Lauren F. Winner, a young scholar and journalist who’s teaching religion at the University of Virginia while finishing up her Ph.D. at Columbia, has just published a new book promoting–horror of horrors–chastity.
Of course the rad-fem establishment considers female chastity to be part of a male patriarchal plot to prevent women from realizing their full potential. Here is the femi-nasty website Feministing scolding the Pennsylvania Legislature for promoting Chastity Awareness Week this past January: “[I]f you get preggers, it’s cause you’re a slut.” The Pennsylvania lawmakers had noted that chastity “promotes sexual self-control, self-esteem and self-respect.” The nerve!
Lauren, 28, now a married evangelical Christian, candidly admits in Real Sex: The Naked Truth About Chastity that she tried the sexual free-for-all recommended by the feministas (and just about everyone else in the intellectual and media elite) and found it wanting in long-term happiness and genuine sexual joy. But unlike many promoters of abstinence, she knows that just saying no is often not enough to combat the allure that a sexually active life promises. So she’s no born-again goody-two-shoes, and she doesn’t expect her readers to be such, either. Here’s how she impressed New York Times writer Alex Williams:
“Lauren F. Winner comes off not unlike a lot of liberal arts graduate students strolling the campuses of the country’s elite universities. She wears retro cat’s-eye glasses, has four tattoos, weaves references to the French sociologist Pierre Bourdieu into casual conversation and sips Cotes du Rhone over lunch.
“The face of the new cultural elite? Not exactly. The face of the new chastity movement? If she has her way, yes….
“Drawing on her own history of premarital sex as a cosmopolitan, liberal single woman and delving into subjects like sodomy and masturbation, she aims her argument at sophisticated young working Christians who know the ways of the world. In her view, people are more likely to abstain from sex once they fully understand its power.
“She speaks of her ‘endless numbers of boyfriends’ after having sex for the first time at 15, an experience she discusses in ‘Real Sex.’ She offers no silver bullets. Her solution relies heavily on the 12-step model: firm commitment, lots of uncomfortably frank dialogue and more than a little peer support from others who feel your pain….
“‘What I learned through having premarital sex for years in my teens and early 20s was that I made an association between what’s erotically exciting and the instability, the newness, the possibility, which is obviously the opposite of married sex,’ she said. ‘I mean, married sex can be great and wonderful, but part of what gives its greatness and wonderfulness is its security. I don’t necessarily think “routine” is a bad word.'”
I admit some bias here: Lauren and I once both worked as editors for the religion website Beliefnet, where Lauren’s sharp and funny essays about singles life were a regular feature. She writes for Christianity Today–but also for the New York Times and the Washington Post–so she has much to say, even to non-evangelicals like me. Like Wendy Shalit during the 1990s, Lauren Winner dares to flout the conventional wisdom of the elite that unlimited sex is good for you and to suggest that one way to grow in self-respect is to respect your body.