'd want to talk about. But I can say when you're trying to explain chastity to someone who has sex casually for the satisfaction of the urge, it's probably gonna be better recieved if you start by saying something that implies "sex isn't meant to be selfish" or "sex is more special than you're making it." You could lay it all out at once, and it could still be well recieved, but baby steps are cool, too, in my opinion. If a person starts to see that sex should be special and selfless, it will probably be easier at that point to share with them a little more, i.e. about the necessity of being open to the babies part of the purpose of sex.

I'm glad one of the commenters pointed out that it isn't a philosophical exposition. I can't stand when people expect that. lol. Just being honest. Also, has anyone read the comments on the story? It was up to 80-something last I checked. And most of them have been really supportive. There are, of course, not-so-supportive ones. It never ceases to amaze me the way readers pick up things that writers don't put down. But I guess being misunderstood or made into something you're not is a risk you have to take when you squeeze large sentiments into small spaces publicly! lol.

Aaron said...

Thanks for all the follow-up. I worked at a think tank in DC for a while, and I hated writing policy pieces because the editorial process was such that the final product came out looking completely different from the piece you wrote - one time the position I advocated was actually flip-flopped! So I can empathize with the need to shorten things up, leaving out a lot of good stuff...

I haven't read the comments on the article, but some time when I have a chance I might take a look. Right now, however, it's back to my studies.

Matthew said...

What amazes me is how offended and angry some people get because somebody chooses to be celibate. They seem to interpret it as being judged for not making the same decision. Why so defensive?

Arleen Spenceley said...

I am so fascinated by the way the defense mechanisms run wild!

I read an article recently written by a journalist in Ohio about anonymous comments on newspaper web sites: http://www.cleveland.com/schultz/index.ssf/2009/09/web_sites_anonymity_brings_out.html

Very interesting, and we see it all the time at my paper!

Aaron said...

I don't know that the comments I shared were simply a matter of people being defensive. (Neither were they anonymous; I merely anonymized them since I was removing them from the original context without permission from their authors.) I think people react very strongly to this kind of commentary because they care: they want to make sure that a very important message is delivered in the best way possible.

Think, for example, about the debates that occur each January about whether or not Gays for Life should be allowed to participate (as an organization) in the March for Life. There are sound arguments to be made on either side of the question. Intelligent and well-meaning people can - and do - disagree, even heatedly. But the reason they disagree so sharply is because they all care strongly about the March and the message it is sending.

So too here, I think. Arleen has said she favors an approach of "baby steps", giving people a little bit of the message at a time, as they are ready to receive it. A very reasonable position. But I can also see how someone might argue that the Catholic understanding of chastity is a coherent whole: you can't chop it up into little separate issues without losing something very important.

I'm not sure which approach is right; perhaps it depends on the audience. But I think we should be thankful to be thinking about how we share this truth that we all value.

Arleen Spenceley said...

Aaron, I was actually referring to the comments readers posted on the story -- not the comments you shared! (I'm not sure if you've had the chance to explore them much. There are a little over a hundred now.)

Aaron said...

I just took a break from the 17th century to read some of the (many!) comments on the news story. Wow...

What struck me most was the small world some people live in. Comments like, "I doubt there are any chaste men out there who are her age" show just how much of the world these people don't know about.

I'm surprised to find the same thing at the large state university where I work. Though students brush elbows with all kinds of people all day long, most of them assume that everyone else lives the same kind of life they do.