Hen Party

Be true to yourself. Do your own thing. Let it go. These are the modern mantras that many repeat to be brave enough to break away from society’s rules. This is the world where the counterintuitive proposition that promiscuity is a virtue can carry the day, as it did at an Oxford debate recently. I hope the audience voted for promiscuity for laughs, but I am jaded enough in the culture wars to suspect the audience might actually believe in the virtue of promiscuity.

The young tend to think rules are doled out by God, or really by a religion that made up a god, because power must enjoy watching us struggle against our nature. Why would a god make a flawed being and then pass impossible rules? It seems mean, or just plain nonsense.

The rules, however, have a purpose beyond restraint for restraint’s sake.

The young assume they know these purposes, hence they can disregard the rules. The rules against promiscuity exist to prevent unwanted pregnancy and STDs and, with a little common sense in combination with modern birth control methods, those can be avoided. This is generally true (if birth control is used properly), but pregnancy and STDs are only the most well known consequences of promiscuity. There are others. For instance, promiscuity inefficiently uses time, especially for women. A woman spending her 20’s seeking commitment-free sex while establishing her career often ends up spinning in a decade of higher level advancement, hormone therapy, early motherhood, and elder parent care. Another consequence, casual sex tends to be less satisfying for women and men. (See point 10.)

But the most significant consequence of promiscuity is systemic and unexpected. Promiscuity teaches loneliness. Those who spent years seeking assorted temporary arrangements learned to find the person who will be fun to hang out with for a few weeks or even just an evening. Partners with long-term potential give off subtle signs that are not apparent to someone who has grown attuned to the call signs of a hookup.

The problem persists in serious relationships, as well. Promiscuity forms a habit of physically connecting and then leaving. Serious relationships require mental, practical, and physical connections and then staying. That kind of stamina takes practice.

The virtue of chastity isn’t so much a virtue in the act of restraint, but in guiding us to connections that can endure.

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